Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Linda Goodnight on Writing for Harlequin Romance

When the old Silhouette Romance line ended, I was invited to ‘move’ over to London and write for Harlequin Romance. Though I also write for Love Inspired out of New York, I jumped at the invitation, and I’m happy I did. Senior editor Kim Young and the team are fantastic to work with. They are fast, professional and encouraging-and what American doesn’t love those delightful British accents!

Harlequin Romance remains the ‘sweet’ or traditional line of less sensual stories, but otherwise the line has “come a long way, baby” from your mama’s books of the ‘70’s. Remember those? The hero treated the heroine like dirt until the last few pages? And the heroine was a wimpy doormat waiting to be saved by a man? Or they hated each other every moment, usually for stupid reasons, but passion overwhelmed and they lived happily ever after? That scenario won’t fly anymore. (Thank goodness!)

Today’s Harlequin Romances are modern and realistic. Heroines have to be strong, sensible, and able to stand on their own two feet. Heroes are successful and strong and decent-no jerks allowed! The pair doesn’t have to like each other at the beginning, but they better have a really good reason.

Here are a few things to remember if you’re interested in writing for Harlequin Romance:

1. Emotion, emotion, emotion, with happy endings, of course. HR is all about falling in love, but we have to make the characters suffer a lot to get that love reward in the end.

2. Character driven, couple focused with emphasis on the heroine, although the hero’s point of view is not only allowed, it is encouraged. Because of the short word count (50K to 55K) think of these plots as linear—start with the heroine and hero and tell their story straight through to the happy ending. There isn’t much room for subplot, although I’ve been known to squeeze in one anyway to create conflict for the couple. My February 2010 book, HER PRINCE’S SECRET SON is crammed with plot so my editors kindly warned me to keep the focus on the main characters while allowing the subplots to swarm around them.

3. Hook heroes remain very popular-cowboys, royalty, sheiks, millionaires.

4. Marriage of convenience, wedding, nanny, secret baby, forced proximity stories are very popular, too. The more hooks you can cram into a book, the better! I’m convinced I sell because I load the books with hooks and say so up front in the synopsis.

5. International appeal-HR is sold all over the world. This is great for my royalties, but because we have readers from Norway to Venezuela, we must write a story with broad appeal. Determining what will appeal to other cultures is the hardest part for me. I’ve learned to focus on those popular hook elements, then trust my gut and write the story of one man, one woman and their issues and developing love.

Best of all, London is always looking for new voices in Harlequin Romance!

Winner of the RITA Award for excellence in inspirational fiction, Linda Goodnight has also won the Booksellers’ Best, ACFW Book of the Year, and a Reviewers’ Choice Award from Romantic Times Magazine. Linda has appeared on the Christian bestseller list and her romance novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Active in orphan ministry, this former nurse and teacher enjoys writing fiction that carries a message of hope and light in a sometimes dark world. She and husband Gene live in Oklahoma. Readers may contact her through her website:

Today you have the opportunity to win one of two Linda Goodnight books by posting a comment. Winners will be drawn at 8pm MST.

More Harlequin Romance resources:

Harlequin Romance Authors

Harlequin Romance Meet the Editors Podcast

Harlequin Romance Writing Guidelines from eHarlequin


  1. Welcome to Seekerville, Linda! Great to have you and your Rita with us today. I had a blast hanging out with you the night you won that Rita, basking in your reflected joy. Thanks for sharing tips on writing for Harlequin Romance. Your books are fantastic!

    I've brought a moist coffeecake this morning topped with cinnamon and brown sugar and coffee.


  2. Ohhhh, coffeecake? Y'all are NOT being kind to my diet!

    Can I just say, even though it's been done, I still LOVE the whole marriage of convenience storyline, especially when someone finds a fun new spin on it. I've made in my quest on my writing journey to write ONE contemporary M.O.C. story and really put a fun twist on the matter. Granted, I write trade length, but still. I'm rubbing my hands in giddy anticipation at the plot. *grin*

  3. Good morning, Seekerville. Welcome to you Linda.

    I invited Linda, because I was reading the Snow Kissed Bride and couldn't put it down. I am now devouring The Baby Bond. She is one fantabulous writer.

  4. Hey guys,

    It's so cool to visit Seekerville for the first time. Thanks for having me.

    Janet, I've started my 'get rid of that winter 10 pounds' diet, but I canot resist anything with cinnamon. I'll have a nice fat slice please. Yum!

    Linda g

  5. Krista,

    I love those m.o.c. stories too and have written a few. Right now, I'm reading a trade sized book, very, very modern, with a m.o.c. storyline. I was very impressed with the way the author made the marriage seem like the only thing to do under the circumstances.

    Okay, back to my coffeecake. I am a bad girl but Janet is a great cook.

  6. Linda, I love your LI stories. I always know I'll be picking up a great one when your name is on it. The Brother's Bond series is my favorite so far!

    Do you feel there is much difference between what the two lines are looking for? I haven't read the other line, so I can't compare personally. But the LI does seem very character driven as well, to me.

  7. Welcome to Seekerville, Linda!! Would you please tell us a bit more about writing for the international community? Such as which story lines DON'T fly well elsewhere? Do you get fan letters from your international readers just as you do Americans?

  8. My mom and gran used to read HR all the time, but I have not read one in years. This column was so interesting,and I am going to give some of these titles a try.The enthusiam is catching. Thanks, Linda, for a new window to look through!

  9. By the way, Linda, Glynna Kaye is our newest pub in Seekerville. Her Love Inspired book Dreaming of Home, releases this autumn.

    I too have a few questions. Are there any topics that are too American for the new Harlequin Romance? Doesn't the line combine the old Silhouette Romance and Harlequin Romance and another Mills and Boone line? Or am I imagining this?

  10. Linda, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments! I've not read HR in years, having moved on to the Blaze line, but my writing leans more toward HR and Steeple Hill, so I'm trying to really pay more attention to my characters and how they grow together. I read the guidelines for HR that was a link and am again encouraged. Gotta go read some current HRs of yours and others to catch up. And, um, could I have a slice of that coffeecake? I love brown sugar and cinnamon, Janet!

  11. Good morning, Linda. Welcome to Seekerville! Glad you brought the appropriate bling for us to stare at : )

    I used to devour SR and was so disappointed the line ceased. The books were fun and sexy, and actually had a lesson woven through the pages. MOC? I lapped them up...

    I must have had my head in the sand all these years. Of course HR carries on the tradition where SR left off! I'll toast my return to traditional romances with a Linda Goodnight book...

    Thanks for the fun post, Linda!

    Umm, I'm trying to shed the winter 20!! So, in addition to Janet's heavenly coffeecake, I'm bringing a tray of zucchini muffins loaded with extra fiber -- YUMBOLA!!

  12. Hi Linda,
    I am so glad to see HR improve their lines - no more wimpy characters! Thanks for the tips on how to write in order to submit and be published by HR - most helpful!


  13. Welcome to Seekerville, Linda!! It's sooo cool to have an author who writes for both the Christian market and the secular market -- talk about a broad view of publishing! It sounds like you wrote for the CBA first and then you were invited to write for the ABA or had you written for the ABA first?


  14. I enjoyed reading about the Harlequin Romance line. Thanks, Linda, for the insight.

  15. Thanks for the insight, Linda. I enjoyed reading your blog post today.

  16. Ah, so this is the blog everyone keeps mentioning to me. I can see what the excitement is about!

    Great thoughts about HR, Linda. I really appreciate you sharing them. I've had a lot of readers ask if the "sweet" line was still being published.

  17. They sound like fun books, Linda. Thanks for the inside story.

  18. Oh, I can't believe I haven't mentioned how much fun I had on Saturday at the Heart of Dixie Readers Luncheon with Seekers, Missy Tippens and Debby Giusti! And I got to meet Ramona Richards, too! Hi, everybody!

    (How's that for name-dropping?)

  19. Welcome Ramona, and Melly you name dropper.

  20. Hi, Linda! So great to have you in Seekerville! It was wonderful having you speak at our ACFW chapter meeting last month--fun to get to know you in person, and I always learn so much from you. Congratulations on your Rita--well deserved!!!

  21. Great post. It's nice to meet you, Linda!

    Thanks for the tip on HR. :-)

  22. Look at you, girl, standin' there in a ball gown holding a RITA!!!

    How cool is that. And now you've topped even that by being on Seekerville. :)

    Thanks for visiting, Linda.

  23. I love love LOVE that picture with your lovely lady. Congrats on a RITA award, Linda!

  24. How cool is that. And now you've topped even that by being on Seekerville. :)

    Mary, you are too cute. Of course Seekerville IS right up there with Letterman.

  25. Letterman? Up there with LETTERMAN???
    Are you kidding.

    Try OPRAH!!!!!!!!!!

    Maybe we should try and get her on?

    Tina, you handle that will you?

  26. Yeah, my people will call her people.



  27. Wow! Look when happens when I go off to work and then come back to Seekerville to visit. All these awesome comments absolutely rock!

    Harlequin Romance is a blend of the old HR line and the old Silhouette Romance line. Some of the authors push the envelope more than others as far as sexy goes. My readers expect a very clean read so other than sexual tension which is a must, I keep it pure. I have teens who read my HRs.

    Gosh, I want to go on and on. I love this group.
    Linda g

    PS Could I have another slice of coffeecake and maybe a snippet of that zucchini goodie?

  28. Eileen,

    As to the differences in LI and HR, here are my thoughts. Both are character driven and clean. LI doesn't allow much in the way of sexual tension, while HR requires it. LI is love from the neck up, so to speak while HR does not have to be. Themes, hooks, etc. are pretty much the same, but LI is mostly American, whereas HR can be set anywhere in the world.

    Thanks for asking.

    Linda g

  29. Neat. Wow. And as an American Brit, I still love those British accents too.

  30. Glynna,

    HEY GIRL, congrats on selling to LI! That's fantastic.

    And thank you for the question. I have to admit to being pretty clueless about what works for the international community, but I guess I'm doing it right because London keeps asking for more books. One thing is that HR wants larger than life settings, places most people will have heard of--Texas, Colorado, Montana, and big cities, ranches, and that kind of thing, and of course Europe and Canada. While I write lots of small town settings in LI, I don't in HR.

    Also, the same heroes that you hear won't fly in any other category book--artists, actors, athletes-generally don't fly at HR either. (Note I said generally. We all know those exceptions.)

    I do get readers from all around the world, which is so cool!!

    Tina, we've been told to make our stories 'global' so I try to avoid anything that's specifically American, although I can't think of an example right now.

  31. For those who say they'll have to try a Romance now and see how they've grown up--THANK YOU!

    I think Tina would suggest "The Snow-Kissed Bride". Right, Tina?

    When the drawing occurs, I'll be happy to let winners have a choice of the three books featured on the blog, including that one.

  32. Thank you Linda for the entertaining and informative view about Harlequin Romance. I've long been a fan of that line (and Love Inpsired--a double whammy! Lucky me!).

  33. Hi, Linda, what a great wrap up for our line...and yes, she did thoroughly deserve the RITA! Her books are just lovely.

    Melissa James

  34. Linda, how do you manage to write for two lines and keep your sanity?

    Audra, thanks for the zucchini muffins. They're moist, have fabulous flavor and fiber to boot! Yum! Lots of talk about weight today. I have my ten to lose. I'm blaming Seekerville, even if it is cyber-food.


  35. Linda, what a fascinating post. Thank you for the insight into the differences between the lines and into your writing.

    And congrats on that Rita! I hope she gets a sister, too.

  36. I enjoy both LI and HR so it's nice to get an inside look into what works for both lines. Thanks Linda!

    Funny that athletes, entertainers, actors don't work in these lines, given America's insatiable hunger for everything celebrity.

  37. Linda,

    Nice to see you over here, too!

    I think that HR is open to a lot of settings. I do small towns for HR, but they need to have that community feel, just as a big city can, too. Like a small town within a city, a microcosm, KWIM?

    Linda's books are so awesome, in both lines. And she's such a sweetheart in person. A great guest to have here!


  38. Sanity? Did someone ask about my sanity?


    No sane people allowed around here!

  39. Lorna, you angel. My RITA girl has been begging for a sister, but I told her since I hadn't been exposed this year, she was out of luck.

    I'm just so thrilled with her, though. Thanks for all the sweet comments about that win.

    Is there more cake?

  40. Hi Linda,

    Congrats on your RITA.

    Is it hard for you to shift between HR and LI with different word count and sexual tension limits? Do you work on books for each line simultaneously?


  41. Enjoyed this post and comments and the info Linda shared. Congrats on the Rita. I was wondering, Linda, whether Harlequin Mills and Boon in London publish long historical romances?
    I submitted to them a few years back without success.

  42. Yes. I'd lend you my copy of The Snow Kissed Bride but I don't share my keepers. :)

  43. Pat Jeanne,

    Harlequin Historicals are published out of London by Mills and Boone. The word count, I think, is not long historical, but rather short historical. But there are those like Cheryl on here, better able to address that. That's an entirely different line and type of book from H. Romance.

    Good question, though!

  44. Rose,

    As far as shifting between the two lines, I don't really have a problem. When I start a book, I focus completely on those characters and just go with the story.

    Sometimes I do have to switch back and forth between books, but not on purpose. That's due to line edits and such coming in from one book while I'm working on another. Because I write a lot of books, that happens often. It is jarring sometimes, and then I have to really focus, reread the work in progress and get back my momentum.

    Such great questions.

    Are all Seekerville-ites naturally brilliant? (I almost put Seekervillians, but that won't work! No villains here.)

  45. A shout out to my Harlequin Romance buds, Shirley Jump and Mellisa James for dropping in. These girls know a thing or two about HR. Shirley writes light romantic comedy and Melissa writes dark weepies. Wonderful writers.

    Tina, you doll. I saw that compliment.

  46. Julie Lessman (who writes marvelous stories) asked, about a hundred posts ago, if I wrote for the CBA first before writing for Harlequin/Silhouette. The answer is yes, sort of.. I wrote several novellas for Barbour and Tyndale before signing with Silhouette. But when the Love Inspired line opened up, I jumped in there, too, because I love being able to write about the importance of faith in people's lives.

    I would write more for the CBA if I had time. I like working both sides of the street, so to speak. There are great readers everywhere!

  47. Linda, how beautiful you look in the pic! I love your Mothers and Daughters cover, and how great that it's out in the month of Mothers Day! - Can't wait to read it. Sheila F.

  48. Sheila,

    Hey girl. Thanks for stopping by and saying nice things. I DO love that "Mothers and Daughters' cover. Riding off Deborah Bedford's name isn't half bad either! smile

    Give that angel of yours a hug for me!

  49. Are all Seekerville-ites naturally brilliant?

    I'll field that question.

    The answer is Yes, of course. We're great cooks and hosts and we know how to cause trouble.

  50. My kind of women!

    Rock on, ladies, and thanks for inviting me for coffee, snacks and a good time.

  51. congrats on the Rita. are there any genres you would like to try writing? 2 books of yours- you are kind and generous.

  52. Robyn, I love big, long lush historical romance, but my foray into that genre has only been in novella form. The Mothers and Daughters book is women's fiction and I've enjoyed doing that. Wouldn't mind doing more, but I'm very happy writing romance.

    Good quesion, thank you!

  53. Oh my stars, this is the wrong day to have to work away from the computer!


    Sweetcheeks, thank you so much for being here today. What a pleasure it is to have you drop in, and I like the company you keep, and I'm not talking just the statue...

    Your living/breathing buddies are pretty cool too!

    And I don't have to beg Tina for a copy of your book, I'm savvy enough to have my own. I love that you've successfully managed to keep two separate branches of your career flourishing.

    That speaks volumes (ha. Pun totally intended...) about you and your talent/perseverance.

    Hey, did I miss all the food? I'm rather hungry.


    Inanimate and animate

  54. Ruthy!! So sorry about the computer issues. Yuck. It's awesome to see you here. This has been the best experience. I am super impressed with you Seekers.

    And of course, dear one, we saved you some cake. What kind of friends would eat it all? Wait, let me check. Janet, scrape all the crumbs together and I'm sure we'll have a bite for Ruthy. Sorry I scarfed up all the muffins. They were on my diet.

  55. Ummm...

    Linda, 17 muffins isn't on ANYONE's diet, honey.


    All right, hand me the tidbits. I'll enjoy them just because I know they were baked in Seekerville.

    Linda, can you tell us your call story?

    Take us back in time. If I'm remembering correctly, it was a good one.


  56. Hey, Linda! Thanks so much for being with us today!

    I targeted SR years ago, but a friend read the synopsis and told me I was writing inspirational. I had no idea up to that point! That's when I started targeting LI. And about 10 years later, I finally sold to them. :)

    But still, I was a huge SR/HR reader! I love the lines.

    Thanks for the great info, Linda. You amaze me with all you do!

  57. Who was counting my muffins? Seventeen is not that bad,considering I only at TWO pieces of cake. Well, maybe three.

    The call-wow, that is going back in time.

    I had been a GH finalist in 1999, was so green I didn't even know it was a big deal, and my OKRWA buddies talked me into going to National and signing up for a editor appointment. Talk about terror! I was so scared, I wrote my book blurbs on a piece of paper and shoved it at Tina Colombo, who was a junior editor at the time. She read through the blurbs, and all of a sudden, she looked up with this light in her eyes, and said, "Send me this one." In that instance, I KNEW she was going to buy the book. Don' tknow how, considering all the rejections I'd had, but I just knew.

    Shortly thereafter, Tina was promoted to another line but handed the manuscript off to another junior editor, Allison Lyons with a note suggesting she buy it.

    Allison called me on my deceased Mom's birthday, January 31, 2000, to offer a contract.

    All these years later, Tina is now a senior editor over Love Inspired and I am still blessed to be working with Allison Lyons.

    I love this story. lol

  58. Hi, Melanie, it was great seeing you!!

    I was privileged to have Melanie and her friend Regina sit at my table at the HOD Reader's Luncheon. So fun!

  59. Linda, I love that story. The 'click' when something works for an editor.


    And you are living proof (not getting age specific here by any means because I really don't want to go THERE.........) of how a well-managed career can keep you in the driver's seat despite editorial and line changes. Versatility, flexibility (and darned good writing) must be your middle name, woman.

    Actually, that would be 'names', wouldn't it?


  60. OUR WINNERS ARE LYNN RUSH AND RAYNENE. Please email me at for more info.

  61. Linda, thanks very much for taking time from your busy schedule to share with us in Seekerville.

    We had a great day!!

  62. Linda,
    I'm logging on late today. Looks like you had a great day in Seekerville. Thanks for sharing the good info about HQ Romance! Love your photo with RITA!

  63. Somebody mentioned settings. I've had settings in my HRs from Sydney to the Outback and Europe, where I now live, one in Africa and one set in Boston, when I was doing a series with Linda, Shirley and three other wonderful HR authors. Settings are way more open there than in so many other publishing houses - and storylines and issues are way open, too. I'm doing one now about the breakdown of a marriage after suffering the pain of child loss and hysterectomy, and finding an unorthodox family (without any convenient miracles).

    Melissa James (sorry, can't make blogger work except by being anonymous).

  64. Melissa, that sounds awesome!

    Good job, woman.

    I love stories that don't pander to convenience for solutions. YAWN!

    Linda, thanks so much for hanging with us today. What a treat!

    And hey, send our thanks and kudos to your cast of characters too, 'kay?

    Ruthy (searching for the last crumbs of anything these guys left. Mice would starve at Linda's house. Just sayin'.)

  65. that how I like my story also; one man, one woman and the issues they deal with to bring a HEA.

  66. wonderful article! Thanks so much for your words of wisdom.

  67. Linda, excellent blog and thank you for tha tlittle peek into why you write HR. I found it fascinating and love the books.