Drum roll please… We are so thrilled to share this delightful Call Story from newest Harlequin Presents author, Angela Bissell! Welcome to the Harlequin family!
When I decided five years ago to have a serious crack at this writing business I joined the online Harlequin Community and lurked in the writers’ forums. I confess I haven’t been there in a while but I remember the community was a wonderfully supportive place. A safe, friendly zone for writers at various stages of their careers to hang out, seek advice, offer support and share the inevitable ups and downs of their writing journeys. I also remember feeling awed by the many established authors who frequented the forums and shared their knowledge with such boundless generosity. Names that spring to mind are Donna Alward, Michelle Willingham, Paula Graves and Michelle Styles, though there were many, many more. Occasionally, Michelle Styles would reiterate her key ingredients for success. Desire. Dedication. Determination. Discipline. Perseverance. I printed those five words onto labels and stuck them on my computer screen. To this day they remain as a reminder of what I need to succeed.
And now here I am, writing my Call Story, still in a state of euphoric shock after receiving the phone call—THE phone call—from the fabulous Pippa Roscoe at the Harlequin/Mills & Boon office in London.
Pippa and I have been acquainted, mostly via email, since last year. I can trace our connection back to Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research. My husband has Type 1 diabetes so not only is the cause close to my heart, I was able to assure him any winning bids I made would be money well spent! And the item I really, really wanted was an editorial evaluation of three chapters and a synopsis by Pippa Roscoe at Harlequin Presents. Wow. Harlequin Presents was my dream line, the one I love to read and the one I wanted to write for. I had a completed manuscript, my first one (though I assure you, that poor baby had been trashed and rebirthed a hundred times) and though I’d won some contests and received lots of great feedback, the chance to get professional editorial feedback—from an editor with the line I was targeting, no less—was too good to pass up. Needless to say, I bid aggressively on that item and might have even punched the air a few times when I won.
Now I’m afraid to say I took months, yes, months, to submit those chapters to Pippa. In my head I had plenty of good reasons for delaying. I was expecting judges’ comments back from various contests and it was prudent to wait till I had all the feedback, right? What if I needed to make some changes before submitting the partial to Pippa? But it wasn’t prudence holding me back. It was procrastination; the writer’s greatest nemesis in the face of fear and self-doubt. Eventually I quit tweaking and fiddling. I hit SEND and immediately wanted to throw up.
Little did I know then that I was embarking on the steepest leg of my writing journey so far. Pippa liked my voice and said the story had promise but there were pacing and character development issues. Would I like to rework the story and send her the full manuscript?
Off went the full to Pippa and back came an amazing (and slightly terrifying) revision letter. Could I do this? I wasn’t sure but I gave it my best shot. Off went the revised full and back came another amazing (and yes, slightly terrifying) revision letter. Did this mean I was close to getting it right or was I destined to forever get it wrong? Again, all I could do was give it my best shot. I sent off the re-revised manuscript and about that time learned Pippa was coming to the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Melbourne which I was also attending. We’d have a chance to meet! I was excited and nervous, mostly the latter when Pippa suggested we do coffee at a café outside of the hotel. Here it comes, I thought. She’s going to reject my book and, because she’s so lovely, wants to save me the humiliation of being upset in front of my fellow conference goers. I had my speech all planned out. I’d learned so much from Pippa during that revision process and my book was better and stronger. Regardless of the outcome, I’d always be grateful for her incredible insight and guidance.
As it turned out, I didn’t need that little speech. Pippa loved what I had done with the revisions. She’d shared the book with her team to review and hoped to have an answer for me shortly. That answer soon came as a phone call offering me a two-book contract. I’m not ashamed to say my hands shook throughout the entire call. I am, however, embarrassed to say I cried. Like a baby. Or a writer who’s just been offered her first book contract.
It’s an amazing feeling to achieve your dream. If you are pursuing yours, I urge you to never give up. Set your daily, weekly, monthly goals and get serious about them. And remember Michelle Styles’ words. Desire. Dedication. Determination. Discipline. Perseverance. It will be a joy and a privilege to one day read your Call Story!