This week we are excited to introduce our newest Harlequin Heartwarming author, Kit Hawthorne. Read on to learn about her journey to “Getting the Call” from Harlequin-
The first call came around ten, during my morning writing session, from an unknown number with a 416 area code. Ontario, my phone said. I don’t know anyone in Ontario. Must be a solicitor. I rejected the call and went back to work.
The second call came three hours later as I was cleaning floors. Same number. I rejected it too.
I’m a schedule-happy homebody, fond of habits that favor productivity. One of these is not checking email until noon. It was past one when I sat down to look at my inbox.
I’d been writing all my adult life and most of my life before that. Whatever else I did—home improvements, homeschooling the kids, playing in a Celtic folk band—I always wrote. I got up early and wrote while my family slept; I wrote in coffee shops while the kids were in ballet or karate. I wrote fantasy, historical, contemporary, and science fiction, with varying degrees of modest success. For a while I had a steady stream of acceptances from print magazines, until that market suddenly went kaput.
The kids grew up and moved out. The house got quieter. I no longer had to write in coffee shops for intense ballet-class-length periods of time. I had the freedom to write how and when I chose, but I still had to make myself do it.
Most of my writing until then had a strong romantic element. I decided to focus on that. I took a fresh look at the last short story I’d written with the magazines in mind. Brooded over it. Added layers of motivation, back story, emotional baggage, secrets.
I didn’t write that book with any particular publisher in mind, but when I read about Harlequin Heartwarming, it was a perfect fit. So I submitted it and recorded the date in my bullet journal, along with the date when Submittable said I could expect to hear back.
That afternoon as my email loaded, the hear-back date was still three weeks off. I wasn’t really expecting a response, but couldn’t help hoping.
And there in my inbox was an email from Kathleen Scheibling, saying she wanted to talk to me about my book. She’d tried calling the number I’d provided, but there was no answer and no voicemail. Would I have time to chat this afternoon?
I immediately emailed her back. Twelve minutes later Kathleen called for the third time, and this time I answered.
Somehow I’d never expected a phone call. When I imagined an acceptance, I imagined a brief, factual email. That would have been cause enough for celebration.
What I got was so much better than “enough.” Kathleen talked about my book like someone who’d read it and enjoyed it. She asked about my experience with home renovations, historical reenactment, van life, and ranching, all of which are in the story. She’d visited the Texas hill country, where my story is set. She was lovely to talk with, intelligent and gracious.
She said she wanted to buy the book.
I said yes.
I think I sounded calm and articulate enough. But I was pacing around the study, wildly waving my non-phone-holding hand.
Except for cats and dogs, I was alone in the house (with a very clean floor). No one knew.
I’d recently read about an exercise in mental discipline where, after receiving good news, you don’t immediately share it, but practice keeping your mind calm and still. I might try it one day, but I didn’t try it that day. I texted my husband and kids, an honorary son, and three writing friends I’ve known for decades. They all rejoiced with me. My husband and daughter said we should celebrate that night. We arranged to meet later in town.
I drove to church as the sun set, taking rural roads through the autumnal Texas countryside. I was thankful to live in such a beautiful place, for the freedom to work at home at something I loved. Though alone, I felt connected to many: the family and friends who’d encouraged me, the Harlequin editorial staff I’d soon get to know, and future readers who loved small-town romance just like I did.
Look out for Kit Hawthorne’s debut Harlequin Heartwarming: Hill Country Secret, available in September 2020!