Olivia Miles on Revisions for Harlequin Special Edition

 It’s true that first thing  an author has to do is put something down on paper/screen–but most will agree that the rewriting, revisions and reworking the story is what makes it really shine!

We’ve got a couple of posts on revisions coming up–and here’s Olivia Miles’s take on working with her editor Susan Litman on her Special Edition!

PERFECT INGREDIENTS FOR A HAPPY ENDING

OLIVIA’S POV:  One of the first things that springs to mind when I think of the romance genre is the Happily Ever After. As with your characters, a book goes through many stages post-sale before it reaches its own happy ending in final format, on the shelves. In my last post, I touched upon the collaboration I went through with my fab editor, Susan Litman, for my first book, Twas the Week Before Christmas (HSE December 2013.)  https://sold.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/2014/02/i-sold-my-book-now-what-by-harlequin-author-olivia-miles/

After I sold Recipe for Romance (HSE April 2014), Susan asked for a set of revisions, most specifically to tweak my hero and heroine’s romantic history. This is a reunion story, and by adding more punch to their emotional backstory, I was able to take full advantage of my hero, Scott’s, return to town (and the angst he’d felt at leaving), and the impact his comeback would have on the high school sweetheart he left behind. This change would also better underscore the conflict at the center of the story, and heighten the tension throughout the book.

Building on this, at the line edit stage, Susan and I agreed that the epilogue needed to be replaced with something lighter in tone, focused solely on the hero and heroine, and also more tightly connected to some of the key elements of the book, such as Emily’s passion for baking and what it represented. This was it, the final scene, and was this really the happy ending the characters (and the readers) needed? While storylines were resolved in the original epilogue,  the heart of the story, and the true essence of Scott and Emily’s journey  was not shining through.

After giving Susan’s request some consideration, revising the ending ultimately seemed almost natural in fitting with the final, polished version of the story.  It was so different from my original epilogue that I couldn’t even be sure what Susan would say. All I knew was that she was right; I had worked so hard to bring this book to life and I needed to give it–and the characters–the happy ending it, and they, deserved. What had started out as the inspiration for the first chapter quickly became the muse for the last–the pie shop where Emily works was just the place for Scott to find the way back into her heart.

I’m so pleased that Susan and I decided on the changes we did, and it’s definitely made me think about how I approach the ending of my future books. Of course your characters will find an HEA in romance, but making it most specific to their journey is what will make it extra special. Like Scott and Emily, my path toward publication with Recipe for Romance wasn’t without a few bumps along the way, but that just makes the experience of seeing it in final form, on the shelves, that much sweeter.

SUSAN’S POV: On first read, one of my favorite elements of Olivia’s second book was her beautifully evoked small-town setting, the sweet (no pun intended!) pie shop, so well-drawn you could practically smell the cinnamon and brown sugar each time a character walks through the doors! I also loved the way the heroine, Emily, used her baking as emotional expression—she put her feelings into the pies she baked, and as an editor, reader and baker, I could really relate to this character! However, I felt that deepening the characterizations of Emily and Scott and fine-tuning their conflicts would truly enhance the romance and make for an all-around richer reading experience, one the reader would want to return to again and again. (Plus, who doesn’t like pie? :))

Olivia and I had some productive and interesting discussions about what her intent was with the reunion aspect of the story—she was trying to put her own fresh spin on the standard homecoming hero/reunion romance—and I loved that, too. So in our conversations about revisions, we discussed the various ways she might consider refining the characters’ backstory in order to better inform the current romance while still staying true to her original vision, and delivering a romance that would resonate with the reader. At the same time, she wanted the backstory element—sorry, can’t give anything away!—to have a ripple effect throughout the characters inhabiting the small town setting, and she achieved all of this beautifully.

When it came time to finish the line edit on the book, I realized that I’d always had reservations about the ending, but could never quite articulate why until most of Olivia’s other changes were in place. Once the romance and conflicts were more fully developed, and the characters truly fleshed out, I realized that the hero needed more closure for his family situation in order to make the romantic resolution the centerpiece of the ending, closing the story on a stronger, more uplifting note and placing the hero and heroine front and center.

So, at quite literally the eleventh hour, Olivia and I had a fast and furious email session about the epilogue and resolution, which resulted in a dramatic shift for the hero’s character, and a change to the epilogue which, when I read it, literally moved me to the point of happy tears. Olivia had not only given Emily and Scott the happily ever after they so richly deserved, but she’d done so with a sense of wit and in a style and setting that fit perfectly with the overall tone and theme of the story.  She also proved that one doesn’t necessarily need to spell everything out for the reader in that final moment in order to fully button the story with an emotional punch.

Revising a book is often a collaborative affair. The editor and author can chat and discuss the project’s themes, characters, conflicts, etc. and brainstorm together, but the real task lies in the author’s imagination and writing. I love working closely with authors, as I did on Recipe for Romance with Olivia, because it is always incredible to see our abstract conversations turned into dialogue, characterization, and story that just engages me until I shut out everything else!  I can’t wait to dive back into Recipe for Romance—with a slice of warm apple pie and a hot cup of coffee by my side, of course—and we both hope you all enjoy reading this great book!

Don’t miss Recipe for Romance by Olivia Miles, on sale now! And you can follow Olivia Miles on Twitter at @MsOliviaMiles, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorOliviaMiles. You can also find her at her website, www.oliviamilesbooks.com.

Follow Susan Litman on Twitter at @susan_litman, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/susan.litman.5.

Thank you Susan and Olivia! It seems like you have a great working relationship–and we’re eager to see what comes next!

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  1. Gina Hagedorn

    Olivia and Susan ~
    I enjoyed this look into the process of bringing a novel to its full potential. So much goes into it even after the first draft is written. Great article! Thanks for sharing ~ and I’m looking forward to reading Recipe For Romance. 🙂