Sunday with Helene Young

It is a tremendous pleasure to welcome Helene Young to my Sunday blog. Helene is an acclaimed romantic suspense novelist who lives in Trinity Beach, on the edge of the Great Barrier  Reef in North Queensland. Her work as a senior pilot with a major  regional airline takes her all over the east coast of Australia. She is the RUBY-award-winning author of the popular romantic suspense novels Wings of Fear, Shattered Sky and her new one Burning Lies. In 2011 Helene was voted the country’s most popular romance novelist.

It was a great thrill and privilege to be Helene’s Penguin publishing buddy in July, with the release of both Burning Lies and Brumby’s Run on the same day. And now, it’s over to our flight Captain, taking us through her Call Story and giving us an insight into what is important to her  …

Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Jenny. I’ve enjoyed reading Rachael and Cathryn’s call stories. They’re proof that dreams can come true with hard work and a little dash of luck. Here’s mine!

I’d been writing with intent for almost ten years before I received my call.  Along the way I discovered Romance Writers of Australia and its fantastic network of writers. I entered all the RWAustralia contests and I was fortunate enough to be a finalist a number of times, but never a winner. The feedback was encouraging, but I wasn’t quite hitting the mark.

In 2007 I decided I needed to be brave and write a romantic suspense story that had been simmering in my imagination for some time. That was the start of the Border Watch series, set in the aircraft I fly and based in North Queensland where I live. Wings of Fear (Border Watch), which was my fifth completed manuscript, finalled in the RWAmerica Golden Heart contest.  That same year I pitched to Bernadette Foley from Hachette at the RWAustralia conference. My resume of contest results was enough to give the manuscript credibility and she asked to see the full manuscript.

Her answer was, ‘You’re not there yet, but…’ She gave me detailed suggestions for improving the manuscript with the offer of resubmitting if I felt I could work with her ideas. It would have been easy to take that as a rejection, but I rolled up my sleeves and several months later I sent her the next version. Then waited…

My husband and I were heading off on holidays to go sailing in the Whitsunday Islands and I was hoping she might call, but was terrified the answer would still be no. I also knew phone reception would be sporadic for the next ten days.

We dropped anchor for the first night and my husband was peeling the foil of a bottle of champagne when my mobile rang. It was a Sydney number. No voice will ever sound as sweet again as  ‘Hello, Helene, this is Bernadette Foley….’ The smile lines were tanned into my face!

I always get a little spine tingle at stories like that! Could you tell us a little bit about what’s important to you?  This could be writing related, or something else altogether.

I thought ‘What’s Important to Me’ would be an easy post to write, but it wasn’t! Family and friends are important, sense of community is up there as well, but the idea was harder to nail down than I thought.

Ultimately I think making a difference is important for me. I’ve spent most of my working-life teaching people something – the restaurant trade, adventure sports, flying, and now writing.

As a flying instructor nothing could beat the satisfaction of the mile-wide smile on a student who’d just completed their first solo flight. As a climbing instructor, seeing the wonderment and pride in the face of a young teenager who’d successfully climbed a sheer cliff then abseiled back down was pure gold. Receiving emails from writers to say something I’ve said in a training course has turned a million watt light bulb on in their mind is a reward all of its own.

I’m never going to change the world, but if I can help someone achieve one of their goals along the way then my day hasn’t been a waste.

I can understand now why some of my teachers at school carried on long past their retirement date because the job was its own reward!

Wow Helene! You certainly like heights, don’t you – flying and climbing! And reaching great writing heights as well. How fortunate your students are, to have a tutor who’s so generous about sharing her knowledge. Thank you for telling us about your passion for teaching and for sharing your Call Story.

Helene’s new novel, Burning Lies, is out now and is earning rave reviews.

“Lies, all lies. It didn’t matter how attractive he might be. She didn’t really know this man . . . He was living a lie and she didn’t know why.
”

Kaitlyn Scott is searching for the truth about her husband’s death, even if that means revisiting the most painful day of her life. But what she uncovers is a criminal willing to stop at nothing to keep his secret.

Ryan O’Donnell, an enigmatic undercover cop, is investigating arson attacks when he is drawn into Kaitlyn’s world. He tries to fight his attraction for her, hoping the case might put his own demons to rest, but it only threatens to push him over the edge.

With Kaitlyn and Ryan on a collision course, the arsonist seizes the chance to settle some old scores. As the Atherton Tableland burns, the three of them are caught in a fiery dance of danger and desire, and not everyone will come out alive.

Visit Helene at http://www.heleneyoung.com

Find Helene on FB at : https://www.facebook.com/HeleneYoungAustralianAuthor

Follow her on twitter at: https://twitter.com/HeleneYoung

Getting to know Rachael Johns

Please welcome Rachael Johns today, romance writer par excellence! Her latest novel Jilted is rocketing up the romance charts, and she has just scored a new two-book contract. Her second rural romance Man Drought, wil be available in January 2013. Now it’s over to Rachael …

Firstly, can I just say thanks for having me on your blog Jenny! I’m halfway through Brumby’s Run and loving it (if only I didn’t have edits to do and kids to look after, I’d be able to read a lot faster)! Stoked to be here today answering your very diverse questions!

How did you receive your first offer of publication? (That’s what I always love hearing)

I love hearing about Call stories too! They are so inspiring.

I’d been subbing to Mills and Boon’s Modern Heat (now RIVA) for almost five years when I FINALLY received an offer to publish my first book. But the offer wasn’t from Mills & Boon. All those years, I’d come close but never quite fitted their exact requirements for the line I was targeting. In 2011, I decided to try my luck with Harlequin’s then new digital-first imprint – Carina Press (www.carinapress.com)! Carina’s tagline was ‘Where No Great Story Goes Untold’ and since my last rejection was not on story, but rather not quite making the required sensuality expectations of the line I was targeting, I decided to sub my latest manuscript here.

You could have bowled me over with a feather when on April Fool’s Day 2011, I opened my email to find an offer from Angela James (executive editor at Carina) to buy my book! I was on Cloud Nine until a writing friend asked me if I was sure it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. ARGH, I hadn’t even contemplated that. But it turns out editors may be scary, but they are not cruel. It was real.

Indirectly it was this sale to Carina Press, that also led to the sale of my first print book (JILTED). As an author in the Harlequin Mills and Boon empire, I was invited to the Harlequin Author Dinner at the Romance Writers of Australia conference last year. It was here I met my publisher Haylee Kerans and nervously admitted to having a rural romance novel she might be interested in reading. She gave me her card, I sent the partial almost immediately and the rest as they say is history! Yes, I’m full of clichés today J

It’s almost a year since I sold JILTED and it’s been one amazing experience after another. Edits are hell until I’ve handed them in and then it’s exciting to know I have a far better finished product. Reading the blurb for the first time, seeing my cover, actually signing copies of my book – all these things felt kind of surreal and I’m really looking forward to the second time around where I might take more in. Maybe. Since selling JILTED, I’ve sold two more books to Harlequin Australia – MAN DROUGHT will be a January 2013 release!

What’s the inspiration behind your latest published novel?

JILTED involves the revival of a small town theatrical society, which the hero and heroine inadvertently get conned into being a part of. A few years back when I had a young baby, the town we were living in decided to revive their theatrical society and put on a play for the first time in over a decade. I was gutted I couldn’t be involved (due to baby commitments) because I have a minor in Drama (teaching) and have always been a bit of a Drama Queen. This was right up my alley. Amidst my disappointment, it suddenly struck me that building a novel around a theatrical society might be fun. From there, I started brainstorming the characters who would be part of this revival and JILTED was born!! I was lucky the story I LOVED to write fit perfectly into the rural romance genre, which is currently doing so well in Australia.

What is important to you?

This was a REALLY tough question. Aside from the obvious – my family, my friends and writing, I had to really think. I realised I’m not materialistic. I don’t think there’s any bought possession (aside from books) that I couldn’t do without. I don’t care about owning a flash car or house as long as the first gets me from A to B and the latter has enough room for my books and the people I love in them.

What is important to me is MEMORIES – creating special ones for my family and making sure we record them (with photos) if that’s possible. Aside from the kid’s artwork, there’s not art on my walls but there are loads of photos. I feel so happy being surrounded by snaps of the people I love. Some special rituals I’ve created in my little family are board games on a Saturday night, pancakes on a Sunday morning and reading together – not just with my kids, but also with my husband. In such a busy life, setting aside time for these special activities means everything to me.

Thanks for that Rachael. It’s been lovely getting to know you better, and I wish you every success for your books in the future!

JILTED

She left him at the altar, but her heart was always his…

After more than ten years away, Australian soap star Ellie Hughes returns to the small country town of Hope Junction, determined to remain anonymous while caring for her injured godmother, Matilda.

But word spreads fast in the tight-knit community. It isn’t long before the people of Hope’s are gossiping about the real reason for Ellie’s visit and why she broke the heart of golden boy Flynn Quartermaine all those years ago.

Soon Ellie and Flynn are thrown back together again, forced to deal with the unresolved emotions between them. For Ellie is not the only one with secrets. Flynn has his own demons to battle, and Matilda is hiding something from her much-loved goddaughter.

When all is uncovered, can the ill-fated lovers overcome the wounds of their past? Or is Flynn destined to be jilted again?

 

Contact details:

Website: www.rachaeljohns.com

Blog: www.rachaeljohns.wordpress.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachael-Johns/260103224001776

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/RachaelJohns

To buy links:

http://harlequinbooks.com.au/product/9781921795503

http://www.amazon.com/Jilted-ebook/dp/B0083SNYI6/ref=pd_sim_kstore_2?ie=UTF8&m=A24IB90LPZJ0BS

Cathryn Hein and her Road to Publication

Please welcome the inspiring Cathryn Hein, fellow Penguin author and horse nut. She shares her publication story with us, reinforcing the notion that we make our own luck. I must admit that these behind the scenes accounts of the publishing process are my absolute favourites! So … over to Cathryn.

Thanks, Jennifer, for inviting me onto your blog. I’m delighted to be here and having a lovely time catching up on your Ireland posts. What a wonderful experience! But rummaging around I also discovered the series you wrote revealing your journey to publication and that started me thinking about my own, and how far I’ve come since then. It’s funny how things come about. I used to think that my case involved a fair bit of dumb luck but, looking back, I can see that I made a good portion of that luck, or at least snatched an opportunity when it came my way.

Skip back to 2010 and I’d been writing seriously, with a view to publication, since mid 2005. I’d completed 6 (or was it 7?) full manuscripts, a couple of novellas, gawd knows how many short stories and, as is the wannabe writer’s lot, collected plenty of rejections along the way. But I’d dreamed of being a writer since I was young and I wasn’t about to stop. Plus I was getting closer, I could sense it.

In May, Karly Lane (whose book North StarI adored and Morgan’s Law is on my to-be-read pile) posted on a Romance Writers of Australia loop that she’d been contacted by an editor from Penguin Australia who’d seen one of her booktrailers and wondered if Karly had any more rural romances up her sleeve. My ears immediately pricked. An editor on the hunt for rural romance, my genre? Not a chance in hell I’d let that slide, so I emailed Karly and she kindly passed me the name of the editor.

Off went a snail mail submission to Penguin containing a rural romance that had received a bit of interest elsewhere, and for which I still harboured high hopes. A couple of months later an email bounced back saying thanks, but the book had too narrow a focus and didn’t quite fit what they were after. Armed with a better idea of what Penguin might be seeking, I shot back an email pitching Promises and asked if they’d be interested seeing it. They would. Off whooshed the synopsis and three chapters. That afternoon I had a reply from another editor, Belinda Byrne, who read it, loved it, and wanted the rest. It all sounded very promising but I’d been through this before with other manuscripts and publishers, and knew not to get my hopes up.

About a week or so after this was the Romance Writers of Australia conference where I was fortunate enough to meet and chat with Belinda about the book and my writing and I was left with a hopeful buzz of excitement. A buzz that turned electric when, one Thursday after the conference, I received a phone call from Belinda advising me she was taking Promises to Penguin’s acquisitions meeting the following Monday. I spent an entire day in disbelief, dazedly working on another manuscript, before finally realising it might be a bright idea to secure an agent. Multiple phone calls and emails later, followed by more phone calls and discussions across the weekend, I signed with Clare Forster of Curtis Brown Australia, my dream agent. Monday morning the phone rang. It was Belinda. Penguin wanted to offer on Promises. After all those years, all those words and books, all those false hopes and rejections, it had finally happened. I was to become a published author.

Now, two years later, I have two published novels and I’m close to handing in my third contracted rural romance. It’s been a learning curve, to say the least, with plenty of doubts and joys to add spice to the journey, but every moment has been worth it. My stories are on the shelves, the teenage dream reached. Luck or not it doesn’t matter. I made it.

Thank you so much Cathryn, for sharing your fascinating story with us. For those who haven’t yet read Cathryn’s latest novel. Heart of the Valley, you’re in for a real treat!

HEART OF THE VALLEY

Brooke Kingston is smart, capable and strongwilled ­ some might even say stubborn ­ and lives in the beautiful Hunter Valley on her family property. More at home on horseback than in heels, her life revolves around her beloved ‘boys’ ­ showjumpers Poddy, Oddy and Sod.

Then a tragic accident leaves Brooke a mess. Newcomer Lachie Cambridge is hired to manage the farm, and Brooke finds herself out of a job and out of luck. But she won¹t go without a fight.

What she doesn’t expect is Lachie himself ­ a handsome, gentle giant with a will to match her own. But with every day that Lachie stays, Brooke’s future on the farm is more uncertain. Will she be forced to choose between her home and the man she’s falling for?

A vivid, moving and passionate story of love and redemption from the author of Promises.

Out now from Penguin Australia.