Thanks for the comments, everyone! We have a winner – Jami Gold!

Today, I want to introduce you to someone I’ve known for a very long time — not that we knew we knew each other, ha! But Vicky and I have been at this romance writing game for many years. We have war stories, scars, tales of woe and frustration. And yet we did not give up! This is what happens when you don’t give up, btw. You get a gorgeous cover like that one right there to the right, and you get to share your fabulous story with the world.

Back in the mid-nineties, probably about 1995 or 1996, I entered my first book (a whopping fat medieval called LORD OF THE MARCH) into the Emily contest. The Emily is a prestigious contest for aspiring writers, so when I got the call that I was a finalist, I was thrilled. The lady on the other end of the line was named Vicky Dreiling. I don’t think we talked much — I was probably overwhelmed, in fact — but I remember Vicky’s kindness and enthusiasm. You just don’t forget the people who call to tell you that you’re a finalist in a fabulous contest. πŸ™‚

I didn’t win (I might have placed second, but I can’t honestly remember) and then life got in the way and I did other things for a while. About three years or so ago, right before I ended up winning the Instant Seduction contest and going on to sell to Harlequin, I was judging a contest. And there was this entry, this fabulous entry, that gave me goosebumps. The premise was so fresh, the writing so engaging, and I remember thinking, “This is going to sell.” Then I did something I never do: I signed my name to the score sheet. Eventually, I got a thank you note (this is why you write thank yous!) from Vicky, sent through the contest coordinator. She’d included her email address, so I wrote to her. That’s when we discovered we had a lot in common, including that Emily phone call years ago and then life getting in the way of our dreams.

We actually met in San Francisco, and Vicky is just as warm and fun in person as she is through email. I enjoy getting to see her every year at conference, though it seems as if we are usually two ships passing in the night because we’re so busy.

I know I’ve told you the super long story about how I met Vicky, but I want you to understand how vital it is that you never give up on your dreams. Not only that, but the contest entry I read that day is THIS BOOK right here! Finally, finally, I get to read the rest of the story and see how it ends! Please welcome Vicky today! She’s giving away a signed copy of this magnificent book, so be sure to leave comments for a chance to win!

Now on to the good stuff, where I ask Vicky a series of random questions that popped into my head. πŸ™‚

1. You were a Golden Heart finalist in 1996 and you sold your first book in 2009. How did you keep the faith for so long? Did you ever get discouraged?

I was a GH finalist with my first book (beginner’s luck!) and got a lot of requests. I did massive revisions for an editor without promise of contract, but the book wasn’t strong enough. Shortly after the book got rejected, my life underwent some dramatic changes. I returned to university to finish my degree and started a new career in marketing. By then, I was a single mom, so time constraints were an issue. I tried to write, but I could tell I was holding back emotionally on the page. Like so many writers, I let fear of failure keep me from what I wanted more than anything else in the world.

Eventually, life settled down, and I started writing again. However, I wasn’t consistent. Then I joined a group called 100 Words a Day for 100 Days. The interesting thing about this group is that you only commit to 100 words, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. But it’s also a bit like reverse psychology. Because the requirement is essentially the length of a short paragraph, there’s a tendency to think, “Why should I stop? I never met a rule I didn’t itch to break.” This proved true for many of us, so the group decided members could report either 100 words each day or 100+. No bragging was allowed because we wanted to make it encouraging and noncompetitive. I wrote every single day for one hundred days and credit that group with helping me establish a regular and consistent writing pattern.

2. You were a globe-trotting corporate employee for a long time. How did your travel help enrich your writing? Do you have a favorite location?

Yes, I frequently traveled to the largest cities in the US and Europe. London is my favorite place. The business trips there involved focus groups at night, so our days were left free to explore the city. I got to see so many famous museums and landmarks. One of my favorite places is Spencer House, which was built in the mid-eighteenth century for the first Earl Spencer, an ancestor of the late Princess Diana. You can see a photo of the house on my website (listed below). Inside, the rich furnishings are breathtaking and helped me to visualize my characters in similar surroundings. During a different house tour of Apsley House, Wellington’s home, I got a great idea for my next book after seeing the giant and very naked statue of Napoleon by the staircase. πŸ˜‰

I also got ideas from formal tours such as a boat tour along the Thames, which gave me an idea to take the characters on an ill-fated barge trip. During a walking tour through the West End, I was quite surprised to find myself standing in front of Beau Brummel’s town house. At any rate, these period town houses helped me to visualize what my heroine Tessa’s town house might have looked like on the outside.

3. Who is Buttercup and why is she so important?

Buttercup is my very spoiled mini-lop rabbit, and she thinks she’s very important. I imagine she’s the only rabbit with her very own bedroom. No, I’m not joking. I had to contain her or she would get into mischief if left to roam free around the house. But keeping her in a cage seemed cruel because animals need space just like we do. So Buttercup has a see-through babygate at her bedroom door and scratches on it when she wants out.

4. How does watching reality television lead to an awesome story idea that I had to wait FOREVER to read? πŸ˜‰ Seriously, it is the most clever idea, and I knew the minute I read it in that contest that you would sell!

Lynn, I was thrilled to the point of tears when I read your comments in that contest. Your encouragement really made a difference in my writing life. As for the idea for HOW TO MARRY A DUKE, it just popped into my head the first time I happened upon a reality dating show: The Bachelor in Regency England, minus the hot tub and camera crew. At first, I thought it was too crazy, but then I thought, “Oh, why not? It’s not as if you have anything to lose?” While the bachelor plot provides a lot of fun, games, and conflict, the primary focus of the book is Tristan’s and Tessa’s love story.

5. Why Regency England?

The first romance I ever read was Judith McNaught’s ALMOST HEAVEN. I’ve been hooked on Regency England ever since.

6. What’s the next book about and when can we buy it?

HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL, due out in early July 2011, features two characters from book one: the charming rogue Hawk and Julianne, the sister of Hawk’s best friend Tristan. When Hawk reluctantly agrees to be Julianne’s unofficial guardian, he never expects the formerly prim and proper Julianne to rebel. But he has no idea she’s planning to write a lady’s guide to snaring bachelors in the proverbial parson’s mousetrap.

7. Any advice for aspiring writers?

Kick fear to the curb. And as Winston Churchill said, Never, never, never give up!

Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the UK allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her β€œTrouble.”

When she’s not writing, Vicky enjoys reading, films, concerts, and most of all, long lunches with friends. She holds degrees in English literature and marketing. A native Texan, she shares her home with her daughter and a spoiled mini-lop rabbit that lives in a slightly gnawed cardboard cottage.

You can visit Vicky at her website.