Debut Historical Author: Vicky Dreiling

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 😉

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? 😉 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 “Trouble.”

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.

So you want to write for Harlequin Presents – Part 8

Once more, I turn the day over to Kimberly Lang, Modern Heat author!

So you want to write that *other* kind of Presents – a Modern Heat.

Part 2 – Your hero, your heroine, and their baggage.

The most common question I get from folks targeting Modern Heat is “What’s the difference between a Modern hero and a Modern Heat hero?”

Here’s the thing: they’re not *that* different when it comes to Alpha-ness. Alpha is Alpha. Alpha heroes are strong, powerful, and in charge. They make decisions, think on their feet, and problem solve. They’re rich, drop-dead sexy, and great in bed. They know what they want and they expect to get it. That’s an Alpha hero – Modern or Modern Heat.

All Alphas have a sense of entitlement – not necessarily because they’re heirs to the throne or powerful tycoons, but because they lead the pack, by God, and they didn’t fight their way to the top of the food chain to be vegetarians. (So I’m mixing metaphors again. It happens.) The Modern Heat hero can be just as ruthless as his Modern counterpart, but it’s not the default action. If charm or money or something else can get him what he needs, then he’s just as likely to go that route. But don’t underestimate him and don’t try to back him into a corner.

What makes some difference in a Modern Heat hero is the Modern Heat heroine. She’s strong and spunky. She knows what she wants; she has dreams and plans. She may not have the best job – but she might also be top of her field (my current heroine is an heiress in her own right). Her strength and spunkiness will cause her and the hero to clash on many levels – yet they’re going to understand each other at the same time in a way others don’t. Remember yesterday when I told you the guidelines said Modern Heats were full of sass? Meet the sass. She’s going to spar with him verbally, give as good as she gets, and no matter what the situation is, she will always be in it, toe-to-toe with him. It will infuriate the Alpha hero, but he’s going to respect it – however grudgingly.

Beatrice and Benedick from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing are a Modern Heat couple. But then, so are Jane Austen’s Emma and Mr. Knightly. Again, a lot of this is the tone and attitude put in place by the author.

The last thing I want to talk about for the Modern Heat couple is their baggage. Romancelandia, for the most part, is populated by characters carting around so much emotional baggage you sometimes wonder how they function in society. This makes great stories – they have so much to overcome that the emotional payoff is huge. The problem with that, though, is that it’s very difficult for people dragging around one of those enormous steam trunks of emotional baggage to be sparkly, spunky, and sassy. And remember, Modern Heats are all about tone.

This isn’t to say that the Modern Heat couple doesn’t have baggage – they do; it’s just on wheels and they drag it behind them. It’s still baggage, but it’s manageable and often fits in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of them. Like all emotional baggage, it will have to be dealt with – most likely at the worst possible moment. (Think about it this way – you have your emotional baggage safely stored in the overhead bin and you’re riding smoothly along at cruising altitude. Suddenly, you hit major turbulence, causing the bin to fly open and your baggage lands squarely on your head. It then bursts open, dumping everything into your lap and onto the person next to you. You have to try to pick it all up while still wearing your seatbelt. Then you notice that your underwear landed right in the other person’s lap. And it just gets worse from there…)

Through my mixed metaphors and clashing imagery, I hope I’ve made one thing clear for you (even if I did muddy everything else up): Modern Heat isn’t just a Modern that’s been tweaked a little by softening an Alpha or giving your heroine a temper to match her red hair. You have to approach the story from a different perspective entirely, and let that spunky, sparky, sassy, urban and sophisticated attitude drive your characters and their story.

Questions? Comments?

Kimberly

Kimberly’s current Modern Heat (Magnate’s Mistress…Accidentally Pregnant!) is available here, and The Millionaire’s Misbehaving Mistress is available now at eHarlequin.

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Thanks, Kimberly, for explaining about Modern Heats! Because though I enjoy reading them, I couldn’t begin to tell anyone how to write one. It’s just not the way my brain works. So, for tomorrow, I’ll do a wrap up. I think it can all be dealt with in one post, but if I get wordy, it’ll get broken into two with the final one on Friday. In this last post (or two), I’ll try and cover those little things I may have missed before.

So you want to write for Harlequin Presents – Part 7

Hey, y’all! Welcome the one and only Kimberly Lang — Modern Heat author, lunch buddy, chapter mate, and friend. Kimberly has very kindly agreed to write a couple of posts about Modern Heat and how they differ from Modern.

So you want to write that *other * kind of Presents – a Modern Heat.

Part 1 – It’s all about the attitude.

It’s great that Lynn asked me to do a couple of posts on writing for Modern Heat – after all, Lynn and I spend a lot of time debating the difference between a Modern and a Modern Heat. (Yes, all are released in the US as Presents, but in order to avoid confusion here, we’ll call them Modern and Modern Heat.)

I’ll start by echoing Lynn’s earlier advice… read the books. Decide if you love them. Only if you love them will you be able to write them. If you read all the Presents released every month, you’ll probably see that two of them are not quite like the others… there’s something different.

That “something different” is what makes a Modern Heat a Modern Heat. If that “something different” sparks your Muse, then maybe Modern Heat is the right place for you.

Everyone asks about the Modern Heat hero – and I’ll go into him in more depth next time – but to me, the tone and the attitude are what set us apart from the Moderns. The editorial guidelines describe it as “a flirty young voice and a whole load of sass!”

Say you meet a set of twins – equally pretty, equally charming, equally intelligent. One is quieter, more intense, and sees the world in dramatic, black and white terms. The other is sunnier, a bit bouncier, and dramatic in the sense she’s the president of the drama club. If you present the same situation to each of the sisters, they will react differently – because their personalities are different.

That’s the key to writing Modern Heat as opposed to a Modern. It’s not a matter of making your hero Alpha-light or giving your heroine a better job. You, as the author, have to approach those same themes and hooks from a different angle – a flirty, sassy angle.

If “Pride and Prejudice” is a Modern, “Emma” is a Modern Heat. Same themes, same hooks, same setting, same author — totally different tone.

Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightly are both Alpha heroes, but the tone of the book affects how we perceive them and sets the stage for how they will react (and how those actions will be received by the other characters) in a situation.

The tone of a Modern Heat also affects the pacing of the novel as a whole. Modern Heats move. You can’t have that spunky, sparkly tone in a book that doesn’t move along at a fast clip. To pick a whole new image of fireworks (hey, it’s late at night, I’m doing the best I can), Moderns are Roman Candles, shooting up a steady stream of colorful explosions. Modern Heats are sparklers – flashy and hot and fast burning.

I know that’s probably not 100% clear, so I’ll go back to the beginning: read. Pop over to the Mills and Boon website – because it’s easier to tell the Moderns from the Modern Heats – and do a quick read of the first chapters they have there. Alternate between a Modern and a Modern Heat and see if you can identify that change in tone, that different attitude. (Lynn’s book is there in the August offerings and my new one is in the September listings – just a suggestion. 🙂 )

Tone and attitude mark the biggest difference between a Modern and a Modern Heat — and your characters, as we’ll talk about next time, have to match that tone and that attitude.

Questions so far? Comments?

Kimberly

(For a list of the Modern Heat authors and releases, visit www.sensationalromance.blogspot.com. We’re all listed there.)