A Duke to Remember: Behind the Scenes

Good morning, kittens!

Today marks a very exciting day--it's my first day as a published author! Well, kind of

Let's rewind a little bit, shall we? Six months should do the trick. It was the tail end of May and scores of romance writers were knee-deep in a gleeful, harried writing competition called Avon Fanlit. Hosted by Avon Romance, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, Fanlit was launched to find the next great voices in historical romance. Designed as a round robin style contest, entrants were given a new prompt each week, with the story building off the previous winning chapter. 

Five talented authors. Five cohesive chapters. 

One hot air balloon. 

If you just did a double-take, I understand. That's entirely my fault. You see, I am not a Regency romance writer. While it's one of my favorite genres to read, it's never been one I excelled at creating. As a historical romance writer, my style is solidly 20th century--breakneck pacing, burgeoning technological innovations, and quick, snappy banter. The lush details of Regency England are beyond my dizzy grasp. So, after reading Anne-Marie Rivers' sensational winning Chapter One, my brain panicked. What did I know about Regency England? Good heavens, my heroines wouldn't be able to drive cars or drink whiskey or even curse! The horror. How could I possibly follow up such a beautifully written opening?

After spending the better part of a week batting around ideas, things looked grim. The Fanlit deadline loomed and I hadn't a single interesting idea for the second prompt. Everything I tried felt like a bad knock-off of my favorite Regency books, not something I would write. Thus, the problem. I was trying to fit my idea of the genre, not my voice's take on the genre. 

So, I gave up on fitting in.

For me to properly make A Duke to Remember my own, I needed to interject my voice and style into the chapter. I gave Felicity scientific leanings, deciding that she would be an aspiring balloonist with a secret longing for adventure. Max, who'd had plenty of adventure, would be the just the man to help her fulfill those needs. And what adventurous man in Regency England doesn't have a hot air balloon and millinery-obsessed monkey sidekick? Visions of an Around the World in 80 Days Pride and Prejudice mash-up danced in my head. I scrapped everything I'd written previously and, at 7pm the night before, decided to go with these whims. It was a blast, y'all. 

On the heady wings of inspiration (and caffeine) I wrote into the wee hours, enjoying the banter and science and voice of the chapter. Before going to bed, I did a final editing pass and pressed publish. Unlike my first chapter entry, there were no second opinions or beta reads for this one. If people didn't like it, there was no chance to change things up. Oddly enough, that was alright with me. I liked my work. I believed in it.

It sounded like, well, me. Horrid hats, mischievous primates, and all. 

All these months later, I'm still astounded that my chapter--that flurry of balloon-struck madness--actually won that round. That I went on to win the entire contest is just too astounding to contemplate, honestly. The lessons learned from Avon Fanlit and the friendships built during that contest will carry with me for years. What a wild, wonderful summer!

Even cooler, that novella--written by five amazing women and terrific writers--was published by Avon Impulse this very morning. This official version of A Duke to Remember is available from all your favorite e-book retailers as a free download and includes a special never-before-released epilogue, written by yours truly. If you'd like to see what Felicity and Max (and Pierre) got up to after the Happily-Ever-After, check it out! 

If you'd like to read other behind-the-scenes stories about how A Duke to Remember was written, you're in luck! My imminently talented co-authors have each published their own tales of our Fanlit adventures. Anne-Marie Rivers talks about how a great first line can jumpstart your creative process, Liana De La Rosa reminds us that listening to your characters  inspires the most honest work, Susannah Erwin goes through the brilliant lessons she learned and applied during the contest, and Cherilyn Tapper tells of how the best endings come when you're writing fearlessly

As for me, I'm going to keep adding balloons. Metaphorically, of course. I'm currently finishing up my first 1920's-set historical romance and keeping true to my voice, no matter the whimsical consequences. Happy reading, friends!

A Duke to Remember is now available as a free download from your favorite e-book retailers, including AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle PlayHarlequin, and the publisher, HarperCollins