My role at Harlequin recently changed. Never fear, I’m still the editorial assistant for the awesome authors of Intrigue, Nocturne, and Nocturne Cravings… but now I’m also a writer. Not just a writer, but an author. And not just any ol’ author, but a Harlequin author.
It all started over a Christmas bonus. Now, I joined Harlequin in June 2011. In December of that year, I sat down with my bosses for my end of the year performance review. They informed me that I was doing well (yay!), that I’d get a small raise (I’ll take anything!), and that I’d receive a certain percentage of my yearly salary as my holiday bonus (say what?!?). The moment I got back to my desk, I opened the calculator on my computer and figured out exactly how much that would be. I was ecstatic.
But when I logged into my banking online the morning the bonus was supposed to be posted to my account, my face dropped. Because it was less than what I’d expected. Actually, it was less than half what I’d expected. In a panic, I called my boss. She calmly informed me that she’d check with HR for me. Seconds later, she called me back.
Boss: “Can you come by my office?”
Me. “Okay, but before I come down… is the amount right or wrong?”
Boss: (pause) “It’s right.”
And that was the moment I burst into tears. It was in part due to the fact that it was the week before Christmas and that’s when the office is at its most hectic and everyone’s a little fragile. But, more importantly, it was because I had already planned out the bonus money—down to the penny—for Christmas gifts for family and friends, a vacation for the following year, and, most importantly, bills (and by bills I mean student loans).
The walk down to my boss’ office was like a slow death march. Closing the door behind me, I hoped that my glasses would somehow obscure most of my red, tearing eyes. But it didn’t. My boss felt terrible and explained. I technically only worked half the year, so I received half the bonus. Minus the taxes and I was left with a sum that would not cover all of my grand plans.
And so, my incredibly sweet boss, said (and I will never forget): “If I could give you the money myself, I would, but my husband would kill me.” And that touched me because I knew it was true.
And so while she couldn’t give me the money herself, she did help me brainstorm ways I could make up the funds. After throwing a few ideas around she asked me if I wanted to write. The erotica line she runs, Nocturne Cravings, was in need of new authors and I could always give it a try. Now, I had always wanted to write. I went to school for writing, I had won awards for things I had written, but that was for nonfiction humor. I had never written romance… or even fiction. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I could do it.
It took a year. Writing eighteen thousand words shouldn’t take a year, but it did for me because I spent most of the year 1) coming up with really complex plot ideas that were hard for ME to follow, let alone another person and 2) doubting myself. I went through two completely different drafts, the first of which, in my infinite wisdom, had a grandmother character in it that I had to remind myself had no place in an erotic novella. But then, on December 4th, 2012, I submitted “A Scorching Seduction” to my boss: my work, but with a fake name slapped on the front, so she had no idea it was me.
A few weeks passed. Before I knew it, Christmas vacation was in three days and that afternoon my boss was taking me out for a holiday lunch because, as I mentioned previously, she rocks.
I was going to bring up the submission at our lunch at noon, but by ten AM I had grown restless. You know how published authors talk about the moment their editors first call them to offer a deal? Well, it was exactly like that, but in reverse and the editor had no idea that the person she was offering the deal to was the person on the other side of the phone. After hanging up, I have never walked down the corridor to her office faster.
The best part is, the moment I revealed myself, she said, “Oh thank goodness. Because if I’d rejected your project, that would’ve made for a really awkward lunch.”