We’ve another lucky Friday the 13th this month, and I count myself very lucky to host a piece from romance writer Jill Blair. She tells the story of luck found in an old email – and don’t we all save old email way too long, or so the efficiency experts tell us? Not Jill. She knows the possibilities hidden there.
As an author and avid reader of sensual romance and erotica, Jill Blair believes the two greatest pleasures in life are sex and travel, attributing her happy marriage and vivid imagination to the generous combination of both. The proud mother of two grown boys, she’s enjoyed a colorful variety of jobs–mother, waitress, bartender, restaurateur, entrepreneur, University student, petroleum chemist, and several in-betweens—all serving as building blocks (and storylines) for her lifelong dream of writing and publishing romance novels. Originally from Canton, Ohio, Jill’s parents uprooted her to sunny Southern California where surfing was a high school requirement and scuba diving became an adulthood passion. She still resides in California with her incredible husband, the inspiration for all her heroes.
The Luck in Being an Email Pack Rat
Luck alone didn’t bring me all the good things in my life…but it sure did help me get to where I wanted to be as an author a lot quicker. My good luck story started in the beginning of 2012.
Actually, the root of the story started many years earlier when I sat down at my typewriter (wait, what’s a typewriter?) and decided I wanted to become a romance novelist. That first novel took years to write. Interruptions of marriage, children, divorce, college, and career sidelined the book until about four years ago. With my life well settled in a second – and much happier – marriage, and my two boys grown and on their own, I picked up the beginning chapters of that old manuscript and finished it.
After sending it off to Harlequin, anticipating my instant success, I began my second book. And then my third. The letters of rejection (several for each book) did not dissuade me…much… and I kept on writing. I told almost no one of my pursuit. My husband and my best friend were my only cohorts. And as time passed, I continued to write but publishing melted into the background.
Then I lucked upon an old email (I save them all) from Romance Writers of America. I had joined them when I finished that first book, and let my membership lapse when adding my membership status to query letters didn’t magically bring me that coveted publishing contract.
I hadn’t thought about RWA for months but decided to click the link to their site. I noticed that the 2012 National Conference was scheduled in Anaheim California. I couldn’t believe my luck, the Nationals were right in my back yard. I took that as an omen and an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I joined RWA and registered to go.
Having both a finished manuscript and a rejection letter under my belt, I qualified for PRO and gained access to their mail list. For the first time I had access to writers like me, and writers who knew more than me. Then another member shared information about a contest with Champagne Book Group. I had never heard of that publisher, or any publisher other than Harlequin. I submitted one of my short erotic stories and that was the lucky moment that changed everything.
Let me sidetrack a bit. If you haven’t been to a RWA Conference, I highly recommend it. Attending the RWA National Conference was both terrifying and exciting. I was publicly stating I wrote romance. That was scary. I met wonderful writers, authors, editors, and agents that were encouraging and honest. That was exciting. I pitched both The Depth of Desire and The 30-Day Gamble to Harlequin editors. Both asked for chapters. That was thrilling. I was proud to be among my peers, a writer, and ready to announce it to the world.
So when I received notice that my erotic story – MY STORY — won the Champagne contest and prize was a contract to publish, I was ready to grab that brass ring and run. My editor was brutal and I learned so much about the evils of passive writing and adverbs from her. I know my writing is better because of her.
Since then, I have published a second erotic story (under a pseudonym, of course) and three steamy full-length romances under my real name, Jill Blair. Both Champagne and Bookstrand Publishing have treated me well, the editors have been both ferocious and supportive, and I look forward to years of writing and publishing.