I came to writing historical romance through the back door, so to speak. First, I was a journalist. No, let me back up. First, I was a reader. I got hooked on the old Gothic romances of the Victoria Holt variety. Just loved those women-in-jeopardy stories. So I decided I could write one of them. Only, like my favorite author at the time, Mary Stewart, I would use a modern-day setting.
At 25, I completed my first novel. But it didn't sell. Another of the same genre followed, and it didn't sell, either. When I read a big, sweeping historical like those so popular in the 1980s, I thought I could write one of them, but I'd set it in World War II.
That book, in manuscript form, won several contests, as did my women-in-jeopardy (now called romantic suspense) stories. But still no publishing contract. However, the senior editor at Harlequin Historical was judging my World War II book, which had finaled in a contest, and she said she liked my writing and would like to see something I'd written with a setting prior to the 1900s.
By then I had joined Romance Writers of America and was desperate for a book contract. I'd been scribbling stories for two decades. So I decided I could write a romance set in Regency England. I had read every book Georgette Heyer ever wrote, and I loved the era. I'd even gotten to the point where I was finding errors in other author's stories. So I began writing A Duke Deceived. After I'd written three chapters, I entered it in two or three contests, and to my delight, it placed in each one I entered. When I completed it in 1996, I sent it to that editor at Harlequin Historical, and a half a year later, they called and offered me a publishing contract.
It was the seventh book I'd written! About half of those which came before it are not publishable. Three of them--including that World War II romance, It Had to Be You--have been indie published, and though sales are not huge on them, readers have responded very favorably.
I was thrilled when that first published book won me the title of Notable New Author in 1999. More than thirty novels set in Regency England have followed.
What about that first romantic suspense I wrote when I was 25? It's now been indie published as CapitolOffense. To my shock, my indie editor said Capitol Offense was his favorite of the six books he edited for me.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that neither the World War II love story nor the romantic suspense stories sell well, even though the reviews are good. All of my Regency-set historicals are perennial bestsellers. Readers just don't follow me to other genres.
Many of my historicals contain mystery elements. That way I can keep my feet in both camps.
After all these years, it's still a guilty pleasure for me to read those old midcentury women-in-jeopardy stories.--Cheryl Bolen, whose newest series is The Lords of Eton. The second installment, The Earl, the Vow, and the Plain Jane, came out this month.