Alyssa: When I was first married, I worked nights at the hospital where my husband was training, eleven to seven. Some nights were busy but some were so quiet it was eight hours of keeping a chair warm. I started reading romances to pass the time, and the local library had a huge collection of gothics and regencies. I fell hard for Victoria Holt and then Georgette Heyer, and now I write the same kind of story I love to read.
Alyssa: It’s a “friends into lovers” romance in which the heroine has made the mistake of assigning Mr. Right to the Friend Zone, and that’s more or less the way my own how-I-met-your-father story goes. I first set eyes on my husband in college, and he was so much quieter and more unassuming than his noisy, crazy, irreverent roommates, I figured he was the last man I’d end up dating–and he was the last man, because once I got to know him, I realized what an amazing guy he is, and I married him not long after we graduated.
Alyssa: Yes, definitely, because the theme of the story is all about seeing beyond the surface. The alpha males of the world have no trouble making an impression at a party, but what if the most deserving guy in the room is the introvert who spends the evening wishing he had a great opening line? Alex is that kind of man–the one your mother hopes you’ll invite home for Thanksgiving, especially if you have a regrettable track record of falling for bad boys who never call. He’s shy and serious and while the alpha males are hanging out with their buddies at that party and having one drink too many, Alex is the guy you can count on to walk you back to your room.
Alyssa: I realize that quite a few readers absolutely hate the big misunderstanding, but I’ve never been one of them. What isGone With the Wind, if not a story in which Scarlett repeatedly misunderstands Rhett’s actions toward her? What isRebecca, if not a story in which the second Mrs. DeWinter misunderstands everything she learns about her husband’s first marriage? I love a big misunderstanding story because the way a character misinterprets his or her world can say a lot about what that character needs to learn in order to find happiness, and because it’s so satisfying when he or she finally realizes the truth.
Alyssa: Well, I was an English major in college and I had to read a lot of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century lit, so I figured I might as well make everyone else read some, too. <g> Besides, aside from using slightly more modern language I wanted the story to feel convincingly regency, and it wasn’t unusual for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century authors like Ann Radcliffe or George Eliot to open each chapter of a story with an epigraph, so the quotations seemed to fit.
Alyssa: It opens on a packet ship crossing the North Atlantic, with the heroine and her globe-trotting father returning home to England. When the father suffers a fatal heart attack, the heroine, Rosalie, turns in her panic to the nearest passenger–David, the mysterious and solitary Marquess of Deal. David lost his own father to a horrific suicide years before, so despite his reclusive tendencies he feels a connection to Rosalie. The end of the voyage spurs him to propose, but once they’re married Rosalie discovers her handsome husband is strangely reluctant to consummate the marriage. Rosalie has to uncover the secret of David’s puzzling withdrawal from the outside world.
Alyssa: Oh, no, I think there were some pretty great romances written long before I decided to give it a try. While I love the new books coming out these days, some amazing authors have been writing for years.
Alyssa: Have faith in yourself and know your own strengths, but at the same time listen to feedback and consider it carefully. Join a critique group or find a critique partner who understands the genre you’re writing and generally seems to “get” you, yet isn’t afraid to offer constructive criticism. Enter your work in contests–but take the judges’ comments with a grain of salt; I can’t tell you how many times I entered contests only to receive both an “I love this!” and an “I hate this!” on the same entry. Most of all, don’t give up. Keep writing, keep learning, keep submitting. Of all the qualities that lead to success in the writing world, persistence is the most important.
Alyssa: Yes! I’m happy to say that I got the rights back when Dorchester Publishing sold off its titles this past summer, and I’ve signed a contract with Carina Press that should see the story published late in 2013 or early in the following year. It’s about a squabbling pair, a man’s-man and spinster, who have to work together to clear their respective family members of a murder. It’ll be my third title with Carina, and I’ll be sure to announce the publication date once it’s set.
Alyssa: All different places–Google image search is definitely my friend! I love Pinterest. Sometimes I pin something to an inspiration boards just to illustrate how I see my settings and characters, and sometimes the pin sparks new ideas.