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Featured Jewel – Brenda Hiatt

 

Brenda’s first-ever author photo, circa 1992

Unlike many authors, I didn’t grow up thinking I’d be a writer someday. I did love making up stories as a child (and sometimes got in trouble for it), so maybe that should have been a clue? But until well into college, I planned to become a veterinarian, not a novelist. It was a creative writing class I took for fun in graduate school that sparked the idea of someday writing fiction “for real.” Still, I didn’t get serious about it until I had my first computer—mainly because I wasn’t a great typist and couldn’t face the thought of writing multiple drafts on a typewriter.

By then I was a stay-at-home Army wife with two toddlers, so I mostly wrote during nap times. My earliest efforts were children’s short stories, which I sent off to magazines. I never sold any, though I received a few fairly flattering rejection letters, so I decided to try my hand at writing a novel—a Regency romance, since those were my favorites and I already had an idea for one. Since I didn’t know a single other writer at the time, I relied on Kathryn Falk’s How to Write a Romance Novel and Get it Published as my primary guideline. I also made a deal with myself: if I didn’t sell a book before my youngest started first grade, I had to get a “real” job—strong motivation!

Because I hadn’t developed much discipline yet, it took me nearly a year to write that first book. Then I sent a query letter to each of the half dozen or so publishers putting out Regencies at the time. Soon, I started racking up rejection letters. Most were form letters, but one, from an editor with Harlequin’s Regency line (now defunct, alas) requested my manuscript! Elated, I sent it off. Naive as I was, I fully expected a call with an offer within weeks, if not days. Ha ha ha! Instead, after SIX months, I finally received my manuscript back, rejected. On my birthday. (Yes, really.)

After a good cry, I reread the rejection letter and noticed that at the very end, the editor asked to see anything else I’d written. Since I’d just finished my second Regency, I polished it up and sent it to her, my hopes again high. And waited. After ANOTHER six months, I received that manuscript back with what I first thought was another rejection letter, but on closer reading turned out to be a revision letter! Needless to say, I made those requested revisions in record time even though they were extensive (I had to move whole scenes around) and sent it back off, this time with my fingers tightly crossed. More months passed, but then I finally got “The Call.” Harlequin wanted to buy my book—and my youngest daughter was only halfway through kindergarten! Hooray!

Original Harlequin cover and current ebook cover

Gabriella became the first of six Regency romances I went on to sell to Harlequin. Oh, remember that very first book I wrote, the one that was rejected on my birthday? Once I’d written a few more books and had a better idea of what I was doing, I pulled it back out and gave it another hard look. Yes, I could see why it had been rejected, but I still loved the basic story and the characters that had inspired me to write it in the first place. I thought it deserved another chance, so I got to work…and I’m happy to report that after some much-needed revision, Harlequin also bought Azalea and published it as my sixth and final Harlequin Regency Romance, one of the last books under that imprint before it closed. After that I moved on to HarperCollins/Avon with bigger, sexier historical romances, then eventually to indie publishing, but I’ll always have a soft spot for my early traditional Regencies—and the editor who took a chance on a brand new author. 

 

Read azalea now!

After an arranged marriage, Azalea’s new husband is lost at sea. Arriving in England six years later, Azalea discovers her husband alive but with no memory of her or their marriage. Worse, he’s betrothed! Can she make him remember the truth before he breaks her heart again?

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