There was much excitement at Paradise Heights last week when the UK team signed a brand new author for Cherish, Katrina Cudmore. Dditor Laura McCallen caught up with Katrina to find out more about her journey to publication…
The best present I ever got was a box set of fairy-tales my siblings gave me for Christmas when I was five years old! Five books in one box; Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, Sleeping Beauty, Billy Goats Gruff and Rapunzel. How fantastic was that! It started my love affair with books and one that is central to my life to this day.
In my teenage years I moved on to Jackie Collins (my English teacher found me reading Lucky when I should have been reading Silas Marner!), Maeve Binchy and of course my favourite, my mum’s Mills & Boon stories. I have vivid memories of one story featuring a brooding Mexican who holds the heroine captive in his isolated hacienda. It was all so glamourous and exciting to a teenage girl growing up on a dairy farm in rural Ireland. And to this day I adore the romance, the intrigue, the escapism of romance novels.
I did attempt writing in my early twenties but soon realised that it was a lot harder than it looked! It was only with experience that I realised that writing is a skill and that there is a craft to it that everyone has to learn.
I studied Psychology at University College Cork and then a Masters in Human Resources at the London School of Economics. I worked in Human Resources in various parts of England on graduating and fell in love with the country, making some wonderful friends along the way.
Though we were both studying in Cork University, I actually met my husband in Boston. We were both working in America for the summer as students and I feel in love with him on sight. He was my first ever boyfriend and after twenty six years together, my heart still speeds up when I see him. After five years in England we decided to marry and return to Ireland. Quite quickly four children arrived on the scene and any thoughts of writing were ignored to the demands of parenting and running my own business in occupational psychology. But I always had romance stories churning in my brain during those years.
Now, fast forward to four years ago. I was listening to my favourite Irish radio programme when Abby Green was interviewed. Abby’s enthusiasm and love for writing honestly stopped me in my tracks. And instantly I knew I had to start writing again.
My first year was spent in the wilderness … I had no idea that there was so much online support, I was clueless about craft; conflict, emotional depth, tropes etc. were all alien terms to me but I did manage to write an entire book and I fell in love with writing.
Year two, it all changed. I found the Harlequin community forum!
Donna Alward whose writing I adore ran a pitch competition soon after I joined and I was blown away by the support Donna gave to each participant. Soon after, I found my two critique partners on there – Sally and Carrie, who have been the best writing partners and friends anyone could wish for. Then soon after, Presents ran a pitch competition. They didn’t shortlist my entry but they did like my voice and invited me to submit to the Romance line.
Since then, for almost two years my wonderful editor – Laura McCallen – has stuck by me as I have slowly learnt the craft of romance writing. Two stories were abandoned, which was tough at the time, but with each I went back and tried to understand what didn’t work. Sometimes I lost my way and really did consider giving up. But each time I had a wobble of confidence I would take comfort in the struggles and successes detailed on the Harlequin forum. Time and time again, published authors would remind us that persistence is the key to being published. And it’s a mantra I tried to stick by.
The past four years have been incredible. I have learnt so much and I love the stimulation of learning a new craft. As for writing; in psychology there is a concept of flow. Flow is about living in the moment, being utterly absorbed in an activity. Time falls away and you forget about physical needs. I used to be envious of those who experienced it in their work. Now that I am writing, I get to experience flow every day!
As to the actual call, to be honest, I’m still in shock and can barely process it. I had sent a requested full to my editor two weeks ago and she sent me an email saying she wanted to chat with me about it. We had a similar conversation before, so I thought it would be another detailed chat on revisions. When she said they wanted to buy it, all I could say was ‘Are you sure?’! Part of me is still waiting for her to call back to say she made a mistake! The book has been titled ‘Swept into the Rich Man’s World’. Set on the south coast of Ireland and Paris, it’s going to be published March 2016! I’m totally in love with my Irish hero, Patrick Fitzsimon (think Michael Fassbender!)
My mum introduced me to Mills and Boon all those years ago. I lost her soon after. I miss her with all my heart and this book will be dedicated to her because she always encouraged me to live life to the full.
I feel so honoured to be joining such a talented group of authors and supportive editors in Mills & Boon.
Follow Katrina on Twitter @KatrinaCudmore and be the first to hear when her book in published!