The road to “The Call” was, for me, a roller coaster. Life was already chaotic when I decided to participate in the Mills & Boon Medicals’ fast track early in 2016, but I was determined to at least give it a good try. Yet, for a variety of reasons, I wasn’t particularly optimistic. While I’ve been involved in the romance writing world for over ten years, the last few had been barren of inspiration and my writing career had fallen to the wayside. “Don’t give up!” my critique partner Amy Ruttan kept saying. “You can do eet!”
Huh. I wasn’t so sure, but, hey, what did I have to lose?
But I was steeled for rejection, right up to the very end. And the timing of certain events, like the arrival of revisions in my inbox the day after Hurricane Irma came through Florida, seemed portentous. Apparently even Mother Nature decided to throw a spanner in the works.
So, mostly I just put it out of my mind. Like the night back in December when I went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday and enjoyed myself too thoroughly. At least, that’s how it felt when I woke up the next morning. As I waited for the kettle to boil so I could make a much-needed cup of tea, I checked my email. And there was a message in my inbox saying editor Nicola Caws wanted to call to discuss some more revisions…
I had an hour to wake up properly. On the best of days that wouldn’t be quite enough to achieve full competence in my case, but it was more than enough to have me going a little nuts.
In desperation, I emailed Amy, asking if she thought it might actually be “The Call” but, darn the woman, she wasn’t around to either say yea or nay! By the time Nicola called I was pacing. Honestly, I know there were pleasantries and so forth, but I don’t remember what she said, or I answered. I was a quivering mess, walking back and forth in the living room, trying to sound calm.
When she told me I was being offered a two book contract, I literally did a jig. And even though I was trying to be cool and professional, when Nicola asked me how I felt, I had to admit to dancing, and then got the giggles. She was very sweet, and nice, and put up with my periodic bouts of laughter, but when I got off the phone I knew I probably hadn’t asked one intelligent question and felt as though I’d run a marathon.
I was still giggling as I texted my husband to let him know, and shot off an email to Amy, which simply said:
TWO BOOK CONTRACT!!!
*collapses in relief*
Then, in that moment, I thought of my mother.
You see, to me Mills & Boon and Harlequin are more than just iconic romance brands; they are an emotional intersection between my mother and me. Like many women, my relationship with my mother was often a rocky one, but we shared a love of books, particularly romances. Every week my mother’s budget was carefully calculated to allow the purchase of romance novels, two, sometimes three, a habit I believe she picked up when studying nursing in England back in the 1950’s. No portrait of her life would be complete without a romance, usually a Mills & Boon or Harlequin, right beside her hand, and from a very young age I read from her extensive library. My romance “teeth,” so to speak, were cut on those books. No matter how different my mother and I were, that shared love of a story guaranteed to have a happy ending seemed to say, “You’re more alike than you can know.”
Mummy passed away in 1999, but, in reality, she’s never really far from me. And never did I feel closer to her than just after “The Call.” My pride at succeeding was amplified by the thought that I had written a book my mother might have used her carefully husbanded money to buy. A book I hope she would have enjoyed and, when she was finished reading it, closed with that satisfied sigh she always gave.
It gives having a book acquired by Mills & Boon a certain extra magic, for me, and I hope I never lose the wonder of it.
Ann McIntosh’s latest book The Nurse’s Pregnancy Miracle is out now! Keep your eyes peeled for The Surgeon’s One Night to Forever coming this December!