Confessions of a Mills & Boon contest junkie… – Amalie Berlin

Confessions of a Mills & Boon contest junkie… – Amalie Berlin

With #24HoursInMandB, our rapid Medical Fast-Track competition, getting underway on Monday, we thought we’d catch up with some of the Medical romance authors to find out more about how they became exactly that…a Medical romance author. Who better to ask then, than brand new author Amalie Berlin! Having recently published her second novel, Uncovering Her Secrets, we asked Amalie to confess all about her journey to becoming a Mills & Boon author…

Over to Amalie…

Selling through one of M&B’s contests didn’t cure me of my addiction. Although I know this is going to make someone—possibly everyone—want to slap me, I’m going to put my hand up and confess: I’m totally jealous that I can’t enter the current Medical Fast-Track, #24HoursInMandB. I have a bad case of contest envy.

My tragic (gasp!) addiction story began with a Medical Fast-Track, back in the summer of 2010. I’d found the Harlequin forums earlier that year because I knew I wanted to write, but I was lost in a sea of possibilities. No direction. No idea where to focus my attention. No idea where to start. Overwhelmed by the several different series I enjoyed…

Worse: I was certain that no matter how much I loved category romance, I couldn’t write it. My voice is irreverent and strongly laced with (possibly inappropriate) humor most of the time. I think laughing during sexytimes is awesome, everyone else in the world could think I’m weird.

I’d never even heard of the Medical Romances before the Fast-Track announcement. The promise of rapid turnaround is what caught my attention. I figured I’d hear that I should stop writing romance right now rather than after I had invested years into trying! So not the right attitude, by the way, but I was young(er) and a bit stupid.

I couldn’t in good conscience submit if I didn’t genuinely like the books, so I trundled through the website’s store, found some books (a Sarah Morgan, a Carol Marinelli, and a Josie Metcalfe), bought them, and spent the weekend developing a new addiction.

I really liked these books. They had a different feel than other series I’d read. I saw room for genuinely tortured characters with no easy solutions, the kind of angst that sends me to my happy place. Medicals were that normal-looking penny you see on the sidewalk, pick up and find to be a collector’s item. Or the arrowhead hidden in the skipping stones. I genuinely loved them. My imagination went into overdrive.

I didn’t get that rejection I expected. I got a full request. It took me 11 months to write it. And during that time and the subsequent wait time, I entered the New Voices competition, the first So You Think You Can Write contest, and another Medical pitch. Despite several rejections I couldn’t stop entering. I had tons of medical ideas, and the editors didn’t mind my irreverent voice and unfettered weird—QUIRKINESS. Rejections, even if they are given the best possible way, can eventually wear you down. And by summer 2012, I was beginning to think I couldn’t write category romance. Which is why I was practicing a very adult method of ignoring the looming SYTYCW 2012 competition (I think it involved going LALALALA and plugging my ears when anyone mentioned it). I didn’t decide to enter until the 11th hour, when I caved to peer pressure (thank you critique partners!), and entered with a manuscript I’d barely started writing. I had most of chapter 1 done!

I wrote the rest of the manuscript in 16 days, in a caffeine and sugar fuelled whirlwind that left me half zombie/half deranged-chipmunk, and got the first draft done before they announced the entrants who’d made it to the second round. I was not among them, but I was still in zombie-chipmunk mode so it didn’t faze me at all. And then I got an email from lovely Medical Romance Editor, Suzanne Clarke. Thinking it was a Thanks for playing kind of email, I only half read it. I had to reread it at least twice more before I realized she wanted me to send her the full manuscript.

I emailed straight back—right after I sent a nearly incomprehensible-with-glee email to my critique partners. And as I remember this so clearly, here’s what happened next…

Monday — Nov 12 — Sent in first half of manuscript.
Monday — Nov 19 — Got revision notes on first half (Which were rather epic, if enthusiastic).
Tuesday — Nov 20 — Emailed back to thank her and set a deadline for the revised full
Thursday — Nov 22 — THANKSGIVING! (Eat pie, think about story, nod like I’m listening when people talk to me).
Black Friday — Nov 23 — Suzy emailed to ask for first three revised chapters earlier, if possible. I agreed, naturally, and set another close date to send them by.
Wednesday — Nov 28 — Sent revised chapters 1-3
Thursday — Dec 6 — One day before deadline (Yay!), I sent in the revised full.
Tuesday — Dec 18 — Received another round of revision notes. Again, fairly epic in scope.
Christmas & New Year’s derailed progress for rest of December.
Monday — Jan 7 — Contacted Suzy to propose Jan 18 deadline for revisions, and she said sure!
Thursday — Jan 24 — Actual date I managed to send in revisions. They were hard, man. HARD.
Then I spent time with the Crickets of Scary Silence.
Wednesday — Feb 20 — Email arrived from Suzy, asking if she could call in the afternoon. I said sure, but then promptly missed the call. Emailed, rescheduled for next day.
Friday — Feb 22THE CALL!!!

And that’s the whole story. I feel like I should have some words of wisdom here, but all I’ve got is a bucket of encouragement. There’s a lot of room for variety in Medicals, sexy or sweet, sharply contemporary or cosy family… If you don’t necessarily know where you fit—and if you can hang with the medical situations—you could find a home in the medical line, and we’d be happy to have you.

My best advice:

• Write with brutal honesty (even if your characters lie, be true to who they are)
• Use your medical cases to teach them something important
• Make sure you’re crazy about both heroine and hero or no one else will be

I’ll be cheering from the sidelines!