Julieanne Howells is a debut author writing for the Mills & Boon Modern series. Her debut Modern romance, Desert Prince’s Defiant Bride is out now!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I like to cook. At the moment I’m into trying recipes that re-work favourites, but with a healthy twist. I recently made some cupcakes that had no flour or sugar but beetroot and soy sauce in. Sounds all kind of wrong but they were actually delicious. And virtuous!
I run. Not far and not fast. In my head I think I’m a gazelle but in reality I can’t even overtake strolling octogenarians. However it keeps me fit and I’ve had lots of ideas for new storylines and scenes while I’m pounding round my local park so it’s all good.
I live in the North East of England with my partner. This part of the world is awash with romantic castles, deserted beaches and stunning countryside. If it weren’t for the cold wind coming off the North Sea it would be perfect. Sigh…
For many years I was a bookseller, which I loved. Not only was I surrounded by books all day, but I got to meet so many amazing authors. I’d sometimes ask for their top writing tips. Number one? Discipline. That’s a toughie for me but as I work on book two I’m embracing my inner control-freak and learning to love a deadline.
Why did you want to become a romance writer?
I’ve always been a sucker for a romance. From Cinderella to Jane Eyre, I can’t get enough. Then I discovered Mills & Boon and thought all my Christmases had come at once: full on gorgeous romance from page one.
I haven’t always written, apart from some very angsty songs when I was a teenager. I imagined writing a whole book would be too difficult. So I think it actually chose me, because snippets of scenes and dialogue kept popping into my head until eventually I had to start writing them down. My first efforts were terrible, of course, but I’m nothing if not determined and kept plugging away, learning more about the craft, fine tuning and, of course reading, reading, reading.
Getting lost in the glamorous world of the Modern/Presents series is such fun but at its core it’s about two people who are meant to be together and just haven’t found a way yet. I find that so moving. And I love watching a strong, assured alpha stumble briefly when she, (or he) walks by. He thinks its a blip and carries on. But we know his life is about to be turned upside down and that he’ll emerge so much happier for it.
Who wouldn’t want to write about that?
What were the major steps in your to journey to becoming a published author? Was this story the first manuscript you submitted?
When I first started writing and discovered that Mills & Boon read every submission I thought I’d give it a go. Happily discovering that while I really loved reading them, it’s also pretty good trying to write them – although not at three a.m. when the ideas won’t come and you have a looming deadline.
This was my first submission and I’m humbled that Nic Caws decided it had some potential, helped me to develop the story and then eventually bought it.
What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
Believe in yourself and never stop learning and trying to hone your craft. Keep working on your story certainly, but don’t wait too long. Bite the bullet and send it off. Get it in front of someone who knows exactly what they’re looking at and can give you the feedback you need to keep improving.
I went through periods of thinking everything I’d written was hopeless…well, some of it was. So when my initial three chapters prompted a request for the full manuscript I was so thrilled I literally did that dancing-round-the-house thing. But when that came back with lots of notes for a major rewrite I’ll be honest, I was thoroughly daunted. How was I going to re-imagine the story?
But you can and you do. As you will with the next set of revisions which will surely follow. Along the way you learn that what started out as just your story, ends up being a collaboration between you and your editor, and the final result is all the better for it.
Finally, for me, the game changer was getting the help of a writing coach. Writing can be such a solitary business and I needed someone to hold me accountable so I actually hit the deadlines I set myself. I think I’d still be an aspiring author rather than a published one if it weren’t for that.
I’ve seen lots of debut authors talk about how important it is to build a support network. For me it was having a coach; for you it might be a writing buddy or creative writing group. Find what will work for you and go for it.
What did you do when you got the call?
I received a message from my lovely editor, asking if I had any time the next day. Because I’d just sent back a final handful of tweaks she’d requested, I thought, gosh, maybe this is it! I was the hairdresser at the time and I nearly fell out of the chair in excitement, hair covered in dye-goo and all.
The next day, via Zoom (good job I’d had the hair done) I finally got the call, and it was utterly brilliant, a genuine life changing moment.
Afterwards I think I rang or messaged just about everyone I knew. To be honest, all these months later, I still can’t quite believe it.
Hear from Julieanne’s acquiring editor, Nicola Caws:
Julieanne’s submission stood out from the crowd when it came to us via Submittable. She has such a warmth to her storytelling and wonderful ability to layer humour through her story, while still delivering on the emotional promise of the Modern series. This is romance that makes you feel good, with every page you turn!
Desert Prince’s Defiant Bride by Julieanne Howells
A pretend engagement to Crown Prince Khaled wasn’t part of Lily’s plan to prove her brother’s innocence, but the brooding sheikh is quite insistent. Their simmering chemistry makes playing his fiancée in public easy—and resisting temptation in private impossible!