In a nail-biting finish on Friday afternoon, Marie-Louise Steyn’s sensational chapter Midwife Under Cover was crowned the winner of our 24 Hours in M & B Medical fast-track.
And with the news of her win – and a six-month editorial mentorship under her belt – only just sinking in, we’ve caught up with Marie-Louise to ask her about the 24 Hours experience…
What made you submit to 24 Hours in M&B?
My two great weaknesses: my addiction to Harlequin Mills & Boon Medicals and my inability to wait. True story: when my grandma heard about my first pregnancy, her first words were: “You do realise you are going to have to wait nine months for this baby to hatch, don’t you?” You can see why the promise of editorial feedback within 24 hours would appeal to me!
What gave you the idea for your winning combination of FBI agent and midwife?
A naughty dream involving Special Agent Seeley Booth playing with a stethoscope. No, just joking, except about the Booth bit. The plot is a fusion of my work in a birth unit as a doula, and my healthy and productive obsession with all things Bones, especially David Boreanaz.
How would you describe your 24 Hours journey?
Surreal and hazardous to my health! I wrote the opening chapter a few months ago and pretty much shelved it because I worried the suspense element was too strong for Medical. The story wouldn’t let me go, though, and I kept seeing that stethoscope.
When 24 Hours in M&B was announced, I really wanted to enter. I planned to write something new, something more traditional, but was in the middle of a cross-country move with 5 kids and 8 dogs. Two days before the closing date, half off my head on flu meds, I wrote the synopsis and hit send. I was so sure the chapter would be rejected that I immediately started working on another. Imagine my surprise when I got a request for a partial! But why hadn’t the editors given me any feedback on how to improve the story? “We think your writing shows promise” had to be code for “we actually just want to see if they have sex in the next chapter”, surely.
So, when I saw a new e-mail from Charlotte Mursell on the 28th, my first thought was that they’d made a mistake and didn’t want that partial after all. It took a few moments for the words ‘Top Three’ to sink in. When they did, my yells brought the male members of my family running, armed to kill what had to be an enormous spider. I then proceeded to convince myself that the editors were testing the waters with my suspense element and that I wouldn’t get any votes except from my family. I was calmly resigned to my fate until Charlotte tweeted that there were only 8 votes separating numbers one and three. By 3 p.m. BST I’d given myself a migraine.
Who would you compare your hero and heroine to?
The hero? Um, David Boreanaz. The heroine looks something like Cameron Diaz with very short hair, purple highlights and a tattoo.
What are your top writing tips & tricks?
The R’s: Reading, ‘Riting and Red Wine…
1) Reading: read a lot, and read consciously, like a writer. Ask yourself why you like certain books – what it is that works for you.
2) Writing: free writing is probably my top tip. I always write at least three pages longhand before even switching on my computer. I think on paper. I write about my plot, my characters, their backgrounds and conflict, and even about my resistance to writing. I don’t censor myself, I don’t think about what I’m writing, I just keep my hand moving. Whenever I get “stuck” with my story, I go back to free writing.
3) Red wine: by this I don’t mean writers should become alcoholics, or give up on coffee, heaven forbid! I mean that we should remember to live a little. To fill the well of our imagination with sensory and emotional experiences. It gives us something to write about, after all.
How did it feel when you realised you had won 24 Hours in M&B?
Well, I was watching the Twitter feed like it was David Boreanaz taking a shower. I felt more like I’d been strapped to Old Sparky, though. First, I couldn’t wait to be put out of my misery. And when my name appeared? Shocked to death.
What are your writing dreams for the future?
Finding a home at M&B Medical for the stories keeping me awake at night. (Although the medication I’m taking for my obsessive thoughts about David Boreanaz is certainly helping for the insomnia, as I’m sure you can tell).
Congratulations to Marie-Louise and thank you for answering our questions. A huge congratulations must also go to our fabulous runners-up, Catherine Coles and Marie Timlin, who wrote so wonderfully that we decided to offer both of them a 3-month editorial mentorship! It’s wonderful to be able to read such talented new writers in competitions like this and to think that we now get to continue working with these three women makes us feel very lucky indeed!
Thank you to everyone that made #24HoursInMandB so special!