The Ultimate Seduction, 21st Century Gentlemen’s Club
You would not believe how many topics I have started and killed on this page. My problem is, even though I’m now a multi-published author working on my fifteenth manuscript since making my first sale in 2012, I feel like an expert on nothing.
Synopses? Learned that from Laurie Schnebly Campbell. Emotion? Margie Lawson. GMC (Goal, Motivation & Conflict) I don’t even have to say, do I? Deb Dixon, of course. Pretty much every craft topic I can think of, or even business topic—Career Planning, Lucy Monroe—I already know someone who teaches it better than I have every learned it.
The two elements that I personally get compliments on, love scenes and dialogue, are two things I just write with my breath held, hoping they turn out well. If I started deconstructing how I write them, I fear I’d break my brain.
So I looked at my new release and asked myself what I learned from writing it and realized it does stand out in a few ways. It was the first book where I was given a premise by my editor and asked to write to spec. It’s also a mini series so I collaborated with two other authors, something I’d never done. And it was also scheduled before it was written. The deadline was not flexible.
Given we’re all voyeurs when it comes to how our fellow authors get books written, I thought some of you might find it interesting to hear how all of that played out.
This adventure started when I was told I was being moved to a different editor. I write for the Harlequin Mills and Boon office in London and all of the editors I’ve met there have been lovely, wonderful people. Still, it’s always disconcerting to be shifted to an unknown, very much like starting a new job.
My new editor asked if she could call for a proper get-to-know-you chat and we’d barely got started when she said, “I’ve just picked up this email. How would you like to work on a special project?”
I don’t know how you feel about publishing, but I’m pretty much terrified the bubble will burst at any second. If my publisher wants a book from me, I will deliver it. “Love to,” I said before I knew anything about who I’d be working with or what the project was or when it was due.
Details were provided later that week and I learned the setting would be a modern take on an old-fashioned Gentlemen’s Club. I, with the two other authors assigned, Maya Blake and Victoria Parker, were meant to run with the premise. Linked books weren’t required, but we chose to mention each other’s characters since we find that fun as readers and assumed others do as well.
Maya, in particular, was heavily under the gun. Her book was going to come out first and we had to figure out where this club was located, what the rules were for joining, how much membership cost… All the while, in the back of your mind you’re wondering if your vision comes anywhere near what the editors were envisioning.
I should mention here that Maya and Victoria are in England. I’m on the west coast of Canada. We all had kids and day jobs and stuff. I’m also a solitary person when it comes to writing. I don’t work with a critique partner. Basically I hang a huge KEEP OUT sign on my office door until I hit Send to my editor, then I wait for her revision requests and otherwise I don’t really discuss my story until it’s in book format. At that point I’m forced by the law of marketing to talk about it, but really, I’d rather not. Mostly I just want to shove my book into readers’ hands and say, “Here. The spelling’s been corrected. Like it or not, I’m done with it.” Am I weird that way?
We wound up meeting on Skype, made some notes, then we all had to scrabble together a decent outline so the editors could be sure we were actually doing our homework. We exchanged them with each other, but we’re all notorious for straying from our proposals so really character names and a couple of occupational details were the only reliable information in any of them.
The editors then asked for a conference call, which was funny because I didn’t really participate until someone said, “Are you there, Dani?” I said, “I’m taking notes. It all sounds fine so far,” and they all gasped and said, “Oh, your accent is so lovely!” Which, of course, was what I’d been thinking about all of them the entire time.
The one irony in the whole process was, Victoria wanted to keep a particular detail about her heroine a secret. I won’t spoil it here. I’ll just say that Maya and I worked very hard to help her with that, double-checking passages to make sure we were implying without revealing. And when Victoria’s back cover copy finally came out, there was the revelation of the secret in plain black and white. By then we were so relieved to have these books put to bed, we just laughed.
The collaboration process was fairly painless in general, but it did drag everything out. Maya and Victoria were lovely and we were all anxious not to tread on each other’s toes. It meant a lot of emails and waiting to have questions answered and just as one of us got a book finished another was starting and then it all happened again through revisions. We managed, though, and the books got turned in on time.
Oh, speaking of deadlines. Right. When the assignment first came through, I was nearing completion on the manuscript for my recent June book, An Heir To Bind Them. I was ahead of schedule writing it so I wanted to turn it in before I started the Gentlemen’s Club. My official deadline for An Heir To Bind Them was October 31st. Know what the Gentlemen’s Club deadline was? November 1st. Yeah, that’s what I meant by a tight deadline.
And right in the middle of writing it, my day job sent me off to head office for one of their own special projects. I suddenly found myself trying to make my word count in a hotel room every morning and night, which may have actually been that book’s salvation because I didn’t have the distractions of laundry and kids and everything else at home.
In hindsight, I’ll call us genius for setting up the club so the meetings fell quarterly. This meant that Maya mentions my hero at the end of hers and I mention hers at the start of mine, then I dropped Victoria’s hero into my epilogue. If we’d tried to overlap the timing, I think it would have required so much more planning and double-checking for continuity, it might have turned into a nightmare.
In terms of how I crafted the actual story, it was the usual bloodletting that we all go through. Once it was accepted, they were given similar titles and were scheduled for consecutive months:
- July, The Ultimate Playboy, Maya Blake,
- August, The Ultimate Seduction, Me,
- September, The Ultimate Revenge, Victoria Parker
And that’s how it happened.
What makes us so curious about other author’s process anyway? Are we looking for the magic bullet that will make all of this easier? If you have any specific questions on the collaboration process I’m happy to answer them. Do you work with beta readers and critique partners? What do you like about that process?
After a brilliant debut in the UK with No Longer Forbidden, a Mills & Boon Modern Book Of The Month January 2013, Dani Collin’s first Harlequin Presents, Proof Of Their Sin, won the Reviewer’s Choice by Romantic Times Book Reviews for Best First In Series. While her focus is Harlequin Presents, Dani also writes romantic comedy, medieval fantasy, and coming August of 2014, erotic romance. Whatever the genre, she always delivers sexy alpha heroes, witty, spirited heroines, complex emotions and loads of passion.
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