The great thing about being a member of a fabulous book club (besides the amazing group of women) is that we get to read books outside our comfort zone, books that challenge us and books that we might never have considered. For the month of February, we had decided to pick a Harlequin Romance novel which was definitely a unique pick for our group. This was deferred to June, since one of our members had a connection with Michelle Karl, the author of two Inspirational Harlequin Romance novels who agreed to join us to talk about her books and her experience publishing with Harlequin.
Our book club spent a very enjoyable evening with Michelle (which is a pseudonym) who admitted that this was her first time joining a book club to talk about her writing. She shared that she had been reluctant to submit to Harlequin but at the urging of a friend had entered a pitch contest which involved first sending in the first page, then 3 chapters and ultimately the full manuscript which won her the opportunity to be published. The publisher has very specific rules – the book must be about 55 000 words and meet certain criteria depending on the Harlequin line.
“Michelle” told the group that she had always wanted to be a writer and laughed about writing a story about an alien on Mars who ate a lot of chocolate bars in Grade 1 and winning a prize for poetry in Grade 2. She realized her dream of being a writer and along with her Harlequin Romance novels, will be publishing a Young Adult fantasy. She uses the pen name to ensure that both genres remain separate and that readers do not become confused.
Typically, Michelle shared that she will write for 3-4 days and take a break. She begins by blocking out what she plans to accomplish. She often writes at the Blue Dog which is where we meet for book club and has led a Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) group, and is very encouraging to other aspiring authors to try and be published.
Although I have previously shared that romance is NOT my favourite genre, Michelle’s enthusiasm and excitement for writing was inspiring. She clearly enjoys writing and has experience doing more technical writing on websites and freelance work. She was very open to our many questions and it was very interesting to hear about her experience with editing, suggesting titles and approving cover art. As always, our meet the author night was a lot of fun and a unique experience.
The author generously shared a copy of her book as a giveaway and encouraged me to try rafflecopter so this is an experiment to see how many new followers or tweets we can elicit. It is open to Canadian readers only (sorry for my followers outside of Canada).
On a side note, I am in the midst of finishing Yann Martel‘s 101 Letters to a Prime Minister, where he shares a book with Stephen Harper every 2 weeks for 2 years. Book # 64 is The Virgin Secretary’s Impossible Boss which is sent as an example of genre fiction. Martel shares how Harlequin publishes over 100 books each month and at the time his book was printed had published 5.63 million books. He ponders the popularity of Harlequin romance and indicates that “they make for easy, unthreatening prose, for prose that relieves the reader of having to think too hard” and compares these novels to the security of a safe street with traffic lights along the way to keep the driver (reader) safe. I have to wonder if Stephen Harper has picked up this novel (or any of the novels sent by Yann Martel)?