Daring to be Sweet…

The Scribes had the pleasure of meeting the fabulous Barbara Wallace, Harlequin/ Mills&Boon author, when she came to our CTRWA meeting and taught us all about the hero’s journey We were so impressed we knew we had to find out more about her.

Not only did she agree to be interviewed but she’s also giving away a copy of her latest ,DARING TO DATE THE BOSS, to one lucky commenter.

Liz Strauss is the queen of control.  As a busy single mother, she’s got to be.  But the arrival of new boss Charles “Ice King” Bishop sweeps the rug out from under feet.  Suddenly worries about her teenage son’s future have been replaced by dreams of romantic dates!  It’s been years since Liz has trusted anyone not to hurt her.  Sharing sizzling kisses with Charles is one thing, but believing that beneath his frosty exterior lies heart that will be for her – for always – is quite another matter.

Doesn’t it sound great? Those of you who aren’t lucky enough to win will just have to buy it when it comes out in February of 2012. Now enough from me. Here’s what Barbara had to say.

You write sweet category romances for Harlequin’s Mills & Boon line. For those of us not in the know, can you tell us a little about writing category? And do you  have plans to write a single title?

Category writing is a unique animal as far romance writing is concerned.  Although it seems sometimes like they are interchangeable, every category line has a different feel and tone.  For example, my friend Cathryn Parry writes for Super Romance.  Her books are longer than mine and explore a larger outside plot. There can be some subplots as well. Mine, on the other hand, are only 50K words.  Because of that subplots, secondary characters, etc. are kept to a minimum.  The main focus is the emotional conflict between the hero and hero.  Blaze, on the other hand, focuses on the sexual relationship as well as the emotional conflict.

That’s a long-winded way of saying you can’t simply write “category” romance.  You have to write “Harlequin Romantic Suspense” or “Harlequin Romance”.    The best advice I can give is to find the line that most resembles your story telling style (and that you enjoy reading).  That last part is essential, because Harlequin doesn’t just buy a story – they look for a voice. They are looking for you to write LOTS of Harlequin stories, so you have to really enjoy what you’re writing.

Do You Plan to Write a Single Title?

Some day perhaps. That’s on my list of books I’m not yet ready to tell.  Right now I’m very happy writing for Harlequin Romance.  I’m learning a lot and I’m finding the challenges of writing a strong, emotionally satisfying short book to be pretty darn fulfilling.

How do you battle the doubt monster?  Doubt Monster: the nagging feeling while writing that your prose is terrible, you plot is silly, your characters are insipid and no-one in their right mind would read this drivel, let alone buy it.

There’s a way to beat it?  I wish I had a tried and true method because I battle him every single day.  On those days when the doubts are particularly bad or loud, I take a moment to ask myself, is this the story or the process?  That is, are the doubts because of a story problem or am I simply having a bad day.  Sometimes, it IS the story.  Sometimes you discover you have been pushing through in the wrong direction.  If that’s the case, I remind myself there’s nothing wrong with realizing I made a wrong turn and going back.  After all, better I catch the mistake now than have an editor find it and reject the story.  However, more often than not, the doubts are just that – doubts brought on by insecurity or outside circumstances.  (At the risk of TMI, on really bad days I check the calendar to see where I am cyclically.)  On those days, I tell myself it’s okay to suck that day and that I can always go back and revise.

Okay, I also have a crown that I wear sometimes.  It’s my “I don’t suck” crown.  I recommend

What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your writing career?
Besides the fact it exists?  I think the biggest surprise was how quickly everything happened once I broke through.  I waited so long for the call.  Then, once I was signed with Harlequin, things started moving so quickly.  Here I am on book number five or six, and I still feel like I just sold.  The whole experience is humbling as well.  I remind myself every day how lucky I was to get that phone call.

What would you do if you couldn’t be a writer any longer?
Probably be dead.  Seriously, I can’t imagine not writing.  One of the watershed moments I had in my career happened when I thought about what might happen if I never sold a novel.  (This was before self-publishing existed).  I realized I would always find some way to be creative, be it telling my family story, writing for fun, etc.

Either that or I’d become a history detective.  I always thought that would be an awesome job.

What’s next for you? Upcoming projects? Life events? Anything you would like to share or brag about?

Right now I’m doing the final round of revisions on a manuscript I’ve affectionately called “The Reluctant Cougar.”  It’s really about building up walls and using work as an excuse to avoid emotional commitment with a few interesting twists.  It’s been a lot of work but I’m enjoying it.  As for life projects – my one and only child is waiting on college acceptances and working toward what he hopes will be his first shot at the National Gymnastics Championships.  Keeps both me and his dad on our toes.

What’s the most dangerous or risky thing that you’ve done?

I’m generally a socially phobic person, so anything that involves me putting myself in a new situation feels risky to me.  Giving talks, answering blog questions, tweeting – you think I’m kidding but I’m not.  They feel very risky.

Oh, and there’s the time when we were kids and we played chicken with the railroad trains where you’d have to jump off the track at the last possible moment.  But that’s a story for another time.

What is your guilty pleasure? {Remember: this is a ‘G’ rated blog! 🙂 }

TV shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, Bridezillas.  Oh, and any movie on the Lifetime Movie Network where the psycho is hunting down his/her ex to make him pay.

Once again, we would like to thank Barbara for her time. If you want to learn more about her you can check her out at these places.




 PS. Make sure you leave a comment!!!


12 thoughts on “Daring to be Sweet…”

  1. Barbara, I am so excited to see you here! Thanks for visiting. I am looking into submitting a story to Harlequin, and I know it says an agent isn’t necessary to submit, but wondered if it’s more beneficial to have one anyway. Do you, yourself, have one? Will your submission be more apt to be read if you have one?

    Also, you mentioned they are looking for a new voice because they will want their writers to write “LOTS.” By “LOTS,” about how many a year do they require? As a mom of three young children, I worry I won’t be able to meet those deadlines.

    And, out of curiousity, how long do your books stay available for purchase?

    1. Hi Katy! Lots is open to definition. Most authors do two books a year – which is basically six months per book. Others like the fantastically prolific Nikki Logan and Soraya Lane do three or four. (Something about the Australian water makes them speedy, I guess.) The editors are well aware authors have lives, so don’t fret it. Also, if you write for some place like Super Romance – they are content with one 85K book a year. A lot depends on you and what you think you can do. When I say lots, I really mean, they are buying you for a career- not one book.

      Books are out on the shelves for one month and indefinitely in electronic form.

      And yes, it’s not necessary to have an agent. The contract is so carved in stone, there’s very little wiggle room. I have friends who have agents (I don’t); they like it because they can leave the haggling up to the agent and focus on a writing relationship with their editor.

      Good luck

  2. Thanks for your candor about the doubt monster. I thought he only paid a visit to me on a daily basis. He’s one busy little bugger!

    The book looks great and I’m so happy for you that things are going so well with your career. Six books! That’s awesome! Congrats.

    1. Glad I could help Jo! If you are really serious about Harlequin, I recommend visiting the Harlequin.com site. They have a lot of helpful articles and community bulletin boards. You’ll often find some of their author lurking there. And of course, read the books (Especially the Romance line. It’s awesome 😀 )

  3. Hi Barbara,
    Thanks for sharing. I agree with Paula, I get frequent visits from that doubt monster too! Thanks for talking about Harlequin. I am going to look into their submission guidelines. I have a 51k novel I would like to find a home for. Thanks.

  4. Good Luck Gerri!

    Just keep in mind that it’s best to write a book for Harlequin than to try and shoe horn a story into a line. Or rather, my advice is before you submit, do some serious reading and then see what kind of revisions are needed for the line you are most interested in.

    Good luck!

    Oh, and if you’re feeling courageous – Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write Contest Starts Thursday. It’s how they find new talent. Check it out!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s