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Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Emily Sullivan!

Today we’re welcoming the second of our fabulous Rebelle guests, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance, Emily Sullivan!

Emily lives in West Hartford, Connecticut with her pizza man boyfriend and works as a college-level writing instructor and tutor. When she isn’t writing or reading, she is very slowly learning to play the piano. Her goal is to one day be able to play the theme from Murder, She Wrote.

Her nominated manuscript, The Price of Desire, is a late-Victorian historical romance. Here’s a blurb:

It has been three long years since the unconnected, unfashionable, and all together unremarkable Charlotte Alwyn was last a guest at Heathway, ancestral home of the powerful Winterfield family and her best friend, Lily Winterfield, when she escaped in the middle of the night to avoid her guardian’s ruthless scheme to marry her off. Now she is older, wiser, and determined to stop Lily from marrying the notorious Lord Eliot. But she didn’t count on Lord Eliot turning his much lauded charms on her instead, threatening to ruin her only friendship and her already tenuous place in society.

When she confronts his aloof cousin Edward about his lordship’s true intensions, a stolen moment with the man who has done nothing but glare at her since they met reveals an attraction she has never experienced, and she suspects that beneath his steely demeanor beats a lonely heart that could rival her own. However, Edward is not interested in hearts—hers, his, nor anyone else’s. What he needs is to secure a wealthy wife for his rakish, spendthrift cousin before they both go broke, and with her vast inheritance and lack of connections, Charlotte is the perfect target. Edward should be ecstatic, except he can’t stop thinking about or arguing with the headstrong, captivating, and wildly arousing young woman. But Edward is determined to let neither his growing desire nor his pesky conscience intervene with his cousin’s seduction. That is until fate throws a most tempting wrench into Edward’s best laid plans.

But as Charlotte delves deeper into her own mysterious past, the truth she has spent her life trying to uncover could ruin her chance at the love she has always wanted.

Ooh, doesn’t that sound like fun!! I love steely men who glare…and then slowly melt (siiiiigh). I’m looking forward to seeing The Price of Desire on bookshelves!!

Happily, Emily’s sitting down with us today for a lovely bit of drawing-room conversation. So grab your prettiest frock, ladies, find yourself a seat on one of our Ruby velvet divans, and help yourselves to some cucumber sandwiches and scones. I’ll start pouring the tea!

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 Thanks so much for joining us today, Emily! And what a charming frock you’re wearing! Those who’ve joined us for these Finalist interviews in past years know my FAVORITE FAVORITE question is this: What was it like getting that phone call telling you you were a finalist?

I actually thought the finalist notifications went out on March 22nd, not the 21st. That morning I was on my way to work when I kept getting calls from an unknown number. I figured it was a telemarketer and ignored them. Then I went on Twitter and saw all the posts about the Golden Heart and that’s when I began to hope. I answered the phone the next time it rang and got the news! So far the best part about finaling has been connecting with the Rebelles. Writing can be a lonely pursuit at times, so it’s been lovely to be a part of such a supportive group.

Amen to that! Hold tight to your new Golden Heart sisters; trust me when I say those friendships will get you through a lot!! This is your first Golden Heart final, yes? Have you been writing long?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I started writing when I was a kid, but I didn’t get “serious” about my writing until college. I’ve mostly had articles and essays published and was very excited when my first short story was published in The Southampton Review this past winter. I would say I mostly write contemporary short stories that I guess would be categorized as literary fiction. In addition to my GH manuscript, I’ve also completed a couple of television pilots, but otherwise my documents folder is a graveyard of beginnings—short stories, a couple novels, screenplays—and for a long, long time the manuscript that would eventually become my GH manuscript was among them.

The Southhampton Review! That’s impressive! So you’re bringing a literary bent to your romance writing. Tell us a little more about your Golden Heart book and the process of writing it.

I got the initial idea many years ago while I was still in high school. I’ve always been interested in the Victorian period and love lush, romantic dramas, but the idea of actually writing one felt beyond me. Even still, I would write scraps of scenes over the years until sometime around 2009 I started working on the manuscript more regularly and it began to have a semblance of a plot. I would write a little, then set it aside for months and months and months. Mostly I worked on it when I didn’t want to work on other writing projects. I felt very intimidated by the Victorian setting as well as the love scenes, but to be honest I didn’t put much effort into getting better either.

Then in Fall of 2015 I had a breakthrough. I was teaching English 101 and it was the end of a particularly difficult semester, so I started binge-reading historical romance novels as an escape. I hadn’t touched my manuscript for the better part of a year, but while I was reading I began to have a better sense of what was missing from it. I started conducting more research on the time period and began to revise my draft. I also realized that if I was serious about trying to write an historical romance novel, I needed to read a lot more historical romance. So, I hunkered down and got to it, making sure to read like a writer, not just a reader. After a lot of trial and error the draft really started to get somewhere. I stuck to a consistent writing schedule and after a couple of months I hit my groove. I did a little writing during the week, but Saturdays became my big writing day and I became very protective over my time. It was an obsession really, and a part of my brain was always thinking about the draft.

I remember thinking that even if nothing ever happened with this manuscript, this was still the most satisfying creative experience of my life, and I actually felt a little sad when I realized I was getting close to the end. It had been my main focus for months and months, and I wasn’t ready to let it go. I finished the full draft sometime in August and have basically been doing line edits ever since.

Awesome!! I’m an English teacher myself, and I think there’s nothing more important for a writer than to READ READ READ….and then to fight for that regular, uninterrupted writing time so you can put what you’ve learned to work! And just look where it got you! What other tips to you have for other writers?

I considered myself a pretty experienced writer before I started working on this novel, but I learned so much along the way. Read everything. Read widely and read with purpose. Become obsessed with language. I have pages full of just verbs and adverbs. Reread your favorite scenes and consider why you love them so much. There’s a great book on this by Francine Prose called Reading Like A Writer. I read it years ago and still find it so helpful.

In my professional life I often work with beginning writers, but a lot of the same advice I give applies to writers of all levels: You can’t be too precious about your writing or your practice, especially if your goal is to get better or earn that ‘A’. You don’t have to accept every criticism, but you should at least be open to hearing about what works and what doesn’t. There really are no short cuts and you can’t wait around to feel ‘inspired’. I never would have finished my GH manuscript if I hadn’t stuck to a consistent writing schedule. Whether you’re writing a paper or a novel, it takes time, dedication, and a willingness to revise like mad.

Reading Like a Writer is a fabulous book! And words are such a fabulous obsession! We’re definitely agreed that well-defended alone time is vital to getting those much-obsessed-about words on the page, but we can’t really go it all alone. Aside from your Rebelle sisters, who are your biggest supporters?

Writing invariably involves a lot of rejection, which can lead to self-doubt, but I’ve always been able to count on the support of my family and friends. When I was a kid my parents encouraged my writing and would take the time to read my stories. My mom even used to bring my stories into work with her and show them to her friends. She still does that, actually. (Thanks Mom!) I think this was a really formative experience for me because they took my writing seriously even before I did. I’ve also been lucky enough to have a partner who has enthusiastically encouraged my writing since we met nine years ago. I once read an interview with Richard Ford where he said, “Marry someone you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea” and that has always stuck with me. My boyfriend, James, has believed in me even when I haven’t, and it has been a great comfort to have him in my corner through the rejections. So now it’s nice to have something to celebrate!

Aww!! I love your support system!!! Great mom, and great pizza man boyfriend!! And the Richard Ford quote is spot on!! Thanks so much for answering all my questions, Emily! Now’s your chance to turn the tables: is there anything you’d like to ask our readers today to get the conversation going?

 Yes! This will be my first trip to Nationals. Any tips for making the most out of this experience, particularly as a GH finalist?

 

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Connect with Emily Sullivan on Social Media:

Twitter: @paperbacklady

Facebook: www.facebook.com/emily.w.sullivan

Website: www.emilywsullivan.com

 

 

 

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