Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Carrie Nichols!!

 Today we’re welcoming 2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist and 2015 Maggie Award winning author Carrie Nichols, whose manuscript RESCUING RILEY has been nominated for best Short Contemporary Romance.

Carrie is a hardy New Englander transplanted to the deep South, where two inches of snow can bring a city like Atlanta to its knees. She loves to travel, is addicted to British crime dramas and knows a Seinfeld quote appropriate for every occasion. Carrie’s characters, much like her family, often ignore the wisdom and guidance she lovingly offers.

Here’s a bit about RESCUING RILEY:

On mandatory medical leave, Marine Corporal Riley Cooper returns to his childhood haven, Loon Lake. All his fond memories revolved around summers here with his grandmother and the McBride family next door. All his fantasies involve Meg McBride – the girl next door, his best friend’s sister – and their one night of passion before he was deployed.

Megan McBride has returned to Loon Lake, too. Though not for the summer. She’s a permanent resident, looking to open a new chapter of her life. She has a lot to consider, how to make ends meet in the small community, where she wants to raise her daughter, Fiona, how to deal with life as a single mother, and how to finally give up on Riley Cooper.

Soon Riley has a lot more to deal with than his injuries. Meg is more beautiful than ever and angrier than he ever expected. Every time he tries to help her, he ends up making things worse. And then he meets her daughter – a little girl with her hair and his eyes. How is he ever going to prove to Meg that he deserves a second chance?

“How to finally give up on Riley Cooper”….what a line!! Sigh–small town, wounded hero, secret baby, second chances!! Carrie’s got us hooked already!!

And she’s here today with her own story about hope and persistence that will ring true for (and inspire) many writers.

Take it away, Carrie!!


Carrie NicholsThe Long and Winding Road that Led to the GH Final

I have wanted to be a writer from the moment I picked up a crayon. The road to my GH Final has been long, slow process. As a newlywed, I wrote a romance and sent it off to Harlequin. Because I’ve been married since the Dark Ages, I had to box up my printed pages (printed on 25 lb bond, mind you) schlep it to the post office, purchase something called International Reply Coupons—the equivalent of a SASE so the editor could write back to tell me how my story made her weep with joy. Months passed before I received a form rejection from Toronto. But wait! There was a hand written note from an editor (I still remember her name was Helen something) that said “You’re a good writer but need to find your voice.” I had no idea what she meant, and that story went under the bed with several others.

After ten plus years of fertility issues, I became pregnant not once, but twice, in rather quick succession. As a stay at home mom, the urge to write didn’t go away and I continued to keep notebooks full of bits and bobs. Then one day I saw an ad in the local weekly paper. They were looking for a feature writer. I answered the ad and became a freelance correspondent. The editor said I made even school board meetings entertaining, and soon I was doing stories in several more of the newspapers they published. I know the “real” reporters looked down on me because I covered all the things that they didn’t want, but I enjoyed writing stories about school plays, nursing home bingo, senior center lunches, and summer programs at the Parks & Rec. Soon my phone was ringing off the hook with people wanting their unique stories told. My editor told me their distribution numbers kept rising while I was there. Unfortunately, my husband’s job transfer meant a move 1,000 miles away. I consider my years at the newspaper, listening to what everyday people had to say and treating their stories with respect, training for making the characters that live in my head come to life.

Once again the writing was pushed to the background as we settled into a new place and I helped the boys adjust. Somehow the years flew by and my oldest went off to college, closely followed by the youngest. What now? Then one day I found a Harlequin pamphlet next to the books at Walmart and the back of the booklet told about a contest, So You Think You Can Write and an idea formed in my head. I joined RWA and entered SYTYCW with a romantic suspense that we’ll generously call a learning experience. I proved I could still finish a manuscript, but more importantly, I joined the Harlequin Writer’s Circle forum, made lifelong friends and was fortunate enough to meet my awesome CP, Tina, aka as the talented author Mia Kay. At Nationals in San Antonio, I brainstormed with two more of those forum friends, MA Grant and CA Speakman, and Rescuing Riley, my GH Finalist, was created, but it would be a long arduous labor and delivery.

I believed in my characters and continued to work on Rescuing Riley. I took a Margie Lawson online class and met Debbie Herbert who invited me to come to a meeting of Georgia Romance Writers. I decided to go and my family was firmly behind me…saying stuff like “You’re driving to Atlanta?” and “OMG, Mom, have you any idea what the Atlanta Bypass is like?” Undaunted, I went and met so many wonderful and supportive people that every month I still make that white knuckled trip.

I entered SYTYCW again, this time with the first chapter of a new and improved Rescuing Riley. Everyone loved it…well, everyone except the editors. Around this time I queried Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon, and she agreed to read the full manuscript. She called me after reading it and said all sorts of lovely things about my writing. As I listened to her praise my writing, I could hear the “but” in her voice. Yep, the story had problems and she gave me some suggestions and agreed to read it again after I revised. I started over from scratch and wrote another 55k and sent it back. Better but still not there. This time she suggested I write 50 pages and send them before proceeding. I did and hit the mark with this version so I set about finishing this story for a third time.

3d BD coverAt some point during all this, the group of friends I made at the Harlequin forum decided to write an anthology featuring novellas involving natural disasters and invited me to join. I wrote Snowbound with the Stork, and all those things I had been learning eventually fell into place. Of course once that happened, I had to throw out the entire last half of the story and rewrite it. Beautiful Disaster: Love Will Survive anthology came out on March 22nd of this year and on March 23rd, Snowbound with the Stork received a special mention from USA Today. USA Today called it “an unpredictable, warm and fuzzy read and a charming debut for this author,” and went on to say the story had “plenty of believable and satisfying angst and truly compelling characters.” Could things possible get any better?

Why yes, Carrie, yes they could, because on March 25th I received a call from Courtney Milan telling me Rescuing Riley was a GH Finalist.

And then things would get even better. After more revising, tweaking, polishing, telephone conversations and emails, I signed with Jill Marsal on April 24th!

In the span of barely a month, I had a glowing USA Today review of my novella, was a GH Finalist and now had the agent of my dreams. It all happened fast…well, unless you count the nearly four decades leading up to this moment.

I want to thank that first Harlequin editor for her scribbled note and tell her it wasn’t easy, but I finally found my “voice.”


Carrie can be found at her website:,

twitter: @carolopal

or on facebook at or

61 responses to “Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Carrie Nichols!!”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Carrie!! It’s delightful to have you here! The book sounds fabulous, and I love that you hung in there and are seeing the goal in sight!!

    And Courtney Milan called you??!! I would have been a babbling idiot the whole time.

    • LOL, Elisa! Believe me, I was babbling and kept saying that to Courtney who assured me it was okay to babble.

      Thanks for letting me share my story!

  2. Elizabeth King says:

    Hi Carrie
    Can’t wait till Rescuing Riley is published – sounds great. And congrats on all your recent successes. Your story is definitely inspiring. I can certainly relate to being told I need to find my voice and having no idea what they were talking about!
    Looking forward to meeting you in San Diego.

    • Thanks, Elizabeth! Yeah, I had no idea at that time what she meant or why I needed one.

      Can’t wait to meet you, too! Looking forward to San Diego!

  3. Seana Kelly says:

    Congratulations, Carrie! Your book sounds fabulous, and I can’t wait to read it! I love 40 year overnight success stories 😄

  4. Susanna Malcolm says:

    Wow, what a month! Congratulations. I admire your persistence. Looking forward to meeting you.

  5. Mia Kay says:

    What a great post, Carrie! (And not because you mentioned me in it. LOL) Riley is such an amazing story, and I can’t wait for everyone to be able to enjoy it. Thanks for sharing your skill and your journey with me.

  6. Brooke Salesky says:

    What a cool story, and congrats on the final! It’s so important never to give up! I look forward to meeting you in SD. I too am a huge Seinfeld fan😉 I

  7. CARRIE!!! Congrats on signing with Jill!! We’re agency sisters!! Yay!! So proud of you and excited to cheer you on in SD just like I did at the Maggies last fall.

    Just another example about how perseverance pays off in this business.

  8. Jean Barrett says:

    Wish I could be there to see you all in person in SD. One day maybe. In the meantime, I’m expecting lots of pictures of you all and hopefully winning the Golden Heart contest.

  9. elise hayes says:

    What a LOVELY month you had from March to April! Congratulations on the perseverance to hang onto your dream for 4 decades and do the hard work of “butt in chair, hands on keyboard” (as Nora likes to say). Woot!

  10. Amy says:

    I am so proud of you for continuing your long trek to being noticed for that spark you always had! You make us proud, Carrie! Don’t forget us when you come into your kingdom! Way To Go!

  11. Melanie Novak says:

    So glad you found your voice! This is such a lovely and inspiring story of your journey so far. I say “so far” because I have no doubt with your perseverance that you are only getting started!

    And sexy Marines? I am so there….

  12. This is the second time I’ve heard this story, Carrie and it never gets old. It’s definitely a reminder to never give up. San Diego here we come!!!

  13. HI Carrie.

    I love the sound of Rescuing Riley – I would buy it in a heartbeat!

    Believe it or not, I remember International reply coupons AND printing out an entire manuscript to send to Harlequin. Those were the days, huh? My journey hasn’t been quite as long as yours, but it has definitely been a lesson in perseverance. I’m so happy to see you having success at last!

    Congrats my mermaid-sister,


  14. Carrie, sounds like the two of us have similar first submission stories. Oh, how little I knew way back when.

    But, the important thread through your fabulous story is that you persevered. And you’ve earned some huge accomplishments!!

    Congrats on signing with Jill Marsal and on joining the wonderful Golden Heart family!

    It doesn’t matter how long or how short our writing journey has been, what matters is what we’ve learned along the way and the relationships we’ve made because of it. And that we’re still fighting our way through the publishing jungle! 🙂

    Hope to meet you in San Diego!

  15. Tracy Brodys says:

    Aww, such a great story of hanging in and not giving up – whether it be seeing your dream of a family come true or writing. Best wishes for continued success, Carrie. Look forward to meeting you in San Diego.

  16. M.A. Grant says:

    Congratulations, Carrie! You’ve worked so hard to reach this point and it’s all coming together. Your successes are an inspiration and I can’t wait to read Riley once it’s published (which is *so* going to happen). Here’s to reconnecting in San Diego!

  17. Brynn Kelly says:

    Carrie, yours is a fabulous story. (Well, both of them – Rescuing Riley and your own journey this far.) I have no doubt you found your voice – your account above had me laughing and, yes, (because I’m a sentimental freak) crying. I love the warmth and humor in your writing, and it’s wonderful to watch your star so deservedly ascend. xxx

    • Thanks, Brynn!!! I really appreciate your kind words and all your help with my novella! You pointed me in the right direction for the perfect second half. And congrats on your book birthday yesterday!!

  18. Hey Carrie,

    Congratulations galore! What a month – and the ten years (or more:) leading up to it! Looking forward to seeing you in San Diego!

  19. Carrie, what a great story. I enjoyed learning more about you. We are not only Mermaid sisters but agency sisters.

    I look forward to reading your book!

  20. Kari Lemor says:

    And a lovely voice it is, Carrie!! So happy for your success!

  21. Melonie says:

    Woot! What a wild spring you’ve had. Your “overnight” success that was years in the making is well deserved! May you enjoy the fruits of your labor for the next 4 decades, haha!
    See you in San Diego, fellow Mermaid 🙂

  22. Diane Holiday says:

    Your story is inspiring and congrats on signing with Jill! I wish you all the best and can’t wait to meet you at conference.
    Diane Holiday

  23. Rayn Ellis says:

    Congrats on the 2016 GH Final, Carrie! I love small town romances so Rescuing Riley is right up there on my list to watch for when it gets published!

    Can’t wait to meet you in SD!

  24. So happy you didn’t give up. What incredible reviews you received. That and the GH and Jill must have you floating on air. Congratulations GH sister!

    • Thanks, Diana! Yes, It seems like it all happened at once but I realize it was just a culmination of years of hard work and putting in my time. I still get that giddy feeling every time I say that Jill is my agent. 🙂

  25. I loved this article and the wonderful family “support” *cough*. I did the same thing as you as a newlywed, typed out a manuscript (filled with white-out corrections) and mailed it to Harlequin in a box. I eagerly awaited a glowing acceptance. Months passed. I finally received a form rejection and my writing dreams were crushed for some time.

    So proud of you and all you’ve accomplished – WOW!

    • Debbie, thanks! I cringe now to think how easily I gave up, but I eventually stuck with it and that’s what counts. So did you! And I’m so happy we met online and for the invitation to attend GRW!

  26. Vesta says:

    Carrie, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you through the Harlequin boards and facebook. It was fun to learn a little more about your journey!

    • Vesta, thank you so much for stopping by to read my story! I don’t get to the Harlequin boards as much any more and miss the people I met there.

  27. Karin Baine says:

    Congratulations! You know I’ve been a big fan of Rescuing Riley since that first chapter 🙂


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