Posts tagged with: Eileen Emerson

Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalists Eileen Emerson and D. Murphy Ryan!

What a treat here for our second-to-last interview with the Golden Heart class of 2018: today we’re welcoming TWO Persisters, D. Murphy Ryan and Eileen Emerson!

D. Murphy Ryan, also known as Dawn, is a finalist in Contemporary Romance Short with OUT OF THE SHADOWS, and Eileen is a finalist in Historical Romance with AN UNLOVED EARL.

D. Murphy Ryan has lived a life in chapters: as a waitress, a nanny, a photographer’s assistant, a singer and performer, and as a healthcare professional.  But author is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.  Writing since she was eight, she has a vast array of stories she’s eager to share as she moves onto the next chapter of her storied life.




Eileen Emerson spent years getting a Master’s degree in costume design for the theatre, and then chucked it all to make her way in the world of Corporate America. She eventually turned her creative focus to writing and began submitting her work to the contest circuit, with excellent results. She is now a three-time Golden Heart finalist and is zeroing in on publication.


We’re sitting down to chat in the Writing Room of Eileen’s newly renovated Victorian house, which she’s named Valhalla. Dawn and Eileen will be telling you about their books in the course of our conversation, so let’s jump right in!

FYI, Dawn and Eileen met last year when Dawn joined Valley Forge Romance Writers, of which Eileen is President.

And fair warning: Eileen is also Elisa’s real life sister, so the conversation gets a wee bit personal as we go along. Also, there was waaaaay more giggling and raunchy humor than the final transcript implies. (We talked for 45 minutes!! I had to cut something!!!!)

And one more thing: at one point we got so caught up talking about the possible elimination of the Golden Heart Contest, I decided halfway through the conversation to split that part of the interview off into a separate blog that will post tomorrow. IF YOU’VE GOT STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT THE VALUE OF THE GOLDEN HEART, PLEASE JOIN US AGAIN TOMORROW, AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS!!

Elisa’s questions are in maroon, and Eileen’s answers are in black, and Dawn’s are in blue. 

Off we go…

Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Eileen Emerson!

Today we’re welcoming my very most FAVORITE Mermaid (*spoiler alert*: she just happens to be my CP, my brilliant editor, and my LITTLE SISTER in real life!!!), Eileen Emerson, 2016 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance with AN UNBRIDLED GENTLEMAN.

eileen author photo copyEileen spent years getting a Master’s degree in costume design for the theatre, and then chucked it all to make her way in the world of Corporate America. She eventually turned her creative focus to writing, and began submitting her work to the contest circuit, with excellent results—in addition to collecting notable wins from “Emily” and “Maggie” and “Sheila,” she got a Golden Heart nod in 2012, and is now a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. She lives in Pennsylvania with either two or four enormous dogs (the number depends on whether the neighbors’ dogs have barged in through the screen door), her guitar-playing son, and her professor husband, who manages to be both deeply romantic and really, really good with computer stuff, making him the ideal mate for a romance writer.

Here’s a blurb for AN UNBRIDLED GENTLEMAN:

On the run from an assassin for the past dozen years, Anne Barrett wonders if she can finally stop pretending to be a horse trainer’s niece and try to reconnect with whatever is left of her aristocratic family. But to earn funds for her search, she must first rehabilitate a horse for Lord Norland—a man forced by circumstance to accept his grandmother’s offer of wealth in exchange for rebuilding her once-famous stud farm in Yorkshire.

Thrown together with Lord Norland more often than Anne’s equilibrium might like, she discovers that to heal the poor beast, she’ll also have to help the troubled lord face the childhood trauma that has left him with a deep fear of horses. When attraction sparks between them, Anne and Norland both have more to fear—courting a commoner could ruin Norland, while revealing her true identity could alert her parents’ killer that Anne is still alive.

What she doesn’t realize is that the assassin has already tracked her down . . . .

It’s such a fabulous story, everybody!!!! As Eileen’s CP, I’ve seen it grow and ripen from first concept to the mature version, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Anne and Norland (and Anne’s dog Tip, and Uncle Ned, and Norland’s hilariously crotchety grandmother, and THE HORSE!!) It’s a smart, sweet, sexy, satisfying, beautifully-written, character-driven story that NEEDS TO BE OUT IN THE WORLD. SOON!!!!

Seriously, SOON!!!!!

(*Elisa catches breath*) . . .

So, anyhow, Eileen’s here today to share some wise words of inspiration from a surprising relative!! (And, no, it’s not me.)

Take it away, Eileen!!


One of the best things about being married to my husband (besides our terrific son and a bevy of fur-kids), is that our merged ancestry means I can claim Ralph Waldo Emerson as kin.

And Ralph – I can call him “Ralph” now that we’re cousins-many-times-removed – is the king of great quotes.



See that? It’s great! And so helpful for someone like me who is often riddled with self-doubt, especially when it comes to my manuscripts. Unlike my sister Elisa, I don’t have degrees in writing from prestigious universities. I have nothing but a teetering stack of writing craft books by experts like Debra Dixon, Chris Vogler, and Michael Hauge. Even that folder of contest certificates does little to bolster my self-confidence.

But Ralph? He comes up with gems like this that soothe my quivering soul:



Isn’t that lovely? Don’t you feel better about yourself? And, do you know what? I think it’s true. After this latest round of edits, I had a real sense that all these gems of knowledge I’ve been accumulating were falling into place, as if the tumblers in a lock were aligning each time I sat down to fiddle with a scene or beef up the dialogue.



Aye, there’s the rub.

As my critique partners have repeatedly told me, it’s far past time that I toss my babies out into the world of queries and submissions. Which has me quaking in my boots. I’m a terrible sissy sometimes, regardless of the fact that I’m fearless about so many other things in my life. Need to know how to bake gluten-free? No problem—just find some recipes that work, and go from there. Need to plant up a garden? Pfffft, grab a shovel and get cracking. What’s the worst that can happen?

But… send my writing to an agent or editor? I’m rendered motionless with terror.

Well, in comes Cousin Ralph to egg me on, to tell me that I have to face my fears and conquer them (or never get anywhere in the publishing world.) What good is my endless tinkering and fussing if no one ever gets to see these stories?



Oh, all right, Ralphie-boy. I’ll do it. I won’t waste my life in doubts and fears, and I’ll trust in my knowledge and skill, and fling my manuscripts into fray.

Just after I read through them o-o-o-o-o-n-e more time.

Tell me, readers, what are your writing fears? And how do you plan to face them and do Ralph Waldo Emerson proud?

Oh, and just in case you don’t already think RWE is a stinkin’ genius, I leave you with this:



Leave a comment below to get a chance to win a PRINT copy of your choice of the books Eileen has edited for Elisa (in her Lara Archer persona). You can check them out on Amazon here.


Connect with Eileen Emerson on social media:

find her on Facebook

or follow her ramblings on Twitter: @MsEmersonWrites

(and you can see her 2012 interview with Elisa here)


Sister Act: 2012 Golden Heart Finalists Eileen Emerson and Elisa Beatty

 As this site’s name attests, there’s lots of fabulous Sisterhood in the romance-writing world.

 But when 2012 Golden Heart finalists Eileen Emerson and Elisa Beatty say they’re sisters, they mean it literally: they shared a room as little kids, cut the hair off each other’s Barbie dolls, and (a few years further down the road) were Maids of Honor at each other’s weddings and loving aunts to each others’ kids. RWA’s Carol Ritter thinks they’re the only biological sisters ever to final together in the Golden Heart.

If that weren’t enough closeness, they’re also CPs—and each other’s #1 cheerleaders on the road to publication.

That’s not to say they’re either interchangeable or totally simpatico. Elisa has a thing for dark-haired heroes with hulking frames. Eileen is more drawn to Englishmen of the slim, pale variety. Elisa relishes writing love scenes, Eileen would rather stick needles in her eyes than write something racy that their father might someday read. (Elisa makes her drink a glass of wine and do it anyway.)

Even their approaches to writing are different: Eileen’s a spreadsheet-addicted plotter tending towards OCD, Elisa’s a pantser with ADD…and chances are good she’s off playing Plants Versus Zombies right now.

 But both sisters appreciate intelligent, deeply emotional writing that can make readers laugh, cry or get that tell-tale clenching feeling behind their breastbones when the protagonists’ world is falling apart.

 And somehow they’ve found a working relationship that makes them both stronger writers, and will hopefully land them on your bookshelves (or Kindles) soon. Today they’ll be talking a few aspects of what makes that relationship tick.


On the difference between our approaches to writing:


I tried writing by the seat of my pants and found that it scared me too much. I have to know at least the major beats of the story—the Call To Action, the Crisis, and the Climax, plus the large Turning Points that keep the conflict popping.

I use a simple line drawing from Martha Alderson, aka “The Plot Whisperer,” that shows these points graphically on a sheet of butcher paper (I’m a visual person.) I then use strips of Post-it page markers to lay out scenes that I’ll use to stitch the story together.

This gives me just enough structure that I don’t usually have to tear apart the book once I’m done the shitty first draft. And with that flexibility, the characters still surprise me with the odd little things they reveal as I’m writing in that mad, frantic get-it-on-paper stage.


I wish I weren’t a pantser, but when I even think the word “spreadsheets” I get a terrible throbbing pain all through my head. I’m messy. I’m terrible at planning. The night before I leave for Nationals, I’ll probably poke my head into my closet and say, “Hmm, what have I got in here to throw in my suitcase?” Don’t be surprised if I’m wearing sneakers to the Awards Ceremony. And in the hotel, Eileen will have all her things hung up within five minutes of entering the room, and I’ll have my stuff strewn all across the bathroom counter.  She’s Martha Stewart, I’m Oscar Madison. There will be a lot of quiet tut-tutting going on.

There’s a huge plus side for me to having a Highly Organized Sister: I’d never have finished my first book without Eileen setting a deadline for me. And she’s great for bouncing ideas off of (actually she MAKES me articulate my ideas, when I really, really just want to wallow around in the messiness of my own thoughts). Then she’ll say things like, “Do you realize you have four villains here? Could you maybe compress a couple of them together?” Or she’ll tell me, “Go back and figure out what the stakes are for the heroine in this chapter, because you’ve gone on for eighteen pages and I’m getting lost.” Or just (in a note on the third page of a chapter) “Your chapter starts here.”

On our biggest weaknesses as writers:


My biggest problem is that I write very “spare” prose. This means, when Elisa sees my WIP for the first time, she inevitably suggests adding in beats and bits of reaction to flesh out the emotional depth of scenes. I also tend towards very traditional POVs. One of the biggest things Elisa’s done for me is to suggest writing a scene from a different character’s POV than I used in the draft—and it’s always resulted in radically beefing up the conflict, while still tightening the action.


Aside from my plotting issues, my biggest problem (surprise, surprise) is that I write too many words. I strew them as freely as I strew my toiletries. When I edit Eileen, I add lines. When she edits me, she cuts. And cuts. And cuts. But it really makes the work SOOO much better. My current Golden Heart book had bloated up to about 102,000 words, and Eileen got out her very hard-nosed red pen and helped me get rid of 10,000 of them. Without deleting a single scene.

On the advantages of being sister CPs:


Unlike newly attached CPs, we don’t have to walk on egg shells with each other. If something brutal needs to be said, we can say it without fear of crushing the other’s spirit. But it also means we have a certain working shorthand. A simple “mwraaaarr” in the margins tells us that we’ve nailed a particularly yummy bit of description or masculine derring do.…


Damn, I was about to say the same thing. Which is a pretty common occurrence for us. (Sometimes our emails cross in the ether and turn out to be virtually word-for-word the same. It’s a little freaky sometimes.)

The biggest plus-side is that we really get each other’s books and characters, and while we can be absolutely, glaringly blunt (saying things like “You cannot have your hero do that—it makes him look like a fluffy bunny rabbit wussy mama’s boy” without worrying that the other will refuse to speak to us at Christmas dinner), we also write a joyous “WOOOOOT!!!” in the margins many, many, many times. Along with all the “mwraaaarr”s.  And we whoop and scream with delight when we read polished scenes to each other over the phone. (Plus—when we’re not working like demons on our WIPs—we can find inspiration in our ridiculously giggly conversations about our mutual crush on Benedict Cumberbatch. One word for you, Eileen: “Beamboy.”)


One word back for you, Elisa: “Mwraaaarr!”

And now for something completely terrifying (for us):

We’re going to show you pdfs of a couple pages of our manuscripts with each other’s comments.

We use Track Changes, and sometimes those little comment balloons along the side fill up the entire right-hand margin–though for some reason last week, when we were in the Outer Banks together working on this post and looking for good examples, neither of us had the files on our laptops that show Elisa really going to town. Really, she’s not usually this mellow.

(Note: The ones from Elisa say the comments are coming from Jeff Peterson…ignore that. Our Mac is just set that way.)

Anyhow, this will give you a basic sense of what our working relationship is actually like on the page.

Here’s Eileen critiquing Elisa:


Here’s Elisa critiquing Eileen:


Thanks so much for being with us today!

You can learn more about us at and

Here’s our question for you: If you have a CP, how does your writing relationship work? In what ways do you complement (and compliment) each other? How do you handle the blunt and brutal conversations?





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