Posts tagged with: historical romance

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…

2018 Golden Heart Finalist Kate Belli on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome!

We’ve got another Persister with us today: 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Kate Belli, whose manuscript A FEATURED AFFAIR is nominated for Best Historical Romance!

Kate Belli writes women’s fiction and historical fiction, including historical romance. A longtime Brooklynite, she recently relocated to the Deep South where she has learned to embrace football and biscuits, and to tolerate large insects. When not writing, Kate works as an art historian or a yogi, depending on the day. She is married to a New Englander of Italian descent and they have one son.

Here’s a blurb for A FEATURED AFFAIR:

Under the gaslight glamour of New York City’s Gilded Age ballrooms, Justine Stewart is a fish out of water. Though her eccentric family is old New York money and a decided part of the Astor 400 (the number of people deemed acceptable by the city’s matriarch of society, Mrs. Astor), Justine wants more than parties and suitors: she longs to make a name for herself as an investigative journalist under the pseudonym Polly Palmer. If she could break the story of the infamous Robin Hood of the Lower East Side, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, she knows her editor would take her seriously.

Daniel McCaffrey, mysterious heir to a vast fortune from an old New York scion, is one the city’s most elusive and eligible bachelors. Despite his unknown origins, hostesses are desperate to have him, his rakish good looks, and his inherited millions attend their functions. Tortured by his past, Daniel is desperate to avoid the beautiful, witty, nosy journalist who has decided he might be a subject worth investigating. It’s terribly inconvenient, then, that he finds himself fantasizing about what she’d be like in bed.

From the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge to the brilliant lights of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Daniel and Justine play a game of cat-and-mouse amidst both an ever-growing attraction and an ever-deepening investigation. Justine is convinced that Daniel is Robin Hood, but she struggles to stay true to her professional ambitions once her heart is at risk. Daniel, in turn, must keep Justine’s inquiries at bay since he is determined to keep painful secrets from his past out of the papers at all costs. But he’s not quite as determined to keep Justine out of his arms. Can Justine set aside her professional ambitions for the sake of love? Can Daniel let go of his past enough to trust? Or will they both find their hearts stolen?

Ah! I’ve got shivers!! You had me at the Gilded Age New York setting, and my one-click-buy finger was twitching at since “he is determined to keep painful secrets from his past out of the papers at all costs. But he’s not quite as determined to keep Justine out of his arms.” Squeeee!!! Very exciting stuff!!

Folks, Kate Belli’s not just here to tantalize us with that blurb…she’s here to talk about a powerful subject that many of us wrestle with as writers: the dreaded Imposter Syndrome! She’s got a very personal story to tell, and lots of wisdom to share about how to embrace ourselves as writers.

 Take it away, Kate!


Every author knows the path to being published, whether traditional or indie, is rife with obstacles. Our Persister sisterhood has been talking a lot about those obstacles.

For some of us, the most difficult obstacle we have to overcome is ourselves.

I’m talking about Imposter Syndrome. It’s pervasive among writers. And I’ve had a bad, bad case of it for a long, long time.

Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner

Today we’re welcoming another Persister, 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner, whose manuscript THE ART OF THE SCANDAL is nominated for Best Historical Romance.

Suzanne grew up in Oregon (Go Ducks!) but has found herself living in Jacksonville with three too-energetic boys, an equally too-energetic husband, and a lot of mosquitoes. She’s a lawyer by training (Dad’s fault), a lover of books by raising (thanks, Dad!), and will argue to the death that a Bloody Mary is a legitimate vegetable (sorry, Mom). 

This is Suzanne’s second Golden Heart final. Her previous historical romance, THE LOST CHORD, finaled in 2017. 

Here’s a blurb for THE ART OF THE SCANDAL:

The art is fake. The love is real. The risk is ruin.

Jilted by her fiancé, abandoned by her father, and scorned by her friends, Lady Lydia Pierrepoint and her pregnant, 15 year-old sister will be homeless by midnight unless she can charm the deed of her family’s home out of the mysterious South African who won the estate in a poker game. 

Grieving over the death of his Jewish father and English mother, Simon has no time for gallantry. He’s out to reclaim his mother’s name from the aristocracy who humiliated her. With an art collection worth millions and the National Gallery begging for a donation, revenge is within reach. 

But when Lydia points out that Simon’s treasure trove includes at least one forgery, they strike a deal. She’ll ferret out the fakes, and if the debut of his collection goes smoothly, she’ll win back her home. If she fails, she will take the blame and go to jail.  

Together, Lydia and Simon will feign an engagement, delve into the world of art forgery, and navigate the narrow-minded prejudices of London society to discover that love is forged, never faked.

Wow! That sounds rich and complex! And a half-Jewish South African art collector—a fresh take on a historical hero. Very exciting!

Okay, folks, come grab a lounge chair under our gazebo (no mosquitos here on the virtual lawn!) and enjoy a tropical drink with Suzanne and I as we chat about what drives her stories and why places matter so much.


Welcome back to the Rubies, Suzanne!! Thanks for being with us today, and congrats on finaling in historical for the second year in a row!!

Hi, Elisa! I want to say hello and thank you the Ruby Slipper Sisterhood for inviting me onto this blog. The Golden Heart creates such a strong community of writers in what is oftentimes a lonely world. Real truth, I used to write in my youngest son’s closet (mostly b/c he wouldn’t fall asleep unless someone was in the room). With the Golden Heart sisterhood there is leadership and mentorship and camaraderie and wisdom galore and in those moments when the rejection emails pile in, I find myself wandering over to your blog and finding courage and inspiration. Also, Elisa, you always make me sound like I’m actually an interesting person. Appreciate that!

You started writing IN A CLOSET. You are already an interesting person. (And I wish I’d thought of that technique with my own little guy who wouldn’t fall asleep alone….I just sat there in the dark wishing I was writing.) So, to do that, you must have felt a powerful need to write. Why romance? Do you have a core story that drives you?

My novels tend to start with a break-up. My heroine loses her sense of place. She’s betrayed or jilted by someone she loves and she sets out to reclaim her old self. She doesn’t want to change, she wants to be the person she was before she was betrayed. In comes the hero, a fellow who straddles identities, who shrugs off labels and fights not to belong to any place or anyone. 

The heroine and hero push each other further and further out of each other’s comfort zones—the heroine is going to learn, through a lot of trial and error, humiliation, pain and vulnerability, that her true self cannot fit in the tight boundaries she’s let society, family, and obligation draw for her. The hero is going to learn that boundaries are not a prison, that even if he picks a side or a person, he is who he is—he is strong, he is true. 

The true sense of place for both is not defined by geography or family, or social standing, but by the love the hero and heroine build together. Their place in the world is side-by-side.  

Ah—reclaiming the essential self, which can mean reclaiming a place. Liberation by coming (or creating a) home. What about you personally? What is your sense of place? Or experience of dislocation, as the case may be?

I grew up in Portland, Oregon, a world full of hippies and centuries-old pine trees. My high school history teacher lived on a pot farm. My favorite English teacher was a former spy. Another teacher camped out in Canada for a few years because he was dodging the draft. Our postman had a Ph.D. in Philosophy. I spent summers in the mountains, wearing sweaters and mittens.  

Okay, wow! I can see you come by rich and complex narratives naturally. What a point of origin!! But you don’t live there now. What happened?

I “adulted” in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has its own distinct culture, but to me, it was always like Portland’s snotty, stock-grant rich sister. There are still mountains and cold rain. I was still close to home.

And then one day my husband said, “Let’s have an adventure.” And we took our three boys and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, which is geographically, atmospherically (is that the word for the weather?) and culturally the total opposite of Portland. The pine trees are so skinny, they’re like toothpicks. The ocean is warm. The sun is…out.

The other day, someone said, “Rainy season has started. Summer’s here.” And I experienced that weird jolt of realizing I am in a strange place. It’s culture shock. It’s being in one’s own skin, but the skin is experiencing a sensory world it is not in tune with. 

I hear you on that! I grew on the East Coast and live near San Francisco now. I love the area, but I’m still baffled by the bone dry summers, since summer is “meant” to be deep lush Pennsylvania green. (My husband, who grew up in L.A. and who lived with me for awhile in Ohio, freaked out when it rained there in July…he’d wonder why winter was starting.) And I spent years feeling like I was flipping upside down whenever I tried to navigate along the California coast, since the ocean was on the “wrong” side. It’s definitely a visceral thing. A sensory world problem, as you say.

I’m starting to think my sense of place is simultaneously liking and disliking the place I currently am. So much so, that I recently joined the world of Instagram! Where I tell the story of my own sense of displacement. I try to be generous with Jacksonville because it has been great for my family, but no picture can capture the humidity. 

Oy…I will never miss humidity! And I’ll have to check out your Instagram!! It does sound like an adventure you’re having! But back to the question of your inspirations for writing. What’s your all-time favorite romance?

I am going to be a total nerd and say my parents. My parents met during the Vietnam War. My mother, who is Vietnamese, was a translator for the U.S. Army. My Irish-American father was an officer. At heart (and later by profession) my mother is an accountant, no nonsense, all logic. Her favorite love story, I kid you not, is Moneyball! At heart my father was (he passed a few years ago) Irish—you know, romantic, sentimental, a lover of poetry and rhyme. My mother is a vegetarian, my father smoked and ate red meat. To relax, my mother plays with a calculator. My father would fish. I cannot for the life of me figure out how they managed to get along so well and be so in love, when they were so different. But to the day my father died, my parents held hands.  

Aww!! I love it!!! That’s a fabulous inspiration for so many stories! And I can see why Portland, with all its contradictions, would appeal to the two of them. (And adds another interesting layer to the fact that you wrote a hero who’s Jewish/English/South African. So much more interesting than yet another “to the manor born” lord!) So, any other creative outlets in your life besides writing?

I stress bake. Which seems to have backfired on me since anytime my kids want a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, they do their best to drive me insane. With three boys who refuse to wear shoes even when the alligators are out, I promise you, something’s always in the oven.

LOL! (Though I’ve got to tell you—the phrase “when the alligators are out” guarantees I will never, never be moving to Florida.) I admire your adventurous spirit! So, what question would you like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today?

Where do you go or where do you feel most in your skin?



Connect with Suzanne Turner on social media:

twitter @suziluvvturner

instagram @notajaxgirl



Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner!!

Today we’re welcoming the second of our three Rebelle guests this week: 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner, whose manuscript THE LOST CHORD is nominated for Best Historical Romance!

With a degree in anthropology, Suzanne Turner inevitably ended up in law school, where she was voted Most Likely To Start a Cult without Knowing It. Married to a litigator and raising three feisty boys, she knows she’s never going to win control of the TV remote. Instead, she combs the beach for shark teeth and counts a Bloody Mary as a vegetable. Suzanne is thrilled and humbled that her first novel is a Golden Heart finalist. 

Here’s a blurb for THE LOST CHORD:

An earldom cursed by secrets. A family held together by lies. A woman who must choose between love and truth. 

A childhood fever ravaged most of Dr. John Scott’s memories of the dark life from which he and his mother escaped. When on her deathbed John’s mother confesses to arson, he goes to Lillistone Village to search for his real father, but instead encounters a tight-knit family living behind a wall of secrets. John wants to know who he was, but the truth might destroy the man he’s become. 

As a young girl, Alice Hammond could only watch in terror as a fire ravaged the estate of an ancient earldom, burning so fiercely it left no trace of her best friend, a ten-year-old boy set to inherit the estate. Vowing never to be helpless again, she protects her ambitious family from their own mistakes by hiding the ugly consequences. Now, a mysterious physician turns up asking questions, and Alice feels a connection so immediate, so deep, this man must surely be her childhood friend and the rightful heir. Alice has the answers, but can she yield these secrets without betraying those she loves? Most especially, John?

Oh, I love this premise!!! Dark secrets, a hidden past, a doctor hero!! And childhood friends re-uniting as lovers!! You’re pressing all my trope buttons here!! I can’t wait to see this in print!

For today’s interview, I think we’d better all don our dark velvet robes (don’t worry about the heat where you are, folks…it’ll be all cool and foggy in the depths of the dark forest where we’ll meeting. And I’ll bring cake.) Let’s sit down in the shade of some towering sycamores while I ask Suzanne some questions.


Welcome, Suzanne!! As I’ve said, I love the premise for your book. Tell me a little more about how it came to be.

I’ll start with the process. I have three boys who are close in age and there were years when I was either pregnant, nursing, or sleep-training (FYI, they refused to be sleep trained). Then one midnight, I realized that all three were sound asleep, but I was wide awake with nothing to do. My brain buzzed with unspent energy and a scene came into my head. I broke out the laptop, started clicking away, and my historical romance, The Lost Chord was born.

Awesome!!! There are definitely some up-sides to massive, chronic sleep deprivation. And you finished the book!! And it finaled in the Golden Heart!! Huzzah! What was it like when you got the phone call telling you you were a finalist?

The day before the call, I came home from the Pediatric ICU with my youngest son (no worries, he’s totally fine!). I was exhausted and anxious and was trying to right a house that had fallen into chaos. The phone kept ringing. I kept ignoring it. Then I thought it might be a doctor, so I answered. I had forgotten all about the GH! And when I got the news, I was so floored, I babbled incoherently, danced around the house with my kiddo and texted my bestie CP, Kristina Kairn. We did a lot of gasping and shaking and crying together.

The best thing about being a finalist is the company I get to keep. The Rebelles are supportive, funny, and wise. I can ask the stupidest question and am given the biggest FB hugs! This group is full of creative, sassy, spirited, welcoming writers. 

It’s definitely a sassy, spirited group! And I’m so glad it wasn’t a doctor on that phone. Hmm, so you’re trained as a lawyer, raising a bunch of boys, probably not engaging in mysterious acts of arson on the side. Where did the gothic tenor of your book come from? Do you live in the mysterious and shadowy wilds someplace?

I grew up in Oregon, so I’m definitely all about rain and mountains and long, lonely walks. But as an adult I somehow ended up Florida, where it’s too darned sunny and the mosquitoes are deadly. Also, there is an alligator in the lake across the street, wild boars snort around in the woods, and a bear started showing up in May. Without thinking about it, my sense of place and displacement colors my writing, my characters seem to be in search of home. 

Ah, that does make sense! You can answer that yearning in creating the world of your story (also, the idea that alligators and boars and bears are roaming around outside certainly creates a sense of peril that lends inspiration to a mystery story!!!). But you aren’t writing about a contemporary world. Why historical romance?

I love to sink my teeth into research. Every tiny detail is a mystery to be chased down and answered—what was the most popular color in 1869? What was in the vaccine for small pox? How did one get from Bellagio to Dorset? I have spent hours online, at libraries, over dusty books, emailing questions to museum curators. When I read historical, I want to be so fully immersed that I can taste the details. So when I write historical, I want to give my readers that same experience. 

Ah, yes! A historical researcher after my own heart! There’s no substitute for all those hours of sleuthing, and all that dust. Aside from being sure to do the research, what’s the best tip you can give other writers?

Don’t doubt. Don’t stop. Don’t worry.

Tell that inner critic to pipe it. If you’re writing, whether you’re traditionally pubbed, self-pubbed, or storing it beneath your bed, you’re an artist. Celebrate.

Oh, also, drink coffee. Lots of coffee.

LOL, yes. Behind every great writer is a really, really big pot of java. And now a question from left field: whose your biggest celebrity crush?

Don’t laugh–Alan Alda. As a kid, I watched M*A*S*H reruns and fell for that passionate, dry-witted, functioning-alcoholic, war-weary, life-saving, principled Dr. Hawkeye Pierce. At a time when all my friends had posters of Duran Duran and Michael Jackson, I had my autographed poster of Alan Alda. When I hung it up in my room, my dad burst out laughing and said, “I’m never going to have to worry about you.”

I WILL TOTALLY NOT LAUGH about Alan Alda!!! I had a thing for him myself, once upon a time. Smart, righteous, funny, with floppy hair and sparkling eyes…oh, yesssss. (Any other Alan Alda fangirls out there?? It’s safe to come out today!!)

Now, what question would you like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today? 

I just watched Arrival and I sobbed for the first and last 15 minutes. My husband kept scratching his head and saying, “You know it’s an alien movie, right?” And I was like NOOOOOO. It’s a beautiful meditation on the nature of time and motherhood. 

What’s the last thing you read, ate, listened to, or saw that blew your socks off? 


Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Christina Britton!!

It’s another big week with the Rebelles, with Rebelle guests today, tomorrow, and Thursday. Today we’re welcoming 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Christina Britton, whose manuscript WITH LOVE IN SIGHT is nominated for Best Historical Romance!

Christina Britton developed a passion for writing romance novels shortly after buying her first at the tender age of thirteen. Though for several years she turned to art and put brush to paper instead of pen, she has returned to her first love and is now writing full time. She spends her days dreaming of corsets and cravats and noblemen with tortured souls.

She lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area. A member of Romance Writers of America, she also belongs to her local chapter, Silicon Valley RWA. Her Golden Heart manuscript is going to be her debut novel: WITH LOVE IN SIGHT is set to be released by Diversion Books in early 2018.

Here’s a blurb for WITH LOVE IN SIGHT:

Miss Imogen Duncan has had her London Season, but her desperate shyness destroyed any chance for a match. Now an aging spinster, seeing ahead of her a life of servitude to her overbearing mother, she believes her chances for excitement are well and truly past. But a case of mistaken identity and an unintended kiss brings an excitement into her life that she never dreamed of.

Burying the guilt he suffers from his brother’s death a decade ago beneath a life of debauchery, Caleb Masters, Marquess of Willbridge is content enough to meet willing widows in dark gardens to numb the pain. But he is wholly unprepared when an innocent miss stumbles into his life, turning his superficial world on its head.

 Drawn to the quiet, kind girl, Caleb forms an unlikely friendship with her. Soon, however, desire for her begins to invade their time together. Refusing to let Imogen be tainted by his demons, he does everything in his power to fight the growing attraction. But when friendship turns to passion he finds there’s more to Imogen than he first thought. Can Caleb convince Imogen to give him a chance – and to perhaps heal his soul in the process?

 I’m so excited that this will be published soon!! It sounds very romantic (I love mistaken identity and unintended kisses)! Congrats, Christina!!!

It sounds like WITH LOVE IN SIGHT FORCES the heroine Imogen out of her comfort zone. Christina’s here today to talk with us about how she learned to do that herself, with her writing career.

Take it away, Christina!!


Getting Out of Your Safe Space

For me, becoming a published writer is a dream I’ve had for two and a half decades. Which basically means my dream is a fully mature adult who’s been legally able to drink for several years. It was carefully nurtured in my youth when it was just a seed of an idea, made big and robust with grandiose goals and visions of success. I scribbled away whenever I could, even hiding away in the back room at work. I finally managed to finish my very first manuscript. And then…


That manuscript lay moldering in a box for years. The physical remnants of the faint wisp of a dream. Why didn’t I do anything with that hard-won book? Why did I abandon it?

Life happened, I suppose: work, marriage, children. But I can’t blame my failure to move forward on any of those things. Now that I can think clearly about it, I can see there’s a certain comfort in the dream. There is possibility in it, a chance that it might someday become reality. Even with my manuscript laying dormant, gathering dust in storage, there was still that glimmer of hope that it could one day find its way onto bookstore shelves.

Keeping it in the box is safe.

But, as we’ve seen when heroes and heroines are too protective of their hearts, being safe does not guarantee happiness. It’s stale and stagnant. And I was so safe with that fledgling manuscript. I even went so far as to stop writing completely.


I do love that word. It implies all sorts of possibilities. I was a stay-at-home mom by the time my ‘until’ came, with my youngest about to start school. What was I going to do now? I agonized over it for weeks. Until…

There’s that lovely word again. Until I went to clean out an overstuffed drawer. Where I found the letter my late grandfather had written me years before. And I read forgotten words penned in his loving hand, his belief in me that one day I would be a published author.

That was my light bulb moment. A moment I can remember so very clearly and that decided my future. With the full blessing of my husband and kids, I poured myself into my writing; something I had let go fallow, yet now was rested and full of new life, the soil rich and ready to make the dream a reality. I pulled out that forgotten manuscript, and scrubbed and polished it until it was ready for the world.

I’d like to say a publisher fell in love with my book, offered me a contract with a huge advance, and now I’m a bestselling author. Of course, if that were true, I would not be so very blessed to be a 2017 Golden Heart Finalist and part of an amazing sisterhood of talented women. Instead I sent that manuscript in to agent after agent, casting aside my fears, shrugging off the confines of the safe path I had stuck to for so long. It was frightening. And heartbreaking. Because, though there was some interest, it was ultimately rejected. Many times. But I had started on this path, and I had people who believed in me. I couldn’t stop. The big question was, what in the world would I write now? I’d been cultivating the same book for two decades. The thought of starting something new terrified me. But disappointing my family was an impossibility.

Then something incredible happened: I came in first in the Romance category for the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Contest. Not only was this an affirmation to me that I was on the right path despite all of the rejections I had received, but I also realized that the heroine from that short story was haunting me. She needed her own full-length book. And so I took that character, turned her hero into a rake of the worst sort, and in short order wrote ‘With Love in Sight’.

That book brought in its fair share of rejections as well. But then – finally! – a light at the end of the tunnel. I was offered a publishing contract. I signed with an amazing agent. I could almost taste the finish line. My gamble in emerging from my safe place was finally paying off.

But my journey wasn’t over. And it was about to get more difficult. The publisher closed, and I was left floundering, practically back at square one. Only this time, the hope that had sustained me before had been dashed to pieces.

I might have given up writing at that point. I certainly considered scurrying back into my safe place, where everything was calm and orderly and free of heartache. It was a very dark period for me. But I had so many people in my corner. My family, who continued to cheer me on. My writing crew, who made sure I got my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard. My agent, who worked tirelessly at re-homing my manuscript. I kept writing, even when it broke my heart to do so. Soon the future began to look a little brighter. I finished another manuscript. I even entered a little contest called the Golden Heart (you might have heard of it), in the off chance I might final. I was going to see this dream come to fruition no matter what.

Then, in an amazingly short period of time, I received two calls I only ever imagined getting. One, telling me I was a Golden Heart finalist. The second, from my agent telling me I had been offered a three-book deal.

It’s a frightening thing to put your heart on the line. That’s essentially what you’re doing when you hand your creation over to the world. It’s instinctual, I think, to keep it hidden and safe. But by taking a chance to see your dreams become reality, you’re also opening yourself up to an entire realm of incredible possibilities. My journey is far from done. I know there will be ups and downs. But I can’t wait to see where it all takes me. I am so very glad I left my safe place. And I don’t plan on ever going back there again.

 What about you, readers? Everyone’s journey is different. What inspired you to leave your safe place and put your heart out there?


Connect with Christina Britton on social media:






Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Scarlett Peckham!!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, Scarlett Peckham, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance with her manuscript CONFESS, YOUR GRACE.

Scarlett Peckham came to romance as a child upon finding her grandmother hiding on a porch, giggling over a beat-up copy of Whitney, My Love. She quickly stole it, and has never looked back.

She studied English at Columbia University and built a career in public relations, but in her free time always returned to her earliest obsession: those delicious, big-hearted books you can never bear to put down. Her manuscript, Confess, Your Grace, is a 2017 Golden Heart® finalist in historical romance.

An American who has spent most of her adult life in Brooklyn, Scarlett now lives in London, along with her very nice husband and their very sleepy cat. Her hobbies include cooking, running, and watching The Real Housewives while consuming unadvisable amounts of white wine.

Here’s a blurb for CONFESS, YOUR GRACE:

Immaculate, ludicrously handsome, and blessed with impossibly kind eyes, no one would expect the Duke of Westmead to be a member of Georgian London’s most exclusive private whipping club. Least of all: the woman he intends to marry.

Having shed a painful past to become the most legendary investor in London Archer Stonewell, the Duke of Westmead now finds himself in urgent need of an heir. Which means he must search for that rarest of creatures: a wife who won’t question his nocturnal whereabouts, or make demands on his heart. Poppy Cavendish is not that type of woman. A fiercely ambitious nurserywoman hired to build Westmead a garden, she has no interest in auditioning for the role of his duchess. But when their shared obsession with business triggers an attraction that is decidedly unbusinesslike, the resulting scandal leads to something neither of them bargained for: a hasty marriage of convenience. As their thorny arrangement blossoms into unexpected passion, and Westmead’s rival threatens everything they’ve built, no secret – or heart – will remain safe for long. 

**Fans self fervently!!!** Oh, MY, that sounds exciting!! How come I can’t read that right now???

Scarlett’s here with us today to talk about about reading, and writing, romance novels “in the dark.” And not quite in the way you might think. I think this topic will resonate with a lot of us.

Take it away, Scarlett!!


Allow me to begin with a confession. I started writing romance because I thought it would be easy.

I know. I know. I’ll sit here and wait while you roll your eyes and refrain from pelting me with an old dog-eared copy of Shanna.

Finaling for the Golden Heart — a milestone that took place five years after I decided to try my hand at this seemingly undemanding enterprise and nearly two years after I began to pursue it seriously — has brought into relief just how perfectly wrong I was.

And it has made me think about why I ever thought that this might be easy to begin with.

You see, my entire life, I have read romance novels. Hundreds, if not thousands, of romance novels. And almost always in the dark. In secret.

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!


 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?



Connect with Emily Sullivan on Social Media:

Twitter: @paperbacklady






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)


Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Karen Marcam!

Today we’re welcoming another Mermaid, Karen Miller, who writes as Karen Marcam, 2016 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance with her book SAVING COLUMBINE RANCH.

Image_Karen_MillerKaren lives in southern Wisconsin, where she can be found watching way too much HGTV when she isn’t reading or working on a story. She is married with one son who is married himself now. Her empty nest will get a little fuller in the future when he and his wife come for visits, because they are expecting her first grandchild in September.

Karen is a business analyst for her day job, which means she spends a lot of time asking lots of questions and helping people solve problems in their organizations. Being so analytical can be helpful when she is plotting a story, but can be a royal pain when it makes her want to identify every background detail – down to the wallpaper on the walls – in a scene before she writes it.

Karen’s previous role was as a trainer who spent weeks at a time traveling around the country. This is when she finally obeyed the voice in her head urging her to write. That first story she worked on in hotel rooms at night is now her GH finalist. So she is very glad she listened to the voice.

Here’s a blurb for Saving Columbine Ranch:

Widowed mother of four Susan Connolly never imagined she would be raising her family alone on the ranch she and her husband established shortly before he died. If enduring alone after his death is the steep price she must pay to keep her home, then she’ll make sure it’s worth the cost. Cade Anderson has kept to himself all the years since his pregnant wife died and won’t admit why he feels the urge to help Susan now. He calls it saving her from her own foolishness. She calls it one more debt she owes.

But she’s not done paying. When the story starts, a powerful neighbor’s disturbing comments reveal an escalating desire to take her and her land by any means. Even that is a drop in her bucket of troubles when she learns a mountain-sized loan her husband took out could cost her the ranch. With so much at stake, she can’t afford the temptation Cade proposes. His hovering protection would smother her spark of independence like a wet quilt thrown over glowing embers. Besides, it’s a sure bet their smoldering attraction will not survive once he learns how she plans to save Columbine Ranch.

I love her independence, and the quiet protectiveness you’re suggesting in him!! I so miss a good heartland American historical romance (for a couple years now, I’ve heard Westerns are returning!), and I see this Golden Heart nomination as a terrific sign!!

Image of READ keyring giveawayC’mon, everybody—join Karen and I in the local saloon (don’t worry—I’ve sent ranch-hands out to take care of all your chores), and we’ll set a spell and learn more about Karen and her writing journey.

One lucky commenter today will win this sweet READ keyring!!


So, tell us a little about your Golden Heart finaling book and the process of writing it.

It was a long process. This was the first story I ever wrote, so you can imagine how many revisions it went through. I got the idea for this story many years ago, and let it rattle around in my head for a few years before I started writing it down. My idea for the story started with a mental picture of the first time the hero came to the heroine’s cabin, and continued from there, with additional scenes added over time. By the time I started putting it all down on paper, much of the story already existed in my head. But then I had a LOT to learn about how to get it from my head into words that other people wanted to read. For example, the first version had some serious POV issues. And I had to learn that even if I could clearly “see” a scene in my mind, no one else would unless I clearly described it with my words. Each time I went to a workshop or conference and learned a bit more about writing, I applied the lessons I learned to this story. Since it is my first, and I have spent so much time with it, I am very glad to have finaled in the Golden Heart with this particular story.

What was it like when you got the phone call telling you you were a finalist? And what have you liked best so far about being a Golden Heart nominee?

Oh my word, my “getting the call” story is so embarrassing, I almost don’t want to tell it! On THAT Friday, my husband and I were driving from Wisconsin to Ohio to spend Easter with our son and his wife. Well, my husband was driving and I was reading one of the Courtney Milan books I loaded on my Kindle before we left. It never crossed my mind the GH finalists were being announced that day.

We had a wonderful time with our son and daughter-in-law and after we returned I sat down to read the emails I didn’t check all weekend. One of the first emails I saw was one Courtney Milan sent me on Friday, asking for a way to contact me.

Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Tracey Amey!

Today we’re welcoming another Mermaid, Tracey Amey, a finalist in the Historical Romance category with MY LORD MERCENARY.

Tracey comes by her knowledge of Regency life honestly. Growing up, she spent many sunny afternoons in her Nan’s front parlor in the Regency town of Cheltenham, England. With her summer visits often came trips to the cities of Bath and London, and hence began her love affair with the elegance of the architecture, the spa rooms, and the fashions of the Regency period.

Now she lives in Pennsylvania where she works as the director of a college library. When she’s not writing, she and her husband are hammering, sawing or soldering her old house back into livable shape. Her daughter and a variety of household pets watch with amusement.

Here’s the blurb for MY LORD MERCENARY: 

Heiress Lady Skye is determined to marry someone who loves her, not her money. Lord Lyall, social outcast and unrepentant mercenary, is just her man—he only needs a little convincing.

When an extraordinary sword comes into Skye’s possession, she is certain the weapon is a sign of life from her long-missing brother. After she’s attacked in an attempt to steal the sword, the second thing she’s certain about is that someone doesn’t want her to have it. The only person she trusts to help her discover what the weapon truly means is her brother’s old friend-turned-professional soldier, Lyall.

What Skye doesn’t know is that Lyall has been hired to find the very sword she’s asking him to protect. He wants out of the mercenary life, and the lucrative contract to find the sword will provide him just that. If Lyall’s clever enough, he can convince Skye to give him the sword for her own protection and collect his payment with Skye none the wiser.

There’s one problem with Lyall’s plan—he’s fallen in love with the woman he plans to deceive.

When Lyall’s employer goes after the sword himself, Lyall must decide if he is truly a mercenary or if the heart of the hero he once was still beats beneath his hardened exterior. Even if he saves Skye, he doesn’t dare hope that a woman who risks all for those she cares about would love a man whose past is rife with disloyalty.


Oh, delicious!! I love a good intrigue-y Regency!! I’m getting very eager to see these Mermaid books up for sale!

Tracey’s here today to share a very moving story about heartbreak and second (and third) chances, and finding your true self.

Leave a comment below to be entered into a random drawing for Tracey’s prize today: a box of assorted British chocolates, biscuits and teas (Cadbury, McVities, Twinings, etc.). 

Take it away, Tracey!


TEA_500Even the short version of my life as a writer is a story full of confessions, second chances, and reincarnations. I want to share some of these with you.

Let’s start with my first confession. Twenty years ago, in 1996, I made the Golden Heart finals with my paranormal tale of sinful angels and delightful devils. I had a different name then, a different husband and lived in a different place, a lovely home by the seashore.

In the beginning, my first adult life was magical. I was in love with my husband and my writing. How easy to write about love when I was living a fairytale. That first book didn’t sell, but I kept writing, won a Maggie for my third book and got so close to a contract with Dorchester (anyone remember them?). An agent wanted to represent me. I was on track to be published!

Then, like Bluebeard’s bride, I opened a locked door in my marriage, and the secrets and lies came tumbling out. My world crumbled around me. Once I saw the truth of who my husband was and who I was becoming, I had to leave almost everything I loved to save myself. I took only my dog and a basket of laundry and I ran.

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