Getting to Happily Ever After
BY DANI COLLINS
I know I’m in good company here when I say that I love reading romance; I always have and always will. It’s the security of knowing everything will work out. I won’t say I’m paranoid, but I have a tendency to worry. Messages of hope and fulfillment are a necessary counterbalance for me when times are rough or I hear a hard news story.
Many would scold me for taking to heart the underlying message that if you persevere, you can triumph. Romances aren’t real, you know. Yet, like a relentless Pollyanna, I’m determined to prove the skeptics wrong.
I have to, see, ‘cause it took me twenty-five years to sell my first romance. If I’d bought into the ‘No such thing as HEA’ message, I would have quit and you know what? I would have created my own crabby reality where nothing works out the way you want it to. My life would have sucked.
Which isn’t to say I’m thrilled that it took me twenty-five years to sell a book. Eighteen months would have been plenty enough angst, thanks, and I could have been spared all that quizzical joshing from family and friends. Is it really that hard? They’re all the same.
We’ve all heard the criticisms and frankly, there were times I asked myself if I really wanted to work this hard so I could face more judgment once I had my name on a cover. I had tons of self-doubt moments. Is it me? Is it the industry? Am I unlucky? Do I need a better word-processing program? Is it who you know, not what you know? Have I been black-balled? Would mouthwash help?
Still, I had this core belief—some would call it delusion—that if I just kept trying… (Tenacity is an essential quality in a good romance heroine, right?)
I suppose there’s a chicken and egg toss up here. Did I develop my beliefs because I read romance novels like I was practicing times tables, or do the books appeal to me because they ring true to my belief system? Either way, I hung in there with a Scarlett O’Hara “They’re not gonna lick me” obstinacy.
I’ll spare you the details of rejections and contest almost-wins. They stung, I won’t deny it. I learned to find balance in my life and value the writing over the publishing. And, like labor pains, once the baby arrived in my arms, a lot of that heartache went away.
Now, you’re probably wondering if there was a secret to finally making it. I mean, I went from zero to six between May and December of 2012. Something must have clicked, right?
Well, I was prepared. I mean, I wasn’t just writing all those years. I was paying attention to the business stuff, too. I wanted to be ready when Opportunity arrived with the Welcome Wagon banana loaf.
But honestly, the real secret was not giving up. Every book, every submission, was one more step forward. I say that with hindsight, but also as reassurance to anyone doggedly pursuing a goal. Whatever your personal journey is—publishing, iron man triathlons, life—you only fail if you quit.
Keep going. You’ll get there.
When Dani Collins finally got The Call in May of 2012 from Harlequin Mills & Boon, she decided to become an overnight success by going to contract on The Healer with Champagne Books five weeks later. She went from zero to six contracted books by December and chose to indie-publish her romantic comedy, Hustled To The Altar, for good measure.