In the hot seat today, I’d like to welcome fabulous author Michelle Smart, recently signed by Entangled Publishing! For anyone in the know, Entangled Publishing has received some fantastic reviews and huge successes since launching last year. Line up in the envy queue as we expose Michelle’s very honest back-story and find out just how she got there.
Q) First of all, huge congratulations on being offered publication with Entangled Publishing! I know you can’t talk about Tempted By Trouble yet, but can you tell us more about what you write and why those sub-genres in particular?
Thank you Lindsay! I mostly write Contemporary Romance with the occasional dabble into more paranormal realms when I fancy a change. I suppose it’s like my tea drinking – I drink gallons of cups a day and then suddenly fancy a coffee.
I love the emotions that reading a good contemporary can dredge up – the tears, the laughter, the fears and the joy, all of which I hope to replicate for the reader in my own books.
Maybe paranormal is the wrong word to describe my other books which, so far, been for my own consumption. They’re just quirky takes on the ‘what if’ questions I am always asking myself.
Q) What’s been your personal journey to signing that contract?
Eek! The journey has been long and torturous! It has also been completely worth it.
I’ve written all my life – I once worked as a business journalist but please don’t hold that against me – but it was only around four or five years ago I decided to take writing for publication seriously. I love reading all genres but it’s romance I adore writing, so I decided to try my hand at writing a Mills & Boon. My first two manuscripts were a pile of doggy doo and were rightly rejected out of hand. By then the writing bug had well and truly bitten me on my bottom. My third book got to the RnR stage on the partial and was ultimately rejected.
My fourth was my first full request and is the book that went on to become Tempted By Trouble (TBT). Ultimately it was rejected after three rounds of revisions. By the time I hit send on the third set I had a bad feeling it was not going to fit. At this point I started getting my head around not limiting myself to one publisher. I had worked too hard and loved the book too much to just give up on it.
However, I was incredibly wary about going elsewhere – say what you like about Mills & Boon but they are an incredibly formidable publishing house and produce some fantastic books by fantastic authors. Many of my writing buddies were sending work to different publishing houses with varying degrees of success. For one reason or another, none of them appealed to me. And then I heard about Entangled and the staff it had on board and I researched them a bit further. I had already completed two more books between all the revisions so on a whim I entered one into a pitch contest. I failed. Weeks later I entered a second pitch contest: lo and behold, the full manuscript was requested! By the time TBT was rejected I already knew I wanted to send it to Entangled too.
Q) Although rejected by M&B, you found yourself in the enviable position of having two other publishers interested in Tempted By Trouble. Why did you choose Entangled?
The quality of the editors. The only reason I sent TBT to another publisher was because Entangled already had a full sub of mine and I knew it was bad form to send more than one sub at a time. This other publisher was a newbie too but it had backing from a major publishing house, which for me lowered the risk you associate with start-up publishers (you could say it would have been more of a risk to go with Entangled, but I can’t stress enough how the quality of the editors sold that publisher to me – if those fantastic editors believed enough in it then that was good enough for me).
I honestly thought it would take months before I heard back from the other publisher, which I thought would be ample time to hear from Entangled on the other sub. Except I received an offer-for-contract twenty four hours after hitting send…
I emailed Entangled and explained the situation. I was told to send it to Alethea, who got back to me a couple of days later saying it could, with a few changes, be perfect for Indulgence. I can be a bit ditsy at times – it took a full two weeks before I realised they actually wanted to contract it!
Incidentally, I’m still waiting to hear on the other sub *cough*.
Q) So Tempted By Trouble went through 3 rounds of revisions with Mills and Boon before the eventual thumb down. What did you learn during that process?
So much! Obviously a lot of it is specific to Mills & Boon, such as the need to keep secondary characters to a minimum and to ensure a rough 60/40 split between narrative and story. But I also learned about keeping characters and their reactions true to themselves, and not to throw a plot device in to drive the story onwards *coughs again*.
Q) You say you got back to the original story with Entangled. How did that come about?
During the first set of revisions my hero changed so much that, in a way, he no longer belonged to me and what I had originally created. This was as much down to my own inexperience in my original creation as to anything else – if I had nailed his character to begin with, the problems would never have occurred. Remember what I said about keeping characters and their reactions true…? By the time I’d completed the third set (and remember, I already knew in my gut it wasn’t working properly) the story had changed beyond all recognition and, much as the editor there wanted it to work, we had both reached the stage where we had, for want of a better way to explain it, become blind to it.
When Adrien-Luc was appointed as my editor at Entangled, he was able to look at it with fresh eyes. When he sent me the first batch of edits (a polite way of saying revisions in this case), the vast majority of his suggestions led to the story going back to what I had originally envisaged, but with characters that were now true to themselves. Incidentally, Adrien-Luc is fantastic to work with and I could not be happier than I am working with him.
Q) You also currently have a requested partial with Mills and Boon, which we’ll refer to as Nico and Rosa for now. Can you tell us more about what’s happening with that?
The wonderful editor there who has taken me under her wing (bless her heart for having so much faith in me), was very happy with the partial but felt it lacked a certain spark between the h/h, who are two very repressed people. The situation I have put them in is very emotional and she wants me to do it justice. She made one tiny suggestion and pow! That one suggestion has lit the spark and I’ve now sent her the first 30,000 words which I am sure I will hear her thoughts about in due course. I know I am in a very privileged position with her – she really has gone above and beyond the call of duty with me.
Q) Has working with an editor affected your writing?
Absolutely. There is so much out there at the moment about the wonders of self-publishing but it is not something I could ever contemplate without going through an editor first. I’m blessed in that I am working with two superb editors who want me to succeed. They see my strengths and want me to build on them. They see my weaknesses and want me to address and overcome them. As a writer you can become blind to any faults in your work and I’m not talking about typos. A good editor will catch any character inconsistencies and any glaring error and get you to fix it. They make suggestions for improvement and point out areas that are not working as well as they could be. I could never do this on my own.
Q) What do you find most challenging about the writing process?
Waiting! Touch wood, the actual writing comes easy for me; it’s all the associated parts I struggle with, especially as I’m about as patient as a child queuing to get into a sweetshop. I am also easily distracted so keeping off twitter is a challenge in itself! This is not a problem when I am working to a deadline but if I’m writing under my own steam…
Q) What’s the most rewarding aspect of writing for you?
Oh gawd… everything. I get to sit on my lazy backside all day and fall in love. I get to look at pictures of Johnny Depp and David Gandy for inspiration. One day I might even earn some money doing it!
Q) Can you tell us what’s coming next for you?
Hopefully I will hear about that other sub that’s sitting with Entangled soon, and I have another book I would like to offer them too. Then of course there’s Nico and Rosa I’m writing for Mills & Boon – ideally I would love a career writing for both publishing houses. Whatever happens, I will never stop writing.
Huge thanks for joining us today, Michelle!
Hopefully Michelle will come back in a couple of months to talk about the release of her book and what happened in-between. In the meantime, if you’d like to keep a close eye on her progress, you can find her here: