Stories have lives of their own. Some spring into being and race to completion. Others follow their authors around for years, demanding to be told. My January Harlequin Historical, ON THE WINGS OF LOVE, is the second kind of story. I’d like to share it with you here.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by flight—especially the men and women who first ventured into the sky. About fifteen years ago I came up with an idea for a story with a hero and heroine, Rafe and Alexandra, who are drawn together by their passion for flying. I loved it. From the very beginning I knew it was the book of my heart.
I jumped right into the research, reading a whole stack of books. I even took a flying lesson in a Piper Cherokee. The cute young instructor did the takeoff and landing, but I got to handle the plane in the air, turns and all. It was an exhilarating and terrifying experience—white knuckles all the way. Even though I’d love to try it again, I don’t think I’d ever have the self confidence to solo.
I wrote a proposal and sent it out. It came back again and again and again for two reasons. First, nobody wanted a story set in the early 20th Century. Second, nobody was neutral about Alex, my strong-willed heroine. A few editors loved her, as I did. But most didn’t “get” her. I’d created a woman with the stubborn, reckless nature needed to venture into the sky. In ordinary situations, these qualities could work against her—and often did—which, for me, was what made Alex so compelling. I didn’t want to change her.
After I started writing for Harlequin I tried the story again. The senior editor almost bought it but changed her mind at the last minute. “I loved the chemistry between Rafe and Alex,” she said, “but the time period is too modern for our historical line.”
Years passed, editorial policies changed. I sent the story to my new editor. “Interesting time period,” she said. “But I can’t stand your heroine.”
More time passed. I had a different editor, and suddenly Harlequin Historicals was looking for new settings. I sent my story in again. Finally… it sold!
Even then the saga wasn’t over. I’d conceived the book as an epic, covering the early days of flight through World War I. To fit the Harlequin format, I had to cut, and cut, and cut. Every lost word was painful. But I got to keep Alex with all her faults. The final result was a thrilling love story that I’m still proud to call the book of my heart.
Those of you who write, do you have a “book of your heart” either written or unwritten? Have you ever had to fight for a goal that was close to your heart? Do you have a dream you hope to accomplish? I’d love to hear about it.
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