Who Lives Here, Really?

- by Charlotte Hubbard

collageLast year I sold a new Amish series to Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. I quickly concocted a new setting, new characters, and the ideas for several potential stories, and then when the editor bought my series I wrote a complete first chapter of the first book. Because I’ve had two other Amish series in publication for a while, I then went back to those worlds to complete some books. Now I have this new collage hanging above my computer so I can write the rest of this Harlequin book, entitled DEBORAH’S CONFESSION.


But who are these people?? (You can probably name several of them, but because I haven’t watched TV for more than 20 years, only Johnny Depp and Sean Connery conjure up any meaning for me. The others are merely compelling, provocative faces rather than real people who’ve led various lives on the screen.)


When I concocted this collage to give me a visual reminder of traits and emotions I’ll be dealing with in this series, I knew I’d be coming back to this point of writing about them after living in those other two series worlds . . . and even though I’ve reread the first chapter I wrote, and have now written a couple more chapters, these folks still feel like relative strangers to me. It’s not a comfy, cozy feeling. It’s more like Who are you people? And why did I think you had stories to tell?


I know my heroine Deborah—middle row, far right—the best, and I know Noah, next to her, second-best. I totally understand why she’s hiding the ordeal she’s just endured at the hands of the bishop’s bully of a son, just as I understand why Noah hesitates to forgive Deborah for breaking their engagement a few months ago. And I know that all the other characters are siding with Deborah rather than Noah.


And I truly love the new setting—an abandoned church camp, which Noah’s mom and her two sisters have bought by selling their farms in Coldstream, Missouri so they could start a new Amish colony at Promise Lodge. Can you picture the timbered lodge building and the long wooden tables in the dining hall? Can you feel the breeze in the shade of tall old trees as you squint at the sun diamonds sparkling on Rainbow Lake? Can you smell the chicken Rosetta fried for dinner?


Me, too.


So how do I make these characters feel like longtime friends who find themselves conflicted about the hometown they’ve left? How will Deborah confess what she walked into, unawares? And what happens if she tells the truth and Noah won’t believe her?


Only one way to find out: stop writing this blog post (and turn off the email and Facebook) and start writing on this book again! It’s a discovery process that only happens when the author is fully engaged in coaxing her characters to reveal themselves and their deepest needs.

See you next month.

Welcome EMILY RODMELL, Harlequin’s Love Inspired Editor

- by Lina Gardiner

Emily, welcome to NINC BLOG.  It’s lovely to meet you.  Thank you for agreeing to chat with us.


First question and one you probably hear often.  J  Did you always want to be an editor?

I wanted to tell Margaret Mitchell to rewrite the ending to Gone with the Wind when I was in the 8th grade, so I guess I’ve wanted to be an editor at least since then. I actually got a journalism degree in college and started my work career as a newspaper editor before ending up in books a few years later.


What drew you to the Love Inspired line?

I actually read the Love Inspired line before I came to work for Harlequin. But when I interviewed for the job, there were several openings with no description of the editorial, so I had no idea what line I was interviewing for. So when the HR guy asked me what I liked to read, I told him that I enjoyed the LI line and I was thrilled that one of the openings was for it. I love that Harlequin has a little something for everyone whether you’re a woman of faith who wants a sweeter romance or someone who loves a good vampire story. I fall on the sweeter side of the spectrum, so I love working on this line.


What advice do you have for published authors deciding to write for the Christian market?

There are definitely opportunities there, but I think it’s important to feel passionate about the genre. If you don’t, you might feel boxed in by guidelines. Love Inspired doesn’t want books to be preachy, but we do want the true meaning of faith to shine through.


Are there any commonly submitted plot premises that don’t work for Harlequin Love Inspired?

Love Inspired books are romance books, so we need the characters to fall in love during the course of the book. We often get already married characters working on a relationship that’s already in progress, and that doesn’t work for us. We do accept reunion romances as long as the characters have been completely broken up for a long time before the book starts.


 Are there tried and true Love Inspired premises you’d still like to see:

Things like reunion romances and secret babies are always big draws for any line.  For LI and LIH, our readers love a good Western cowboy hero. And for LIS, a good law enforcement hero is a big draw.


What would be your ‘dream story’ that you’d love to see cross your desk?

My authors are so fabulous that every time I mention I have a dream story, they make sure it’s on my desk. I asked for pirates and managed to get a book for both the historical and suspense line. I’d love to see more spies (think Covert Affairs).


Who is your favorite actor/actress (Or Rhett and Scarlett in Gone With The Wind) J and what characteristics does he/she have that would work well in Love Inspired stories? 

 I do have great affection for Rhett and Scarlett, though they are missing one vital piece in their relationship that a Love Inspired book needs—a happy ending. I work on a lot of suspense books, so it should come as no surprise that I love procedural TV shows like Bones, Castle, The Closer, Major Crimes, White Collar, Covert Affairs etc. I think the sort of religious debate that Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz’s characters on Bones have is interesting and indicative of some of what we do in LIS, except both characters would need to be in the Christian faith by the end of the story. And I love interesting yet flawed characters such as Kyra Sedgwick’s Brenda Leigh Johnson and Matt Bomer’s Neal Caffrey.


What do you think of continuities?  Do they do well in the current marketplace?

 Our readers love continuity series. They often are top sellers in a line. We had great success in LIS with our Texas K-9 Unity series, so much so that we’re doing another K-9 Unit series in 2015. This one will be set in Washington, D.C. While challenging to pull off for authors, I think they’re also a lot of fun.


Have you ever personally ‘discovered’ an author in the slush pile who went on to great success?

I’ve acquired more than 30 authors for the three Love Inspired lines. The second author I ever bought back when I was an editorial assistant was Lynette Eason who’s gone on to have a very successful career in the CBA and still writes for Love Inspired Suspense as well.


Is there anything you’re over-inventoried in? And conversely, anything you’re desperate for more of?

With the expansion of LIS, we are eager to find new romantic suspense manuscripts and authors. That is where the best opportunity for publication lies. But we also acquire for the other two lines. For Love Inspired Historical, we’d love to see more Western settings and possibly some Amish.

Would you like to talk about the changes happening at Harlequin Love Inspired in May with regard to more books being published each month?

We are very excited that starting in May, the Love Inspired Suspense line expanded from 4 books a month to 6. This has given us the opening to bring 13 new authors to the line so far since the announcement. It’s always great to have fresh voices, and they’re writing new and exciting topic such as pirates, snipers, spies and more. It’s a great opportunity for writers looking for a publishing home. If you have something that fits our guidelines, feel free to send it my way.


Is there any advice you would like to share with published authors?

I’m a big fan of social media, Twitter especially (find me at @EmilyRodmell) but I think that a lot of published authors miss the point of it. Tweeting “buy my book” multiple times an hour isn’t effective and is more likely to turn off readers than make them want to buy your book. For every 1 sale you get, you probably have a dozen other users muting or unfollowing you. Social media is about building relationships and a following, but in order to do that, you have to offer something, not just ask for sales. If you use social media effectively to build relationships, you could build a tribe of followers that would buy your book because they feel invested in you.

Emily Rodmell picture

Emily Rodmell is the editor for Harlequin’s Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical lines and has acquired more than 30 authors for the lines. She has a journalism degree from the University of South Florida and hails from sunny Florida but calls NYC home. If you write inspirational romantic suspense, historical or contemporary romance, she’d love to see your manuscripts.



Lina Gardiner

Novelists Inc. Blog host

With a Little Help From My Friends

- by Charlotte Hubbard

Breath Of SpringA funny thing happened on the way to writing this fourth book of my Seasons of the Heart series: we had already titled it BREATH OF SPRING, but in my original proposal, I didn’t have a heroine picked out. My editor mentioned that Annie Mae Knepp would make a wonderful heroine, and her story quickly took shape in my mind. At seventeen, Annie Mae has committed the ultimate “sin” by refusing to go with her father, Hiram Knepp, to the new colony he has started. Hiram got excommunicated from Willow Ridge in the previous book, so now everyone—especially Annie Mae—is looking over her shoulder to see what nastiness he’s going to cook up next.


Annie Mae is especially concerned about who’s caring for her four preschool-age sibs while her father gets his new community up and running, and when she sees a strange young woman chasing after the kids with a paddle, Annie Mae snatches them back to Willow Ridge. Suddenly, she needs a place to live, a job to support them, and she sees a lonely future ahead when no sane man would want to court her, considering the “package” she comes with.


I matched her up with the boy next door, home remodeler Adam Wagler, who’s minding his own business. But that doesn’t make for much drama! And he’s so short, Annie Mae literally looks right over top of him. So while everyone agrees that Adam’s a great guy he’s not shaping up to be hero material—


Until a few writer friends from NINC tossed out ideas that would make Adam more of a rebel, maybe with a secret/tragedy in his past that shaped his life in ways nobody knew about. Five of us who’d gone to a mini-retreat in Chicago were prodding each other, priming each other—and right here I’ll insert a shout-out to Jen Stevenson, Patricia Rosemoor, Karen Tintori-Katz and Kris Smith, who shot me toward a way better book than I’d envisioned when I’d arrived with them at the DeWitt Hotel.


The others began tossing out wild ideas, and suddenly a motorcycle roared into our brainstorming session—and because Adam has already joined the Old Order Amish church, a motor vehicle is strictly forbidden. It’s in the barn, hidden under a blue tarp, and because it’s a vintage Indian Chief, the stakes—and its story value—go way up! Of course Adam rides that cycle to rescue Annie Mae from a dicey situation when her father has her abducted, and of course Adam gets caught by the cops and Bishop Tom Hostetler. But Annie Mae wins a man for whom family is top priority, and who makes her feel worthy of love. Now that’s a hero we can all appreciate!


My point? Sometimes stories really do benefit from outside “expertise” . . . and sometimes we get by best with a little help from our friends!

Interview with Multi-talented Peter James – Executive-Producer, Director, Author…

- by Lina Gardiner

A special thank you to Peter James for taking time out of your hectic schedule to offer insights in the television and movie industries.  To truly understand the depth of Mr. James’ expertise, please check out his Blog Bio -  http://www.peterjames.com/about

Reading your Career bio, it seems that you were fated to be involved in the entertainment industry. Does it feel that way to you or did your Interests lead you there (even at the young age of 16)?
Right from early childhood I had two ambitions: To make films and to write novels. I left Charterhouse ignominiously being asked to leave after playing truant for a long weekend with a stunning Brazilian model I met in the school grounds after she had come to see a relative playing cricket. I’d just taken my A levels. I then went to a tutorial college to cram for Oxford Entrance and the first film school in England started up and I decided that was what I wanted to do.
I’ve always written since the age of 8 when I used to keep a notebook and write down my thoughts. I never ever dreamed anyone would want to read them!!!! I did write three novels in my late teens, but luckily they were never published – they were so bad! But, I did win a BBC short story competition when I was 17 which gave me some confidence.

How did you end up in Canada, and what brought you back to England?
I went to Canada after film school, it was impossible to get into television in England at that time. An uncle, who still lives in Canada, said to me ‘come out here, it’s all happening’ and I stayed there and in America for six years, coming home to visit my parents. In 1975 I came back to Europe to make the film Spanish Fly with Terry Thomas and Leslie Phillips and while I was over my father became ill, I’d also just met my then to be wife. Various things conspired and I went back to Canada but decided in 1976 to move back to England.

What initiated your venture into Television? What part did you like the most? My children loved Polka Dot Door, by the way.
Back in 1970 when I first arrived in Toronto I was working as a “gofor” – a tea boy and runner on a daily show you mention for pre-schoolers called “Polka Dot Door”. One day the writer didn’t turn up with a script because he was sick. The Producer had seen on my CV that I’d won my school poetry prize and asked me to write that day’s show. I ended up writing the show three times a week for a year – I was just 23 years old! That was a wonderful break for me.

Where did your interest in science originate?
I’ve always had a big interest in science – and in particular whether advances in science have been so fast they have overtaking our evolution, in terms of our ability to understand and harness these advances. Science may have made going to the dentist a less painful and frightening experience than when I was a child – my dentist back then pedaled the drill himself by foot – but it gave us the ability to create nuclear power and weapons, long before we realized the ease with which nuclear capabilities could be obtained and used by those with evil intention.

Science has given us so many of the technologies that have made our lives so diverse, enriched, comfortable and mobile, but now accompanied by the latter day out of control spectre of global warming.

I never had much interest in science at school, but that changed at the age of 22 when I was living in Canada and staying with my uncle (Dr Josef Kates). He was an absolutely brilliant scientist and one of the early computer pioneers. He was then Chief Scientific Advisor to the Canadian Government, and he had a passion for science that I had never experienced with any of my school teachers. He was the person that enthralled me and got me to understand its marvels.

With medicine my interest really came as result of researching a novel I wrote about the pharmaceutical industry in 1984 called Alchemist. I spent a year doing my research, with several pharmaceutical companies as well as the UK and the US patent offices, and I began to realize just what an inexact science medicine is, and how much is drawn not from new science but from the most primitive natural history. I also became intrigued by what I call the “arrogance of doctors” – so many believe they are right – and yet there are big clashes between so called “Western” medicine, and other disciplines, such as Chinese or ayurvedic. What is without dispute is how life expectancy is increasing. One hundred years ago in the UK it was 43 for a male and 47 for a female. Now both can look to topping 80. In one hundred years from now, people will routinely live to be north of 100, but in bodies that look no more than 60, and at some point in the future, if we don’t wipe ourselves out first through war or abuse of our planet, we will reach a point where we are able to stop and reverse the aging process, replace lost limbs and cure all diseases – we will become biologically immortal. Then there will be a whole paradigm shift for the human race.

What did you learn as a producer/scriptwriter than benefits you as a writer?
I think I have learned a great deal from my start in life as a scriptwriter that helps me to write engaging novels. In screenwriting there are three invisible words in the mind of the author all the way through the process. Three very simple words: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? It is almost like a mantra. For me the biggest lessons I have learned from film and TV production are pacing and intercutting more than anything else. I love using a technique of intercutting between different characters and converging storylines, which is a very cinematic technique and I have always loved reading novels constructed in this way. There is a different experience between film and TV in that because the audience is captive, films can afford to start more slowly than TV dramas. I worked for a time on a sitcom in the US and learned a big lesson from that: In a sitcom the US rule is that you must have a laugh every 12 seconds, because they figure otherwise they will lose their audience. I have translated this into my crime writing – not a laugh every twelve seconds, obviously, but the realization that to keep my readers interested and hooked, I need to constantly surprise them. Laughter and fear are very close emotions and they compliment each other. You laugh to shrug off fear. Then when the laughing stops, the fear is even worse. Many of the greatest crime thriller novels and films have humour in them – Silence Of The Lambs is a great example of this. Polanski’s early film, Cul De Sac is a wonderful example of tension, terror and pure comedy.

The great joy of writing a novel compared to writing a script or a screenplay is this: With a movie or TV production you are part of a huge committee-like process, where a whole bunch of different people all lay claim to the finished product. You have two or three producers each claiming it is their movie! The director claims it is his. The Director Of Photography claims it is his film because without him, it would be nothing. Your 2/3/4 lead actors each claim that really it is their film. The Production Designers says it is his or her film. The editor claims it is his film. The composer says the film would have been rubbish without the music. And so on…. You end up with a compromise on almost every film, because creatively they are in one long fight from beginning to end. With a novel it is totally different – it is just me! I don’t have to change one single word, if I don’t feel like it. And I love that!

What do you feel makes a good script?
(See above)

Do you think movie and television writers write to trends or create the trends to start with?
There will always be a movie or a TV series that starts a trend and then endless copycats at the requests of film and TV producers.
In your experience, how long does it take for a film to go from a book to a script and from a new script to finished film?
From a book to a script I would say 3-6 months, and for a script to a finished film 1 year.
How did you choose the movie projects you worked on?
Mostly they were scripts that I read that appealed and excited me.
Which of the movies that you produced are your favorites and why?
Two of my highlights have been the Royal Premieres of two films I have been involved with. The first was Biggles, when we had Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and the second, Merchant Of Venice when again we had Prince Charles but this time Camilla Parker Bowles. Both ladies were equally charming. I remember at Merchant of Venice asking Camilla Parker Bowles if she still smoked, bearing in mind that Charles disapproved. She gave me a big grin and replied, “Are you looking for someone to come behind the bike sheds with you for a quick fag???” The Merchant of Venice is the film that I am most proud of. Mike Radford did a stunning job directing and the cast, especially Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Lynn Collins, Ralph Fiennes, Kris Marshall and Charlie Cox were such delights to work with.

Nowadays, what do you think about screenwriters who don’t live in LA (since many of our members are in North America) and thus aren’t available for meetings, for pitching, etc. It’s just about impossible to have a career outside of LA unless you’re writing extremely low-budget indies and people local to you are filming them. Main representation for screenwriters are with the big US agencies such as CAA and ICM.

As a writer you can live and work anywhere.

What do you think about screenwriters entering and placing in contests, such as the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, Austin Film Festival, Final Draft, etc? Would it mean anything to you as a producer?

I don’t have any experience of this to give an answer

Do you think contests are a viable way to get your foot in the door? And if so, which ones do you feel have the most clout?

As above

How do you suggest novelists get their novels in front of ‘the right people’ who can option them for film or television?
They have to get a book-to-film agent of which there are many. Most literary agencies have a film and television department these days.

What TV/Film movies today are your favorites? What is it about the plot that drew you to it?
My favourite film of last 12 months is Nebraska – I loved it for its very simple human story, beautifully and, at times, very humorously told. I’ve actually just started watching the series Breaking Bad and it’s the best thing I’ve seen in a long time because the characters are so good. At the end of the day, the most important thing in any storytelling, be it written word or on-screen, are the characters. We all read a book, or watch a film, or TV series wanting to find out what happens to characters, those we have met at the beginning and feel that we know. So many dramas fall over for me because I either don’t believe, or don’t feel I know the characters.

How do you manage your time doing book tours, and producing the World Stage Premiere of your book, The Perfect Murder?
I think I need a clone ! I try to ensure that whatever I’m doing I leave myself time to write 1000 words 6 days a week whether it’s in a plane, back of a car or in a hotel room.

Given your extensive experience in producing/directing and writing, do you have any advice for authors as a result of your experiences?
I believe in a crucial trinity of character, plot and research, in all fiction, but research is especially important in crime fiction, because the world of the police is unique, they have their own culture, their own procedures and in turn their own way of looking at the world. As I mention before, people read books first and foremost to find out what happens to characters they become engaged with. That is the first step with a debut crime novel – instantly engaging characters. Second is to put them into a situation that leaves the reader gasping, and wondering how they will get out of it. Thirdly is to imbue the story with a veracity that can only come from good research.
I don’t believe good writers can be taught, although I think their technique can be helped. My most important recommendation to any person who wants to write novels of any kind is to read, read and read. Particularly the kind of novels they would like to write – and to deconstruct them, literally – and work out what made them like this or that particular book. How did the writer get them hooked… how did the writer make them care for the characters…. It is impossible to stress this enough. Once you have started writing, keep up a continuity. At least six days a week write something every day, however little, to keep everything alive in your mind.



Peter James



Thank you very much for your time, Peter!