By Ruth Logan Herne
I’ve loved romance from the time I was reading Cherry Ames and Nancy Drew and Sue Barton, Senior Nurse! Would Sue marry Les or Wade? I had to know!
Fast forward to a life with six kids, a husband and a job. Then Dave was laid off from his job, and his new job was half the pay. I was working two jobs with six kids, three in high school and three in elementary school and all the sports, dancing and clubs that go along with that scenario.
And a farm. Did I mention the farm???
I still loved romance, and I tried to write intermittently, but time escaped me. By the time my youngest kids were in high school, I set a plan. I’d write in the middle of the night, before everyone got up, and by the time my younger kids were in college, I was getting noticed.
I found a critique partner through RWA’s Faith, Hope and Love chapter.
I entered contests!
I got my ego slapped and my bootie handed to me because I was still telling too much and my plots were wandering.
I sucked in my gut, tucked my chin and edited. And every day I wrote. I wrote 1,000 words/day before anyone was up, and before I started my day job. I entered more contests, I edited and revised, and what do you know? I started winning a spot on editors’ desks by clinching a final in those contests.
But the contests brought me more than critiques and editors. They brought me a group of romance-writing contest divas who vied with me for wins and places and contracts. We formed a group “The Seekers,” and our goal was that we would pray each other into publication with royalty-paying publishers.
Some said it was impossible.
We didn’t listen.
Some said there wouldn’t be enough open spots in inspirational or Christian fiction for all of us in our lifetimes.
We kept writing. In June, 2009, I got the call from Senior Editor Melissa Endlich of Love Inspired Books/Harlequin. And by May of 2013, every one of these thirteen women, The Seekers, had gotten the call. We were all now published with royalty-paying publishers. A dream come true. In the mean time we started a blog to help aspiring authors, a blog called Seekerville, with one collective goal: to help people off Unpubbed Island and onto the mainland of publishing. It’s worked! We’ve helped dozens of folks make that voyage to the mainland, and in late February we celebrated more than 2 million page views with a party for the people who’ve helped us: the villagers we’ve had the pleasure of helping.
When I started this gig I had no money for writing classes. I had no time to jet off on retreats with mentors at hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars a pop, or to engage with online writing classes run by people who may or may not be helpful. But what I did have was the public library so I could read the kind of books I love to write, and study the best-selling authors of the time. Nora Roberts. Linda Howard. Karen White. Deborah Smith. LaVyrle Spencer. And studying their work helped hone the writer I knew I could be.
Believe in yourself. Believe in your talent. Work hard, and don’t you quit! The dream is there, but only if you want it so bad that you can do what you need to achieve it. Learn to accept criticism and revisions. Learn to smile and nod, even if you don’t always agree. Learn to engage the reader with humor and touch them with poignancy.
Above all, write. Write, write, write. I was working two jobs, plus writing when I got the call. I left my part time job when book three was contracted, but I kept my full-time job for five full years. Why?
This is a dicey business. It takes time to build a readership and time to develop a speed for production and time to build the notice you want from publishers and editors. Hanging onto that day job was clutch because the writing money didn’t become a desperate need. It became the cushion to pay off loans and fix things that years of raising kids had broken! And it was worth every moment of those five years because now I write full-time… but I still work part-time, with young families. That keeps me in the know, in the groove, and in the spirit of what’s going on with today’s 20- and 30-somethings. And when you’re writing romance?
I now have over ¾ million books sold, heading quickly to the one million spot. It’s been an amazing five years, and the work before the call is just as important as the work after the call! And if you love this biz like I do, you’ll understand that even on the bad days, when everything that can possibly go wrong does… you’re still working at the very best job in the world.
Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne is living her dream with over ¾ million books in print. A mother and grandmother, she lives on a small upstate New York farm with her husband, dogs, cats, chickens and a revolving door of small children and their parents in and out of the house. She can often be found hiding in a nook or cranny, scribbling away. Keep up with Ruth Logan Herne at ruthloganherne.com, on Facebook (ruthloganherne), on Twitter (@ruthloganherne), or on Pinterest (ruthyloganherne).