I was always an avid reader of historical literature, and I seemed to have read every story available, set in every country in the world but mine. Apparently, if I wanted to read an Australian story, I would have to plough through yet another set in NSW telling a dour story of the convict settlement. By the time I was 12 I’d had enough and couldn’t read another.
My state, South Australia, is the only one colonised by free settlers, but clearly a story set in the Utopia of the south would never interest anyone else in the world. Well, other than me. The day came when I started reading romance but the problem was the same as regards to setting. Aussie stories were always set in NSW. Some three or four years after I started reading romance, I decided I would write one set in colonial South Australia.
This was my first book, now named Nell, which no longer exists, but which I plan to rewrite next year. I sent the story off to Mills and Boon, who tactfully didn’t mention it but asked if I would like to try writing medical romances for them. They sent me a box of medical romances to read, and I understood instantly why they wanted someone with a nursing background to write romances for them. Their usual writers had no sound idea of the reality of the hospital world. I cleared that up.
At that stage, nurses were still trained in hospitals. I submitted a story about a normal young woman who didn’t stand behind a doctors ten years her senior and say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir,’ and who clearly wouldn’t be interested in someone so elderly or admire an arrogant piggish man. I wrote three of those but all were rejected, strangely. Then I went back to writing what I wanted, adding an agent. After many rejections from other publishing houses in other countries, I decided to aim for a new line in the USA, Blaze, which wanted sexy stories.
As a midwife, I consider myself a sex expert. This comes from needing to know answers to questions my patients put to me about orgasms, contraception, circumcision, etc. I had to research so that I didn’t lead them astray with my wild guesses.
At that stage, most romance heroines were virgins but Blaze intended to cause a ripple. 50 Shades of Grey is an adaptation of my story but I didn’t write whippings or anything like that. The story featured a virgin who would have a fairly normal deflowering, learning the ropes without being tied up. If the line wanted sex, I would give the line sex. I think I must have had more than 15 sex scenes in that book.
I never sent it off because life happened to me at that stage, or because after the million rejections in my bottom drawer I’d had enough. Then, a generation later, Random Romance started up. I was tired of submitting my historicals to competitions, doing well, and still not interesting publishers, so I rewrote Dr No Commitment. I cut 7 sex scenes, changed the heroine’s virgin status, made her a trained nurse, and sent off the story. Then I had a heart attack.
I came out of hospital and found an email from Random Romance expressing interest.
What to do?
This was an experiment to see if I could be rejected in Australia as well as every other country in the world. I wasn’t at all sure I wanted anyone to read the story. Finally I took a deep breath and agreed to sign a contract, making myself a published author at last, with my least expected manuscript.
Who would have guessed?
Dr No Commitment is $2.99 cents, currently.