Jessica Gilmore explains how an addicted reader became hooked on romance.

When I was ten I went on an amazing family holiday to Portugal. I am pretty sure I saw lots of historic and interesting things but the bits I remember are: drinking Fanta limon and realising there was nothing in 1980s Britain that compared, staying in a villa with its own pool, the only time in my entire life I have done so – and discovering Mills & Boon.

JGilmore

I was and am an utter bookworm, the type that takes books rather than clothes on holiday and panic buys another ten at the airport just in case, and a week into that holiday I had read my books, my sister’s and even my mother’s A-Level set texts. Prowling around the villa, hoping to find something, anything else to read I found two slim paperbacks. I had no idea what a life-changing moment that was and inconveniently forgot to commit the author and title to memory although I do remember that one starred a sheikh. But I read and reread them over that week – that was it, I was hooked on romance.

The summer after my A-levels I read nothing but Mills & Boon, stacking them up high on a blanket in the garden. I didn’t care whether they were historicals or contemporary, set in exotic locations or the UK, I was on a five-a-day habit. And I knew that this was what I wanted to do, I wanted to write books that took people on an emotional journey, books with a happy ending.

It took a while before I was brave enough to have a go – university, establishing a career, getting married and starting a family all got in the way, but finally I made myself sit down and start typing. I’ll be honest, I thought it was going to be pretty easy, that my first effort was going to be snapped up.  I felt pretty smug as I sent in my three chapters of regency romance – and a lot less smug when I received a standard rejection!

It was this point that I realised something crucially important. Writing is hard work. Being able to string a sentence together and daydream scenarios is a start, but it isn’t enough. Luckily there is a wealth of information out there; craft books, workshops, courses, blogs, writing competitions. All any aspiring writer needs to do is take it all in and keep writing. Be aware that however much you love your first draft you will need to rewrite it several times, that the first chapter you spent weeks lovingly perfecting won’t make it through to the final draft, that you will have to kill your darlings over and over again.

Maybe it’s good that we don’t know this when we start out. How many of us would willingly take such a long, tortuous road if we knew just how difficult it was going to be? Maybe starting out with blind optimism, naivety and little arrogance is the only way. It took three years of hard work to get to this point, but looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.

Maybe somewhere this summer some eighteen-year-old will be relaxing after her A-levels with a large stack of Mills & Boon, The Return of Mrs Jones among them, and maybe she too will decide that one day she’s going to write romance.

 

Return Mrs Jones NAThe woman he never forgot…
Of all the places, Lawrie didn’t expect to be celebrating her thirtieth birthday in the seaside town where she grew up. And she certainly didn’t expect to be celebrating it with her estranged husband, Jonas Jones. But life is full of surprises. His devastating smile and edgy good looks still have the power to send her heart racing! Seeing Lawrie again intrigues Jonas – while he hasn’t forgiven her, he can’t say he’s forgotten her, either. And while they may not be teenagers anymore, there’s no denying the sparks that still fly between them…

 


After learning to read aged just two, Jessica Gilmore spent every childhood party hiding in bedrooms in case the birthday girl had a book or two she hadn’t read yet. Discovering Mills and Boon on a family holiday, Jessica realised that romance writing was her true vocation and proceeded to spend her maths lessons practising her art, creating Dynasty-inspired series starring herself and Morton Harket’s cheekbones. Writing for Mills and Boon really is a dream come true!

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