In PRO-suit of Publication

I’m pleased to welcome Mr. Bill Haggart to my blog today for the second installment of “In PRO-suit of Publication.”

Bill was a history major, has taught both high school and college and now owns his own educational consulting business.  He generously shares his knowledge within Romance Writer’s of America and within the Beau Monde, he is our expert on all things military-related.  Last year, he was voted “Teacher of the year” by the Beau Monde’s membership for his informative classes and interactive teaching style. Bill is more than an excellent teacher and history buff; his time-travel regencies have placed in four contests in just this past year alone.

Welcome Bill! To start, please share the twitter-pitch (approx. 140 characters) of your favorite finished manuscript.

Favorite? Tough. That’s like asking a mother which of her 12 children is her favorite, even if most of them look like Quasimodo. [Which several of my manuscripts resemble in a literary sense, lots of heart but ugly as sin.]

My favorite: Telling Time
A gentle-bred Regency lady is catapulted into present-day England, where the clash of cultures and an arrogant American ‘corporate aristocrat’ make the sparks fly.

Yea! I was hoping you’d pick that one. I’ve had the pleasure of reading Telling Time and found it to be a pitch-perfect love story! What is it that you love most about that story?

I love the contrasts and similarities between Regency society and the present day. I had fun with not only the varieties of culture shock the Lady Victoria Covington suffers being thrust into the modern world, but how her values and ‘old’ strengths not only make her admirable, even in our electronic, ‘let-it-all-hang-out’ age, but how she also wins the heart of a thoroughly modern man.

There are some interesting similarities between our time and the Regency, aren’t there? I don’t know that I’ve thought of it quite that way.

Being a writer in PRO-suit of publication has many challenges, but a challenge is usually followed by the reward of insight. Could you describe an ah-ha writing moment and its trigger?

The ah-ha moment was realizing how powerful the choice of sensing verbs were’ particularly which senses to ‘favor’ for a character. Verb choices and descriptions paint such vivid pictures of not only the characters’ POV, but also powerful descriptions and conflict.

The trigger was something Julia Ross wrote in the May 2002 Romance Writer’s Report: “Even when a scene is deeply emotional and full of sensory input, it’s often more powerful to limit the character’s awareness to just one or two senses at a time.”

Great Quote! You gave a very well received class through RWA Elements called The Power of the Senses, right? Will you be offering the class again soon?

I just finished a class on March 25th, so the next one will be several months from now.

Hear that, readers? Watch for it!

I always find the best authors & books through recommendations from friends. Can you tell me about your favorite Romance and what it is that gives it that distinction?

My Favorite Romance?  The one I share with my wife…


But you’re talking about novels, right? One reason I turned to writing Romances is that all the books, from SF/F to thrillers and comedies, I enjoyed and re-read contained romances at the core. A number of what I consider great romances, ones I love, aren’t officially Romances. Perhaps because they are sparse, deeply embedded as the spine of a larger story, they have more resonance for me. Some of my favorite non-romances built around terrific romances are:

Don Quixote USA: A very funny book with a doofalous hero drawn to a Latin Hottie.
Dorsai: (SF) Two ‘special’ people that don’t know they are literally made for each other.
Leave It to Psmith: The whole story is P.G. Woodhouse’s marvelous character Psmith following after his love-at-first-sight and his eccentric and funny courtship.


Congagher: A marvelous Western romance by Louie L’Amour. The whole book is about the two lovers finding each other in a very unforgiving wild west. Good movie, too.

None of them are called romances.

The first ‘Romance genre’ I read was Jude Devereaux’s The Princess and I was hooked, though I immediately hunted up Regencies, being a Napoleonic history buff. [or nut, as the case may be.] I continue to re-read The Princess. It is definitely one of my top ten.

What I loved about The Princess was certainly the historical setting [WWII], but again the sharp clash of cultures, the American naval lieutenant and the Princess of a small European Duchy, two ways of seeing the world, where both have to open their eyes and see past it all to recognize and value each other. It’s a great dance.

Before you go, do you want to share any other thoughts/advice on pursuing publication?

All I can say is what I have found to be true: Write and keep writing. It’s the only way to learn to write. Find a group of writers, a RWA chapter, and definitely find some committed critique partners. I have found some real friends as well as writing support and inspiration that have weathered the last ten years…as well as helped me weather the rough spots of becoming a writer.

And speaking of rough spots: Put your manuscripts out there every chance you get, contests, agents, other writers, distant relatives, etc. Be ready for the emotional bruises—you’ll live, but actively develop a thicker skin. Why? Because that’s an integral part of the publishing business and the profession you aspire to. If you can’t survive the unkind comments of one contest judge, what will you do once you’re published and facing scads of book critics, editors and your reading public?

Great advice!  Thank you so much for being here today, Bill! Readers, if you have questions or comments for Bill, please post.

Tomorrow I will choose one commenter (by drawing a name from a hat) and he/she will win a e-copy of Delle Jacobs Lady Wicked, down-loadable from All Romance. I’ll announce the winner in the comments section, so please check back.

My In PRO-suit of Publication interviews will be on hiatus next week while I road-trip through the redwoods, but be sure to check back on May 12th for my interview with M.E. Ferris.

“PRO” is a membership category of Romance Novel Writers of America created for writers who are actively submitting manuscripts and writers who have been published but have not yet met RWA’s requirements for PAN (Published Authors Network). The RWA PROs I have met are talented, focused and always willing to share what they’ve learned. They actively pursue their dreams and have much to offer.

Starting this Thursday and continuing weekly, I will, as we say in the Regency world, “make the introduction” to a Beau Monde PRO. I hope readers are as inspired as I am by these PROs. May these fabulous and dedicated authors appear on bookshelves, be those shelves digital or three-dimensional.

Miranda Liasson graciously agreed to join me as my first interviewee. Miranda has placed in some of RWA chapter’s most prestigious contests, including The Beau Monde’s Royal Ascot. Thanks for being here! To start, why don’t you tell readers a little bit about yourself?

I left a career in health care two years ago to write romance full time, but I’ve actually been writing since the age of twelve (my start was in Star Trek fan fiction!). I write in the Regency and early Victorian periods and have just started my fourth manuscript. One of the thrills of writing about the past for me is marrying something that really happened in history to a fictional world, weaving it in and trying to make it seamless. Although I think any historical writing is really tough because you have to be so accurate in all your details.

I agree. A historical writer has to be mindful of so many things from cultural attitudes to dress to word choice in narrative. Even a word as seemingly harmless as “mesmerize” didn’t exist in the Regency!

So, now that we know a little about you, how about letting us in on the twitter-pitch (approximately 140 characters or less) of your favorite finished manuscript?

This is for my Regency manuscript My Wicked Duke: When a former courtesan meets opposition in starting her school for underprivileged girls, she must rely on the duke who can bring it reputability—but demands for his services the one price she no longer wishes to pay.

Oh! I’ve read the first chapter of this manuscript and it’s very exciting. What to you love most about My Wicked Duke?

I have to say my heroine is one tough cookie. She’s had a really tough past and is a real survivor. But she feels unworthy of love, even though she secretly yearns to be loved and to belong somewhere.

Sounds like my kind of heroine.

Every once an awhile, a special experience comes along that expands our writing horizon. Will you describe an ah-ha writing moment you experienced and its trigger?

I read in Claire Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen that Jane never had a formal portrait done (nor did her only sister, Cassandra, yet all their brothers did except George, who was handicapped). I couldn’t believe it! My husband immediately said, “Why don’t you write about that?” So I did, and put it in the context of a modern-day love story. The result was a short story called The Lost Portrait of Jane Austen, which is a finalist in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest. I am proud of that story! (And you helped me with it—thanks, Wendy!)

Sure! I loved The Lost Portrait of Jane Austen, and I certainly wasn’t the only one. What did the experience teach you?

What this experience taught me was—pay attention to the things that resonate with you deeply. To me, writing is all about emotion and translating it onto the page.

That focus on emotion absolutely comes through in your writing.

Now, I’d like to head off in another direction. Writers, I think, are all readers at heart. What’s your favorite Romance and why?

Any Lisa Kleypas book gives me shivers. She has a way of making her stories so emotionally compelling and original that I simply cannot put her books down. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’d have to say Seduce Me at Sunrise, Win and Merripen’s book (of the Hathaway series) struck a nerve with me. He’s a brooding hero with a tortured past, and she’s an invalid that leaves to become healthy—love those impossible loves!

I heard Susan Elizabeth Phillips speak at Nationals last year and I’ve been reading through her backlist and loving it. I greatly enjoyed Ain’t She Sweet? because it has Regency undertones and the heroine, Sugar Beth, is so incredibly flawed—don’t know how she pulled that off and made us love her.

I loved both books! Sugar Beth is unforgettable.

Thanks so much for agreeing to be my first interviewee for “In PRO-suit of Publication.” Before we wrap-up, do you want to share any other thoughts/advice on pursuing publication?

I think what I’ve learned so far is—don’t waste a year writing a manuscript if you don’t have a high concept idea. Especially in today’s market, it’s not enough to be able to write well. You have to back up your skills with an idea that is going to stand out in this very tough marketplace. I’m really crossing my fingers that the ms I’m working on now fulfills that criterion.

Also what I’ve learned is to seek mentorship. Associate yourself with people who are like-minded and be as aggressive or more aggressive in promoting yourself as you would in any career. That means taking the classes, finding critique partners, and promoting yourself using social marketing and media—all things that often put us writers out of our comfort zones. I began a blog a few months ago and am now exploring the Twitter universe.

And don’t just query agents—query tons of agents. Pitch tons of pitches. Be everywhere. That is what I’m learning!

Great advice! Thanks again for visiting.

Thank you, Wendy, for interviewing me. I’m honored!

If you have any questions or comments for Miranda, feel free to post. One commenter will win a  .epub copy of Susanna Fraser’s A Marriage of Inconvenience downloadable from All Romance Ebooks.

Up for next week: Meet Mr. Bill Haggart….