Sunday, July 15, 2018

Michelle Styleas: The #RomanceIncludesYou blitz opportunity for aspiring authors

In case you haven’t heard, Harlequin is currently doing an across all the lines submission blitz for underrepresented authors  --#romancesincludesyou. Authors who feel they are from underrepresented communities but are writing stories which fit Harlequin series guidelines have been invited to submit the first chapter and a synopsis between 11 July 2018 and 2 September 2018 with guaranteed feedback by 1 October 2018.  It should be stressed that the normal submission process (i.e. the one most authors have gone through) remains open to anyone to submit – that is the first three chapters plus a synopsis but with no guaranteed response date.
Harlequin is deliberately not defining underrepresented but if you look at #ownvoices, you will get an idea of what they are looking for. Basically there are some authors who have not bothered looking at or submitting to Harlequin because they wrongly feel a traditional publisher would not be interested. Publishers’ guidelines are always changing and Harlequin in the last year for several reasons has greatly widened its remit. It has gone from tacitly seeking to actively seeking diverse voices.  But those voices need be producing stories which fit the guidelines in other respects. In a drive to get these sorts of stories, the editors have initiated this blitz to raise awareness that they are actively seeking these stories.
For example, with Harlequin Historical, the eras which have the most global appeal are Georgian/Regency/Victorian, Medieval, Highlander and Viking. But how to get diverse voices in there? It means actively seeking out high status people who have been airbrushed from history. 
 In the late 18th century, John Perkins became the first black/biracial commissioned naval officer in the Royal Navy. The first black US commissioned naval officer did not happen until 1922 – over a 150 years later.   Perkins also was one of the highest prize- winning captains of his era as well as serving as a spy. The way naval officers became wealthy was through capturing ships and winning prizes. But he has been overlooked by many people.  Last month I went to the Maritime Museum of Liverpool’s Black Salt exhibit about black sailors in Britain, he had a two line mention --- I am not sure why as his story is fabulous.  British naval officers have been  mainstay heroes of the historical line for a long time, and a black British Regency naval officer is a fact of history, not some sort of multi-cultural fantasy. All it takes is one -- as authors of governess to duchess stories know.
 When I mentioned this on twitter, a Jamaican aspiring author said that she was tempted to use Perkins as a template for her hero but her feeling was no traditional publisher would be interested. I tried to gently explain that my gut instinct, having written for Harlequin Historical, was that the editors would be very interested, but they can’t buy these stories unless authors submit them.
Another overlooked Regency figure was Sake Dean Mahomed, an East India Company captain who became the first man to open an Indian restaurant in London (1810) and then he introduced the concept of shampoo (Indian head massage) to the Britain and the Western world through his spa in Bath and a well-respected member of that Regency community.  He also eloped with an Irish girl of respectable parentage when her parents objected to the match. The family settled in Bath and became wealthy off the spa trade. His grandson Frederick Akbar Mahomed became a famous surgeon at Guy’s Hospital in the Victorian era, making important contributions to the understanding high blood pressure as well as helping to pioneer what is now called collaborative clinical trials. Both these men could make excellent templates for diverse heroes for the historical line.
With Vikings, recent archaeological research has uncovered  a sub-Saharan Africa  woman buried in a cemetery dating from the era. The fact that she was buried points to her being fairly high status.  How or why she came to live in England is anyone’s guess but I suspect there was a romance involved.
I could go on and on about the possibilities but it is up to other authors to uncover these stories and tell them but Harlequin Historical is looking for stories with diverse characters as indeed are the other lines. You have to take the editors at their word on this.
So if all this intrigues you, go check out the Romance Includes You Blitz and submit your first chapter and synopsis before 2 September 2018. 
If you are not from an underrepresented group but really want to submit to Harlequin or do not feel your story will be ready in time, go through the normal channels and submit. They are always open to submissions and do buy from the slush pile
 NB I was bought from the slush pile so am perhaps biased in favour of this method but do not let anyone put you off from submitting by saying -- they don't buy... if you think your story fits their guidelines. My first book for them was a Roman era romance and at the time I submitted, they had not bought such era.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods including Viking. Her most recent The Warrior's Viking Bride was published in March 2018. Her next Viking set romance Sent as the Viking's Bride will be published in January 2019. Her first published HH was The Gladiator's Honour (2005) and was the first time Harlequin had published a romance set that era. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on 

1 comment:

dstoutholcomb said...

Thanks for the history! I enjoy learning about people who have contributed to the world.

How wonderful you were published from the slush pile! Gives hope to others to never give up!