Monday, April 15, 2019

A new Harlequin Historical Author -- Joanna Johnson by Michelle Styles

Once upon a time about last September, I went to the annual Association of Mills & Boon Authors lunch and then to the Toast to the Authors. As I went into the toast, an editor waylaid me -- she had that day telephoned a new author to buy her book for Harlequin Historical. She'd been very nervous as she was about to go on sick leave for a few weeks and did not want to delay one second as she wanted the story scheduled as soon as possible. Luckily the woman in question had answered and all was fine. The editor loved the book and wanted to ensure the author in question was scooped up by the other Historical authors because she had taken to heart my little talk about hard it can be for new authors as it is a steep learning curve. It was the first time I had seen an editor immediately post call and believe me they are every bit as thrilled and excited as the author in question. They love finding new talent.They want to nurture that talent and they are secretly hoping when manuscripts get returned that they do get the chance to buy so other people can get the same thrilling read.

Anyway, as requested  I scooped up Joanna Johnson who was still in that state of pleased bemusement. I was thrilled to do so as it can be such a daunting experience to be new. And she agreed to tell her side of the story: 

I definitely didn’t expect to get ‘The Call’ while 100 miles away from home, standing in my parents’ kitchen.

I’d sent the full manuscript for my first historical romance, The Marriage Rescue, off to Julia Williams at Harlequin a few weeks before. She had given me some very useful and encouraging feedback on an earlier draft, but I assumed her emailed request to phone me was to explain my rewrites hadn’t quite hit the mark. You can probably imagine my reaction then when instead of a kind rejection she offered a two-book contract – I think only bats and dolphins could have understood my squeaking! Being a published author was something I’d always dreamed of but never expected would really happen, so it took quite some time to sink in. It still hasn’t fully, although I’ve had fantastic support and a very warm welcome from the Romance community.

The heroine of The Marriage Rescue is the feisty Selina, a young Roma woman left with little choice but to marry country squire Edward. Roma culture has always interested me and I wanted to explore one of my favourite timeframes, the Regency era, through that lens. It was fascinating to research more deeply the customs and way of life of those on the road in 19th-century England, contrasting sharply with the Jane Austen-esque world that was more familiar. Travellers faced such abuse and prejudice, reflected in Selina’s somewhat spiky demeanour – developing her personality was one of the things I enjoyed most about writing the book, as well as her struggle to overcome some prejudices of her own.

I think what I love most about historical romance fiction is the escapism. While writing The Marriage Rescue I could step into the shoes of a completely different person from a completely different time and try to experience life from their viewpoint, while being reassured there would definitely be a happy ending! It opens a window into another world and I’m not sure there’s anything I’d rather write. Hopefully that love will shine through, and others will enjoy reading the book (almost) as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Joanna  also kindly allowed me to read an advanced copy of The Marriage Rescue. It is a Regency but with an unusual twist -- the heroine is a Roma. Most Regency featuring  Roma have a Heathcliff vibe with the hero in question being part gypsy,  but Johnson really delves into the Roma culture and provides a worthy heroine who is fully Roma and more importantly at the start wants to stay that way. The story is a good one and a very pleasant way to pass a few hours. I look forward to seeing Johnson's undoubted talent grow as she learns to work with her voice. There is no doubt in my mind that Joanna Johnson  is far more than a one-book wonder.

You can read the first chapter for free here:

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods. Her latest Sent as the Viking's Bride was published in January 2019 and her next Viking (Tentatively titled Ramsomed by the Viking's Kiss) will be out later this year. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on 

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