Sunday, September 15, 2019

Michelle Styles : Harlequin's new Romance Includes You Mentorship sacheme

Sometimes, someone does something so simple but wonderfully powerful  that you wondered why it had not been thought of before but are very pleased that it is being done now and you hope that it will be a huge success and continue for many years.  This is how I feel about Harlequin’s Romance IncludesYou Mentorship scheme.

It can be argued it is long over due but one simply cannot  turn back time or change the past. The past is written stone but the future is yet to be.
 The fact the largest publisher of romance in the world has recognized that the reading public is not simply from one background but from a myriad of backgrounds and that they are going to cater for that by actively recruiting voices from underrepresented groups is something to be celebrated..
Sometimes people from these groups have felt discouraged from submitting because Harlequin doesn’t appear to publish the sort of books they write. Because series romance in particular can be very specific about the type of story (tight focus on the growth of the emotional relationship between an aspirational couple), it can help if an aspiring author can get a mentor who knows the business. However, getting that mentor can be difficult, particularly if you feel you will be rejected or torn to pieces simply because of the stories you want to tell. The aim of being a mentor should never be to create cookie cutter lookalikes.  Kate Walker, a woman I very much consider a mentor (even when she didn’t know she was my mentor)  and now a friend, once told wrote something along the lines – Harlequin has its Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber, Betty Niels and dare I say it even Kate Walker and can reprint those stories at will but what it doesn’t have is you and the way you tell your stories.  As a very newbie author, I found that horribly comforting as I knew deep in my heart and still do sixteen years later I can’t write like anyone else.
Mentors can really help but the fact remains that not every author is the right mentor for that particularly author. Sometimes it can be in the way the mentor is saying things. Sometimes they don’t understand the question or the answer. Sometimes because of the differing backgrounds, they think are talking about  page 100 but the other person is actually on page 20.  Or people do not bother asking simply because they don’t want the rejection.
Harlequin has recognised that authors from underrepresented groups need mentors, just as badly (if not more so) than authors from groups which have traditionally made up their authors. Therefore, they are running the Romance Includes You Mentorship scheme. The grand prize is a book contract, working one to one with a Harlequin or Carina editor and $5,000 to help the author complete the book. The money is because they recognise that often people from underrepresented groups are often financially disadvantaged and can simply lack the time to write. In order to establish a career in writing, you actually need to sit down – bottom in chair, hands on keyboard -- and write.
The real winners in this scheme are the reading public who will eventually get to read the mentored author  and be able to be in their shoes or slip into their skin for a short while. Reading is the best way to develop understanding and empathy.
So if you are an aspiring author from underrepresented group or if you know of anyone who might be interested, the initial phase runs until 15 October 2019 (You need to submit the first chapter, a synopsis and a 500 word personal statement) – the full details are be found here. Good luck.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods. Her first book The Gladiator’s Honour  (published in 2006) was the first time  a major publisher had published a historical romance set in that time period (something that people who thought they were in the know confidently predicted could not happen) . Her 28th book for Harlequin HIstorical A Deal with Her Rebel Viking will be published in December 2019. You can learn more about Michelle  and her books at