Friday, November 18, 2011

The Minxes welcome ... Natalie Charles, winner of New Voices 2011

A big thank you to the lovely and talented Minxes of Romance for inviting me here to talk about my New Voices experience!

I entered New Voices to get past the heartbreak of receiving a form rejection letter in late July in response to a query I sent to Harlequin Intrigue. I am no stranger to rejection, but this one stung -- I loved that story. Nevertheless, I've learned that the only way to handle rejection is to keep moving, kind of like a romance writing shark.

My rebound story, The Seven Day Target, is about an ambitious prosecutor named Libby and her former fiance, Nick. I have always taken an interest in writing about the complexities of broken relationships, and the deeper the connection between two people, the greater the possibilities for exploration. And so, Nick and Libby are childhood sweethearts with a deep connection that somehow became muddled. They are reunited when Libby's life is threatened by a serial killer whom they thought died in prison years ago, and this crisis presents them with an opportunity to grow as individuals and to heal the rift between them.

I know that last year's New Voices winner, Leah Ashton, famously submitted her chapter late in the competition. That impresses me to no end because I am SUCH a planner. I had my chapter ready to go well in advance of the start of the competition, and I entered within the first few days. I wrote my second chapter in the weeks preceding the announcement of the top 20 (which was really the top 21), and I wrote my pivotal moment before the top 4 were announced. It's a big challenge for me to produce a manuscript quickly after being declared the winner. I am not only a romance writing shark, but also a bit of a romance writing turtle…let's say sea turtle, for consistency.

(And yes, that's right: my manuscript is in the process of being written. I never thought I'd advance to the top 20 + 1, let alone the top 4. To be the winner? Crazy talk!)

I will share that the week leading up the announcement was unforgettably awful. A freak storm in New England knocked out all power and Internet two days before I had to upload the pivotal moment. Cell towers were down. I had visions of driving eight hours to find a wi-fi connection in a coffee shop somewhere near the Canadian border. I was incredibly lucky that my husband managed to find enough of a signal on his cell phone to activate a wireless hotspot that allowed me to use the remaining minutes on my (of course barely charged!) laptop to upload my pivotal moment. Up it went, 30 hours early, without the extra revisions I wanted to make. To say that I was in a cold sweat all week is an understatement. Most of my family and friends couldn't even vote for my entry since almost no one had Internet.

Which leads me to my Call story. Because of this storm, we didn't have phone service at home for 10 days. We didn't have Internet, either, so once again we relied on my husband's phone. On November 4, five minutes after the scheduled time for the New Voices winner announcement, Mills and Boon sent an email telling me that they were trying to reach me and asking me to please call. I called immediately, my stomach in knots, and they said congratulations and told me I had won New Voices. Hearing those words was one of the most emotional experiences of my life. I will never forget watching my elbow shake as I held the phone to my ear. I screamed, I cried, I kept thanking them. I went to work minutes after I hung up and I tried to go about my day as usual, but it was surreal. I felt like my life was exactly the same and suddenly very, very different. I was going to be a Mills and Boon author! The many years I've spent working on my writing were well worth that incredible moment.

Now, I am very excited about the challenges ahead as I write and revise a novel (in case you're interested, I will be blogging about the process). I am also extremely hopeful that other New Voices entrants will be receiving their own Call, and I will be watching for those announcements. More than anything, I am grateful that my rebound turned into a kind of happily ever after. And if you've been kind enough to read to this point, I'm grateful for that, too.

xx Natalie

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Please visit Natalie's blog at for an inside look at her New Voices journey, and to follow her progress. We Minxes certainly will be following Natalie's story with eager anticipation. And once again from all of us: Well done, Natalie!


Aimee Duffy said...

Well done again Natalie, I loved your story and can't wait to see it in print.

Sorry you had a hard time of it trying to submit. I bet that made winning even more brilliant! :o)

Maya Blake said...

Congrats on your fabulous win, Natalie. I got happy goosebumps reading it. Can't wait to see your book on the shelves!

Kathy Bosman said...

Hi Natalie

I loved your story and voted for you in the final four! I also love breakups and reconcile romances - you did it well. And your suspense part was so well-constructed. It's so lovely to hear your story of your writing breakthrough. Those are the best stories to hear as I'm still waiting for mine. Wishing you all the best as you take it to publication!

Scarlet Wilson said...

Congratulations Natalie, loved your story, best of luck with the writing!

Natalie Charles said...

Hi ladies! Thanks for your comments and for reading my post. @ Amy: hello!! *waves*
@ Kathleen: thanks and hugs for your vote! I'll be forever grateful to those who helped me to get here. Fingers crossed you have a breakthrough story to share soon!
@ Maya: Oh, happy goosebumps! That's awesome.
@ Scarlet: Thank you for the kind words and the good luck wishes -- I need them!

Kat said...

Hey Natalie,
Thank you for being a gorgeously minxy with us today!

Fab interview, your excitement shines from every word. Lots of luck with the book, you can do it. Come back again when you're ready for release, we'd love to know how you're doing!


Anonymous said...

Congrats, Natalie!! I'm a sucker for broken relationships, too. Loved your story. Good luck!!

Sally Clements said...

Congratulations, Natalie! and thanks for sharing your story, I'm all goosebumpy too, just reading it!

Natalie Charles said...

@ Joanne: Aw, thanks for having me. And thanks for the generous offer - I'd love to come back!

@ Aimee and Sally: Thank you very much! Sally, it's two weeks later, and I STILL get goosebumps about the whole thing!

Tara Pammi said...

I loved your story, Natalie and your call story even better. :-) Can't wait to pick up your book on the shelves...

All the best

Caroline said...

Massive, massive congratulations Natalie. It was well deserved - it was a great story. Looking forward to reading it soon. Caroline x

Anonymous said...

First congratulations! And then I have to say I LOVED your analogy of the romance writing shark - so true, we do just have to keep moving and writing, no matter what, and then good things happen! Best wishes.

Catherine Coles said...

Wonderful interview, Natalie. I too loved your story, so looking forward to be able to read on and finish your story so do hurry up and write it!!

Huge congratulations on your very deserved success :-}

Lacey Devlin said...

Oh I love that you came back from that first rejection with a bang! Although, just reading about your power outage had me cringing. What horrible, horrible timing. I would have been paper bagging it - there's no better time to hyperventilate then when your dreams are about to go down the toilet. Your DH gets full points helping - very heroic of him.

Nas said...

Congratulations Natalie!

Loved your story, best of luck with the writing!

Leah Ashton said...

Congratulations Natalie!!! I love romantic suspense, was fab to see you win :)

Wonderful call story - I'm looking forward to reading your finished book!

Natalie Charles said...

@ Sri, Caroline, Veronica, Catherine, Lacey, Nas and Leah: Thank you for the kind words, ladies.

@ Lacey: you had me laughing with paper bagging it. So right! And yes, DH is certainly a real life hero, and after that fiasco, I had to apologize for complaining about his fancy phone!