We are thrilled to have Delilah Marvelle as our debut author this month. I love all the call stories I’ve heard, but Delilah’s is the best!
Tell us your call story. How did it happen for you?
This is probably going to be the longest call story ever told on record. To say the least. But here goes. I’d been writing for a long, long time. Joined RWA in 1998 and had been writing since grade school before then. Everyone kept telling me to hang in there. So I did. I even decided to take a trip to London with my critique partner and see the place that I’ve been dreaming about all my life. I then came back from the dream trip of my life to a personal nightmare that happened on the way back from the airport. My husband was brutally attacked by two men (complete strangers) in front of me and my two children who were both under the age of 10 at the time. He almost died and lost a lot of blood and even consciousness. If it weren’t for me taking on the two guys before the police arrived (and taking repeated blows to the head and body), I am told he most certainly would have died. Taking blows for the person you love takes on a whole new meaning. And it changed my writing forever. At first I couldn’t write. Didn’t want to write. All I wanted to do was to make sure that my family was being cherished. Taken care of. I started thinking about the grim reality that if my husband had died, how would I have taken care of the kids? Writing is not a way to put bread on the table unless you’re a bestselling author. And here, I wasn’t even published. So I turned my back on my writing and followed my second love. Cooking. I went to culinary school and felt as if my life were starting all over. I missed writing but a part of me knew that it wasn’t practical anymore. And with me being in school I had an excuse not to write. In the end,a huge part of me was suffering because of it. I turned my back on myself without knowing it. And this is where the fates stepped in. I’d hardly started school when I found out that I was a 2007 Golden Heart Finalist (I had also been a Golden Heart finalist in 2005). My husband insisted that I go to National even though we were short on funds. So I went to National and even though I didn’t win, it was this sense of how awesome it was just to be part of the excitement. To be noticed after all these years of writing. After the Golden Heart/Ritas, at the reception, I saw my 2005 Golden Heart buddy Victoria Dahl and we started chatting. The sweetheart that she is, she starts asking about my writing, what I write, what I currently have to offer and after hearing the “pitch” for the last book I wrote before my husband‘s attack, she suggested that I submit to her editor and that she would slip in a good word for me.
I was beside myself. I realize in this industry it’s difficult to put your name on the line and more often than not people shy away from “recommendations” for both reasons of time/commitment and fear of what will happen to the relationship between two friends once the rejection comes. So anyway, Vicki e-mails her editor, John Scognamiglio, and God knows what the woman said, but he actually requested the full right off the bat. I didn’t expect much of it but I still appreciated the opportunity. I sent it off August 8,2007. It arrived in New York August 10, 2007. (I keep a calender and write everything down, in case you were wondering). I then get a call on August 16 from John. The editor. Only I’m not there to take the call. I was in Powell’s (the greatest used and new book store in the world!) loading up on books that I kept telling myself I needed to keep me in the game. I came home and there’s a message. It’s from John at Kensington and he wants me to call him. But he says he won’t be in the office on Friday (it was a Thursday when he called). So I called him ASAP, about 40 minutes after he did, but he had already left the office. Talk about torture. I left a polite message or at least I think I did because I was so freaked out of my freakin’ mind, I still don’t remember what I babbled out. And then I start thinking, Could this really be it? No. Wait. It’s way too soon. And gosh darn it, I didn’t include a synopsis with the complete!! But then I started really hashing it out with my husband. He kept telling me to at least try and be prepared. Start thinking positive. Start looking into agents. Just in case. So here I was calling around telling agents, “You know, I think I sold, but I’m not sure because I haven’t really touched base with the editor and won’t until Monday. You interested???”
Pam Hopkins, who is represented by one of my chapter friends (Su Lute), told me to send the first three chapters but that she wasn’t promising anything, because even if the book is a sold book she needs to love the book. Which I absolutely loved about her. So anyway, I spent the whole weekend AGONIZING about what Kensington had called about. I didn’t want to tell myself I sold and then have that taken away.
Come Monday, Pam calls the house and leaves a message that she really liked the first three chapters, loved my voice, and wanted to see the rest before making a decision. I get home from culinary school and still no word from John. So I take a deep breath, knowing it’s already 4 o’clock in New York and call him and leave another message saying that I was going to be home. And I wait. He calls within the hour and introduces himself and says he wants to buy the book.
I was still in shock, even though I knew the possibility of him wanting the book was “sorta” there. Hell, I’m STILL in shock. I somehow gained my wits about me and told him that I wanted to go into this with an agent. Right after I got off the phone, I talked to Pam Hopkins for awhile and well, she’s now my agent!
How long were you writing and how many books did you write before you sold?
I’ve been writing since grade school but I didn’t start seriously submitting to editor and agents until 1998, when I joined RWA. So I’ve been writing for about 10 years. As far as how many books I’ve written? Heck, do I have to give a number? LOL Maybe it’ll be good for other writers to hear this, actually. I’ve written over 40 manuscripts. Now before people start freaking out that I’m some prodigy (for I am NOT), of those 40 many included short stories, novellas, and manuscripts that ranged from 400 pages to 800 pages. Yes, the editors LOVED getting my manuscripts, LOL.
We’d love to know about the types of books you write.
The only way to describe what I write, is by giving it a definition: “Wicked and humorous historical romances unfit for polite society.”
My story isn’t erotica, but it’s pretty gosh darn close, and nothing is off limits when it comes to subject matter. Prudes need not apply, so to speak. I basically try to push the boundries of society for 1830. Because realistically speaking, 1830 had more than their share of naughty men and women, they simply had work around all those pesky rules set up by polite society. And those are exactly the people I love to write about. The naughty rebels of society that would astonish even the modern reader.
My debut book, Mistress of Pleasure is book 1 in the 5 book School of Gallantry Series. It’s a historical romance set in 1830.
Here’s a quick run down of Mistress of Pleasure:
The heroine’s grandmother, Madame de Maitenon, was once a renowned French courtesan who retired from a job she loved very, very much (too much, actually…) in order to raise her 12 year old granddaughter. Needless to say, our heroine, Maybelle, being raised by her very sexually liberated grandmother finds herself having quite the unusual upbringing. And even though years pass and she is now a woman who is allowed to lead her life in any way she chooses, she continues to find herself utterly astonished by her grandmother’s “liberal” choices. Like the one involving the opening of a school that educates men in the art of love and seduction. Maybelle is genuinely appalled, but when her grandmother suffers from apoplexy, leaving her unable to run the school, Maybelle has no choice but to step in and become the new head mistress to all the male students. Despite the fact that she only has had one “real” form of experience with a man. Needless to say, she finds that her life, and her heart, will never be the same and the School of Gallantry, of course, is to blame.
What are your plans for the future? What more can we look forward to from you?
I definately plan to finish this 5 book series. Which will keep me busy for some time. I adore all the characters and am geniunely excited to spend time with each and every one of them. Though I have to say that it’s quite a bit of work because of the way I am writing them. All 5 books actually take place at the same time. So in some cases you’ll see the same scene throughout certain books, but in different POV. What’s great about doing it is that you get to understand each and every character more in depth and challenge who they are throughout every book. As a reader, you don’t have to read the books in any particular order because of this. Of course, the first and the last book set the tone, but otherwise, anything goes. The hard part of writing the books this way is making all the characters and the plot stick to what I’ve already written. So I’m techinically writing all 5 books at the same time. Which is crazy but fun. I keep a calender of 1830 (an actual calendar from that year so the days are really accurate to that time period) that tells me who was where and why there were there and key events. So I don’t screw anything up. Bottom line, I love dirty humor and I Iove setting myself and my characters up for a good challenge, so what people will always get out of me is funny, hot, and the not so typical.
Do you have a website where readers can go to see what you have in the pipeline, or learn more about your upcoming debut release?
Yes! I actually designed my own website and had a lot of fun trying to make it look historical. The website is: www.DelilahMarvelle.com.
I have already posted an excerpt of Book 2, Lord of Pleasure there. They can e-mail me and ask me to add their name to my newsletter which I send out once every two months. People can also stay on top of what I’m doing by going to my myspace account www.myspace.com/DelilahMarvelle where I keep a blog of updates. Please friend me! I also have a blog called A BIT O’MUSLIN that I post to on the 1st and 15th of every month www.DelilahMarvelle.blogspot.com. This blog is not for the faint of heart. It basically touches on Sex Throughout History. I always like to blog about unusual historical sex facts. I also blog for my chapter on the 21st of every month at www.RoseCityRomanceWriters.blogspot.com
So needless to say, I’m a busy gal and I’m ALWAYS writing, LOL.
Finally, do you have any advice for other writers?
This industry is truly a tough one and can literally make or break you. It’s just a matter of how tough your skin is and how much you believe in your creativity and your writing. Bottom line, don’t EVER give up on the dream of publication.. EVER! The moment you do, your opportunity is forever lost. For some, their first book is their first sale (God bless them..). For others, like myself, it was manuscript number forty something. Don’t get stuck on one manuscript. Keep writing a new one and a new one. And keep sending those suckers out. One of my favorite writer buddies whose first book will be coming out with NAL sometime in 2009, Jessa Slade, (check her out!) once said this wise thing, “We all have a magic number over our heads. We just don’t know what that number is.” And she is so bloody right. Enter contests, get a critique partner who values what your writing stands for, join a local chapter, love thy writer sister (and brother) always and BELIEVE. We all have a magic number over our head.. Some of us simply get called on first. Have patience, hone your art while you wait your turn and when your number is finally called, you will be more than ready for the challenge.