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My First Sale by Loretta Chase, “Don’t You Want to Write...

I’m reposting this because I stupidly miscommunicated with someone about this date and the first sale series and so I’ve got nothing. But given the fact that I think Loretta Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways is one of the best romances I’ll read this year, I thought I’d pull it up again and pimp her book. It’s on sale next Tuesday. In the meantime, you can read the first three chapters of Julia Quinn’s The Lost Duke of Wyndham for free online and the entirety of The Duke and I, one of my favorite Quinn books.

***

photoabout3.gifWhen I wrote to Ms. Chase, it was on a whim. I never thought she would email me back and agree to share her “first sale” letter. Chase is like, well, a minor god to me. Lord of Scoundrels is one of the seminal romances in my thousand book reading history. This novel was originally published in 1995 and remained in print since that time, over ten years and counting. I suspect its a book that my daughter will enjoy when she is of a romance novel reading age. Avon has re-released Lord of Scoundrels this month with a new cover and a corresponding ebook. Chase’s books all feature her trademark dry wit and her clever dialogue. I never tire of re-reading her books.

***

I don’t know if I was born to write but the habit started early, about the time I learned to hold a pencil. I wrote and passed notes in school, maintained a voluminous and mainly one-sided correspondence with various people (some living down the street), poured into a journal the tortured explorations of my inmost soul, filled notebooks with very bad poetry, scripted a 37-act play, and struggled–for years, and callously disregarding the destruction of innocent forests–to complete The Great American Novel.

My choice of undergraduate study, therefore, will surprise nobody. Yes, I knew there was no future in getting a degree in English but I did it anyway because this course of study required reading fiction and writing. Oddly enough, that impractical choice led to my first professional (i.e., someone paid me for it) writing job, an exhibition catalog. This in turn led to my writing scripts for corporate video–where people who looked perfectly normal paid me handsomely for doing what I was going to do anyway, for free and despite the anguished screams of, say, anyone who’d ever had to read my poetry.

The video work led me to a man who kept saying crazy stuff like, “Don’t you want to write a book?” and “If you can make an entertaining script about filing systems, you’re inventive enough to write a novel.” He eventually turned out to be my husband, which came as a great shock to both of us.
He is a very persuasive man. Before long, I found myself studying the romance genre, which led me to the traditional Regency, a subgenre that seemed to have been made for me: 19th century setting in which English lords and ladies exchange witty repartee. The research was as much fun as the actual writing. Making time between the day job and the video moonlighting, I wrote my first Regency, ISABELLA, in about two years. After half the world critiqued and proofread it, the manuscript went into an envelope with the required SASE and over the transom to one of the many publishers who, according to all the authorities, were going to reject it. Everyone knows the first book always gets rejected. In fact, we are not to expect publication until we’ve completely papered our walls with rejection letters. That was the rule. I understood it. I’d read writers’ biographies. Unless you were, say, Charles Dickens, it would take a while before a publisher recognized your genius. Since I was not a genius (my poetry made this quite, quite clear), I confidently expected ISABELLA to be lost in a slush pile in NYC, never to be heard from again. And so, six months later, I was halfway through the next rejection magnet (THE ENGLISH WITCH) when a woman called me. She claimed to be an editor in New York. She claimed to love ISABELLA. She asked if it was “still available.”

038077616201mzzzzzzz.jpgI did that thing where you take the phone away from your ear and stare at it. Then, “Um…yes,” I said. A few minutes later, I’d sold my very first book to the very first publisher to whom I’d sent it.
At the time, I decided this was just one of those happy anomalies, the exception that tests the rule. But years later it dawned on me that the rule about getting repeated rejections and trying again and again is about mastering the craft. In my case, all those years of writing terrible poetry and plays and the unfinished Great American Novel were years of practice. They helped me develop the skill to write entertaining scripts about filing systems, for example. In turn, the corporate writing taught me, among other things, how to write dialogue and how to get an idea across in a few words rather than several pages and how to keep the audience from falling asleep when you are explaining how to fit test a respirator.

Oh, and it does help to have someone in your life who says crazy stuff like, “Don’t you want to write a book?”

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

24 Comments

  1. bettie
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 04:35:06

    Please Pardon the following Fan Girl outburst:
    OMG! I’m so happy I stayed up too late and got to read this right away! Loretta Chase, is my favorite historical writer. The Sandalwood Princess and Lord of Scoundrels are in my top ten. ::sigh:: And not only does she write clever and amusing fiction, she writes clever and amusing personal anecdotes. Also, I love her glasses. Really, they’re adorable.

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  2. Jia
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 05:12:57

    Lord of Scoundrels is a wonderful book. I’m glad that it’s getting re-released, which means that a whole new generation of readers can discover it.

    And I second Bettie’s comment about Loretta Chases’s glasses. They’re fabulous.

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  3. Francois
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 06:09:35

    Awww. Happy story. Having read Isabella I’d say that it reads to me like a typical early book that could have got rejected, but thats only because I love the later books beyond all reason and judge Loretta harder than other writers. Very unfair I know!

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  4. ilona andrews
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 08:29:04

    A completely awesome first sale story.

    :writes email to husband:

    I can haz Lord of Scoundrels for Christmas, yes?

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  5. Danielle D
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 08:36:12

    I’m a fan girl of Lorretta’s books too — I have two copies of Lord Scoundrels and I also brought the ebook from eBookwise.com. Plus I brought a another copy of the book and mailed it to my niece who loves to read historicals. What can I say — I love that book.

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  6. Jill Myles
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 09:07:36

    Aw, look at her picture! She’s totally adorable. I want to be Loretta Chase when I grow up.

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  7. Tracy
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 09:48:24

    He eventually turned out to be my husband, which came as a great shock to both of us.

    I sense a really great story right here!! :)

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  8. M.
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 10:31:02

    Dear Ms. Chase,
    may I say, I love your husband. Mine tries very, very hard to be supportive and mostly he succeeds, but when he first signed on for the job of Encourager #1 he probably thought I’d finish my masterpiece in a couple of months, tops. Not the way it turned out….

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  9. Janine
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 10:38:33

    While I liked Lord of Scoundrels, it’s the more recent Carsington books that have really made me fall in love with Loretta Chase’s writing. I think her writing just keeps getting better and better.

    Great first sale story! Thanks so much for sharing it!

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  10. sherry thomas
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 10:45:31

    The video work led me to a man who kept saying crazy stuff like, “Don't you want to write a book?” and “If you can make an entertaining script about filing systems, you're inventive enough to write a novel.” He eventually turned out to be my husband, which came as a great shock to both of us.

    I read this out loud to my husband.

    My favorite Loretta Chase book is Mr. Impossible. My favorite Loretta Chase work is The Mad Earl’s Bride, a novella in Three Weddings and a Kiss (I think).

    That novella is the one and only reason that I want to write novellas. It’s so intense, so hot, so emotional, and so absolutely right for its length that when I read it, I wonder why people ever bother with novels.

    If you haven’t read it, buy, beg, steal a copy and treat yourself.

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  11. Amy
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 11:32:54

    I’m not at all surprised that she wrote back. I wrote her one of only two fan letters I’ve ever written (the other was to Marsha Canham wherein I was inquiring about her next book–and wherein she said she was sick of trying to fight the cookie-cutter editors). It’s surprising even for me since I’ve met some fairly famous people and always retained a sense of dignity. She wrote back and was a gracious as her novels. For those who are interested, I’ve copied (1) my letter to her and (2) her response.

    Subject: A question about the Carsington parents….

    I’m going to ask the question, but I’m really trying to not get deleted. Are you going to write their story? Delicious characters.

    What I really wanted was to tell you how very much I’ve enjoyed all of your books and encourage you to keep “not working”—your style reminds me so very much of Oscar Wilde. Witty and so very British and, I think approaches that dirty word “literature”. I also do not think you are given enough credit for creating characters with depth without the melodrama, plots that are intricate, compelling and believable, and while I won’t belabor the point, in my own book of personal favorites, your and Judith Ivory’s work stand head and shoulders above the competition. I’m sure your books will be read and loved long after you’ve written your last chapter, and the award you should be proudest of is the winner of the all time favorite book competition at All About Romance.

    Best of luck to you and your muse. Keep all your doctor appointments, watch your cholesterol and continue to love what you do.

    Thank you,

    Her delightful response:

    Amy, you were successful in not getting deleted, and that’s incredibly fortunate because yours is one of the nicest messages I’ve ever received. I do love to write, I love the work I’m doing and would go on doing it without encouragement (that’s how one starts out, after all: the world asks for doctors and nurses and such, but never for yet another person to write yet another piece of fiction), it most definitely lifts my spirits to be told, not simply that I’m doing a good job but that the spirit of Oscar Wilde seems to hover nearby. No, he’d probably lounge rather than hover. But of course he’s one of my favorites. Most of what I learned about writing I learned from those British writers with a sense of humor–Dickens, Wodehouse, Lewis Carroll, and so on. Thank you for the very high compliment.

    And speaking of high compliments, I’m very proud of my AAR win. It’s a taste of immortality, which every writer must dream of.

    As to the Carsington parents…hmmm. Do you mean telling their story? Well, I do love them, and they do have an excellent relationship, and they are both strong characters. But it would mean going Georgian… OK, it really is a good idea. I’ll think about it.

    Thank you so much.
    Loretta

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  12. Phyl
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 11:33:09

    If you haven't read it, buy, beg, steal a copy and treat yourself.

    Oh my gosh, yes! It really is one of the best novellas, ever. It’s even a sequel of sorts to Lord of Scoundrels.

    ReplyReply

  13. Ann Bruce
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 12:22:56

    Ms. Chase:

    I’m squeeing like a fangirl and it’s all DA’s fault. They turned me onto Lord of Scoundrels this year and I’ve been happily glomming my way through your backlist.

    One question: When’s the next book coming out? I’m running out of reading material!

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  14. MaryK
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 13:22:00

    Hi, Loretta!

    The video work led me to a man who kept saying crazy stuff like, “Don't you want to write a book?” and “If you can make an entertaining script about filing systems, you're inventive enough to write a novel.” He eventually turned out to be my husband, which came as a great shock to both of us.

    I want to read this story, too. :D

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  15. Loretta Chase
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 16:57:29

    Thank you, everybody! I hope the letter inspires some writers–and some husbands, too.

    Anne Bruce, the next book is YOUR SCANDALOUS WAYS, coming out in June 2008. You can find a sneak preview at Romance B(u)y the Book
    http://www.mylifetime.com/lifestyle/entertainment/romance-buy-the-book

    and some information about the historical setting at my Word Wenches blog, A Scandalous Preview
    http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2007/09/scandalous-prev.html
    Please excuse the long URLs but I couldn’t figure out how to do the links properly.

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  16. Angela
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 17:06:30

    Aww…I must reserve a space in my heart for The English Witch and The Devil’s Delilah–the first Chase novels I’d ever read. In fact, they were part of the first batch of romance novels I borrowed from the library when I discovered the genre. And I am probably in the minority, but I choose The Last Hellion over Lord of Scoundrels. *g*

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  17. Ann Bruce
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 17:42:29

    Ooh, you set the book in Venezia! How I miss that city (could’ve done without the minor flooding, though) and the spectacular seafood pizza.

    ReplyReply

  18. Lynne
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 19:34:22

    For the last year or so, I’ve been in a huge fiction reading slump. My did-not-finish list spiraled out of control, to the point that I finally just quit buying romance.

    But I still go back and read my keepers. Lord of Scoundrels is in my all-time top five list of romance novels. I love rereading it.

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  19. Anne Hume
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 20:03:27

    When I wrote to Ms. Chase, it was on a whim. I never thought she would email me back and agree to share her “first sale” letter.

    It’s not a surprise to me because Loretta also answered my email. Though at that time, it was a big surprise.

    It’s nice to hear about her first sale, or anything about her for that matter. We get to know so little about her. I love LOS. It’s my favourite though Knaves’s Wager and Lord Perfect comes close. They are books I read and read always, especially when I’m in a reading slump.

    Mad Earl’s Bride is one of the best anthology ever for me. Sherry Thomas describes it well – “absolutely right for its length”. Wonderful story, great characters and has her trademark dry wit and her clever dialogue.

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  20. Edie
    Dec 08, 2007 @ 09:25:50

    Loretta Chase is never disappoints. The Mad Earl’s Bride is my favorite novella, and the Lord of Scoundrels my favorite book. I’ve told my friends to read it long before DA did. But all her books are keepers, and I have to keep from squealing in a store when I see one that just came out. Thanks for the interview!

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  21. Amy
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 10:05:32

    June! Six more months! Oh joy. Because, like Lynn, I’ve given up on romance, once my hands down favorite genre. A few years ago, the internet justified its existence when I discovered a site that produced serious reviews of romance novels. Through the reviews and the recommendations of readers whose taste were similar to my own, I discovered the likes of Mary Balogh and Carla Kelly and Eva Ibbotson and Judith Ivory and LORETTA CHASE! (And I paid the equivalent of a downpayment on a small beach house to get their back-lists.)

    Like Angela, “The Last Hellion” is one of my favorite Chase novels. I think one of the reasons Rupert is my favorite Carsington is because he reminds me of Dain. Seriously, the opening scene where Dain is singing the Anglican funeral mass to the tune of a bawdy song and the young Duke’s physical attack is amongst the most realistic and affecting summations of grief I’ve ever read in any genre. Also, the unabashed sentimentality in the scene where Dain gives Lydia the writing materials is amongst my very, very favorite moments in romance. There’s probably a good reason why I didn’t agree with the reviewer cum author who panned this book at AAR. It shouldn’t have surprised me that I didn’t care for her books at all (the reviewer’s that is).

    I’m seriously looking forward to 2008!

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  22. Amy
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 14:08:24

    Oooops. Just re-read this! I meant Vere NOT Dain (who I also luv, luv, luv)

    ReplyReply

  23. Francois
    Dec 27, 2007 @ 17:07:47

    I’ve been doing a re-read and for the moment go against the tide to say that Captives of the Night is a much better book than I remember from first time around. Perhaps it improves on re-reading. On the other hand, The Mad Earl’s Bride is everything short story should be.

    I can see a vote above for Loretta to tell the story of the Carsington parents. I have to vote against it – one of the things I love about the Carsingtons is that there is a brother so boring that there is not a book about him. Not everyone has a story in them.

    ReplyReply

  24. Magical Musings » Blog Archive » Almost perfect
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 06:00:45

    [...] next almost perfect pick is a Regency, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. Jane on Dear Author says: “Lord of Scoundrels is one of the seminal romances in my thousand book reading [...]

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