We are very lucky to have a huge number of industry professionals attending the RNA conference in Leeds this year – agents, publishers and editors – and over the coming weeks, we will be hearing from them about what they do and what they are looking for from their one-to-one sessions with RNA members over the weekend of the conference in July.
Today, we welcome Nicola Caws, who is an associate editor with Harlequin Mills & Boon. So, over to you, Nicola.
1. Please could you start by telling us what your current role is and what it involves?
I am currently the Associate Editor on the Mills & Boon Historical team. That means I help look after the Historical series, to make sure everything from the schedule to the back cover copy is in great shape! But a huge part of my job is editing, and I work with not just Historical authors, but authors writing for all the UK acquired series: so that’s Modern, Dare, Medical, True Love and of course Historical too! There’s nothing more satisfying than working alongside amazing authors and seeing their stories achieve their full potential!
2. What type of submissions are you personally looking for at the moment?
Particularly at the moment, I’d love to find fresh Viking and Medieval voices for Mills & Boon Historical, and I’d really love to see some ultra-sexy stories for Dare – so don’t be afraid to heat things up! But I am always seeking stand-out submissions across all the UK acquired series and am actively looking for under-represented authors. If you’re interested in writing romance for Mills & Boon, remember you don’t need an agent to submit to us, and we read every submission!
3. Is there anything you or your publishing house wouldn’t accept right now?
The Harlequin Mills & Boon series business is so unique – each line has its own promise to fulfil to the reader, and as editors our job is to make sure each story meets this promise – in its own unique way, of course! So often when we have to turn down submissions it’s because authors haven’t done enough research. An easy way to make sure you’re targeting your submission correctly is to check out our guidelines on Submittable. But you don’t need to get it spot on first time – if we see what we like in your voice, we will help guide you in the right direction! If you have a longer project in mind, or something different to series romance, don’t fear, there are other rooms in our publishing house. Check out our friends over at HQ for example!
4. RNA members are sending you only their first chapter and a synopsis. Can you give them any tips on how to grab your attention in such a short submission?
I certainly can! Character is all-important in a romance, so make sure your reader is able to connect with your hero and heroine right from the beginning. A dramatic plot means nothing if we don’t know who these characters are and why we should root for them. But avoid info-dumping – make sure you keep that pace high and engaging, using a great balance of dialogue and narration to keep me hooked!
5. And what about the synopsis? Do you have any tips for writing a really good one?
Don’t feel like you need to go too long. When I look at a synopsis I want to know important backstory points, the deep emotional conflicts your hero and heroine are wrestling with, and to learn about the key emotional turning points in the front story. But I don’t need to know every move your character makes or what they eat for breakfast!
6. What are you most looking forward to doing over the conference weekend aside from your one-to-one sessions?
I’m looking forward to doing the workshop on Falling in Love with Mills & Boon on Friday with my amazing colleagues Sareeta Domingo and Sara Jafari. I love meeting authors interested in finding out what we do and how to improve their craft. So make sure you come along!
7. Can you tell us the last published book you read which you really enjoyed and why?
It has to be Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Is that cheating, being non-fiction? (That way I don’t have to choose between all my favourite romances!) But I loved it, because it’s really about people – how we hide, what we’re afraid of, and how we can become our best selves. People fascinate me – and yes, I also count fictional characters as real people…
Thanks so much, Nicola, for taking the time to answer these questions for us. Enjoy the conference!