Monday, April 4, 2011

MARSHA CANHAM on Writing




I must confess I never had a burning desire to become a writer when I was growing up. I always thought it was one of those lofty professions that anyone but me could aspire to (as demonstrated by that great bit of grammatical excellence). I actually started writing purely by accident. I had quit my day job when my son was born, and wanted to be at home with him at least until he started school.

We lived in a very close-knit townhouse neighbourhood populated by a lot of mothers who stayed home--some of whom read a lot of romance novels and passed them around. One neighbour in particular used to read Harlequins by the handful. With her encouragement, I tried my hand at a writing one, thinking that was the best place to start, but when I sent away for their guidelines, I thought they were a little boring--this was 30 years ago when a kiss came at the very end of the book-- and ignored them (story of my life).

I finished the first attempt--all of 113 pages crammed with murder, mayhem, drug lords, and a tall dark hero I thought was pretty worthy of the next Movie for TV. Of course, it had clunky dialogue and the characters walked on, walked off, walked on, walked off--but I sent it away and sat back to wait for my million dollar cheque and the neon marquee.

A very nice editor at Harlequin called me and explained that perhaps I was not writing for the right publisher. She could not, she said, recall when a Harlequin romance had a murder in it, or when there were drugs involved in the plot line, and goodness gracious, I had the hero and heroine DOING IT in the middle of the book! However, the reason why she phoned and did not just give me a standard rejection, was because when I had the heroine trapped in the lighthouse and the villain was chasing her, shooting at her, she could actually "see" what was happening. Those ten pages, she said, were worth the phone call, and by the way, had I ever considered historicals? "Something" about my style suggested to her that I would be more comfortable in a genre that could let me have all the murder and mayhem I wanted, the lusty hero and heroine DOING IT in the beginning, middle, and end ...

So that was what I did. I wrote a historical romance, considerably longer at around 600 pages, and while the dozens of rejections were coming in, I wrote another, then another. Four years later I had four manuscripts under my belt, with a rejection file as thick as the first Harlequin I attempted. I was pretty well resigned to the fact that I might have to look for another creative outlet, but, just to be absolutely sure, I gave myself one more shot. I wrote China Rose, sent it to an editor who had been somewhat encouraging in the last rejection, and told myself that was it. If it was rejected, I would give up on the idea of ever becoming a writer.

Two weeks later the editor (Maggie McLaren, who is no longer an editor but who has remained one of my best friends), and Malle Vallik, who moved from Avon to Harlequin, where she is now in charge of the digital imprints, sent me a letter of acceptance. I was in the hospital at the time having knee surgery, so I couldn't exactly jump up and down, but that was the beginning of what has turned into a wonderful odyssey through the forests of medieval England, the Scottish Highlands, sailing tall ships on the high seas, riding across moonlit moors in a mask and cape.

I have written 16 historicals and one contemporary, and for the past 6 years have been on a bit of a hiatus.  It occurred to me that my grandchildren were growing up before my eyes and I was missing it, but now that they are in the pre-teen years, my muse is stirring again and visions of Errol Flynn swinging through the rigging are coming back more and more often *s*.  Years ago, with my third book, THE WIND AND THE SEA, I earned my first award along with the title "Queen of Swashbuckling Romances" from Romantic Times. Since then I have written ACROSS A MOONLIT SEA, which began the Pirate Wolf series with Simon Dante at the helm. The sequel, THE IRON ROSE, featured his daughter, Juliet Dante, and was voted one of the six best massmarket fiction books of the year by Publisher's Weekly.  I am currently working on another Dante book, THE FOLLOWING SEA to give Simon's two sons, Gabrielle and Jonas, their turn at the helm.

I was told 6 years ago that "pirate books were no longer popular" but what the editor didn't take into account at the time was that I write what I enjoy reading, I don't take orders well *s*, and it's difficult to silence Errol Flynn when he's looking over your shoulder.

Visit my website: http://www.marshacanhamebooks.com/
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/marsha.canham
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/marshacanham
Blog:  http://marshacanham.wordpress.com/ 
Email me at:  marshacanham@yahoo.com


GIVEAWAY!

Marsha currently has an interview on THE WIND AND THE SEA [click here to check it out] and she's giving away 3 copies of this book!

Here's a sneak peek into the interview:

Q: What makes [Courtney] perfect for Adrian Ballantine, the man who's convinced her father is a murderer?

I think she was his perfect match because he had never encountered anyone like her. He was from Virginia, where the women were soft and soft-spoken, where they obeyed without question, married not by choice but by command. He knew his fiancée loved another man, yet both he and she were trapped in a commitment forced by their families, who were accustomed through the generations of using their wealth and stature when deciding who should marry whom.

Courtney's freedom, her passion, her lack of reservation in calling him an ass to his face was some...Read more.

To enter the drawing, just make a comment or ask Marsha a question. Click here to read the rest of the interview and comment.


Contest ends 30 April. Winners will be announced in May.

2 comments:

Pepca said...

Your preserverance on the way of becoming a published writer is strikingly inspirational. Thanks for sharing your story.

marshacanham said...

Pepca, I'm glad you enjoyed the blog and hope you'll give The Wind and the Sea a try *s* Errol is watching LOL

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