Last February, I entered my first two contests. One was sponsored by Harlequin on their forum for writers, and it involved writing the first thousand words of a Valentine’s Day–themed secret-baby romance novel.
Mine was called CUPID’S ARROW, and it began with the heroine, Cupid, saying, “I don’t see what’s so romantic about getting shot in the ass by some fat, flying baby.”
Apparently, the contest judge shared Cupid’s sentiment, because my entry won! (For the curious, the rest of the entry is here.) The prize was a month’s mentoring from Tessa Radley, a multipublished Harlequin author.
Pretty heady stuff for little old me. I’d only just started writing the previous October. I’d just completed COMPANION WANTED, my third full manuscript and the first one that I’d managed to whip into what I hoped was publishable shape. And now, suddenly, mentoring! Accolades! I nearly fainted dead away.
Meanwhile, the Romance Junkies Writing Contest was announced, and at the suggestion of my critique partner, Faye Robertson, I entered it. I submitted the first scene and fourth chapter of COMPANION WANTED, a hot, funny, somewhat unconventional cross-country bike ride romance. Unlike the Harlequin contest, the Romance Junkies contest felt quite official, which made me nervous. But I was ready to let my baby out into the world, and the contest promised to give me a shot at getting the manuscript in front of an editor at Carina Press. So I pressed Send and crossed my fingers.
My excerpt went up in one of the early weeks of the contest, which ran through May. In March, I got feedback from six or seven readers, all positive. Most exciting, I got a gushing, excited note from a complete stranger who invited me to e-mail her. I did, of course, and that’s how I became friends with Gina Leigh Maxwell. Gina had also entered the contest with her paranormal romance, DESIRES OF THE SOUL (which is fabulous, by the way, and deservedly became a finalist). We got to chatting over e-mail, and in time she got to be one of my best writing buddies—a great cheerleader, critique partner, and friend.
If the contest had yielded me nothing but Gina, I would have been more than pleased with the return. But there was more!
While I waited for the contest to end and the results to be announced, I worked with my Harlequin mentor, who encouraged me to query agents with the manuscript of COMPANION WANTED. So I did that in March, and in April I hit the jackpot and signed with my agent, Emily Sylvan Kim of Prospect Agency.
Emily didn’t like my pseudonym, Anne Vincent, which I’d invented for the contests and never used otherwise. We batted names back and forth for a while, and in May, Ruthie Knox was born. She emerged from the womb with her own website and a wicked Twitter addiction that has only grown worse with time. Also in May, COMPANION WANTED made its way out into Editorland on submission with a few different publishers.
In June, I won the grand prize in the Romance Junkies contest. The first three chapters of my manuscript were critiqued by Rhonda Helms of Carina Press, and I also won a Kindle (which I cherish and use daily). Rhonda enjoyed the manuscript and invited me to submit the full, with a view toward possibly acquiring the book for Carina . . .
. . . but in the meantime, I’d accepted an unbeatable offer to publish COMPANION WANTED with Random House!
The book has a new, better title now—Ride with Me—and will be released on February 13 through Loveswept, Random House’s digital-first line.
So in the space of less than five months, I won two contests, made a friend, got an agent, gave birth to my pseudonymous writer self, got my book in front of the eyes of several editors, and accepted a publication offer. A wacky ride, indeed—and it all began with two contests.
Thanks to Romance Junkies for the amazing opportunity!
ABOUT THE BOOK
In this fun, scorching-hot eBook original romance by Ruthie Knox, a cross-country bike adventure takes a detour into unexplored passion. As readers will discover, Ride with Me is not about the bike!
When Lexie Marshall places an ad for a cycling companion, she hopes to find someone friendly and fun to cross the TransAmerica Trail with. Instead, she gets Tom Geiger — a lean, sexy loner whose bad attitude threatens to spoil the adventure she’s spent years planning.
Roped into the cycling equivalent of a blind date by his sister, Tom doesn’t want to ride with a chatty, go-by-the-map kind of woman, and he certainly doesn’t want to want her. Too bad the sight of Lexie with a bike between her thighs really turns his crank.
Even Tom’s stubborn determination to keep Lexie at a distance can’t stop a kiss from leading to endless nights of hotter-than-hot sex. But when the wild ride ends, where will they go next?
Ruthie Knox figured out how to walk and read at the same time in the second grade, and she hasn’t looked up since. She spent her formative years hiding romance novels in her bedroom closet to avoid the merciless teasing of her brothers and imagining scenarios in which someone who looked remarkably like Daniel Day Lewis recognized her well-hidden sex appeal and rescued her from middle-class Midwestern obscurity. After graduating from Grinnell College with an English and history double major, she earned a Ph.D. in modern British history that she’s put to remarkably little use.
These days, she writes contemporary romance in which witty, down-to- earth characters find each other irresistible in their pajamas, though she freely admits this has yet to happen to her. Perhaps she needs more exciting pajamas. Ruthie abhors an epilogue and insists a decent romance requires at least three good sex scenes.
What’s your favorite romance or road-trip story? One lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to win a digital copy of Ride with Me. Winners will pick up their copy through Net Galley. Good luck to all!