My publisher has a little trick she uses when she hopes to get a novella or a short novel out of me: She encourages me to write a short story, knowing chances are good I’ll fall in love with the characters and not stop at 5,000 words. How did she come up with that clever tactic, you ask?
How a few too many cocktails and a meddling grandma turned a short story into a novel
I’m fairly sure it all started in 2013, when my publisher invited me and other Ylva Publishing authors to contribute a short story to an anthology.
Since Valentine’s Day was coming up and I was a little fed up with all the ads and commercials, I decided to have my main character attend an anti-Valentine’s Day party.
It’s not that I have anything against Valentine’s Day. See, I’m a big romantic at heart. It’s why I write romance novels. But I would rather celebrate love all year, with little everyday gestures and mutual caring instead of only buying jewelry and roses on Valentine’s Day.
The main character of my short story—struggling actress Amanda—shares that view. Plus she had the date from hell on Valentine’s Day, so she flees the restaurant and ends up at an anti-Valentine’s Day party, where she drinks a few too many cocktails called “Mind Erasers” and wakes up the next morning in a stranger’s bed, with no memory of what happened the night before.
That’s when we meet Michelle—a chivalrous butch woman who quickly turns Amanda’s assumptions about her own type upside down.
I admit while writing the story, I fell a little in love with both Michelle and Amanda. But the woman who really stole my heart is Amanda’s meddling grandmother. Her mischievous, big-hearted personality is based on my own grandmother, who practically raised me. Her photo sits next to me on my desk while I write.
The dynamic between these three strong women was so much fun, the short story basically wrote itself… and then—as my publisher had predicted—turned into a novel, Departure from the Script.
How my most slow-burn of slow-burn romances came to be
But that wasn’t all. About a year later, I had another idea for a romance novel featuring an actress. Unlike Amanda, Grace is already a celebrity and the supposedly straight star of heterosexual romcoms. When tabloids start writing about her having an affair with a fellow actress, Grace hires Lauren, a PR expert, to—literally—set the record straight. But while they try to deal with the paparazzi, she unexpectedly falls in love with Lauren. Oops.
Amanda and Michelle insisted they needed to be part of that book as well to check in with readers and show them that they’re still happily in love, so they make an appearance in Damage Control.
That’s when the Hollywood Series was born. Book 2, Damage Control, even turned into a monumental opus of a novel at 140,000 words. That’s about twice the length of an average novel. It’s the quintessential slow-burn romance, and it was as much fun to write as Departure from the Script.
I also wrote a steamy short story about Lauren & Grace getting dressed for a red carpet event (“Dress-Tease”), and I thought that would be the end of the Hollywood Series.
How I, of all people, won a Good Sex Award
But Jill—Grace’s quick-witted best friend—demanded to get her own book, and she really deserves it, so I introduced her to stuntwoman Crash in my one-night-stand-to-forever romance Just Physical. They, too, get a short sequel, “Worth the Wait,” which won a Good Sex Award in the “best use of sex toys” category. Who knew I would ever win an award like that!
So that’s how I went from one little short story to an entire series that spans 320,000 words. I’d like to think that both my publisher and my grandmother approve, and hopefully, my readers do too.