The Pleasures of Winter hit the best seller list in autumn 2012, riding on the steamy tail of Fifty Shades of Grey. Written by the dynamic duo of Caroline McCall and Eileen Gormley who had already cut their teeth in the romance world at US publisher Ellora’s Cave, they spoke to writing.ie about how co-writing works. But just as interesting is how their work came to the notice of the Editorial Director of Penguin Ireland, Patricia Deevy. Patricia takes up the story:
“Early in the summer, when it was clear just what a publishing sensation the Fifty Shades series had become, in our office in Dublin we wondered if there was anything we could do to contribute to the new wave of erotic writing. After all, as publishers, we are in the business of recognising what readers want and giving it to them. But we had no backlist title to send out wearing a new Fifty-style cover – as some of our competitors had done so cleverly. And since, as far as we were concerned, an erotic novel should be no different to any other, and needed to be written with commitment, enthusiasm and a deep knowledge of and love for the genre, we could think of no one to commission to write one.
Maybe a month later – after the point where it looked like this was a trend we would have to pass on – I spotted a Twitter link to an article about two Irish women who had written a novella for a US erotica publisher. I set up a meeting.
In the meantime, I read their work. There was no doubt about it these women were the real deal: they had wild imaginations! But could they take on a commission like this?
Four days later the two of them – Eileen Gormley and Caroline McCall – were sitting in the Penguin Ireland office on St Stephen’s Green. We put it to them straight: This is the trend of the moment. We don’t know how long it’s going to last. We want to get a novel out there and we want to get it out as soon as possible, while erotica is still a big thing in the mass market. We want it to be a gripping love story with a devastatingly gorgeous alpha male, a likeable independent female (no silly ninny for our book, thanks very much), a good strong plot and lots of scorching sex. It’s a punt but if you take it seriously we will too and we’ll publish with as much passion and commitment as we bring to everything else we do.
And, by the way – could you write it in six weeks?
Eileen and Caroline asked lots of very sensible questions and by the end of the meeting we were in business. They said later that their heads were spinning when they left our office. But amazing women that they are, within a few days they came back with a fantastic plot idea and six weeks later I had the story of Jack Winter and Abbie Marshall’s adventures – from the jungles of Honduras to a hay-barn in Meath (via New York and Beverly Hills) – sitting in my computer ready for its edit.
Publishing is a funny business. In the ten years I’ve been with Penguin I’ve worked on everything from politics to personal finance to psychology to fiction of all sorts. The Pleasures of Winter has probably been the best fun of any book I’ve worked on – simply because everybody just got it, right from the start, and it was conceived, written and on the shelves, real and virtual, in less than four months. We wanted to put out a fantastic book – not just any old thing to take advantage of a trend – and Eileen and Caroline met and surpassed our every expectation. Indeed, we love ‘Evie Hunter’ so much that 2013 will see two further titles from her.”
Patricia also says, “I hope Caroline and Eileen’s story shows that publishers are always excited about new talent, that sometimes timing can work in your favour, and that you should keep the faith. Whether you’re writing crime, romance, high concept stories or serious literary work we want to see it. We keep an eye on what’s going on on websites like writing.ie and we consider unsolicited work. We are now accepting electronic submissions at our new submissions address email@example.com and our revised submission guidelines will be on our site – www.penguin.ie – shortly.”
The moral of the story? Online engagement can be crucial to your career!