I am so thrilled to introduce my first debut author (the debut debut, if you will): Linda O’Connor. She is a smart, funny, and engaging romance novelist…who also happens to be a doctor!
Linda’s debut contemporary romantic comedy, Perfectly Honest, has been described as a “fun romp,” a “crazy ride,” and “a light, well-paced read with interesting characters.”
Read on for Linda’s thoughts about being married to a doctor, donut shops, and the infamous double double :).
How long have you wanted to be a romance writer? When did you decide to write a book?
Although I’ve always been an avid reader, I never thought I’d be a writer. The idea to write came after working with young adults. There were some basics I thought patients should know – mental health symptoms, birth control myths, how to take ownership of their health. I thought hey, if David Chilton of The Wealthy Barber fame can dole out financial advice in a barbershop, maybe I could dole out medical advice in a romance novel. That’s how my first novel, She’s Not a Fan, was born. I’m really enjoying using my medical knowledge in a new way. I read for relaxation and I hope that others will laugh, relax, enjoy the stories I’ve written, and maybe learn something too!
What inspired you to write this story?
My medical career definitely influences my writing. I’m a doctor, live with a surgeon, hang out with physician friends, and have worked in a variety of medical settings. I can bring that background to my novels.
There were two parts in Perfectly Honest that specifically evolved from my medical experience. The first is when Mikaela helps deliver a baby in the middle of a hotel foyer. I’ve jumped in to provide medical care at church, on a plane, on the soccer field, at a beach, in an exercise class…medicine is rarely nine to five! The second scene is when Mikaela’s specialty eclipses Sam’s. My husband is a specialist and his specialty often garners more interest than mine when we meet someone new. Except once. One day, in the midst of a family doctor shortage, we were at the bank and the two women helping us were so excited that I was a family doctor that my husband’s specialty never came up. I had to chuckle when he mentioned that he noticed.
Describe your process for writing this particular book. How long did it take to complete?
Perfectly Honest was the fourth novel I’d written, but the first I thought had a spark. It took nine months to write. I had an idea for the beginning, middle, and end of the story and then developed the characters. Actually, one of the things I love most about writing is being able to write at whatever pace I choose. As a kid, I always found it tough to come up with a story when the teacher asked because I had too many thoughts racing around in my head and needed time to mull it over. Luckily, now I have time to mull it over! So I don’t get too wound up about completing a certain number of words a day. Lately, I’ve tried to complete a novel within a season. It’s easier to keep the characters and storyline details in my head if it’s a shorter timeline.
How did you fit your writing into the rest of your life?
I set aside two days a week to write without interruption (and if I can get away with not making dinner those days, even better). I work part-time at an Urgent Care Clinic, but any other time I can sit down and write, I do.
How many submissions did you send out?
I wrote Perfectly Honest and after submitting it to the RWA contests to get feedback, I thought it was polished enough to submit for publication. I decided to send it to four publishers. I looked at the list of publishers on the RWA website and picked ones that didn’t require an agent, were asking for contemporary romantic comedies and/or medical romances, accepted manuscripts with my word count, and whose websites I liked the look of :D. A week after I sent it off to those four, I read a blog post about Soul Mate Publishing. The author recommended SMP as a smaller, growing publishing house and one more likely to accept new authors. They were right.
Debby Gilbert at SMP was the first to respond to my queries. She requested the full manuscript and then a month later sent me an email. That was a very happy day!
What did you do when you got the go-ahead? Who’s the first person you called?
Debby Gilbert from Soul Mate Publishing sent me an email. I was checking my email late at night before I shut off my computer and there it was! I’m pretty sure I threw my hands up in the air and jumped about 3 feet. Did a happy dance. Raced to tell my husband. Twirled, a little merengue, cha cha’d, did a bit of the moon walk. Texted Lesley Rooke, one of my best friends, salsa-stepped to my computer, and sent emails to my family (it was too late to call). It was like Christmas morning as a kid, but more intense! The next day I sat down to write and I was at a place of conflict between my characters – the heroine was frustrated and sad. It was so hard to stay in her head because I was bursting with happiness!
What happened between hearing your yes and getting the book to print?
I signed the contract in August and Perfectly Honest was published in January. One of the first things I did was fill out the cover art form. It asked for details about the characters, the plot, and my vision for the cover. I love what the artist came up with – so perfect! There were two rounds of editing and that went smoothly and quickly with very few changes. I also set up a website and created a video book trailer – that was a lot of fun! Here’s the link: Video book trailer: http://youtu.be/UGaav4ZLGeI
What has surprised you most about this process?
I wrote Perfectly Honest and I hadn’t realized how Canadian I was (with a British writing style) until I entered the manuscript into one of the RWA chapter contests in the United States. The main character, Mikaela, was tired at the end of a long day and agreed to do a favor for a friend, so she stopped on her way home for a double double. Two of the contest judges commented that they had no idea what that was. What?? Canadian babies’ first words are momma, dada and double double. How could you not know what that was? Haha. It’s a coffee – two creams, two sugars. Plus, Mikaela routinely went to the drive thru at Tim Horton’s (our most popular, one-on-every-corner, don’t drive anywhere until you’ve stopped there first, coffee and donut shop) to pick up the double double. One judge wrote, “Who is this Tim Horton? Need to develop his character.” I was going to write back that he’s a relative of Dunkin’!
Perfectly Honest by Linda O’Connor
“You never know where your words will take you.”
When Mikaela Finn agreed to be Sam’s ‘fiancée’ for a weekend, she probably should have told him that she’s a doctor. Sam O’Brien, aka ‘Dr. Eye Candy’, is trying to shed his playboy reputation and convince a small town hospital that he’s ready to settle down. But when his ‘fiancée’ helps deliver a baby in the middle of the meet and greet, it’s a bit of a shock. If he’d known the whole truth, he might have done things a little differently because somehow his ‘fiancée’ ends up stealing his job and his heart. Not exactly the change he wanted. Lies and deceit – it’s a match made in heaven!
Linda O’Connor has been writing romance novels for four years and sincerely thank Debby Gilbert at Soul Mate Publishing for the ultimate encouragement to my writing – with the leap to publishing. She has many titles including Doctor, Mom, and proud Canadian, but “Linda O’Connor – hereinafter called the Author” on the SMP contract was one of the sweetest.
Contemporary romantic comedies are her favourite novels to read and write. She balances writing with her work as a physician at an Urgent Care Clinic and being a mom to three sons (luckily grown and capable of throwing together a decent meal, in a pinch). She likes to keep active and cycles, cross-country skis, skates, walks with her husband, or dances every day.