I would walk 500 miles; Lenora flew 7,000 miles for the Golden Heart
The RWA Golden Heart contest is the award that all new authors covet and daydream about winning when they should actually be writing. Some of us might have even bought a dress that they would wear for the day they win the award (It’s a gold floor length gown and it will go fabulous with my Golden Heart). Our own Mary Oldham was nominated in 2012 and Asa Maria Bradley was a finalist this year for her novel, Valhalla’s King. But my friend, Lenora Bell, traveled all the way from Bolivia to accept her 2014 Golden Heart award. To join in her celebration, let me share her story.
Lenora Bell writes fun, sensual Regency-set romance novels that feature strong, sexy heroes who can only be reformed by the most extraordinary heroines. Past careers include sultry lounge singer, vintage store owner, and, far less romantically, salmon cannery grunt. Lenora has lived and worked on five continents and currently shares a home in Bolivia with her carpenter husband, cranky twenty-one-year-old cat, and precarious piles of books.
What story did you submit to the Golden Heart?
My Regency-set historical romance manuscript CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY. It’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Bachelor. It’s part of a three book series and the next two books are inspired by Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.
When did you complete this story and has it been submitted/won any other contests?
I thought of the title for CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY before I started writing. It just popped into my head one day in a used bookstore that had no romance section (I know, WTF!). I was thumbing through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I thought, hmm…this is kind of like a romance novel plot–a rich, successful, powerful guy who needs an heir to his empire.
I started the book then set it aside to write a different project. I came back to it a few months before the Golden Heart entries were due, polished the first fifty pages, and whipped the rest into a semblance of order. I’ve never entered it in any other contests, and this was the first time I entered the Golden Heart.
What were you doing when you found out that you were a finalist?
I don’t think anyone ever forgets exactly what they were doing when they received the Golden Heart call. I live overseas in Bolivia, so I knew the stateside phone number I submitted wouldn’t work. I kept obsessively refreshing my email to see if there was anything from RWA. I was also lurking on the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood site because they were blogging about the Golden Heart finalists all day. I heart the Rubies!
When I received the email from RWA asking for an alternate phone number because they couldn’t get in touch with me, my pulse started racing. I’m pretty sure at some point my boss asked me to track down a document and all I did was grunt. Nothing, and no one, was going to separate me from my landline phone. Because it was going to ring. Any moment.
It rang. The RWA angels sang. And life hasn’t been the same since.
How far did you travel from to attend the ceremony? Why was it important to you to attend in person?
I actually traveled all the way from Bolivia to attend the RWA Conference. But I was lucky because one of my best friends planned her wedding in Alaska the week before the conference. So I could justify the writing conference because of the wedding. Romance all around!
I really wanted to be there in person because I had a Golden Heart nominated manuscript to pitch, and I wanted to catch up with all of my amazing writer friends. I met Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan back in 2006 during the Avon Fan Lit contest, and we became friends and critique partners. They are my inspiration!
How are the Golden Heart finalists treated at the RWA Conference?
Being a Golden Heart finalist has lots of perks, including a pretty golden heart pin and silk ribbon to place on your conference badge, the chance to attend The Golden Network’s retreat the day before the conference starts (totally worth it!), and VIP seating for the awards ceremony. You also have the exciting opportunity to mingle with all the fantastic RITA finalists. There’s one more huge perk and that’s the built in community you find with the other finalists. This year’s group, The Dream Weavers, is full of such talent and passion.
Tell us about the Awards Ceremony?
The Awards Ceremony is very glamorous. I really felt like I should have found a dress with more sequins because everyone was so sparkly. YA author Simone Elkeles was the emcee and she did a fabulous job making us all laugh, cry, and sing along to Journey.
They announce the winners of the Golden Heart first, and then the RITAs. When my photo showed up on screen, I sat there, stunned, for fully five seconds. I never lost that dazed, is-this-really-happening-to-me expression the entire night. I just couldn’t believe it.
In my acceptance speech I gave Eloisa James a shout-out for being my gateway drug into mainstream romance. After my speech, she came up and had her photo taken with me and said it was a thrill for her. For her? Oh my sweet lord. That entire evening was the craziest, most exciting joy ride of my life.
What is it about the Golden Heart that is so special?
RWA’s Golden Heart contest is an unparalleled opportunity for unpublished romance writers. There are no guarantees of success in this business, but having that Golden Heart final at the beginning of your pitch ensures that your submission will at least float to the top of the slush heap. And winning the contest is a big part of the reason I found my amazing agent, Alexandra Machinist with ICM Partners.
Wait, what? I have an agent? I still can’t believe that this is my life right now. Thank you, RWA!
What are your plans for the future?
Finish revisions on CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY, send to my agent, and cross my fingers, eyes, toes that an editor falls in love with Liam and Charlene’s story!
Thank you for allowing me to share Lenora’s story with you. Do you feel like you know her well enough to play Two truths and a lie? Take a guess and the answer will be revealed tomorrow.
- Lenora got married in Bangkok.
- Lenora has never read Fifty Shades of Gray.
- Ethan Hawke came backstage to say hi to Lenora after she was the lead in her high school musical.