The weather isn’t the only thing that’s heating up this summer. Gainesville’s very own Rebecca Heflin is here to tell us about her new romance novel “Rescuing Lacey,” her lawyer-by-day,writer-by-night experiences, and the inspiring moments that brought it all together.
Tell me about your first novel, “The Promise of Change.”
“The Promise of Change” is set primarily in England and tells the story about Sarah Edwards, a thirty-something divorcee going through a mid-life crisis of sorts. A two-week trip to England seems the perfect pick-me-up for this Anglophile and Austenite.
Enter Alex Fraser, a.k.a. the Earl of Rutherford, who, although a member of the lucky sperm club, prefers to be known for what he’s accomplished rather than a fate of birth. He’s always preferred casual flings with beautiful women who have no illusions of marriage. That is until he literally bumps into Sarah in an Oxford pub.
Despite an idyllic week together, Sarah gets cold feet and returns to the States, determined to come back down to reality. A year later, the realization of Sarah’s life-long dream unexpectedly brings Alex back into her life, in what she believes is an ironic twist of fate.
What inspired you to write it?
I was going through my own mid-life crisis and determined that what I really needed was a creative outlet. The outlet was writing. About the same time, I took a trip to Oxford, England, for a week-long adult learning course at Christ Church College, Oxford University. That experience provided inspiration for Sarah’s story.
Why should people read “Rescuing Lacey” aside from other romance novels?
Most romance novels I read are set in Small Town, U.S.A. – not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love small town settings, but if you like exotic locations, “Rescuing Lacey” is the book for you. Set in the steamy rainforests of Costa Rica, the climate isn’t the only thing that’s hot.
What did you learn after writing “The Promise of Change” that made “Rescuing Lacey” even better?
I learned a great deal between writing my debut novel and writing my second novel. First, I learned more about pacing. “Rescuing Lacey” is faster paced than “Promise,” with quick scenes and more dialogue, giving it a more adventurous feel. I also learned how to move more quickly from an idea to the actual writing, which saves time and effort in the long run.
What is your inspiration for your characters? Do you model your characters after people you know in real life?
Inspiration for my characters comes from many places. Most people who know me will say that Sarah’s story is somewhat autobiographical (except for the divorcee part – I’m happily married). Obviously, I felt comfortable with Sarah since she’s so much like me, and I had an easier time writing her. Lacey, on the other hand, is not modeled after anyone. Her rough-and-tumble personality is the complete opposite of me, which made her a blast to write.
With romance you’re guaranteed a happy ending, and who doesn’t love that?
I’ve heard writers sometimes have difficulty letting their works go or knowing when they are“finished.” Was it difficult to let your first novel go?
I think the hardest thing I’d done in many years was letting someone read my manuscript. It’s like standing naked on a street corner – all your flaws, your self-consciousness and your fears are open for criticism. Once I got past it with the first novel, it has become much easier with subsequent works.
Tell me about the publishing process. Did you go through an agent? Was it difficult?
Publishing is not easy these days. There’s a lot of competition, especially in the romance genre. I sent out query letters to every agent and publisher that was accepting submissions in my genre. The first rejection was like a knife to the heart, but after you get a few under your belt, you build thicker skin. I received some requests for partial manuscripts, a couple for full manuscripts, but then nothing, until September 21, 2011 when Soul Mate Publishing let me know they wanted “The Promise of Change.” Aside from the day I’d learned I’d passed the Florida Bar, I can’t remember a day when I felt like I could fly.
Overall, is the experience of writing and being published what you expected?
Yes and no. The knowledge that you’re a published writer is still exciting. But really, once you’re published, the hard work begins. Marketing via my website, my blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, guest blogging, book signings, etc., takes a lot of time and energy. It’s not like the days of traditional publishing, where you handed off your manuscript and the publisher took it from there. Authors today are expected to be visible and accessible. While it’s hard work, it’s also very gratifying to get an email, tweet or Facebook post from a reader who really enjoyed my books.
What’s the best thing about writing in Gainesville?
Hmm. Writing is such a portable task. It can almost be done wherever I have a laptop or a pen and notebook. But Gainesville does offer lots of nice places to write, from beautiful parks, Lake Alice on the UF Campus, the campus libraries, and cafes and coffee houses.
What is something you really enjoy about Gainesville?
I think more than anything, it’s the sense of community I find here in Gainesville. I grew up in Jacksonville and lived there most of my adult life, but Gainesville is home. I have terrific friends, neighbors and co-workers. Everyone here has embraced our foundation and its mission, and supported my writing. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Any advice for those looking for publication?
Write, write, write. After that, read, read, read. The more you write, the more you polish your writing. Read books in the genre you’re pursuing. Read books about writing. Take workshops. Join local writing groups in your community, and join the national organization for your chosen genre. Once you have something polished to a brilliant shine, submit it to writing contests and apply the feedback you receive to make your manuscript shine even more. Then suck it up and send it to agents and editors who are looking for new material. You never know till you try.
Where can we find your books?
My books are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s websites in both e-book and paperback.