I got an email from a reader this morning, mentioning that she’d seen my name in a Mills and Boon 100th Anniversary collection. I wrote back immediately telling her that she probably already has this story — which is a Christmas novella called The Virtuous Widow. That’s the 100th Anniversary cover on the right.
This edition doesn’t look either Christmasy or historical, and at the time it came out I got a few complaints from readers who, going by the cover, hadn’t expected a Regency-era story.
Once I have contracted a book to a publisher, I have no control over what they do with it. That said, it was a huge honor that my novella had been chosen for the 100th anniversary collection, and despite the modern-looking cover, I was thrilled to be included.
The Virtuous Widow was originally contracted to be part of a Christmas collection with US authors Miranda Jarret and Lyn Stone. It was an honor to be asked, as they were well established authors and I was a relative newbie. In fact such a newbie was I that it was my first ever novella, and I didn’t have a clue how long a novella should be.
It was my first-ever Christmas story, and to prepare myself for writing it, I read several other Christmas stories, and discovered that I loved them. I submitted mine at something like 46,000 words, and my editor wrote back, saying it should be a maximum of 30,ooo. So I had a quite a bit of cutting to do. However cutting always improves a book, I think, even though it’s quite a painful process.
I try not to lose anything important, so it’s a matter of pruning out unnecessary bits and writing tighter, punchier sentences.
I didn’t read the other stories in the book until it was published and a few copies arrived in the post, so there was no attempt to link the stories, apart from them all being Christmas stories.
Then Mills and Boon (which is Harlequin UK) decided to release my story in a collection with two different authors — Gayle Wilson (from the USA) and UK author Nicola Cornick. They called it Regency Brides, and that’s the cover on the right.
I didn’t know Gayle — we’ve since become FaceBook friends — but I knew Nicola, and after I’d read the collection (again when my author copies arrived in the post) we joked that it could easily be called “Battered Bridegrooms” as each of the heroes in the collection had some kind of injury.
If you have the choice between any of these editions, my favorite collection is the Regency Brides one. The paperback is still around in used bookstores and amazon US is selling it here, but it’s pricey.
Since I discovered that I really enjoyed reading (and writing) Christmas novellas, I’ve written several. Two were in collections with the Word Wenches — Mischief and Mistletoe, and The Last Chance Christmas Ball.
They were a bit tough to write as because there were so many of us, the stories had to be even shorter than 30,000 words. More like half that. So as usual, I wrote the story I wanted to write, and then worked hard to cut it back to the required word length.
The Last Chance Christmas Ball was also a linked series of stories — all based around Lady Holly’s annual Christmas Ball, reputed to be the occasion where people will meet their life partners. That was fun, but again I had to cut for word length. It’s the story of my life, really. <g>
And then I wrote and published my own Christmas story, The Christmas Bride. I enjoyed writing it and I plan to write and self-publish more in the future. Do you like Christmas stories?
WOW that was so interesting but then so is everything Anne Gracie writes…and I appreciate her keeping us informed
Thanks so much.
I have learned of several “must read” authors by reading anthologies, whether Christmas based or otherwise. Now I’ve discovered you, you may write as many words as you like. I’ll read them.
Thank you, Marianne. I’ll try to keep the stories coming.
I always love reading your Christmas stories, Anne! And you know you’re an auto buy for me, no matter what you’re in ;)
Sorry I’m late here. Jimmy had his right knee replaced Monday so I’m late on everything…
Thanks, Theo. I hope Jimmy is improving and starting to get around better. A friend of mine had that operation a while ago and she’s great now.
Also, I tried to edit my comment to say I still can’t subscribe and it said my email address is invalid. I give up :(
I’m so sorry for the trouble you’ve had with this, Theo. I wish I was more techie-inclined, but all I can do is refer the problem to others and hope it gets fixed. :(
I live Christmas stories and I particularly love The Virtuous Widow. It’s one of my all time favorites. I did m’t know it had also been released in a collection with Nicola and Gayle Wilson. I’ve always enjoyed Gayle’s Harlequin regencies. BTW-is The Virtuous Widow available in a format? And of course – congrats on being part of the Mills & Boon. 100th anniversary celebration.
Thank you, Binnie Syril. The collection with Nicola Cornick and Gayle Wilson was a UK release, I believe, and though I already knew Nicola, it was the first story by Gayle I’d read. I loved it and went on to buy every other one of hers I found.
I’m not sure what you mean by “is The Virtuous Widow available in a format?” but it’s in e-book form as well as paperback.
Any news on when clarissa’s story will be published?
Yes, Loanne, I heard from my agent that it would be January 2024. I know that’s a long time to wait. Apparently traditional publishers have been having a lot of issues with scheduling printers and order fulfillment, etc.; all of which require more lead time in the production process
In the meantime I hope to self-publish a novella. Stay tuned.
I linked here from your newsletter and wanted to comment about the pretty cover for the Italian–The Spring Bride. I literally just finished listening to it as an audio book. I’m making my way through the collection again. What a great series, each book connected and yet totally different. I love short novella collections where authors write around a theme. I’m always impressed by a very tightly written short story or novella, and I’ve read from a handful of authors how difficult it is. I can only imagine. That chopping editing thing has got to be painful. And I get… Read more »
Thanks for that very thoughtful comment, Michelle. You are so right in realizing that it’s quite difficult to write a short story or novella and restricting the word count when you are used to writing much longer books. But it’s a great learning experience. As for enjoying shorter stories, a lot of people prefer them. A friend of mine gave a collection of short stories with one of mine in it to a grieving friend. The friend later told her it was perfect, that she couldn’t read longer stories at the moment, but that these, which were, I think, around… Read more »