A Little Backstory
I published my first book with Harlequin in 2003. Over the next two decades I published 75 more books with 4 traditional publishers and 1 small press. I learned so much, had some incredible editors and connected with readers that became part of the fabric of my life.
In 2017, I got the rights back on a few out-of-print books from Kensington and Berkley and I rereleased them under Lucy Monroe LLC to keep them available to readers. In 2019 I indie published my first new releases, two books from series my publishers had lost interest in: Hot Alaska Nights & Viking’s Moon.
Then, in 2020 I added a book that I took back from Harlequin when they wanted me to tear it back to the very basic story idea, creating new main characters and rewriting the entire thing. In 2022 I made the decision to take the books I was still writing for Harlequin and go indie with them, releasing several more new titles over 2022 and 2023 (bringing my indie book total up to 15).
During the 20 years I wrote for Harlequin, Kensington, Berkley and Grand Central, the landscape of traditional publishing has changed. A lot. Marketing drives editorial guidelines for many of the major publishers now. Authors that made a decent income are earning a fraction of what they once did on their books. Many have been dropped by their publishers entirely. The midlist has all but disappeared, leaving a gaping chasm between top sellers and the other authors writing for the same publishing houses.
A lot of people assume that my break up book is Cinderella’s Jilted Billionaire, the book over which I bought back my contract from Harlequin. But when I decided to take my alpha hero billionaire romance indie in 2022, I still intended to maintain a hybrid career. While indie publishing my paranormal and short contemporary romance, I expected to eventually write single title for a traditional publisher.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue writing steamy romance or move to mystery/suspense. Or maybe write both? But I was confident I wanted to keep part of my career with a New York publisher. So, I wrote what I believed would be my breakout book: Masquerade in Egypt. The culmination of years of research and a story I was passionate about telling, I thought Masquerade in Egypt had the legs to launch a new facet of my career.
My agent and former publishers did not agree. I was told that a book set in 1920s Egypt was too hard a sell in today’s publishing climate. It didn’t fit with the other books they were currently publishing. The story didn’t niche into a single category well enough. Action adventure, suspense, steamy romance, women’s fiction…I needed to pick a lane and stick to it. Decide what I wanted the book to be. Only, I knew what I wanted the book to be. All of those things.
Traditional publishing is risk averse and no matter how much I loved it, this book did not make them want to overcome that aversion.
This left me with a dilemma. Did I focus on writing a more marketable book and continue to pursue a contract with a traditional publisher, or write the books burning inside me to be written? If I chose the latter, what were those books? I mean, writing Masquerade in Egypt was amazing and every moment I spent with the characters and their story delighted me, but there weren’t any other 1920s steamy adventure romance stories tingling at the tips of my fingertips.
However, I did have a suspense book that was clanging around the creative space in my brain. Shoving aside any worry about careers, or where I was going from there, I wrote that book next. And loved doing so. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I thought, this…this is what I’m meant to be writing now. I had a second book in the series already planned and developed a cozy mystery series besides. But something held me back from leaping in with both feet. Fear or rejection? Maybe.
But am I glad I waited to start submitting that book to agents? Yes!
That was a year ago. While taking some time off from writing to refresh, I decided to fill my creative well with lots of reading and on Jan 3 of this year, I read my first mafia romance by an author I didn’t know. Run, Posy, Run by Cate C. Wells (who has since become a dear friend). I’d started last December with her MC and small town contemporary romance books (on the recommendation of another friend, Amanda Cinelli). But Run, Posy, Run was the book I wanted to write and had never dared to.
Until this point, I thought how much I loved Aleksandr Voinov’s mafia romance, Burn this City, was a fluke because I adore his writing. It wasn’t. I love, love, love mafia romance. I discovered amazing authors like Neva Altaj, Cora Reilly, A. Zaverelli, J.T. Geissinger and Michelle Heard, to name a few.
I glommed hundreds of mafia romance books and suddenly the floodgates holding back story ideas burst inside my brain overwhelming my every waking thought and my dreams with story. Scene after scene from stories I wanted to tell played through my head. In a fervor of inspiration, I had to carry a journal around with me every minute so I could write down the ideas as they came to me.
By the end of February, I had eight unique book ideas (that number has now grown to more than a dozen) for my own mafia romances. I started writing soon after and nine months later, I have published the first 4 books in my Syndicate Rules series and I’m working on Book 5, Brutal Capo (which will be out in Mar 2024). Reader response has been amazing and affirming, showing me that following my muse was the right choice. For me.
I suppose that in a way, Masquerade in Egypt did turn out to be my break out book. Writing it gave me the courage and the impetus to break out and try something entirely new. More than one something. That suspense I wrote last year? It’s going to become the first in a dark romance duet where the serial killer turns out to be the love interest.
I didn’t just break up with traditional publishing this year, I broke up with the me afraid to tell stories outside my wheelhouse. Will I write another 1920s book? Maybe. Will I ever write those cozy mysteries? Probably. Someday. One thing I know for sure, I will continue to write the stories I want to read and be grateful for every reader who wants to read them too.