Tell Us Your Backstory with Lisa Chaplin/Melissa James
I’ve always been a weirdo. I never fit in to one group at school. I was chosen last for sports teams and dance partners. I even had a club of people that hated me – for about a week.
As an adult, I’ve embraced the weirdness. When told I’m weird, I ask, what is normal? (FYI, most people answer, “Well…um…me.” :)) Not fitting in has worked for me, especially as a writer. I never wrote books ‘everyone else’ wrote. When I began category romance (thanks to an agent who loved my writing, but told me to write some romance novels, because it’s the best editing discipline in the world), I couldn’t do billionaire Italians or Greeks with unexpected pregnancies, forced mistresses or fake fiancées, as well loved as those stories are. (The royalty and sheikh books I did were editor-led, and if you read them, you’ll see they’re, um, different.) Basically, if I can’t feel it, I can’t write it.
My first book (I still have the original version, and nobody’s ever going to see it) had an Aboriginal hero. My second had a heroine with a double-eating disorder. Later versions of both went on to sell to Silhouette New York, after the Aboriginal hero story won an international writing contest (Her Galahad, 2002, and Can You Forget?, 2004.) As Melissa James, I’ve sold 21 books to Harlequin in four genres: romantic suspense, comedy, family stories, my latest, a rural romantic suspense/women’s fiction (Beneath The Skin, MIRA Books, 2017). I also have a mainstream historical fiction under my name (The Tide Watchers, Lisa Chaplin, William Morrow/ HarperCollins, 2015). I’ve had two Romantic Times top Picks, and my books are still selling around the world, 6 years after I quit category romance. I’m currently writing a novel about the real-life Scarlet Pimpernel, and my agent is shopping The Memory of Cardamom, my ancient historical literary fiction.
I believe my success in varying genres is because I have embraced my inner weirdo. Though contest judges, editors, agents and well-meaning friends have told me certain books would never sell, they did. I was told I’d never get a US agent, but I’ve had 3, including my current agent. As a contest judge and workshop presenter, I encourage individuality in writing, and stories that aren’t from the common herd, though beautiful writing always wins for me, no matter what the plot.
Throughout my career, I keep being told, “That won’t sell.” Beneath The Skin (my latest release) is another example. With an Aboriginal heroine and a burned-out cop foster-cousin, and a stalker with multiple-personality disorder with his POV chapters throughout the book, they said it was too controversial (from writer friends to a NY editor). But that’s who I am: controversial. People either love or hate my books, because I write what I’m passionate about, and I don’t let others’ opinions stop me (though I always take good writing advice – I’m not that stubborn).
People who love you want you to be safe. But if well-meaning folk stop you being who you are, your writing won’t feel true and strong. So embrace who you are, be it “normal” (let me know what that is, if you’re it!) or weirdo. Own it as a writer, and watch your stories bloom to life.
Beneath The Skin
I’m coming for you. This time, it’s forever…’
Flying Doctor Elly Lavender has spent years on the run from a violent stalker. Her obsessive former patient will do anything and threaten anyone in his campaign to force her to love him. When her most recent cover is blown, she runs for help to the childhood friend she could never get out of her mind — outback cop Adam Jepson.
Isolated, hurting, all Adam wants is to forget. After the deaths of his wife and son three years before, he’s moved to the outback with his young daughter, Zoe, to put the past behind him for good. But when Elly walks into his station, she reminds him of all the childhood joy and love he’d forgotten. Soon, he’s lost in a desire he never knew could exist. And while his guilt at leaving Elly behind years ago and the vow he made to his dying wife means he can never be the man she needs, he can’t stop caring, can’t stop trying to make Elly’s life right. Though the whole town seems against them, he can’t stop wanting the forbidden.
But when anonymous harassment escalates to murder, Elly knows her presence in Macks Lake has put Adam and Zoe’s lives at risk. Everyone’s safer if she remains alone — a fact that her stalker is very much counting on as he gets ever closer to his prey…
The Tide Watchers
In the tradition of Jennifer Robson, comes this compelling debut that weaves the fascinating story of a young woman who must risk her life as a spy to help stop Napoleon’s invasion of Great Britain in the winter of 1803.
Though the daughter of an English baronet, Lisbeth has defied convention by eloping to France with her new husband. But when he breaks her heart by abandoning her, she has nowhere to turn and must work in a local tavern. Her only hope for the future is to be reunited with her young son who is being raised by her mother-in law.
A seasoned spy known by his operatives as Tidewatcher, Duncan apprenticed under Lisbeth’s father and pledged to watch over his mentor’s only daughter while he searches the Channel region for evidence that Bonaparte has built a fleet to invade Britain. But unpredictable Lisbeth challenges his lifelong habit of distance.
Eccentric, brilliant American inventor Robert Fulton is working on David Bushnell’s “turtle”—the first fully submersible ship—when he creates brand-new torpedo technology, which he plans to sell to the French Navy. But when his relationship with Bonaparte sours, he accepts Tidewatcher’s help to relocate to the French side of the Channel, but he refuses to share his invention. With an entire army encamped in the region, blocking off all access, Tidewatcher must get that submersible, along with someone who knows how to use it, to uncover Bonaparte’s great secret.
When Lisbeth is asked to pose as a housekeeper and charm Fulton so she can learn to use the submersible before the invasion fleet sails, she will be forced to sacrifice herself for her country—but is she willing to sacrifice her heart when she’s already lost it to another…?
A fast-paced, deeply-researched, and richly imagined novel, The Tide Watchers explores a long-hidden, chapter of Bonaparte’s history.