Sunday, September 19, 2010
Awardwinner Jeannie Lin and "Butterfly Swords" Coming to 2011 Conference
I’m a former high school teacher and now a technical consultant. Romance writing is something I started while teaching science to find some balance and do something for myself.
I’m a self-proclaimed science nerd and I spend entirely too much time in front of the computer. I don’t read as much as I’d like, but I’m a fan of romance, women’s fiction, and big, meaty epic novels like Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. My “dream” job would be to travel the world and write, but I’d have to talk my husband into it first. He’s a homebody, but he’s also my broodingly handsome, alpha male hero and he’s been so supportive of this whole journey.
How did your writing career progress?
For the first two years, I was part of a very close knit critique group. Step by step, I learned how to write and put a book together. I queried agents with my first book and quickly realized it was not ready for prime time. I kicked it under my desk and started another.
The second book was Butterfly Swords, written in the same world as the first. I had a feeling it was a stronger book and more accessible than the first, so I started querying agents with it.
At first I only got form rejections, so I started entering it in writing contests to try to get some feedback. The two processes fed on each other for me. I’d query, get some requests, some rejections. Then I’d enter contests to figure out if my revisions were working. Then back to another round of queries. As I started making it to the finals in writing contests, I started getting more requests.
The final breakthrough happened when I was nominated for an RWA Golden Heart® award. From that, agents started noticing and reading and one of them, Gail Fortune, offered representation. Then a judge from the Golden Heart contest requested the full manuscript and offered a contract. Three days later I was awarded the 2009 Golden Heart for historical romance—it all seems very fast, but in truth the process took four years from when I started that first manuscript.
By then, I had completed three manuscripts set in Tang Dynasty China. Butterfly Swords was the second manuscript, but will be released as my debut book.
How did you choose an agent?
I researched through blogs and Querytracker.net. I highly suggest any writer on the query hunt go there. There’s a great supportive community and it’s a very user friendly portal for researching and tracking your progress.
I chose Gail because she was so excited about the book. She compared it to James Clavell’s Shogun, which happened to be a huge inspiration for me. I felt a connection with her immediately and her excitement was and is still infectious.
Why did you choose the Tang Dynasty?
The Tang Dynasty is often called the Golden Age of China. It has it all: wealth, sensuality, drama. However, I was most attracted to the Tang Dynasty from watching movies about Empress Wu and her daughter, Princess Taiping. These were powerful and independent women. I wanted to create characters that were just as intelligent and fiery.
How did you do your research?
I researched through the library and bought up as many Tang Dynasty books from Amazon as I could afford. Then on top of that, I researched on the internet, lurking on the Chinese History forum, and other historical sites. I also started collecting other reference materials: books on Chinese locations, folklore, weapons, horses. I also studied the ancient world in general, making cross references between the West and East. I always found it fascinating that the “Dark Ages” of Europe, corresponded to the Golden Age of China.
Swordfighting women do not seem like they would fit in a romance novel. What made you decide to incorporate this element?
This comes from a lifelong love of fantasy adventure stories and martial arts stories. I think the prototype of the sword woman is such a strong figure and seemed more believable given the Chinese setting. Princess Pingyang was a remarkable woman who led her father’s armies to help found the Tang Dynasty. The ballad of Mulan tells the legend of another woman who posed as a man to take her father’s place in battle.
And something about swords and the honor culture behind them seemed to fit the romance genre so perfectly.
Define "warrior women."
I think a warrior woman is someone who finds a special strength within herself. She walks in the world of men, but retains a unique femininity. Strength wears itself differently on a woman than a man.
As a writer, do you consider yourself a warrior woman?
I can’t take on that moniker as I feel I’ve done nothing to earn it.
I consider myself the living legacy of several warrior women: my grandmothers and my mother. I channel my strength from their experiences. The women of my family survived war and were uprooted from their homeland. Yet they were able to take it all in with sense of reflection, but not tragedy.
My sister and I talk of writing a historical fiction work inspired by our family stories. We have yet to write a single word, because we’re still afraid. Maybe one day, after I’ve completed more stories, I won’t be so afraid anymore.
Jeannie Lin writes historical romantic adventures set in Tang Dynasty China. Her short story, The Taming of Mei Lin from Harlequin Historical Undone is now available. Her Golden Heart award-winning novel, Butterfly Swords, will be released October 1 from Harlequin Historical and received 4-stars from Romantic Times Reviews—“The action never stops, the love story is strong and the historical backdrop is fascinating.”
You can join the launch celebration at http://www.butterfly-swords.com/ for giveaways and special features. Visit Jeannie online at: http://www.jeannielin.com/