Monday, March 9, 2020

Once Upon a Time in San Rimini

(AKA: The Story Behind the Royal Scandals: San Rimini Series)

Once upon a time, I worked as a freelance writer for several magazines. In my off hours, I wrote two romantic suspense novels and submitted them to publishers. The feedback was positive overall and the commentary from publishers boiled down to, “we like your writing, you create believable characters, and the emotions feel real, but…” There was the same “but” each time. The publishers enjoyed the romance, but weren’t completely sold on the suspense elements in those two manuscripts.

I decided to scrap those two stories and go back to the drawing board. I wanted to write a larger than life story that played to my strengths. I was toying with ideas one morning in front of the television when a royal wedding aired. I kept flipping between wedding coverage and a story about families fleeing a war zone. The contrast between the grandeur of the wedding and the desperation of the refugees made me wonder what would happen if a member of the royal family fell for a relief worker.

Could two people from such different backgrounds make a relationship work? How would they navigate living a private versus a public life? What could they learn from each other? What would their friends and families think?

(And isn’t it interesting to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle negotiate those same issues today?)

From that idea, Going to the Castle was born, as was the fictional country of San Rimini. I’d traveled along the French Riviera and through Italy and knew I could create a fascinating, realistic kingdom in that part of the world, one with a rich history.

The manuscript was named a Golden Heart award finalist by the Romance Writers of America. I was offered a contract on its first submission and it soon became my first published novel. To quote Monty Python, there was much rejoicing. Three more San Rimini books followed: The Prince’s Tutor, The Knight’s Kiss, and Falling for Prince Federico. I was thrilled when The Knight’s Kiss won a number of awards, including the coveted RITA for best short contemporary romance. (It’s never a bad day when you get to share a stage with Nora Roberts, Kristin Hannah, and Lisa Kleypas.)

I had plans for one more San Rimini book, To Kiss a King, but within days of being offered a contract, my publisher was sold to another company. The usual corporate upheaval ensued, and I decided to table the project for a time when I knew it would not become a victim of departmental realignments.

When I began writing the Royal Scandals series, set in fictional Sarcaccia, I had the San Rimini stories firmly in mind. The two kingdoms exist in the same world, and I knew that—due to the aforementioned publisher upheaval—the San Rimini books would soon revert to my control. So as I wrote about Sarcaccia, I dropped in little bits about San Rimini. I also started plotting a book that would bring the two kingdoms together: Fit for a Queen.

When the San Rimini books officially became mine again, I dove into writing Fit for a Queen. (Note: As I was writing, my DC/Marvel fan husband kept referring to the manuscript as The Big Crossover Event in a voice suited for a TV ad. I kept reminding him that my story stands on its own and that few comic-inspired crossovers do. Many crossover discussions ensued.)

Then, rather than simply republish the four original San Rimini books, I gave each story a full rewrite and expanded them. I knew that for most Royal Scandals readers, these would be completely new stories. I wanted the reading experience to feel seamless. I was also able to put the series in audio for the first time. Hollis McCarthy, who narrates the original Royal Scandals series, also narrates Royal Scandals: San Rimini. Her performance blows me away every time I listen.

After that, I finally had the opportunity to dig into the story I’d been compelled to set aside, To Kiss a King. There’s something special about writing a story that isn’t often told. To Kiss a King features the push/pull of public versus private lives and the struggle of weighing duty against desire, which factors in many of my stories. However, it also follows a later in life romance with a special set of challenges. Can a man known worldwide as a romantic icon truly fall in love with someone else? Would a woman at the pinnacle of her career risk it all for that relationship?

Going back to San Rimini has been a joy for me. I love the diTalora family and their world. I hope you do, too.

San Rimini - Original Series

San Rimini - New Series

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