~ Interview By Mary E. Thompson
Contemporary Romance Writers brought the Stiletto Contest back in 2017! We had a great response and fabulous authors who entered to help make the Stiletto one of the most sought-after contests again.
Today, we’re talking to Win Day, author of On A Whim, the 2017 Stiletto winner for Best First Book and Contemporary Romance – Short. Are you going to follow in her shoes this year?
What drove you to enter the Stiletto Contest in 2017?
On a Whim was my first published novel, although not my first completed manuscript. I wrote it as part of a group project: eleven authors in my local chapter wrote twelve stand-alone books connected through common settings, characters, and a shared timeline. I’d gotten feedback from beta readers, some involved in the project and some not, before publishing.
But they all knew me personally. When you know someone, when you’re friends, you can never be sure if their response is only to your writing or is tempered by the relationship.
I wanted objective feedback, from people who didn’t know me personally. So I entered three contests in 2017: the Stiletto, the RITAs, and another chapter contest. The book was already out, so I wasn’t going to change it, but I wanted to know what other people thought of it.
When you found out you were a finalist in the contest, how did you celebrate?
You mean after I picked myself up off the floor?
Seriously, I never expected to final. I knew I would be up against some amazing writers — I had read some fantastic entries in the other categories. Some of the books I judged were so good I went and bought backlists and series and single books from a few authors. To be in that company felt amazing! And humbling.
The first thing I did was tell my writing/accountability partner. Then my husband. (Probably should have done those two in reverse order, but she was around and he wasn’t, and I needed to tell somebody RIGHT NOW!) Then my local chapter and the rest of the authors in the group project. And then pretty much everyone I knew. (Isn’t social media wonderful?)
Not only did you win for your novel, On A Whim, in the Contemporary – Short category, but you won Best First Book in the 2017 Stiletto Contest! Congratulations! How did it feel to go up on that stage and collect your prizes and know you had a winning story?
Again, amazing and humbling. No one was more surprised than I was. It’s so gratifying to hear that someone likes what you write. To learn that enough people liked it and scored it high enough to win? In either category, let alone both? Priceless.
I self-publish, and probably always will. Since I don’t submit to agents or editors, winning contests or getting reviews is really the only way I can see if others value what I write. And yes, I did get a bump in sales after finaling and again after winning. Contests work!
How has winning the Stiletto changed your writing life?
It’s given me more confidence, certainly.
When I was writing On a Whim I caught myself making a rookie mistake and not trusting my own writing and my own judgment and my own voice for a while. I listened to some of my beta readers and made some changes I shouldn’t have. Before I handed it off to the editor I hired, though, I took a long hard look at my draft, reverted most of those suggested changes back to the way I had originally written it, and sent that version off to be edited. I’m much happier with the resulting book, and apparently so were the judges!
Publishing also pushed me from PRO into Provisional PAN status. Making that leap puts me into conversation with authors who are way ahead of me in terms of career stage, and from whom I have been learning so much!
Winning the Stiletto gave me a boost in both visibility and credibility. I so appreciate the opportunity, and I’m grateful to the contest organizers, the judges, and the Contemporary chapter. Winning a contest judged by your peers is tremendously gratifying.
What’s coming next for you?
Since publishing On a Whim, I polished and published my second novel (but first manuscript), Treasure in the Library. It’s another single title contemporary romance. Now I’m writing my third contemporary, one that I haven’t decided will be a single title or the lead-in to a series. There’s never a shortage of ideas!
The 2018 Stiletto Contest is open now! Enter your book today!
Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She reenergizes every year with a trip to Nationals, and every month at her local chapter meeting. When Mary isn’t writing, she cheers on her daughter at gymnastics and her son at every other sport. Mary is lucky to have her own romance novel worthy husband to tag-team if things get too crazy. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more.