Why did you decide to enter your manuscript in the GH Contest? To be honest, when I first entered the contest, I was fairly new to RWA, so I knew very little about the Golden Heart and Ritas. I had only heard that they were nice additions to a literary resume. Ah, what little concept I had! In fact, I had no intention of attending the conference or awards ceremony until fellow author and (at the time) new acquaintance Stephanie Rowe contacted me with a sweetly insistent message to the effect of: "This is the Oscars of books. You, Ms. McMorris, are going to go." Thankfully, I took her advice, and the experience was everything she had promised it would be.
Where were you and what were you doing when you got the GH call? For Letters from Home, I had just finished a fun outing at the park with my husband and our two young sons. The phone rang as I was entering the house, so I answered it in a rush. When the woman told me I was a finalist, I was delighted, but had to take a moment to even recall which contest I had entered. In contrast, when the day arrived for the 2008 GH calls to go out, I was no longer blissfully unaware -- so I'd marked the calendar with plans to be near the home phone, just in case. Fortunately, the call came early in the morning, saving me from pacing throughout the day!
How has being a GH Finalist/Winner affected you as a writer?No question, it gave me a nice advantage when querying agents; from then on, myquery letters always opened with a mention of my GH nominations. Being a finalist also gave me a wonderful boost in confidence about pursuing a writing career and, most importantly -- in regard to Letters from Home -- thata WWII love story had a chance of finding a receptive audience. Before then, I had heard repeatedly that WWII women's fiction, much less a novel about letters, would "never sell." I remember questioning if I should even bother entering the GH, given that my story's era didn't fall into any category; "Historicals" were stated as before WWI, and "Contemporaries" were to begin after WWII. My story seemed to fall into No Man's Land, but I took a chance and entered anyway. The following year, the GH categories were actually altered, and my book soon went on to become my debut novel with both Kensington Books and HarperCollins UK.