The journey that brought A Tailor-Made Bride to publication is an unusual one, for it started with a different manuscript altogether. In 2007, I took my first completed novel to the ACFW conference. I arrived a day early and worked at the volunteer station stuffing envelopes. A woman worked beside me who shared my first name. Hmm…that's fun, I thought. However, as time ticked on, I picked up clues to her identity from others in the room. This was Karen Schurrer, an editor from Bethany House, my dream publisher.
I never worked so hard to act normal in my life! I resisted throwing my pitch at her, but two days later, I sat at her lunch table, and after everyone explained their projects, one brave writer asked if we could send her our proposals. She said yes.
After the conference, I immediately sent in my proposal and soon had a request for a full manuscript. Surely a contract was right around the corner, right? Wrong. The acquisitions editor, Charlene Patterson, rejected my manuscript. She considered the plot too unoriginal for launching a new author. Nevertheless, she complimented my writing and said there was one component to the story that she did like—the dress shop. Could I come up with a new idea surrounding a dress shop?
Now you have to understand, in the original book, the dress shop burned to the ground in the prologue. It didn't even make it into chapter one. Yet Charlene wanted me to create an entirely new book from scratch based on this shop idea. Could I do that?
By this time, I was halfway into a second book that was supposed to be a sequel to the one that had just been rejected. I'm the kind of person that can't stand to leave a job undone, and this second story could stand alone from the other. The only tie in was that the heroine had been a secondary character in the first book. So, I dug up my courage and wrote back to Charlene. I told her that I would absolutely work on some ideas for a dress shop book, but I was in the middle of another story that she might find interesting. I included a brief synopsis of the story and explained that I would like to finish it first before starting on another project.
She was very encouraging and said the book had possibilities and invited me to submit it when I had it finished. In the meantime, I worked up some ideas for the dress shop book and sent those in as well. She gave me some feedback, told me what she liked and what she would recommend that I change, and we left it at that.
Six months later, I finished that second book. The 2008 ACFW conference was only a few weeks away. Doubting Charlene would remember me, I held my breath and sent her a short note saying that I had finished the manuscript, reminding her that she had invited me to submit it, and offering to send sample chapters. To my shock, she not only remembered me but told me to send her the full manuscript. She also asked about the dress shop book and made arrangements to meet with me at the upcoming conference to discuss both projects.
Charlene shared the manuscript with Karen, my first editor contact, and both of them not only read it before conference, but sent me comments. They each met with me in person and confided that they were interested but were waiting to see what I did with the all-important dress shop book. At conference time, I had a synopsis and one whole chapter to show them. One chapter that I ended up completely scrapping after I visited with them. Despite that, Charlene told me that I didn't have to finish the entire story before I submitted to her again. Just get about 7 chapters in, she said, and send it in.
So I did. I wrote those seven chapters and e-mailed them to her. By January 2009, Bethany House offered me a three book deal launching with A Tailor-Made Bride, the dress shop book. Oh, and that second book that had been completed earlier? That one is coming out in October as Head in the Clouds.
As for developing the story for A Tailor-Made Bride, I knew my heroine would be a seamstress since my key prop was a dress shop. So next I had to think up potential conflicts. What if the hero had plans for purchasing that particular storefront, but the owner gave it to an outsider who knew nothing about their community? What if he hated dressmakers? But why would he hate dressmakers? What if something in his past led him to consider women who valued fine clothing as self-centered and vain? What if he had a sister, and this sister wanted to attract a beau and sought out the dressmaker's help?
The ideas started rolling. As for the theme of the book, the question that got me started was: What happens when believers disagree about what the Christian life should look like? I wanted to demonstrate that even small differences of opinion based on personal interpretations of Scripture and life experiences can cause tears in the fabric of unity that Christ desires for his followers. Since my heroine was a dressmaker, I selected inner vs. outer beauty as the point of conflict. And you might be surprised at where my two strong-willed characters end up meeting on the issue.
It usually takes me about a year to move from concept to completed book, including the time spent in research. However, with A Tailor-Made Bride, the publisher had an opening three months earlier than expected. I had to increase my pace, but I managed to get it finished in about 7½ months. Since turning in that manuscript, it took nearly another full year before the book made it into print. It's been a bumpy ride, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.
Karen holds a master's degree in Psychology from Abilene Christian University and is a member of ACFW, RWA, and her local writers' guild. She's an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. Karen makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.
When a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity, the sparks begin to fly!
Jericho "J.T." Tucker wants nothing to do with the new dressmaker in Coventry, Texas. He's all too familiar with her kind—shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothes, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.
Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner, while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?
When Hannah decides to help Jericho's sister catch a beau--leading to consequences neither could have foreseen--will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?