May 10 2011 1:50pm

It’s An Honor Just To Be Nominated: Three Sci-Fi Romances Final in The 2011 RWA Golden Heart Awards

Most days, I’m happy to wear my “proud to love obscure genres” badge, but there are times when I’m itching for some of them to break out. Or at least take a baby step toward some mainstream lovin’. To that end, I’m excited about the opportunity to report on one such event.

First, some background. The goal of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest is “…to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding romance manuscripts.” The Golden Heart is the contest for aspiring authors (as opposed to the RITA, which is for published authors).

This year, three science fiction romance manuscripts finaled in the Golden Heart contest. They are:

* Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher

* The Outer Planets by Laurie A. Green

* P2PC by Laurie A. Green

In the romance community, the Golden Heart is the premier award for aspiring authors. It’s basically the equivalent of winning an Oscar/Golden Globe/Emmy. In fact, according to RWA, “The final round of the contest is judged by acquiring editors from romance publishing houses. Many Golden Heart finalists sell their manuscripts to publishers as a result of the exposure from the contest.”

Science fiction romance is pretty niche, even in the juggernaut that is the romance genre, so for it to take three of the eight slots is a significant milestone. In recent years, sci-fi romance has repeatedly faced off against this other subgenre that goes by the name of—maybe you’ve heard of it—paranormal romance. To muddy the waters further, sci-fi romance isn’t big enough to warrant its own category, so contestants must submit their sci-fi romances in the paranormal category.

Honestly, it’s like pitting Lars von Trier against James Cameron.

Therefore, recognition such as multiple science fiction romances being nominated in the Golden Heart is an important validation for me as a reader because it promises a possibility that more people will be interested in the subgenre. Hence, more stories will be released and I can read them.

Well, that’s my dream and I’m sticking to it. We skiffy rommers take our (small) victories as they come.

In light of this squee-worthy development, I seized the chance to interview authors Laurie A. Green and Sharon Lynn Fisher about their auspicious news. Ms. Green is the busy blogger behind the science fiction romance blogs Spacefreighters Lounge and SFR Brigade. Ms. Fisher is a debut author who recently sold her sci-fi romance GHOST PLANET to Tor in a 2-book deal.

I asked them to share their insights regarding their Golden Heart experiences, and now I’d like to share them with you:

Why did you decide to enter your manuscript(s) for the Golden Heart Awards? Is this your first time entering?

Laurie A. Green: For a romance writer of any ilk, theRWA® Golden Heart® is like the fairy godmother of all contests. It grants wishes andturns pumpkins into gilded coaches and opens palace doors in a way no other competition does. I entered in 2010 for the first time and came up short. So Irevised and polished and submitted two manuscripts for the 2011 GH. (Ha. Take that!) When the first call came into tell me The Outer Planets had finaled, I think my whole world reversed the spin on its axis. When the second call came in for P2PC, I was utterly stunned. I was a double finalist!

Sharon Lynn Fisher: My agent had my first novel [GHOST PLANET] out for submission, so I knew there was a possibility I would not be eligible to enter the Golden Heart in fall 2011. Also, in the event we were not able to place my first novel, I thought it made good sense to start generating some interest in the second [ECHO 8], and what better way than a Golden Heart final? This was my third time to enter. GHOST PLANET was a finalist in 2009 and 2010.

Laurie (friend, critique partner, therapist) woke me at 7 AM with news of her first final, and I was so thrilled (though not surprised). I was only about half-coherent, and could hardly make my voice work due to a cold. But I immediately hopped on the blogs that were following the action. Then Laurie texted me that both of her manuscripts had made the finalist list, and just after that my own call came. A very exciting morning!

Please describe your nominated story(ies) in one or two sentences.

Laurie: The Outer Planets is a Near Future SFR set aboard a planetary research vessel bound for Jupiter and Saturn. A female video reporter with a damning secret and a new identity encounters three of the most powerful forces in the universe—gravity, extremists...and love.

P2PC is a SFR Adventure set 1500 years in the future. A man with a price on his head seeks refuge via a female courier and her legendary cargo ship, but with his bounty soaring can he trust a beautiful smuggler with his life—and his heart—or does she have dangerous plans of her own?

Sharon (ECHO 8): The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance as three lives entangle: Jake, a man shifted to an alternate Earth, where he must drain energy from others to survive. Tess, the parapsychologist trying to save him. Ross, the FBI agent torn between duty and his love for Tess.

What’s your take on science fiction romance stories nabbing a third of the slots?

Sharon: Awesome!

So hard to read anything into contest results, but I do have a theory or two. As with anything speculative, SFR is almost always included in the paranormal category for RWA contests. While my finalist manuscript has paranormal elements, the premise is definitely sci-fi. Both of Laurie’s are strongly skiffy. It may be that folks judging paranormal haven’t seen a lot of that (yet!), so it could make these stories stand out, or feel fresh. I also wonder if it might have to do with what seems (to me) to be a deluge of SFR plots coming out of Hollywood these days.

But Laurie and I like to think they’re just damn good stories.

Laurie: When I realized SFRs held almost half of the eight available final slots, I was ecstatic. I immediately scouted the other titles hoping there might be one or two more. The Soldier by Anna Richland, possibly? Or Assassin’s Gambit by Amy Raby? No joy. But that’s okay. It’s a big step up from last year when there was just one SFR finalist (Sharon’s GHOST PLANET which will be coming from Tor in the near future). I truly believe the audience is out there, and three manuscripts getting the nod from the Golden Heart judges may be an indicator of rising interest in the subgenre.*crosses fingers and toes*

What’s expected of a Golden Heart finalist at this stage?

Laurie: I do feel as if I’ve moved to a new level in terms of my status as an aspiring author, and with that comes certain expectations and responsibilities. I have a number of deadlines and tasks I’m juggling, including providing information to RWA, revising my manuscripts, polishing pitches and query letters, keeping up with the 2011 finalists email loop, shopping for a dress for the awards ceremony, and creating a schedule for all the conference events, activities, and meetings. This is a very exciting time, but there’s also a ramp up of pressure knowing I need to be on my game.

Sharon: I think Laurie’s covered the specifics pretty well! I’ll add that you also want to write an acceptance speech. The 30 seconds you have doesn’t seem like much now, but it seems like an ETERNITY when you’re sitting in the audience waiting and wondering whether they’re going to call your name. It’s better to read something from a card (or an iPhone, as a finalist did in DC a couple years ago) than to stand there stammering in your fancy dress, staring into the bright lights. Also, not a requirement, but it’s a good idea to have a Website, Facebook author page, and Twitter account at the ready, because people are definitely going to Google you.

Will you be submitting your manuscript anywhere? If so, will being a Golden Heart finalist impact your submission strategy in any way?

Laurie: Yes. I’ll begin querying agents with P2PC, followed by The Outer Planets once the revisions are completed. I have a definite game plan and a check list of agents I want to approach. Everyone’s told me to be sure to include “Golden Heart finalist” in the subject line. Several of our fellow finalists received requests for partials or fulls within minutes of sending out their queries. Others have already landed agents since the calls went out. It’s exciting stuff!

Sharon: I have a publisher for my first Golden Heart manuscript, and am currently working on revisions. My agent and I are still deciding about strategy for submission of ECHO 8. She handles my pitches these days, but before I worked with her, my queries absolutely called out my finalist status. A Golden Heart final is no guarantee of representation or publication, but as Laurie points out, it can really get the ball rolling. It is not unusual for an agent to query a writer (instead of the other way around), and I have been approached about my manuscript at nationals.

Will you be attending the awards ceremony?

Laurie: Oh, yes! I’ll be attending the entire RWA conference leading up to the Golden Heart Awards ceremony. Wouldn’t miss it! And my husband, David, is flyingin the night before to be there with me. Originally, I planned to skip the conference this year, but after getting “the call” there are so many things I want to experience—The Golden Network Retreat, the Golden Heart Champagne Reception, the rehearsal—all surrounding the finalists, plus the workshops, agent pitch sessions, special dinners, gatherings and events. It’s nowa “must do.” And the conference hotel is right on Times Square. It should be an amazing good time.

Sharon: Yes, I’ll be there. Like Laurie, I wasn’t sure about this year. As much as I’ve enjoyed the last two conferences, with airfare, hotel, and conference fees, it really gets expensive. But in 2009, I remember Jeannie Lin (one of my finalist classmates) walking around the conference with both her Golden Heart and “first sale” ribbons on her badge. I thought, “I want to do that!” So this year that dream comes true.

Will you be blogging/tweeting about this experience, and if so, where can readers find you?

Laurie: I will be blogging, tweeting and posting on Facebook about the whole experience, but probably not as it’s happening. I’ve learned from the past two years that even with the best intentions things just get too crazy. I’m sure there will be others doing live tweets and posts though, especially on the results from the Golden Heart and RITA Awards. I’ll be blogging after the fact at Spacefreighters Lounge and on Twitter under user name SFRLaurie.

Sharon: I’m thinking I will probably tweet this year: @sharonfisher. Though probably not during the awards ceremony, as the last two years I’ve been a bundle of nerves!

Is there anything else about this experience that you’d like to share with aspiring authors?

Laurie: The Golden Heart® has completely lived up to allthe hype. It’s like no other writing competition in the world, and so are the perks! It’s allowed me to get to know a wonderful group of supportive and encouraging writers who are the GH Class of 2011, and I can’t wait to meet them all in person. I’m also thrilled as heck to be able to share this experience with Sharon, after getting a little taste of what it means to be a finalist these last two years. For anyone who is thinking of entering for 2012, I have two words: Do it! You may not final, but you only have a shot if you enter.

Sharon: I think Laurie has pretty much said it all. And it is another dream come true for me to be sharing this experience with her this year. I’m so pleased and proud about her two finals!

For authors interested in learning more about this contest, reading tips and stories from finalists, and celebrating on Golden Heart announcement day (March 25), I’ll put in a plug for the 2009 finalists’ blog: The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. It’s also a fabulous source of general writing advice and encouragement.


So there you have it. Regardless of the Golden Heart contest outcome, the achievements of Laurie A. Green and Sharon Lynn Fisher mean not only a boost for their writing careers, but also more exposure for science fiction romance. I wish both ladies the best of luck!

Do you know about any similar achievements—past or present—for other niche genres? I think it’s fascinating to learn about milestones or events that helped little-known genres reach a wider audience.

Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express and covers the subgenre for Germany’s premier romance magazine, LoveLetter.

Diane Dooley
1. Diane Dooley
Good luck to you both!
Diane Dooley
2. Sharon Lynn Fisher
Thank you, Diane! And thanks to Heather for the fun inteview!
Diane Dooley
3. Bev Pettersen
Congratulations Sharon and Laurie. Great to see that excellent writing can final, regardless of the niche/genre! Have a great time in NY.
Diane Dooley
4. Vivi Andrews
I've been a sucker for sci-fi rom ever since I picked up my first Linnea Sinclair. Here's to seeing that sub-genre grow and prosper!

Congrast, Laurie & Sharon, and good luck in NYC!
Diane Dooley
5. Louisa Cornell
HUGE CONGRATS to both of you for being nominated! It IS a BIG FAT HAIRY DEAL !! As a lifelong Trekkie I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Sci Fi and the ones that cross into romance with ease are ALWAYS the very best! I will be cheering you on in New York.

What is the hardest part of writing science fiction romance? Is there a balancing act involved in keeping the story true to the science fiction genre AND keeping the romance in there as well?
Diane Dooley
6. Gwynlyn MacKenzie
Hey you two! Lovely interview. I know I hemmed and hawed about entering a Sci-Fi because paranormal readers have been heavy into shifters, vamps, etc., but I'm so glad I did. While it didn't final (and I didn't expect it to--too front loaded), it did so much better than I anticipated. Saved its own life, so to speak.

I love SFR and am so glad it's finally garnering the attention it deserves. Congrats to both of you!
Diane Dooley
7. Laurie A. Green
Thank you, Diane. Great to see you here!

Thanks for the good wishes, Bev. As you can probably tell, we're more than pleased to be co-finalists this year.

Vivi, Linnea Sinclair is one of my favorite authors, too. Whenever I need inspiration, I start re-reading one of her novels.

And thanks again to Heather.
Diane Dooley
8. Aislinn Macnamara
Great interview. I can't wait to meet both of you in NY!
Diane Dooley
9. Laurie A. Green
Gwynlyn, hi there! Thanks so much for your good wishes and congrats to you on being a GH finalist, too. I'm always enthused to hear about other SFRs. I'll be looking for yours next year.
Diane Dooley
10. Darynda Jones
I love SF so much, and the fact that there are THREE SF finalists this year has me over the moon. I'm so excited for you both and can't wait to hang in NY. WOOT!!!
Diane Dooley
11. Sarah Baker
Congratulations to both of you! I'm proud to be in LERA with Laurie. And wonderful interview!
Diane Dooley
12. Laurie A. Green
Hi, Louisa and thanks for your comments. I'm a huge Star Trek (Star Wars, Firefly, etc. ) fan from way back too, which I'm sure is what inspired my passion to pen SFR.

And to answer your question, yes, it's sometimes a challenge having the romance and the science fiction elements blend and carry equal weight, but that's also what makes this unique hybrid genre so fun to write (and read). For me, it's a natural blend. Exploration and discovery is ultimately an emotional journey.
Diane Dooley
13. Amy Raby
Yay for sci-fi romance! One of my favorite genres. And I'm a Linnea Sinclair fan too.
Diane Dooley
14. Maria Connor
How has this changed your career path?
Diane Dooley
15. Jenn Stark
Wonderful interview, ladies! I'm excited to see SFR take center stage--it keeps the whole genre pulsing with excitement! I look forward to seeing you in NYC... And maybe at some SF/F cons as well!
Diane Dooley
16. Laurie A. Green
Hi Aislinn! Can't wait to meet you, too. And congrats back to you on your GH final. The 2011 GHers are out in force today! :)

Hi Darynda! So great to see you here. Your success story has been a huge inspiration for me, of course! :)

Hi Sarah. I'm so lucky to be a part of the dynamic group that is LERA (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors). Thanks so much for your comment.
Diane Dooley
17. Elisa Beatty
Super congrats to both of you!! How fun to final together, especially in Sharon's last year of eligibility. I hope you're riding the wave of something big!!
Diane Dooley
18. Laurie A. Green
Hi Amy. Ah, another SFR fan. Music to my ears. :) And congrats on your GH final, too.

Maria, hello. The final in the Golden Heart has had a huge impact on my career path. I had one foot in the door to self-publishing, and was within a few weeks from that end when I got the calls about my double final. SFR is still a hard sell in the traditional market (though I do think that's changing) and in the current publishing climate, I'd become discouraged. Becoming a Golden Heart finalist made me fire my reverse thrusters to once more pursue my dream of traditional publishing. I'm also very encouraged by the recognition the three SFRs final manuscripts are receiving, and, of course, the big news of Sharon's upcoming release from Tor--Ghost Planet (her previous 2X Golden Heart finalist manuscript).

Hi Jenn. Thanks for your comment. I hope to start hitting some of the SF cons in the near future. I think they offer an opportunity to reach out to a huge potential SFR audience.
Diane Dooley
19. Gabi Stevens
Great news, Ladies. I'll be cheering for you from afar.
Diane Dooley
20. Laurie A. Green
Hi Elisa. That really is the icing on the cake, to not only final but to final with my critique partner and friend, Sharon.

The inspiration and advice she's provided the last two years--as well as the occasional kick in the pants--is probably one of the biggest factors in getting me to this point. It isn't a sad thing this is her last year of eligibility, it's a sign she's moving on to greater successes.

Ironically, Sharon and I first met online when I interviewed her about her first GH final in 2009. It does feel like we've come full circle.
Diane Dooley
21. Sarah Shade
At the age of eight, I became a steadfast fan of science fiction. That has never changed. Although I adore the fantastic worlds and the imaginative science contained within a Sci-Fi story, it is always the romance, even if it just a bare hint of romance, that truly sparks my interest. Imagine my thrill when I discovered SFR! I am overjoyed that SFR is finally being acknowledged as a genre thanks to these two incredibly talented ladies. Congratulations and bless you!
Diane Dooley
22. Laurie A. Green
Hi Gabi. Thanks for the cheers, and for stopping by. :)

Hello, Sarah, fellow SFR Brigader, and thank you. I felt the same way you did when I realized there really was such a thing as SFR. I still love hearing the comments of new readers who are just discovering the subgenre exists for the first time.
Diane Dooley
23. Pauline B Jones
I'll be rooting for you from long way away, but seriously rooting for you both! So excited for you both and for the genre! Wootness!
Diane Dooley
24. Sharon Lynn Fisher
I step away from the computer for a few hours to shop for groceries, make dinner, and get my preschooler off to bed, and look at all the SFR love! Thanks to everyone for dropping by and reading. Love seeing all the Ruby sisters, Yet-To-Be-Named Class of 2011 sisters, SFR Brigade cohorts, and SF fans!

LOUISA - that is a great question. I have to say this is not something I think about much as I'm writing (and I'm not necessarily suggesting anyone follow my example!). I write the kind of story I like to read - with the mix of sci-fi/fantasy and romance that I prefer - and hope and pray my passion for my stories will make them interesting to others as well.
Diane Dooley
25. Barbara Elsborg
Congrats again to the pair of you!! Of course having already read both Laurie's stories, I know how good they are. Fingers crossed that deals fly both your ways!
Diane Dooley
26. Vanessa Barneveld
Hi, Heather, Sharon and Laurie!

Sharon and Laurie, congrats to both of you. What an exciting time! Sharon (my dear agent and Ruby/Unsinkable sister), I'm thrilled your writing dreams and wishes have come to fruition. And your success in sci-fi romance really gives my hope for a little sci-fi YA I completed recently. Thanks for paving the way!

Great interview!
Diane Dooley
27. Laurie A. Green
Hi, Pauline. Thanks for your support and kudos. Coming from one of my favorite SFR authors and a fellow Brigader, that means a lot. :)

Hello Barbara, fabulous critique partner (and author extraordinaire). Thanks for all your support and inspiration over the years...and for your dedication in suffering through some of those early drafts. :]

Vanessa, I always love hearing there are more SFRs in the works. Wishing you all the best with your manuscript and career. Sure hope I'll have the pleasure of reading it someday soon.
Diane Dooley
28. Robin Perini
Hi gals--

I'm a huge sci-fi fan, so I love the fact you've finalled...it also really shows that paranormal romance has room to expand its boundaries yet again. The books just sound fab, too! Love your take on how sci-fi and romance go together and work off of each other. Great insight on the balance in the books! I can't wait to ready Sharon's...and can't wait to see yours in print, Laurie.
Diane Dooley
29. Jenna McCormick
Terrific interview and I'm thrilled for both of you and for SFR in general!
Diane Dooley
30. Shea Berkley
This is so exciting. So many people don't get how big of a deal having three SF GH finalists is, but it's huge! I'm so happy for the both of you. I can't wait to see your book out, Sharon, and I'm gonna hunt you down for an autographed copy! And Laurie, it's only a matter of time before your stories find a home. Pitting the two of you against each other is cruel for people like me. One of you is a chapter mate and the other a GH buddy. Eeeak! I want you both to win!
Diane Dooley
31. Donna Frelick
Just want to drop in and say congrats for the great interview, you two (and Heather!). I'm looking forward to basking in the reflected glow with you in New York--you both deserve every minute of the excitement. This is SFR's year, thanks to you!
Diane Dooley
32. Sharon Lynn Fisher
Hi Barbara! Thanks so much!

Vanessa, I cannot wait for those space-traveling cheerleaders!
Diane Dooley
33. Sharon Lynn Fisher
Thanks so much, Robin! Who knew there were so many SF fans among Golden Heart finalists? Will be meeting you in NY I hope?

Jenna! Congrats to YOU on your recent SFR sale to Kensington!

Aw, thanks, Shea. Wouldn't that be awesome? :)

Donna - So looking forward to another Nationals with the 3 SFR Musketeers. Now, where's the bar....?
Diane Dooley
34. Laurie A. Green
Robin, Jenna, Shea and Donna, thanks so much for your comments.

Robin, I didn't know you were a SFR fan. :)

Jenna, I'll add my congrats to Sharon's. It was exciting to see your big sale.

Shea, I think Sharon and I are so invested in each other's work that if either of us win, the other will be a winner at heart.

Donna, looking forward to catching up in NY. I think you have advance scout duties again this year.
Diane Dooley
35. Anna Steffl
I was thrilled to see three SFRs show up in the paranornmal category! I judged that category but didn't have the pleasure of reading any of the SFR finalists. Well, they ALL just better get published so I'm not denied. I like SF, but I love SFR.

It was a brave move entering in the paranormal category. It really is dominated by time travel/vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter stories. I write fantasy/romance and went the romantic elements route instead and finaled there--go figure! I'm looking forward to meeting everyone in NY!
Diane Dooley
36. Sharon Lynn Fisher
Thanks so much, Anna, and congrats on your final!
Diane Dooley
37. Laurie A. Green
Congrats, Anna! I considered Romantic Elements too, but decided on Paranormal.

Are you an 11 finalist...and have you found the loop?

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