The Story Behind the Story

Today I welcome Cheryl Bolen, author of It Had To Be You, a sweeping love story set against the backdrop of a world going to war.

Here's Cheryl!

Joan has asked me to blog about the story of how my World War II love story, It Had to be You, came to be offered as an ebook.

I started writing the book in the 1980s and became so passionate about it that I spent about three years doing research. Since this was before the internet, the research involved two trips to Los Angeles (the city where I grew up) and searching microfilm of the city's newspapers from the 1930s and 1940s.

The story is set mostly in Los Angeles, beginning in 1937 when a girl from Texas arrives there with a burning ambition to be news reporter. She lands a job on Hearst's Los Angeles Examiner (which is the newspaper shown on the book's cover). She also falls hopelessly in love with Johnny Honda, the powerful owner of the city's most popular nightclub. That Johnny is Japanese-American propels the story.

That's enough about that story because I'm sure you readers are intelligent enough to know what kind of hardships await my characters.

This guest blog post is about what happened to my story, originally titled Nisei. [Editor's Note: nisei is a Japanese language term used in countries in North America, South America and Australia to mean the children born to Japanese people in the new country.]

Now, this wasn't the first novel I'd written. Armed with degrees in English and journalism, I'd completed my first novel at age 25. I continued writing romantic suspense novels that never got published.

By the time I was writing It Had to Be You (Book 5), I had finally wised up enough to network. I began joining writers' organizations and entering contests. My World War II love story started kicking butt in contests. "This is The One," I thought.

But as I began to meet industry professionals, I learned that World War II fiction – as opposed to non-fiction – does not sell well; therefore, publishers will not invest in these books. Not just one editor or one agent told me this. They all told me this.

In one contest in which it placed, the senior editor of Harlequin Historical told the contest coordinator she liked my writing and that if I wrote something that took place before 1900, she would like to see it.

I wrote a Regency-set historical, A Duke Deceived, because I loved reading them. I sent it to her, and five months later, she bought it, paying me a $5,000 advance. That was in 1997. I had been a novelist for a quarter of century before earning a dime. I have since published about a dozen books.

In 2000, a small epublisher in the fledgling days of ebooks published my World War II romance. Even with generous royalties, I made less than $30 on the book.

The current ereader explosion has changed the face of the publishing industry. Since I had the rights back on many of my earlier now out-of-print books, at the end of May I started offering them as ebooks.

In June – at the urging of Joan and others – I decided to bring out It Had to Be You. It was so much fun designing a cover to fit the book, and I think my husband and I were able to capture the essence of the book in our cover.

I'm glad that people are reading about Dianne and Johnny's plight. I'm glad my book will be available in cyberspace after I'm gone from this earth – unlike my print books which got one quick shelf placement before vanishing into oblivion.

Now that I'm wearing a publisher's hat, though, I realize the wisdom of all those industry professionals who told me the World War II genre was not marketable. I now have six Regency historical books available as ebooks, and they sell substantially better than It Had to be You because they already have a built-in niche. Even my poorest selling Regency significantly outsells the World War II book.

But it's It Had to Be You which netted me a recent email which said, "This is the best book ever." Readers really DO like something different.

Takeaway Truth

For all of you who proclaim that you want a different kind of romance, here it is! Let's show Cheryl the power of the ebook reading audience. Buy It Had To Be You today.


  1. Cheryl, I've known about the book for so many years, including the long ago stab at epubbing, that I was delighted to finally be able read it. There are some books we need to write, whether big publishers want them or not. I've rarely read a book that held such a great sense of time and place as It Had To Be You does.
    BTW, I have all of Cheryl's paper books, and now I'm reading her second indy book, My Lord Wicked.

  2. Kay Hudson ... Oh, my! I'm behind on the news. I didn't know Cheryl had a new indie ebook out. I must check out the book page now. Thanks for the heads up, Kay.

    Best wishes,

  3. First, Joan, thank you so much for asking me to blog. It was such a pleasure.

    Second, I have actually three more indie books out, as of today, ALL August releases, all making the Hot New Releases (Regency) list at Amazon, and all priced at 99 cents. MY LORD WICKED has zoomed to the Top 20. LADY SOPHIA'S RESCUE is a novella in the traditional Regency mode -- no sex -- but plenty of sexual tension. Another traditional Regency released today is titled THE EARL'S BARGAIN.

    And I've got tons more, but I suppose I need to start working on the contracted book for Love Inspired.

  4. Cheryl, I'm so glad you decided to Indie pub It Had to Be You. Like Kay said, some books just have to be written. Best of luck with the publishing endeavors. Of course, I'll be interested to read the Love Inspired when that one comes out, too. :-)

  5. I'm delighted to see Cheryl's books and have purchased IT HAD TO BE YOU but haven't had the chance to read it. Cheryl recently put her backlist out in eBooks and I have been pleasantly reading through them. I am sure this new one will be just as great as her previously released titles and look forward to reading it.

  6. Jan, Jo Anne, Kay and Joan: Thank you all so much for your support. I really appreciate it.