San Antonio romance author Teri Wilson can thank the classics for at least some of her success.
Three years ago, her book Unleashing Mr. Darcy, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in the world of dog shows, was turned into a Hallmark Channel movie that pulled a head-turning 3 million viewers. Its sequel, Marrying Mr. Darcy, aired last weekend with enough media buzz to suggest it’s also a hit.
And her latest book, The Ballerina’s Secret
, started out as a loose retelling of the classic fairy tale “The Red Shoes.” It’s one of six novels Wilson has coming out this year through romance giant Harlequin and Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books imprint.
“Those classic story lines are classics for a reason: people really like them,” said Wilson, 51, an Alamo Heights resident whose success now allows her to write full-time. “But at the same time, people are looking for a new reading experience, so you have to keep that in mind, too.”
Wilson’s The Art of Us
, which Hallmark adapted into a film in between the original Mr. Darcy and its sequel, is a take on My Fair Lady
, for example. But, this time, the roles are reversed. Romance buds when a female art professor helps a rough-around-the-edges former soldier pass himself off as Vincent van Gogh’s lost relative.
While Wilson has published more than two dozen romances over the past 10 years, she stumbled into the genre unwittingly. It wasn’t until she got a call from an editor after placing in a short story contest that she realized what she’d been writing.
“She asked if I realized I’d written a romance,” Wilson said. “At that point, it hadn’t really occurred to me.”
Wilson didn’t write the screenplays to the Mr. Darcy films, but she’s been involved in enough of the productions to visit the set, make cameos and meet the stars, including Ryan Paevey, best known for his role as Nathan West on ABC’s General Hospital
. Wilson also wanted to ensure the dogs in the movie were Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the same breed as her own, who she said helped inspire the book.
“I want to be involved, because I have an emotional connection to the characters, especially the dog — because it’s my dog!” she said.
Agent Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein discovered Wilson after reading one of her small-press novels. The characters were compelling enough to prompt her to reach out and ask Wilson — who’d recently been laid off from a job as a design assistant — if she had aspirations to sell to bigger markets.
“Writing is a craft, and each book Teri writes gets stronger and stronger,” Winick Rubinstein said. “She has that ‘it.’ It’s hard to put it into words because it’s not just one thing. It’s her writing, it’s her characters, but it’s also her love for the craft, her love for the industry and her love for her readers.”
Although Wilson’s mining of classic tropes has led to some of her biggest successes, real life experience has also handed her winning ideas. She’s penned five romances set in Alaska that stemmed from her experiences volunteering for the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race.
And when she recently helped judge the Miss United States pageant, she met a contestant whose twin sister had come along for support. That scenario instantly became the jumping-off point for her new novel The Accidental Beauty Queen
, due out in December from Gallery.
Although that novel has romantic elements, its first-person point of view and nuanced exploration of sibling relationships has the potential to bring it into the wider women’s fiction market.
But regardless of whether the novel brings wider mainstream appeal, Wilson’s still got plenty to keep her romance fans happy.
Among the books slated for this year is a Mr. Darcy sequel, Merry Christmas, Mr. Darcy
, coming out with Tule Publishing, and a fourth Hallmark movie based on Wilson’s work is in development. Sleigh Bell Sweethearts tells the story of a woman who inherits an Alaskan reindeer farm and finds love along the way.
“I keep saying ‘No, I’m not doing six books next year,’ but we’ll see,” she said. “Four sounds much more reasonable, but there are all these projects I want to do.”
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.