RACHAEL Stewart recalls her introduction to the world of Mills & Boon.

“When I hit 13 I went to my grandparents house, there were bookshelves full of books and in the room where I stayed there was Enid Blyton and a tall rack of Mills & Boon.

“I used to read them and fell in love with romance,” recalls Rachael.

Her love of romantic fiction combined with her passion for writing is now proving a productive as a profession.

“I used to spend my summers when I was a little girl lying in the driveway handwriting stories and drawing pictures on them,” recalls Rachael.

Inspiration came from many different sources: “Anything would inspire me.”

Years later it was her memories of Mills & Boon that left the lasting impression and prompted Rachael’s ambition to become a writer.

“I always thought it was a pipe dream to get published but it was like winning the lottery last year when I signed with Mills & Boon,” says Rachael.

For the 39-year-old from Guiseley, the path to publication wasn’t easy. Many writers can empathise with the disappointment of rejection.

Rachael recalls parking her ambition after her first stab at writing - for Mills & Boon’s Historical line historical line. Her submission resulted in ‘a lengthy rejection letter.’

“I dismissed it as confirmation that I couldn’t write for toffee and parked the idea, it was a pipedream,” she recalls.

“It wasn’t until later that I realised the encouraging words in that letter meant something and that I should have ploughed on.”

The erotic trilogy ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ inspired Rachael to try self-publishing: “It was following the fifty shades phenomenon that I thought I’d give self-publishing a go and released a novella early 2015 which reached the Amazon.co.uk top 10 list in its category. This encouraged me to give it another whirl and fast forward to 2017. I had two books on submission, one with Mills & Boon (M&B) for the Modern series line, and one with a Canadian publisher, Deep Desires Press (DDP).

Rachael was asked to come up with three plot ideas for Mills & Boon’s Dare series which launched in January. “I was signed on three chapters of my new book and that became ‘Mr One-Night Stand’ out next year,” she says, referring to the March launch.

‘’Mr Temptation,’ also for Mills & Boon’s Dare series, launches in June.

Deep Desires Press also approached Rachael and signed ‘Unshackled’ - an extended version of her 2015 self-published novella - which following its release in May hit the Amazon UK lesbian erotica charts in its first week. They also signed Rachael’s book ‘The Good Sister’ she describes as a ‘hot heterosexual romance’ which came out in August.

Securing the contract from Mills & Boon in October 2017 enabled the former business analyst to become a full-time writer.

“It’s like winning the lottery - that unbelievable, that lucky and that life changing,” says Rachael.

“It was the confirmation I needed that I could indeed write and could justify putting the hours into doing so. At this point, making a living through my writing is a long way off and I am lucky to have a very supportive husband who makes it possible for me to be able to do it fulltime while raising our three children, Josh (14), Isobel (nine) and William (eight).”

As well as giving Rachael the flexibility to fit around her family, writing has also given her the opportunity to support a charitable cause.

During October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Mills & Boon is partnering with Asda to raise funds for the Tickled Pink breast cancer campaign.

Mills & Boon are donating 10 per cent of the sales of nine Mills & Boon titles available at Asda from October 4 to two leading breast cancer charities: Breast Cancer Now and Breast Cancer Care.

Rachael is delighted to be involved in supporting the cause having lost two family members to cancer.

“It is such an evil disease - everyone knows someone who has been affected by it,” says Rachael, who has previously participated in Cancer Research’s Race for Life.

Rachael’s advice to those who fancy writing a book is to do your research and NEVER give up: “Rejection is part of the process and inevitable in a field as subjective as writing. So, get a tough skin and keep those words flowing.”

Visit rachaelstewartauthor.com.