Speed Date Winner Leigh Evans Finds a Home for Hedi at St. Martin's Press
During the recent RT BookLovers Convention in Los Angeles, I just so happened to be staying in the hotel room next door to one of our newest clients and first-ever speed date winner Leigh Evans. One night coming back from a party in the Hollywood Hills, I discovered that I’d lost my cell phone. As anyone knows, a missing phone leaves you feeling like it’s the end of the world, but I swallowed the panic and pretended it was no big deal. Long story short, after my fellow party goers, including Leigh, had done all they could and adjourned to their rooms, I crawled around the dangling legs of RT attendees stationed at the bar in one last desperate attempt and found it lodged between two seats. But here’s the part that really warmed my heart. When I rounded the hallway to my room, there was Leigh leaning up against her door jamb—with a knowing smile and arms crossed—waiting to make sure I was truly all right.
That gives you an idea of what kind of spirit Leigh is, both thoughtful and wise. Besides those attributes, she’s also pretty freaking funny – the kind of person who sends you an email that makes you laugh out loud in the middle of a pin-drop quiet office. It’s no wonder that our president and senior agent Deidre Knight felt so fortunate to find her during our speed dating event last December. The once-aspiring author, who’s also a member of RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter and the Toronto Romance Writers group, beat out hundreds of would-be entrants in an early morning blog traffic jam to be one of 175 competitors in the “She’s Just That Into You” speed date contest. It only took a few lines from her HEDI’S BOOK OF RULES manuscript to reel Deidre in for the long haul. “From day one, I knew Leigh's work was something special,” Deidre says, “Her prologue brought tears to my eyes in just those few opening pages. Each round, I kept advancing her, knowing I couldn't wait to settle in and read a big chunk.”
Deidre was certain she’d stumbled upon what literary agent dreams are made of – that elusive talent whose voice strikes the perfect note at just the right time. So, suffice to say, when Deidre finally shopped Leigh’s urban fantasy series last week, it was no shock to her that several houses expressed intense interest. “You don't find an author like that very often,” Deidre says, “[and] I wasn't surprised when editors loved her as much as I did.” In a pre-empt, Holly Blanck at St. Martin’s cemented the six-figure deal that would make Leigh’s dreams of being a published author reality. “I began reading Leigh’s manuscript on the train home one night, and read it straight through,” Holly remembers, “I took my reader on the treadmill at the gym, completely abandoned cooking dinner, and refused to shut off the bedroom light until about 4am, despite disgruntled protests from the boyfriend. As soon as I finished reading, I knew I was in love with this project, and that I wanted nothing more than to work with this fabulous author on this amazing series.”
Asked what her immediate feeling was after finding out that the deal with St. Martin’s was done, Leigh says that besides being utterly relieved after a day of constant emails and phone calls she thought to herself, “How’d this happen to me? ME?” On her blog, she elaborates about the experience with her standard wit, “My life had changed dramatically in the space of one afternoon, and ‘I’ had been the one to turn it around... Who knew? Oprah was right. You can change your life if you follow your passion.”
Well, we here at TKA are glad Leigh listened to Oprah, and can’t wait to see all of the extraordinary things that are surely coming her way. As for what she’s doing to celebrate her big accomplishment, Leigh says, “Normally, I'd pull the cork out of a bottle of merlot with my teeth, but I'm on a diet from hell, so I settled with beaming and allowing myself to be hugged repeatedly. Though, there is a very pretty and shiny bracelet that I've had my eye on...”