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Until she was around 30, romance author HelenKay Dimon's idea of a good read was a mystery by Jonathan Kellerman or Michael Connelly, or perhaps a true-crime tome. Then a colleague handed the harried divorce attorney three romance novels.
"She said, 'What you need is not dead bodies; you need a happy ending,'" says the now full-time writer, who recently relocated with her husband from the Washington, D.C., area to San Diego. "I did a lot of custody work, and it's one of those things that sucks the life out of you." She still recalls the titles her co-worker gave her -- The Bride by Julie Garwood, Perfect Partners by Jayne Ann Krentz and Daniel's Bride by Linda Lael Miller -- and after three years of reading those and many other romances, she decided to give writing one a shot.
Her experience helping people end their marriages actually came in handy. "It gives you a very good insight into people, why they act the way they do and all of the background things that affect them," she says.
At first, Dimon, who was still lawyering in those days, wrote only sporadically, when she had a moment. Then she realized that if she was serious about getting published, she'd have to devote all her free time to writing. From then it didn't take her very long to get a deal for her first steamy romance, thanks in part to fellow author Lori Foster's Brava novella contest. "I finaled the last two times she held it," says Dimon, who got a rapport going with Kensington editor Kate Duffy as a result. "She said, 'I'm gonna be your editor one day, so do not give up.' And it's hard to give up when somebody tells you that."
Dimon had the good fortune to make her debut two years ago in the When Good Things Happen to Bad Boys anthology, alongside two bestselling authors, Foster and Erin McCarthy. Since then she's released an anthology all her own, Viva Las Bad Boys, and two novels, last year's Your Mouth Drives Me Crazy and this month's Right Here, Right Now, all for Kensington's Brava imprint. And 2008 is shaping up to be a banner year, with another three tales: the novels Hard as Nails (July) and Hot as Hell (November) and a story in the October anthology Can You Hand Me the Tape?
In Right Here, Right Now, everybody is pretending to be something other than what they are, a la the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Reed Larkin dumps Gabby Pearson to protect her from his dangerous life, unaware that she's working for the same top-secret organization. "It's a natural thing that when you're dating, sometimes you act in a way you wouldn't normally act," Dimon says. "This is the extreme version of that."
On the subject of being oneself, Dimon's unusual first name is in fact the one her parents gave her. "One grandmother's name was Helen, the other's was Kathleen, so my parents decided to combine the two," she explains. "People always struggled with it, but then I went to law school in North Carolina and everybody got 'HelenKay' because in the South it's not a big deal to have double names."
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