2020 Romance Includes You Mentorship Winner
Debut romance author Sera Taíno is the first recipient for Harlequin’s Romance Includes You Mentorship, an initiative launched in 2019 to reach out to writers in underrepresented communities and bring more diverse and own voices stories to romance readers. Selected from among 11 finalists and over 160 submissions, Sera’s Harlequin debut, Incomparable, will be published in Harlequin Special Edition in 2021.
Incomparable is an urban contemporary romance set in New Jersey that follows a young woman from a Puerto Rican family who thinks she’s met Mr. Right, only to find out his family’s real estate business has plans that could change her beloved community forever.
We asked Sera about her dreams of being a published romance writer and what it was like getting the call from Harlequin.
Harlequin: What inspired you to apply for the Romance Includes You Mentorship?
Sera Taíno: As an educator, I have seen the value of the mentoring model for creating opportunities and entry points for students. The publishing industry appears inscrutable to those on the outside. More than publishing a book, I could not pass up the chance to try for an opportunity to participate in a structured mentorship program that would allow me to demystify a process I very much want to be a part of.
Harlequin: When did you first know you wanted to become a romance novelist?
ST: I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I can’t remember when I made the conscious decision to write. I’ve always written in one form or another. However, it was only about five years ago that I began to take concrete steps towards becoming a published writer.
Harlequin: How did it feel to get the call from Harlequin’s editor?
ST: I couldn’t believe it and I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement. I had to keep the news to myself because the official announcement hadn’t been made yet so I immediately called my aunt, who is only a few years older than my mother would have been. (Editor’s note: Sera’s mother passed away when she was 14.) My aunt immediately texted me a picture of one of the Harlequins she’d just received in the mail. We were both blown away at the idea that one day, she’d be receiving one of my books in the mail, too.
Harlequin: What do you want to bring to the romance genre for readers?
ST: There are so many amazing writers who are already doing the work of bringing their stories to a wide audience, many of whom I admire and look up to. The experiences of any group are not, by any means, monolithic. I just want the opportunity to bring my flavor of experience to a conversation that is already taking place, one that asserts that everyone deserves a happily ever after, no matter who they are, where they come from, or with whom they are falling in love.
Harlequin: What do you hope to gain from the mentorship?
ST: I’m in student mode! I want to learn all I can about the publishing process and create connections with other professionals. Maybe one day, I’ll have the knowledge base to pay it forward and offer guidance to someone else who is where I am now.
Sera learned to love romance novels from her mother who read them to improve her English. It wasn’t long until she was writing her own stories, with characters like the people she grew up with in places she’s called home. Sera currently lives in central Florida where she teaches high school and runs a creative writing club. When she’s not writing or teaching, she can be found traveling, or wrangling her family. Visit her website at serataino.com.
Interested in becoming a Harlequin author?
Harlequin is always on the lookout for new talent and is currently acquiring for all Harlequin Series romance lines. We welcome all authors and are committed to publishing diverse and inclusive stories. For more on how you can submit your love story to Harlequin, read How to Submit and visit Harlequin.Submittable.com.