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On Submission with Vinspire Publishing's Editor-in-Chief Dawn Carrington







istorical fiction is more important than ever. It reflects on the mistakes and triumphs of those who have shaped the world we live in, allowing us to draw parallels from our past to our present. It doesn’t just share the events; it makes us feel them through the hearts and minds of characters, which creates a higher level of understanding. Through writing, we can explore real-life heroes and heroines we admire, perhaps ones that many readers don’t know about, and shine a light on their accomplishments. These stories offer an escape from a world overrun with technology, pulling us back to slower, and perhaps, more romantic times. I know many writers in the WOW! community love historical fiction and historical romance, so we are pleased to highlight Vinspire Publishing, a family-friendly press that publishes both!

I chatted with editor-in-chief Dawn Rachel Carrington about what Vinspire Publishing is looking for, its current calls for submissions, some tips for writing historical fiction, and more. Dawn is a published author of over fifty titles, ranging from romantic suspense to historical romance. She’s an award-winning freelance editor/writer residing in historic Charleston, South Carolina, who has written over 1500 non-fiction articles, short stories, and essays for a variety of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times and The Writer. She spent twenty-five years working as a paralegal prior to becoming a full-time writer. And because she enjoys helping other writers, Dawn teaches classes on writing, editing, and book promotion. In her spare time, it’s no surprise Dawn loves reading historical fiction. She also creates book videos and is an avid shopper, a huge Star Trek fan, a traveler, and an antique store addict.

Vinspire Publishing

WOW: Welcome Dawn! We’re thrilled to highlight Vinspire Publishing, a family-friendly publisher of historical fiction, historical romance, and more. Let’s go back in time, so to speak; what was the inspiration behind Vinspire Publishing, and how did it start?

Dawn: Vinspire Publishing actually began as Vintage Romance Publishing in 2004. My partners and I wanted to focus on historical romances set during the 1920s-1960s, as we’d all been fascinated by those time periods. Who doesn’t love An Affair to Remember or Sabrina? Those love stories teetered on the edge of perfection.

WOW: Since 2004! So, it looks like you’re celebrating your twenty-year anniversary this year—congratulations! How did the company’s publishing focus grow over the years?

Dawn: After about five years, we decided to open up to earlier historical romances. Then, slowly, we decided that we were missing out on some great stories if we kept the reins in so tight. So we opened to mysteries, young adult, and inspirational fiction. We’ve continued to open our doors to other genres and look forward to other great stories!

WOW: How wonderful you’re open to so many genres now, and I know you have a current call for historical fiction. Many writers in the WOW community write historical fiction, which I admire because it’s not easy. Not only do you have to create authentic characters that reflect the time period and craft captivating plotlines, but you also have to do in-depth research to get all the little details right. As an editor, I can imagine it’s just as hard and requires extensive fact checking. What are the top five elements writers need to pay attention to when writing historical fiction?

Dawn: Great question!

It does take a lot of work to make sure historical fiction tells a story without sounding like a history book. That’s why it’s so important that the history be interwoven within the stories, which is essentially world-building. If you can take the history out and still have a story, it’s not historical enough for us. We want to be immersed in the characters but also where the characters are and how they live.

Of course, the plot is a necessary component. Writers need to ask themselves if what they’re writing could really happen in the time period in which they’re writing it. Amanda Skenandore, author of Between Earth and Sky and The Second Life of Mirelle West, is my personal go-to writer of historical fiction. For first-time historical fiction writers, I would encourage them to read her books as a go-by.

Then, there are the characters. If a character is based off of a real-life person, then the author needs to do even more research to ensure that character doesn’t do something they wouldn’t have done in real life. That could include something as simple as smoking a cigar when the real-life person never smoked. Those are small details, but they are so important, especially to lovers of historical fiction who already know many of those details.

Dialogue is another challenge for writers of historical fiction. Making sure that what a character is saying is something that they would have said during that time period. I’ve written 1920s, 1930s, and 1950s romance, and it involved a lot of research, especially when it came to the slang terms and/or the etymology of certain words—so words that weren’t in use at the time don’t get used in the fiction. Eytmonline is a great research tool for that!

And finally, though it might not seem like a big thing, the attire of the characters is an important element for us. The writer needs to know if a crinoline or a bustle would be more appropriate for their character to wear. Did the women wear their hair up or down? Short or long? And did men wear long pants or short? But there is so much more depth to go into when it comes to the attire. Readers will point out inaccuracies, so writers really need to be on their toes!

Dawn Carrington

“If you can take the history out and still have a story, it’s not historical enough for us. We want to be immersed in the characters but also where the characters are and how they live.”

WOW: Those are fantastic tips, Dawn, and so helpful! I saw Vinspire had a couple of open submission calls, including one for historical fiction novels and another for romances with mature characters over the age of 45, which is great! Please tell us more about those calls or what type of manuscripts Vinspire Publishing is currently seeking. How should writers submit to you, and are unagented manuscripts welcome?

Dawn: We are open to unagented manuscripts right now. Submissions for our mature romance line will always be open for unagented manuscripts, and we prefer to keep these contemporary, but we would not be opposed to a historical romance with older characters.

Recently, we opened to historical fiction novels with or without romantic elements, but we’re leaning more toward without. We’d love to see some titles that immerse us into little known points of history or the history of certain occupations.

To submit, authors should view our guidelines at and make sure to read our family-friendly statement as it details what we do not allow in our books.

WOW: With unagented submissions open, I can imagine it’s quite competitive. On average, how many queries/submissions do you receive a year, and what is your acceptance rate?

Dawn: When we are open to unagented submissions, we generally receive an average of fifty submissions a month. That’s not unusual for us, as we’re rarely open to submissions without an agent, so writers don’t know they can submit to us on their own.

We’re a smaller publisher, and we don’t publish dozens of titles a month, so we have to be very selective with our acceptances. We don’t want to contract a title without being able to publish it within a year or a year and a half. So, usually, we accept 1-2 percent of submissions.

That said, if someone is submitting the first book in a series, we generally like to contract for the entire series.

WOW: That’s all good info, thank you! Aside from genre, are there any storylines, plot structures, or craft elements you are looking for, and what type of voice typically resonates?

Dawn: As I mentioned above, we’d love to see some historical fiction titles that immerse us into little known points of history or the history of certain occupations. We’d love to see things like a story from a Jack the Ripper survivor, a story about a female Soviet pilot flying bombing missions against German forces during the Second World War, and tales of little known heroes and “firsts” like Doris “Dorie” Miller who was an American Naval cook who became the first African-American recipient of the Navy Cross as well as a nominee for the Medal of Honor, or Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr., a Native American whose heroic actions during the Korean War resulted in a posthumous Medal of Honor. Then there’s Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee, who was Superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps and the first woman awarded the Navy Cross. These are just some of the kinds of stories we’d love to see.

For mature heroes and heroines, we’d love to see different occupations that aren’t written about that much. Give us smokejumpers, 911 operators, skydiving instructors, train engineers, and more. There are so many other unexplored options that would work great in a romance!

Dawn Carrington

“For mature heroes and heroines, we’d love to see different occupations that aren’t written about that much. Give us smokejumpers, 911 operators, skydiving instructors, train engineers, and more. There are so many other unexplored options that would work great in a romance!”

WOW: You’ve given me so many ideas! Little known heroes, “firsts,” and unusual occupations would all make for interesting stories. In your work as an editor, what are some common problems you see in manuscripts you decide to pass on?

Dawn:  Poor grammar is one of the main issues we see in submissions. If we can’t make it past the query without running into misspelled words, improper verb usage, and selective commas, it’s probably going to be an immediate pass.

Another big issue is manuscripts that don’t follow our guidelines. We are a family-friendly publisher, which means we don’t allow profanity, extreme violence, or sexual situations in our books. Yet, we consistently see those in submissions.

And finally, an issue that is fairly consistent are subjects we don’t publish. We’ve received short story collections, urban fantasy, and science fiction, to name a few. An easy way to tell if we publish it is to review our categories as well as what we’re interested in on our submissions page.

Vinspire Publishing book covers

WOW: It’s always a good idea to review what books have been published. I noticed your book cover design and interiors are beautiful, and that is a wonderful benefit for authors. Are authors involved in the cover design process at all?

Dawn: Thank you! Our authors are given a cover description worksheet to be filled out. That, then, goes to our book designer, and she works up a draft based upon what they would like to see and what we know will appeal to the public. We are open to making changes at the author’s request and have even completely redone book covers if an author is not happy. Fortunately, that happens rarely as we have a wonderful cover designer, Elaina Lee from For the Muse Design.

Our beautiful interiors are designed by Woven Red Author Services, and Joan is a dream to work with!

WOW: That’s fantastic news! Does Vinspire Publishing work with authors on the editing of their books, and how hands on are you with edits?

Dawn: Absolutely! We have several editors, and we try to keep the editor’s favorite genres in mind when assigning books.

I do edit occasionally myself, but for the most part, I’m there if a question arises about what is acceptable or not, if something can be included or not, and I do make the decisions about bringing in new editors. If there is ever a time when an author isn’t happy with an editor, I will either assign a new one or work with them myself.

WOW: You’ve shared such wonderful advice with us today that I know working with an editor as passionate as you would be a dream! You are teaching two four-week classes through WOW this summer: Strengthening Your Fiction and Dissecting Rejection—important topics for novelists. Can you tell us more about why you created the courses, and who should take them?

Dawn: Strengthening Your Fiction came about because we do see a lot of submissions from first-time writers. Writing a book isn’t easy, but if all you know is the basic structure, it’s even more difficult. The writing has to stand out. The dialogue needs to sing. In other words, it needs to be strong to get our attention.

I wrote Dissecting Rejection because there are so many reasons why books are rejected, and it’s not always because the editor didn’t love the writing. I think, by knowing some of the potential reasons why a book can be rejected, an author can circumnavigate some of those issues and better their chances at acceptance.

Workshops: Strengthening Your Fiction and Dissecting Rejection by Dawn Carrington

WOW: That’s helpful, and WOW is excited to host them! Besides being an editor and instructor, you are also the author of over fifty titles, ranging from romantic suspense to historical romance. I’m floored by how prolific you are and would love to learn more about your process. Do you have any writing habits or rituals?

Dawn: I don’t have any habits, per se. I did set a goal back in 2012 to write every day, and I’ve met that goal for twelve years. It doesn’t matter how many words; I just have to write every day.

WOW: Writing every day for twelve years is incredible, Dawn! What are you working on right now?

Dawn: I’m writing a nonfiction book called, The Struggle is Real—Surviving While You’re in a Financial Hole and Starting the Climb Out of It. Essentially, it’s a resource guide that will help people find programs that can help with practically any bill or circumstance in their lives. It includes information on free health care screenings, assistance with rent, tips on what to do when your car breaks down and you can’t afford to fix it, and even help with childcare. I’m trying to cover as many topics as I can to help low-income families survive a financial crunch, as I’ve been there myself, and I wish I’d had resources to help me.

WOW: What an amazing resource! I’d love to have you back when it publishes, so we can chat about it. We always like to end our interviews with a fun question, and I happen to know you’re a huge Star Trek fan! You also write for the site Redshirts Always Die. I once met Leonard Nimoy at Book Expo America when he was promoting his photography book, and he had a great sense of humor. Spock is definitely one of my favorite characters. Who is your favorite Star Trek character and why?

Dawn: Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. Kate Mulgrew was the first female to lead a Star Trek show, and her character was a tough yet kind-hearted captain with determination, grit, and an unyielding strength of character. She was, quite simply, one of the best captains in Star Trek, and I’m thrilled that she has returned in Star Trek: Prodigy.

WOW: Fantastic answer! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today, Dawn. It’s been a pleasure!

Vinspire Publishing

Many thanks to Vinspire Publishing’s editor-in-chief, Dawn Carrington. Dawn shared great advice for writing historical fiction and wonderful ideas for unexplored storylines. I feel inspired to write, and I hope you do, too!

If you have a completed manuscript and you’d like to submit to one of Vinspire’s calls, whether it’s historical fiction or romance with mature characters, you can read more about their calls and submission guidelines here and here.

Vinspire Publishing is currently open to unagented manuscripts, but that’s not always the case, so be sure to review their guidelines, including their family-friendly statement before submitting. Vinspire Publishing offers royalties, and contracts are negotiated with authors. Visit their website for more information, and keep up with the latest calls for submissions by signing up for their email newsletter at



Angela Mackintosh

Angela Mackintosh is a writer and artist living in the Sequoia National Forest, California. Her writing has been published in numerous literary journals, including Under the Sun and Exposition Review. When she’s not editing for WOW! Women on Writing, she enjoys painting, trail running, and snuggling with her three rescue cats.


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