BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Jill Kemerer has always loved to read – even setting a goal of devouring 75 books a year. The Waterville author recalls her 20-year-old self, finishing three romance novels in one day and concluding, “I could write better than this.” “I thought it would be better to have a story where there were no problems and everything was magical,” she laughed. “The story ended on page 22.” It’s been 10 years since the Michigan native decided to make writing her full-time job. “Once I had the bug, it wouldn’t go away,” said Kemerer, whose Harlequin Love Inspired book, Small-Town Bachelor, was made available on April 1. Reed Hamilton, the bachelor, is a Chicago construction executive who prefers adventure and independence to family commitments. Claire Sheffield is a veterinary technician who loves family and Lake Endwell. She’s caring for baby otters in her back yard. Reed comes to town for a wedding that gets derailed when a tornado destroys part of the quaint downtown – and forces him to stay. The two slowly break down barriers to get to know one another. Author Wendy Paine Miller, who is one of Jill’s critique partners, said, “Kemerer knows romance! I was quickly swept in the story and I appreciated the depth of this novel.” Because the book targets Christian readers, Small-Town Bachelor is a romance that plays out with a gentle touch, conversation and the strength of its characters rather than the steaminess for which other Harlequin books are known. “I’ve been reading Harlequin books for a long time. About six years ago, they added the Christian line. As a lifelong Christian, I felt that something was missing when I was writing. I really feel God led me to where I need to be,” Jill said. Like any good story line, Jill’s journey to getting published has had hurdles. Growing up in the Saginaw, Mich., area, she excelled in math and science, and her parents encouraged her to pursue engineering. She earned an electrical engineering degree from Saginaw Valley University and had a demanding job in a workforce with very few women. After she got married and started a family, she began to rethink her career. “I was ready for a job where I could be there for my family,” she said. “Getting published never crossed my mind until I was a stay-at-home mom. I said, ‘My next career is going to be writing for Harlequin.’ But it took forever to get published.” Harlequin has a built-in audience all over the world, making it more attractive than publishing an e-book or getting self-published, Jill said. She submitted nine books in six years and endured rejection before Harlequin accepted Small-Town Bachelor. “A lot of humble times,” she said, adding that the journey was key to her growth. During those years, Jill went through writing training: reading about the craft, entering contests for feedback, joining organizations and taking classes. The writing portion isn’t as difficult as the editing and revising, Jill said, explaining that she does a lot of plotting first. “Once it’s on paper, the plotting is usually close to the word count – 55,000 to 60,000 words,” Jill said. This is Harlequin’s limit, though she’s written books with 90,000 words, a size that leaves more room for subplots. She uses two critique partners, Jessica R. Patch, who also writes Love Inspired Suspense for Harlequin, and Wendy Paine Miller, a women’s fiction author. They help her look for conflicts with plot or character development. A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Jill meets yearly with other writers and also helps promote other writers on her blog and website, www.jillkemerer.com. Her work is featured in Guideposts: The Best Angel Stories 2015 as well as the short story and recipe collection, A Recipe for Romance, by 22 Love Inspired Authors. Jill’s books have been finalists in the Frasier Contest and the Genesis Contest. Small-Town Bachelor is available at Kroger, Walmart, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. As part of a three-book contract, the characters of Lake Endwell return in Unexpected Family, to be released in September.