Puyallup Herald

Pierce College professor’s side hustle involves publishing 50 - and counting - romance novels

Pierce College Puyallup professor Nikki Poppen-Eagen has published 44 historical romance books with Harlequin since 2008. One of her newer pieces, titled "Dancing with the Duke's Heir," was nominated for a RITA Award for Best Novella in March.
Pierce College Puyallup professor Nikki Poppen-Eagen has published 44 historical romance books with Harlequin since 2008. One of her newer pieces, titled "Dancing with the Duke's Heir," was nominated for a RITA Award for Best Novella in March. Courtesy

By day, Puyallup resident Nikki Poppen-Eagen is the department chair for communication studies, journalism and world languages at Pierce College Puyallup.

But on the weekends, she’s Bronwyn Scott, a historical romance writer for Harlequin, a division of HarperCollins Publishers founded in 1949 that has sold more than 6.7 billion books.

“I picked Bronwyn because my youngest daughter’s name is Bronwyn and I had her just a couple days before I got my very first (writing) contract, and my husband’s name is Scott,” Poppen-Eagen said about her pen name.

Since 2005, Poppen-Eagen has been publishing her historical romance stories — a total of 50 in all. And now, one of those stories is nominated for a RITA Award, which is given out by Romance Writers of America .

“This is the biggest award that the romance community in America gives out,” Poppen-Eagen said. “So this is the romance Oscar.”

Poppen-Eagen grew up in the Puyallup School District and always loved to write. A 1986 Puyallup High School graduate, Poppen-Eagen remembered taking creative writing electives in high school. She graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in 1990 with a degree in communications.

Poppen-Eagen’s journey into publishing first began when her son, Rowan, was born 18 years ago. Her husband encouraged her to start writing and finish a book.

“So I did,” Poppen-Eagen said. “It was easy to lie down next to the baby with a legal pad and scribble and write.”

Then she attended a small writer’s conference at Tacoma Community College, where she worked at the time. In 2002, she visited a larger conference in New York.

When she returned home, she wrote “The Dowagers Wager,” a historical romance that takes place during the early 1800s, or the Regency era. Poppen-Eagen writes historical romance because she likes it, she said, and because she studied history in college.

She pitched the book at another conference to a library house, which pays up front for a book written by an author and is noncommercial.

“They said, ‘We love it, what else do you got?' So I made up two books on the spot about secondary characters in this one book and they were like 'Great, we want all three of them.' So that was the start,” Poppen-Eagen said.

Poppen-Eagen wrote six books with the library house before she was picked up by Harlequin three years later. Now, she writes about one book every 10 weeks, or four books a year for Harlequin. It’s a quick turn-around, but Poppen-Eagen said that so far, she hasn’t been at a loss for ideas.

“The first seven chapters of any book is my favorite part,” she said. “It’s like this blank canvas, and anything’s possible.”

In March, Poppen-Eagen found out that her story “Dancing with the Duke’s Heir” was chosen as one of eight finalists in the Best Novella category of the RITA Awards.

“I was sitting at home. Winter quarter had just gotten out so I was grading papers and getting grades ready and the phone rang… she said, ‘I’m calling to tell you, you finaled.’ I was like ‘Oh my gosh!’” Poppen-Eagen remembered. “It was super exciting...I could hardly believe it.”

“Dancing with the Duke’s Heir” is part of the anthology “Scandal at the Christmas Ball,” which Poppen-Eagen wrote with her friend Marguerite Kaye, who lives in Scotland. The story, published in December, focuses on characters at a house party, the guests of which are in need of second chances in love and life. The story follows the hero, Vale, and heroine, Viola.

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“Dancing with the Duke’s Heir” is part of the anthology “Scandal at the Christmas Ball,” which Poppen-Eagen wrote with her friend Marguerite Kaye, who lives in Scotland. The story was published in December 2017 and was nominated for a RITA Award by Romance Writers of America (RWA) in March.

In July, Poppen-Eagen will attend the national convention in Denver to see if she's taking home the award. In the meantime, she continues to work on books for Harlequin. Even though she works full time at Pierce College, she finds time to write on the weekends.

Her books can be found at A Good Book in Sumner and online at amazon.com and harlequin.com.

Poppen-Eagen lives in Puyallup with her husband, Scott, and has three children: Rowan, Catie and Bronwyn. She’s worked at Pierce College Puyallup since 2006. For more information, visit bronwynscott.com.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison
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