Ah, that beautiful February day in 2017 when I spend a leisurely afternoon strolling UVa’s Central Grounds. Previous blog posts have detailed the Rotunda – for this final one, I bring you photos from the Chapel and Alderman Library.
“I want to go find my old study carrel on the fourth floor and see if Elvis is still carved in it. I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
“Sure thing.” Eliza poked her. “I had no idea you were such a vandal.”
“I never said I did it.” Quirking an eyebrow at her friend, Cat added, “But I never said I didn’t.”
As Eliza headed toward the elevator, Cat walked back to the old side of the library. Passing through the metal doors, the familiar smell of timeworn books assailed her. She breathed in deeply. Geez, I’m as bad as my dad.
She moved through the stacks until she reached the spot in which she’d sat many an hour in school, reading Cicero while dreaming of a Romeo. Yeah, those days are long gone. She reached out and ran her finger along the bookshelf in her old carrel. Elvis was still inked across the edge of it.
“I have a sneaking suspicion you know who defaced this lovely university property,” drawled a voice from behind her.
Don’t tell my mom, but I started reading romance at the age of ten. I’d worked my way through all of the children’s books available in the local bookmobile, so I turned to the adult section, where I spied a book with a woman in a flowing green dress on the cover. The back said something about a pirate. I was hooked from that moment on (and still wish I could remember the name of that fateful book!).
As a teenager addicted to historical romance novels, I often had to defend my reading material of choice, even writing an essay for my tenth grade English class explaining my love for the genre: I read romance, because no matter what happens (and some pretty crazy things happen), you know those two people are going to end up together.
For this anxiety-prone child of divorce, that was the ultimate comfort, the idea that two flawed people could encounter all sorts of obstacles and still stay together, still find everlasting love.
As to why I write it? Because as an adult, I continue to seek that comfort, that security, that promise every day. Also, I’m a bit of a control freak. Plus, I really love witty repartee between characters. So an encouraging, reassuring story (with funny/witty parts, or so I hope) dictated entirely by me? Sign me up!
Romance provides escape, yes, but it also provides hope, and reminders that no matter what obstacles may come, Happy Ever After might be just around the corner. I hope my books entertain, amuse, and give that sense of hope, that sense of promise we all need, that second chances are possible, and that when life seems its bleakest, a new chapter might be waiting to be written. Gosh, that’s super-corny, but it’s true.
Writing, I’ve learned, also allows me to explore my own thoughts and beliefs through watching/learning what my characters do.
In A Man of Character, I examined the ideas of fantasy versus reality, perhaps in part because people have long challenged romance as presenting impossible ideals.
In A Matter of Time, I delved into whether feminism is compatible with wanting to prioritize love and marriage. (For the record, I am an ardent feminist who happens to be madly in love with my husband and who finds my identity in that relationship, and I’m good with that. So my answer to that question is a resounding yes.)
In A Scandalous Matter, I switched up the feminist theme by asking if romantic relationships negate individual independence, through the eyes of a heroine and hero who believe the two ideas are incompatible. (Spoiler alert: I disagree.)
And in my forthcoming The Demon Duke, admittedly a bit of a Beauty and the Beast story (my favorite Disney tale!) I looked at how we judge others and how we judge ourselves, and how we must make peace with who we are before we can be truly happy.
In each of my books, a main theme is finding one’s place in the world. How ironic that in becoming a writer, I’ve finally done just that. I know where I belong now, where my heart feels happiest, and it’s in writing romance.
I’ve come full circle, and I’m incredibly blessed.
Now, to you: What makes YOU read (or write) romance? I’d love to know!
An earlier version of this blog post appeared on Tina Glasneck’s Celebrate With A Booksite. I’m grateful to her for being fine with me posting it here, as well.
I’m so very excited for her and her brilliant book, which is great fun (and agony and plots twists and suffering) – especially for those who love shapeshifter stories and stories with wolves. But even if you think that’s not quite your thing, 1) you’re wrong, and 2) there’s romance, too! Yippee! Or I suppose I should wolf howl? (Apologies to y’all and Taryn – I’m nearing the end of a mad editing sprint and am giddy on chocolate.)
Anyway, sit back, dig in to the Easter candy if you haven’t already opened it (and if you don’t do Easter, eat the candy anyway – spring is a great time for chocolate. Okay, anytime is a great time for chocolate), and get ready to #JoinThePack!!
Name two things people don’t know about you.
Let’s see what two random facts jump into my mind first, shall we?
1) I think Brandy by Looking Glass is the most romantic song of all time. Although I’m not sure what that says about my definition of romance since Brandy and her sailor don’t end up together. It remains to be seen how much this penchant for unhappy endings will affect the couples in my books. Here’s hoping love still wins the day!
2) I recently marathonned the last season of the Vampire Diaries (I thought you might appreciate that, Margaret). I have to say that as sexy as Stefan and Damon are, if I had to pick a love interest from that show to be with, for me it would have to be the Indian Jones-esque professor Alaric Saltzman.
(ML says: No wonder we are friends! I LOVE Brandy, and Alaric has long been on my list, too (though, um, it’s Damon Salvatore/Ian Somerhalder who served as the inspiration for The Demon Duke. Just sayin’.)
Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book.
I learned that if the FBI ever looks at my search history, they might be a little concerned—although that’s probably the case for most writers. For Hex Breaker I did a lot of research on the effects of altitude sickness and stomach wounds, for instance. When I was writing the rough draft of the sequel Twice Blessed (hopefully being released in 2018), I did a lot of research on the effects of various poisons. Here’s a little preview for book 2: aconite and water hemlock both make an appearance.
What’s your favorite romance novel of all time, and why.
When it comes to romance novels, I’m an Austenite all the way. Of course, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite. But since that’s almost everyone’s favorite, my other go-to is actually Northanger Abbey. I relate to Catherine’s overactive imagination and love Tilney’s humor. It’s such a fun read and a good reminder that things often aren’t quite as dramatic as they might seem. Persuasion is a close-second, though, mostly because of the swoon-worthy Captain Wentworth, who—unlike poor Brandy’s sailor—does come back to Anne in the end…
Talk about the romance in Hex Breaker.
While romance doesn’t dominate the plot in Hex Breaker, it is certainly a key aspect of it. Several different kinds of romances are represented. There’s the uncertainty of first love—and the regret that comes when you let fear of change hold you back. There are strong couples, united in their love and commitment. There are pairings you root for, even though you know you shouldn’t. In short, I think there is something for everyone. It’s an epic tale, and the best epics are filled with love and what we would do to protect it.
Forced to decide between her happiness and her pack’s safety, Rayna Myana chooses to protect those she loves. But when shattered promises and dark magic collide, no one is safe…
For six hundred years, Fenear, a land where humans can take wolf form, has warred with Maenor, its neighboring kingdom ruled by a ruthless dynasty. The possibility of peace emerges when the Maenoren Overlord, Rhael, enters negotiations with Fenearen leaders Bayne and Silver, but their niece, Rayna, is skeptical. Yet, when Rhael proposes to her to strengthen the alliance, she agrees for the sake of her country, despite her family’s objections and a blossoming romance with her best friend. Suspicion of treachery changes Rayna’s decision, but before she can annul the agreement, powerful forces subdue her with a sinister hex. Separated from her pack with Fenear and everyone she loves in danger, Rayna must escape and travel to a distant realm to break the hex. Only then can she save her best friend and her homeland.
Lines blur between heroism and recklessness, dreams and reality, even life and death, and Rayna risks losing herself along the way.
Taryn is a lover of nature and all things furry and feathered. As a graduate student in Anthrozoology with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Biology, she is dedicating her life to understanding and protecting animals, both human and nonhuman. This zeal for the outdoors combined with a lifelong love affair with fantasy and horror stories led her to create the YA dark fantasy series, The Fenearen Chronicles. The second installment, Twice Blessed, is due out in 2018. Taryn lives in Richmond, Virginia with her Prima donna cat, Stella, and personal piano player/boyfriend, Lorenzo.
Welcome to Writer Wednesday! So glad you’re joining us for the chance to get to know a romance author better.
This week we have Jill Haymaker, who writes romance that helps you “find the warmth of love in the cold of winter.” Or, as she also says, “Haymaker to the heart – Romance that knocks you off your feet!”
It may be the beginning of spring here in the northern hemisphere, but we’re always happy to let a good romance warm us up! So grab your beverage of choice and enjoy this quick interview with Ms. Haymaker.
What inspires you to write?
Making people smile and enjoy their day motivates all the actions in my life. I write romance because of the happily ever after. I believe in hope, and want to show a glimmer of hope to others. If I can make a difference in someone’s life, that’s truly inspiring.
Which type of romance do you love most and why?
I love to read and write what we are now calling seasoned romance (stories with heroes and heroines 40 years or older). I love these romances because they give us hope that it is never too late to find love. Older characters also are more interesting than their younger counterparts. They carry a lot of baggage and all have pasts to overcome. They are never one-dimensional.
Name one interesting thing you learned researching your last book:
The heroine in Colorado Wrangler becomes a foster mom to provide a home for an adorable eight year old girl. I had to do a ton of research into the foster care system. I didn’t know just how many children never get out of the foster system and the depressing statistics on their lack of success later in life. I learned how much we need many more good foster homes.
Melanie Gentry came to Peakview, Colorado to find a father she never knew. Now she’s established a home for herself and her teenage daughter.
Hank Dalton left his past behind and settled into his life as the head wrangler at Peaktop Guest Ranch. He’s a loner and he likes it that way. That is until he runs into Melanie, who makes him want to reconsider that decision. There’s just something about her.
When Melanie adds a foster child and a rescue dog to her family, Hank decides he’s not what Melanie needs. Both must let go of their past mistakes before these two can find a way to blend their lives and create a real family.
Come home to Peakview, where everyone has a chance at love.
A Bit About Jill:
Jill Haymaker was born and raised in Indiana and Ohio. After high school, she attended Bowling Green State University before moving to Fort Collins, Colorado in 1975. Ms. Haymaker has made her home in Fort Collins ever since except for three years in the 1990’s when she left to attend law school at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska. She has practiced family law in Fort Collins for the past 20 years. She has three grown children, a son and two daughters. She also has three granddaughters.
Jill has always had a passion for writing. Colorado Sunset was her first full length romance novel in her Peakview, Colorado series. The second through fourth books in the series, Breakfast for Two, Colorado Cabin in the Pines and Colorado Wrangler are also available at Amazon.com. Colorado Cowboy Christmas is her first Christmas Novella. She also has had several short stories published by Chicken Soup for the Soul, the most recent in the book Random Acts of Kindness.
When not practicing law or writing, Jill enjoys the Colorado mountains, horseback riding, gardening, long walks with her Shetland Sheepdog, Laddie, and spending time with her children and grandchildren. She enjoys their numerous sporting events. She is also an avid football fan and can be found on autumn weekends cheering on the Broncos, the CSU Rams, and the Huskers. She has a passion for working with high school youth- she is a youth group leader at her church, coaches a high school mock trial team and is a volunteer at cross country and track meets.