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’d like to throw it forward by acknowledging and honoring those who help promote authors, whether they be fellow authors, book bloggers, Street Team members, crazed fans, or the like.
So many people have blessed me by inviting me to guest blog on their sites, by reviewing my book on their blog or on Amazon or on GoodReads, by spreading the word about A Man of Character in one way or the other. It’s a delight to turn the tables–and the spotlight–back onto them.
Today, as my first honored #ThrowItForward guest, I have Cate from Romance Debuts! Cate recently launched her new blog to celebrate and promote debut novels from debut authors.
Could that be any more helpful to those of us clamoring for readers in a wild and crazy reading world?
She kindly agreed to answer a few questions, so that we could get to know the woman behind the blog. And here we go!
What do you write?
Over the past ten years, I’ve written parenting articles for regional magazines, and I used to write stories about local business owners and personalities for a small town magazine. I’ve been working on and off (interrupted by moves, new babies, etc.) on two different contemporary romances.
How long have you written?
I first started writing a lot after I had my first kiss. I would write terrible, sappy poetry. LOTS of it. Thankfully, I gave up poetry after a few years, and for a while, I only wrote academic research papers. When I got pregnant with my first child, I wrote all the time…on scraps of paper, napkins, everything. I wrote parenting articles, essays, short stories, thoughts on motherhood, everything. I don’t write so obsessively anymore!
Why did you decide to start a blog?
Writing a novel is such an isolating task, as is being a stay-at-home with three kids. I felt like this blog could help connect me to the romance writing community while helping new writers connect to readers and motivating aspiring writers to finish their books.
(ML says: I hear you on the isolation thing! I don’t think I would have survived as an at-home mom if I’d lived before the Internet era.)
What’s your favorite thing about the romance genre?
What’s not to like! The engaging characters, the developing romance, the happily ever after. At this point in my life, I read for escape, and I want to read something fun and up-lifting.
What’s your favorite kind of romance to read?
I stick primarily to contemporary romances and occasionally historical. I’m not terribly discriminating, though! I just love a good story!
Who are your favorite authors, and why?
My all-time favorite is Kristan Higgins. I know when I read one of her books that it will be funny and that I will be able to relate to her characters.
My favorite book of hers is Too Good To Be True, because I completely relate to the protagonist, Grace, who makes up fake boyfriends to deal with romance challenges. Now, before you jump to conclusions, know that I haven’t done exactly that. But, through much of high school, I had a “boyfriend”—a real life boy I met at the beach who lived about 8 hours away. We did talk on the phone and visit each other a couple of times, but it wasn’t exactly an exclusive, serious relationship, especially considering that we lived so far apart and neither of us had a private jet … or even a driver’s license. But I remember talking about him whenever someone asked if I was dating anyone … embarrassing!
Name two things people don’t know about you?
I think I embarrassed myself enough with the last question, so I should be off the hook with this one.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to newbies – or, if you are a newbie, what’s the one burning question you most want answered in regard to writing/editing/publishing?
How do writers keep going with that first book when there’s no external demand for their writing and they get rejected by lots of people? How do you develop the confidence to keep going?
(ML says: Great question! For me, I had to write for myself, because I needed to get the story out. Worrying about what others thought came later. The key for me was finding a writer’s group and a critique group–I’ve had amazing friendships develop out of those, and have had lots of help and support because of those groups, as well.)
Do you like books or ebooks?
I love actual books, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give them up. The feeling of holding a real book in my hand can’t be duplicated. That being said, I recently read my first ebook (I know, I know, I’m a late bloomer), and I actually enjoyed it!
Traditional or indie?
Whatever I get my hands on! Most of the time, I read whatever books my mom loans me, I find in the free library down the street, or I find quickly at the bookstore or library. I know that sounds terrible, but with 3 kids, I don’t have the time to browse. That’s also partly why I wanted to do the blog—to help time-crunched readers discover new favorite authors.
Where do you see the romance market in 5 years?
I’m certainly not an expert, but I think it’s going to continue to grow and become more diverse. There seems to be a growing demand for more types of romances, and I feel that independent publishing and the increasingly diverse tastes of readers will help level the playing field somewhat. Maybe there will be fewer big-name writers who sell tons of books and more writers who do pretty well.
Are you involved in any professional writing communities?
Not yet. Signing up for Romance Writers of America is on my to-do list, though!
Where do you find support for your writing?
I am fortunate to have a wonderful husband and a few really amazing friends, including my mom, who provide the emotional support I need to keep going.
Are you formally trained?
When I took a college course in popular fiction, the teaching assistant passed out a brochure published by Harlequin about how to write a romance…does that count? 😉 At the time, I really, really wanted to try writing one, but I didn’t think writing romances was a “serious” enough thing to do. Just think where I could be now if I had taken it more seriously!
What are your top 5 romance novels of all time?
These are the ones that have stuck with me the most (though I’m sure I’m forgetting some!):
Too Good to Be True by Kristan Higgins
Remember Me? By Sophie Kinsella
The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
If you could tell the world about any one newish author you think they should read, who would it be?
Margaret Locke, of course.
(ML: Wha? Holy cow! Thanks so much. Now I’m blushing!)
What most energizes you about writing?
That it’s very different from the day-to-day tasks of being a stay-at-home mom. When I write (usually at the end of a long day), I get completely immersed in the story, and it’s the only time in the day that I don’t have to think about the burning questions of my daily life: Has my 3-year-old gone potty recently? Has the puppy gone out to pee recently? Have all the kids brushed their teeth?
What most scares you about writing?
Am I ever going to be able to finish a project? I have two drafts that I’m trying to work on and limited time to work on them. And no one is waiting for me to finish a book, whereas there are people who need me to do laundry, cook, clean, make lunches, pay bills, drive them to practices, etc.