When you read the author bios of most romance writers, you’ll discover the majority are lifelong lovers of romance novels. Scads of them smuggled Harlequins into school and snuck beloved gothic romances off of their mother’s bookshelves. Many romance writers have lived and breathed the genre for decades and can spend hours quoting favorite books and authors.
But not me. I grew up loving the Little House series, Nancy Drew, A Wrinkle in Time, all the Beverly Cleary books, and Judy Blume. But I don’t remember much romance reading as I got older. I flirted with V.C. Andrews and Flowers in the Attic, but that just creeped me out. I may have tried—and not finished—a Danielle Steele or two. But I loved the mysteries of Mary Higgins Clark, all the classics I read as an English major in college, and moved on to memoirs and women’s fiction after I graduated. But I’d never tried a Harlequin until I decided I wanted to write one.
I know what you’re thinking! It’s like being a dessert chef who’s never had cake! It’s wrong! It’s immoral! So let me explain how it all happened.
I’ve always known I wanted to be writer since my first creative writing assignment in second grade. But I pursued my TV news career first, knowing there’d be time for writing later. In 2007, I started writing my first women’s fiction novel (which you’ll probably never read unless it goes through some serious revision.) I was not able to land an agent with that one. Frustrated, I tried a different genre. I still loved reading children’s and young adult books, and wrote two middle grade novels, then starting sending out query letters to agents. By this time, it was late 2008.
And then I lost my TV news anchor job. I was devastated, and knew I wanted to move on to something different, but what? So I continued doing freelance voice work, and intensified my efforts to get published. When an agent was interested in one of my middle grade books, I thought, this is it! My new door opening! But then she rejected it. And I stopped writing.
But I needed money. And after a while, I talked with a writing friend who’d been penning short romances that she sold to different magazines, so I thought I’d give it a try. I loved it! Every experience I had was turned into a romantic short. When I took a class teaching me how to install my koi pond, I imagined a woman going to a similar class and falling for the teacher who helped install her dream pond. The magazines were publishing half a dozen of my stories every month and I realized I was writing the equivalent of a category length novel every two months. (50,000-60,000 words is typical for a category length romance put out by publishers like Harlequin.)
So I thought, hey? Why not write a romance novel? And when I saw a hot guy get out of a hot car with California plates in my tiny upstate New York town, I couldn’t help but thinking, “What are you doing here?” And my first romance novel, No Foolin’, was born.
Traditional publishing takes a long time. I submitted the book to Harlequin, and seven months later, they wanted to read the whole thing. Then at the same time, an agent I queried (the wonderful Jennifer Unter) wanted to represent my middle grade novel and sent it out on submission. So I had to wait—and wonder, what to work on next? Book number two in the romance series? Book number two in the middle grade series?
Which is how I turned back to my romantic shorts. I loved writing them, and knew I could turn them out quickly and self-publish them. It was the perfect filler while I waited for the traditional deals to work out. Five collections later, I’m still writing them. And while that first romance novel won’t be out by Harlequin, (they almost never publish books featuring actors or athletes, and mine has an actor in it!) it is being published in November by Bell Bridge Books and I couldn’t be happier. I’m a romance writer and a children’s writer. One genre I knew I loved; one I’ve only just discovered.
So tell me, have you always loved reading romance or are you new to the genre too? Who are you favorite romance writers? In the reading I’ve done since writing romance, I’ve come to love many writers. Who do you love and why?