It’s Read-a-Romance Month, which means writers are joining together to share the theme “Celebrate Romance” on their blogs. My local chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), the Wisconsin RWA, is participating with a series of blog posts. Writers who contribute are asked to write a short essay on romance, answer three questions, and recommend other romance authors.
I’ve always enjoyed love stories, but I didn’t discover romance novels until high school. My first exposure was in 9th Grade, when a friend turned me onto the Gothic novels of Victoria Holt. Most of them were the same: brooding alpha-hero, virginal heroine (usually a governess-type), huge estate/castle, and an element of danger. I couldn’t get enough of these, and after I’d finished all of them, I read everything the author wrote under her historical pen-name, Phillippa Carr.
By 10th Grade, I craved something a little steamier. That’s when my best friend and I discovered historical romances. She’d found a novel on her mom’s nightstand entitled The Power and the Passion, and we took turns reading the racy scenes out loud. That summer, I found a used bookstore that sold historical romances for a quarter, and I started buying them by the bagful. This was the 1980s, so we’re talking bodice-rippers like Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers, with descriptions like, “from the steamy bordellos of New Orleans to the glittering splendor of St. Petersburg” (or something like that).
Even though I enjoyed romance novels for years, I never identified myself as a “romance writer” until recently. My novels were heavy on kissing and always ended with a HEA, but I placed myself squarely in the fantasy genre. Not until I joined RWA (and met loads of great writers through WisRWA) did I realize that it was possible to call myself a romance writer, whether I wrote science fiction, fantasy, or young adult novels.
- Describe the most daring, adventurous, or inspiring thing you ever did.
The most daring thing I ever did was move my family to India for five months. In 2009, my husband, who teaches high school Calculus, applied to be a Fulbright Exchange teacher overseas. When we found out his exchange would be in Chennai, India, we were shocked, because we’d expected to be posted to England. We decided to accept the posting, and moved to India for five months, along with our two children, ages 12 and 8. Going from our small town of ten thousand to a bustling city of 6 million people was a huge adjustment. Our experience was at times exhausting and overwhelming, but also amazing and life-changing. In the end, it brought us closer as a family, and we’d love to go back.
- Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.
It’s hard for me to remember when I didn’t want to be a writer. I wrote and illustrated a lot of short stories in elementary school. By the time I was fourteen, I’d written my first novel (a lenghty epic best described as Biblical fan fiction!). I wrote as a hobby, on and off, for years, but I didn’t consider pursuing the craft seriously until 2008, when both my children were in school full-time. Since then, I’ve been writing non-stop. For the most part, I write YA, because I love reading that genre, and because I’m still a kid at heart.
- Tell us About a Book That Changed Your Life.
I’ve read so many wonderful books that it’s hard to pick, but one of the most influential books I’ve ever read was Illusion by Paula Volsky. Up until then, every fantasy novel I’d read was set in a world that resembled Medieval Europe. However, the premise for Illusion was “the French Revolution, with magic.” For the first time ever, I realized that world-building could encompass different cultures and historical periods. As a result, I completely rewrote the fantasy novel I was working on, changing the setting from a generic medieval kingdom to a land similar to 16th Ottoman Turkey. My next novel took place in a country similar to 16th century Persia.
Most of my recent recs are in the Young Adult and New Adult categories, because these are the categories I read the most. I’ve provided links to Goodreads, so you can read the plot summaries there.
Jennifer E. Smith (YA) – The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, This is What Happy Looks Like
Miranda Kenneally (YA) – Stealing Parker, Things I Can’t Forget
Dahlia Adler (YA) – Behind the Scenes
Chanel Cleeton (New Adult) – I See London, London Falling
Noelle August (New Adult) – Boomerang