Almost twenty years ago, a starry-eyed mother of five submitted a pair of queries and synopses to Silhouette for her first two short contemporary romances. She had no clue what to expect, or even if she was on the right track – she’d written both books completely by the seat of her pants, having no idea where she was going, or what she was doing, other than that the stories had to have Happy Ever After endings. In 60,000 words, more or less. Oh, and she’d determined that if she couldn’t tell the stories with characters who sounded and acted like real people, fuggedaboutit. (Told you she was starry-eyed. Or maybe just too old to give a rat’s patoot.) To her shock, however, she got a request for both complete manuscripts by return mail.
Approximately five minutes later, off they went to New York.
Eleven…months…later…Silhouette bought WEDDING DAZE for the old Yours Truly line, proving once again that, sometimes, there’s no accounting for sheer dumb luck. Because I’m not kidding about the clueless thing – I’d never entered a contest, gone to a RWA meeting, read any how-to books, worked with a critique partner. And I still rarely do anything the “normal” way, in case you’re wondering. In any case, since my debut in 1998, that same editor has bought nearly 40 books from me, for Yours Truly, Silhouette Intimate Moments, Red Dress Ink and Silhouette Special Releases, and now Silhouette Special Edition, my current category romance “home.” And readers, bless ‘em, have bought more than a million copies of my stories in more than a dozen languages. Okay, so I’m no threat to J.K. Rowling, but it’ll do.
So what kind of romance do I write?Stories about people I hope my readers can relate to, people they’d like to know in real life – imperfect people who, even though they may have made some not-so-great decisions along the way, are still kind and generous and funny at heart. I don’t do gory, or supersexy, or woo-woo, or historical. No schtick, no flavor-of-the-week — just gentle, funny, emotional stories about people trying to figure out their way in a world any of us would recognize.
Now, a lot of people still harbor this bizarre notion that romance novels aren’t “real” books, or that the stories and situations presented therein are somehow anti-feminist. Because, you know, they’re all about the rich hunk rescuing the weak, lash-fluttering heroine. Well, I won’t deny there aren’t a lot of rich hunks strutting around Romanceland (some of them in my own books), but weak, lash-fluttering heroines pretty much went out with avocado green shag carpeting. Maybe my gals are insecure about one thing or another, but you know what? Guys are vulnerable, too. At least, my guys are. Oh, they’d lop off a limb before admitting it, but given the choice between brutish arrogance and a little whiff of vulnerability, I’ll take vulnerability every time.
Killer blue eyes don’t hurt, either.
Still, from this writer’s perspective, romance is about putting two people in a situation that forces both of them to grow.Yeah, yeah, they fall in love and all that fun stuff, but that’s just a perk. At its best, romance shows how love effects an almost chemical change within the characters, making them better, stronger, wiser. If there’s any rescuing going on, it’s that true, selfless love rescues both men and women from feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness, from grief or despair or simply the fear of trusting another human being. Sometimes those truths are dressed up in the trappings of out-and-out fantasy, sometimes they’re the foundation supporting a simpler, more realistic tale about two “ordinary” people. But it’s that basic truth – that love heals – that drove me to write romance to begin with, and still inspires me all these years later. Idealistic? Not to me, it isn’t. And I’ve got the experience to prove it.
So, sure, I write romance to entertain. Otherwise, what’s the point? But if my readers take away something more. . .well, that’s okay, too. 🙂