A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had read Bring Me Back, a seasoned romance by Karen Booth. Karen is the founder of the Seasoned Romance group on Facebook, and since I love reading and writing about mature characters I asked her a few questions about the Seasoned Romance group and her book.
How did you decide to write Seasoned Romances?
I write romances about characters of all ages, but as I close in on fifty, writing “older” characters is becoming increasingly important to me. I started writing my first book, Bring Me Back, soon after I turned forty. I had no clue what I was doing, but I was committed to the idea of rocking forty, and I figured this was a good way to do it. In the book, my heroine, Claire, is thirty-nine. She’s a single mom. Her teenage daughter will be moving on to college in a year. It felt like an interesting and relatable time in a woman’s life.
But here’s the thing—since I was a new author, and did not know every last unspoken rule of romance, I had no idea that a thirty-nine year old heroine was too old. In fact, it didn’t even occur to me. Imagine my dismay when I started sending this book—the book of my heart–out to publishers and agents, only to rack up rejections based on the ages of my characters. I got a decent amount of feedback from these folks, which isn’t always the norm, but the general consensus was that it was a great book, but the characters were too old, especially Claire (they didn’t seem to take issue with Christopher being 45, which just shows you how sexist publishing can be). One acquisitions editor went so far as to tell me that nobody wants to read about “old people having sex”. Again, Claire was 39! Not old!! Not even close!! It just made me really mad.
I ended up publishing Bring Me Back the first time around with Turquoise Morning Press. They loved the age of my characters, and so did readers. I got so many emails from people saying they were so excited to read books about characters their own age. It was wonderful affirmation. When Turquoise Morning Press shut its doors (very gracefully, I must point out…not all publishers go out with class and respect for their authors), things in my writing life had changed significantly. I had eight or nine books out, I had a multi-book deal with Harlequin, and I had an agent. So, I asked my agent about shopping it, thinking that it was nearly five years later–surely things had changed, right? Nope. One last round of rejections, based on age. So, I said screw them, and self-published. It’s gone very well. Readers want these books. I know it. Publishers are just slow to adopt, which is frustrating. Romance is capable of being a force for change and it should do a better job of representing all women and accepting that we all age. Every last one of us. That doesn’t mean love dies at the same time.
What inspired Bring Me Back?
I had the original idea for Bring Me Back in my head for nearly eight years before I wrote a single word of it. I had small kids at home, and although I was a working writer, I was focusing on non-fiction for lifestyle publications and newspapers. I didn’t think I had it in me to write fiction. But back to the idea…just like Stephanie Meyers got the inspiration for Twilight from a dream, I had the same experience with Bring Me Back. It’s just that she was wildly successful with the product of her dream, and my project brought me 129 rejections. And happiness! So there’s that!
I was in the Caribbean when I had the dream, on vacation with my husband and our 18 month-old daughter. (She’s about to graduate from high school, so this was a long time ago.) My husband had just had a brutal year at work, and his boss (who had been our boss when my husband and I worked together), offered us his villa in St. Barts for two weeks. It was amazing (and the villa ended up in the book). The second or third night there, I had a very steamy dream about John Taylor from Duran Duran. Now, he was without question, the biggest celebrity crush of my youth. But I hadn’t really thought about the man in years. The band was in a bit of a dead spot with their career, and yeah, I had kids to worry about. He just appeared out of nowhere. It was the strangest thing. I woke up dazed, wondering what would happen if a woman met the rock star crush of her youth, but twenty years later, when everything in both of their lives was totally different.
It’s a modern fairytale in many ways—I put a very relatable woman into a dream scenario and let her figure out a way to make it work. The love story between Claire and Christopher is the central arc, but the relationship between Claire and her 17 year-old daughter, Samantha, plays an important role in the book. So does the strained relationship between Claire and her father.
What kind of research did you do for Bring Me Back?
As luck had it, I really didn’t have to research much of anything for Bring Me Back. I spent ten years working in the music industry, so I knew that side of things very well. I started out as an intern and worked my way up to executive. The final post I held before leaving to be a full-time mom was licensing music for film and television. I went to LA every month, and the company I worked for was bought by Disney, so I spent a lot of time on the lot in Burbank. It was crazy. My husband had an even longer career in music (that’s how we met) and although he has a marketing and advertising agency now, he still manages a few artists and provides advice and support to countless musicians. We have a lot of friends who are legit rock stars. We both have a good cache of backstage stories. In my experience, rock stars are regular people for the most part. Of course, many of them are “on” twenty-four hours a day. The whole world is their stage.
Blurb for Bring Me Back
He’s 6’4” of sexy British music legend. Twenty years ago, she was his adoring fan. Now her career depends on unlocking his secrets, but he’s about to unlock her heart.
It’s more than a lucky break when music journalist Claire Abby lands a Rolling Stone cover story with British rock star Christopher Penman. Claire spent her teenage years fantasizing he was her boyfriend. In person, Chris is everything Claire feared—off-the-charts sexy, ridiculously charming, and utterly nerve-wracking. He’s not about to discuss the rumors he’s dodged for a decade. She must earn his trust and unearth the truth, but she never banked on the heartbreaking secret behind it.
His blockbuster story is her first priority when she returns home, a nearly impossible task when Christopher starts calling and flirting. There’s no denying his wit or his buttery British accent…and once she agrees to see him, It’s beyond anything her teenage brain ever imagined. But when Christopher’s painful past repeats itself, can Claire save the man she could never forget?
Bio: Karen Booth is a Midwestern girl, transplanted in the South, raised on ‘80s music, Judy Blume, and the films of John Hughes. An early preoccupation with rock ‘n’ roll led her to spend her twenties working her way from intern to executive in the music industry. Now a married mom of two, Karen rarely stays up late in rock clubs anymore, but she does get up before dawn to write steamy contemporary romance. You can learn more about Karen at https://karenbooth.net.