One of our foxes asked, “Why do you write romance? What prompted you to write in the romance genre?”
I guess I’ll answer the second question first. The short answer is that reading two lousy books prompted me to prove that I could do better. One had a premise so absurd there was no way to make the heroine believable or likeable. The other supposedly took place in Michigan, but it was obvious that the author had never been here. So I started writing. It took almost ten years, and I guess I’ll never have a definitive answer as to whether my book is better than the ones I tossed in the donate pile long ago, but at least I know I can write well enough to please some people.
As to why, it’s a bit of a story. Back when I was a busy working mom, I had difficulty sleeping. It may seem odd that someone working full time and raising two busy young daughters would have a hard time falling asleep, but as any detail-oriented mom will tell you, the minute my head hit my pillow, my mind started whirring with things I needed to remember or do the following day. Recitals, band concerts and team sports meant that dress clothes, uniforms needed to be cleaned, pressed and ready to take. Homework needed to be finished and checked (at least for one daughter, who tended to be rather lackadaisical about her grades). And then I had my own schoolwork to worry about. Had my plan book at school been filled out just in case I needed to call in? Did I have all my copies made? Had I remembered to send home permission slips for the class trip? Did I have clean clothes to wear?
One evening I spent time in my local library, next door to the church in which my younger daughter rehearsed for an upcoming concert along with other members junior high choir. I’d finished my schoolwork (or maybe I didn’t have it finished but simply needed a diversion) and wandered into the used book sale room. Books donated by library patrons were on sale for only 10 cents each. I decided to splurge and buy a half dozen of them. They were paperback romances, and I figured it might be nice to have something light to read while waiting for the kids.
I started reading one of my purchases while in the library, and to my surprise, I finished the book that evening. I went to bed only a few minutes later than usual, but I slept soundly. The next day I had so much more energy I sped through everything that needed to be done, and at the end of the day I settled into my recliner with another book. Two hours later, I had that book finished, and again I slept soundly. In the years between that discovery and the time I retired, I managed to read several bags of paperbacks. I made sure I visited the library’s semi-annual book sale so that I could replenish my supply. Eventually, I started reading on my tablet and laptop as digital books became more and more popular. I came to the conclusion that these shorter romances were the key to my well-being because they allowed me to escape my own worries by putting me into the lives of characters who often had problems much greater than mine, and by following their stories I was able to “live” through their journey to a satisfactory resolution.
As I mentioned, there were two books that prompted me to start writing my own stories. I don’t remember the names of the books, but one was about a young lady who believed she’d been born in Texas and was therefore destined to live and work as a wrangler on a ranch. My tolerance for her stupidity lasted about three chapters. The other was about a scientist who travels to the west end of Michigan’s upper peninsula, and when he was hurt he was flown to a small community hospital in the middle of the lower peninsula. Umm, no. The area may be remote, but they do have health care. And even if he’d needed a specialist, there are larger hospitals a lot closer in Wisconsin or Minnesota! A simple glance at a map would have shown how ridiculous that was. I wrote an indignant letter to the publisher (which I’m sure was never read) and started writing. I found a local chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and started attending meetings, but I wasn’t able to write much.
After I retired from full-time teaching, I was able to devote more time to writing. I completed and refined my novel about a samurai soldier looking for a new purpose in the years after the samurai class had been abolished. I found a publisher who appreciated the fact that there were no bedroom scenes, and I kept writing. There’s a relatively new market for sweet romances, and I’m honored to be part of this movement toward love stories that I don’t need to keep secret. I use a pen name, not because I’m afraid of people finding out that I write these books, but simply to separate my fiction from my non-fiction works.
As for why I continue to write romance, it’s because reading romance helped me cope during a difficult time in my life. No matter what my struggles were, they were nothing compared to what some of the characters in these books endured. Through it all, they stayed strong and persevered. In the end, they learned a valuable lesson about themselves, and in most cases they found someone special to help them fight their battles. The books took me through a struggle, but at the end the problem was solved. When all was well with the character, it seemed all was well in my world and I was able to let my own problems go. Who wouldn’t want to offer that gift to someone else?