Questions From Readers
If you could change one misconception about books written and defined as "romance," what would it be?
Romance is probably the least respected fiction genre even though it accounts for over 50% percent of all mass market sales. I believe that anyone who openly criticizes the romance genre probably hasn't actually read one and instead relies solely on what they've heard. Unfortunately, people continue to have misconceptions about the genre as a whole. Many believe romances are all sex without substance, 'bodice rippers', if you will (a phrase coined in the 80s), and no actual story is involved. Today's romance novels are about empowered women—both when it comes to their goals and in some cases, their sexuality. And, of course, falling in love. I also think it's important to know that romance authors are serious fiction writers. We rely on our imaginations, not formulas beyond what we've learned to craft a good book, such as conflict, turning points, the climax-also known as the 'black' moment-and resolution. You'll find those elements in all works of fiction. In other words, we do not follow a guideline that states the first kiss is in Chapter A, they make love in Chapter B, etc. (and if you've read my books, you know that definitely isn't the case. Yes, it's a given that we have happy endings, that we write about monogamy and commitment. But I would hate to think that society as a whole has grown so jaded that we've simply stopped believing in the power of love.
How long have you been writing and how many books have you written?
Well, I actually co-wrote my first book with my best friend in junior high, if that counts. It was called Take Me Out to the Ballgame and featured my friend and myself as heroines romancing two of the brothers of a family of four gorgeous guys in my school. It was sweet and silly and true fantasy—and obviously my first foray into romance. I hope it remains lost forever. I officially started writing in earnest in 1992, which eventually led to my sale in 1999. Since my first release in 2000, I have written twenty-one books and one novella, with three more coming up soon. Since writing and production takes place a year in advance, so far seventeen of those books have been released. And I hope to be writing many, many more!
How do you get started in the writing business? Is it a gift or can it be learned?
Actually, I got started on a whim when I came up with an idea for a book, totally ignorant and unarmed. At the time, I really never intended to make writing a career. But I believe if you have the desire, and the instincts, if you love to read, and you love writing, anyone can try their hand a book. You simply have to learn the craft but always, always trust yourself and your instincts. And also know this is a tough business. I once heard you had more chance of getting struck by lightning as you did selling a book. Publishing houses receive anywhere from ten to twenty-thousand submissions a year, and that's a conservative estimate. You have to hang in there, even when the going gets tough. Aside from writing a good book, writing for publication is a lot about persistence, timing and some amount of luck. Above all, do it for yourself!
Where do you get your inspiration for your characters?
I'm usually just pulling people out of my mind. I start with the kernel of an idea and develop two characters with believable back stories and conflicts that will affect them throughout the book. After that, their personalities begin to form, dependant on their circumstances. For instance, Fiona Powers in Fit For A Sheikh was a wise-cracking bartender who immediately came to life for me. What fun to pair her up with a dark, brooding, conflicted military-tracking sheikh. I like to play direct opposites against each other, but I also make sure that they want the same thing in terms of a commitment, even if it takes them a while to get around to admitting it.
Out of all the books you have written, do you have a personal favorite?
That would probably be my first Desire, Cowboy For Keeps, the story of a single mother and her deaf daughter, and a man who's a hearing child born to deaf parents. It holds a special place in my heart not only because it was my first sale, but also because it was an emotional journey for me. Running a close second would be Renegade Millionairebecause I enjoyed writing the medical aspects. And I liked developing an atypical doctor, like Rio Madrid, who seems to be a reader favorite. I think that has a lot to do with his tattoo.
Do you ever consult with your husband about details for your stories? Does he find your writing romances humorous?
I definitely have consulted my husband in regard to the medical aspects in my books, Gladys. I can't say for sure that he thinks my choosing to write romance is humorous exactly (although he probably thinks I look fairly funny in my uniform—sweats and T-shirts) but I can say that it's not his cup of tea. He just knows that I'm serious about what I do, and he respects that. And now I actually get paid for sitting in front of the computer!
THE BUSINESS OF WRITING
THE WRITER'S LIFE