I found that I’m not the only person in the world with an over-active imagination. You know, the kind where your husband is a half-hour late and you assume that he has run off with a super model or has been abducted by a super-secret group of government operatives , so secret only the President and secretary of defense know about them. My husband, who is the most reliable of men, probably thinks I’m steps away from needing serious professional help, but other writers understand.
Being a writer with characters running constantly through your head is a deeply surreal experience. They live inside us, but we live inside them, too. And, as they come alive for us through the history, traumas, and story situations we invent for them, they become as real as . . . well, real people. Other writers understand and don’t act like you’re at all strange if you talk about characters from one of your books as though they are living, breathing people.
My oldest daughter came out of the womb dancing, which has been her life-long interest and passion. I feel that way about writing and story-telling, which all began with being a voracious reader. I was one of those kids who always her head buried in a book. The library where I grew up had a three-book check-out limit, which meant I went there at least twice a week. Reading is still one of my favorite past times.
How did I become interested in romance?
I don’t honestly know the answer to that question. That’s sort like trying to explain why some people prefer peaches or the color purple over strawberries and sunshine yellow.
There are many things I love about the genre.
First, I’ve always been way more interested in that dance between men and women than saving the world or solving the mystery. From the time I was a small child and first heard about Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and others, I loved the love story. When I was older, I was drawn to stories of strong women who stood beside their men, and in the process earning their own happily-ever-after. The only genre where this consistently happens is romance.
Second, the heroines of romance are a reflection of all of us. They can be homemakers or career women, in traditional positions held by women or officers in the military. They live in all parts of the world, and they come from all walks of life. I believe part of the power of the romance novel comes with this reflection of us. Like most of us, the heroines of a romance are busy with the circumstances of their lives. They may or may not be looking for that perfect man, like many of us. And, like us, when the right guy comes along, it’s one of the most important experiences of our lives. Yes, the books are a fantasy, and yes, their primary purpose is to entertain. But, it’s entertainment that touches the heart.
Third, the heroines of romance are the heroes of their own stories. I love that about the genre. It’s fiction, sure, but it’s also a place where we’re validated to have dreams of our own, whether it’s being the best cook in the county or the commander of a naval ship. In most cases, the heroines of a romance don’t have to make the choice between acheiving their dreams or getting the guy. In romance, they get it all. When I want to be entertained, I love reading stories and going to movies about strong women who triumph, and if they get the guy, as well, that’s just about perfect in my book.
Fourth, romance novels celebrate women in all their glory, whether in the name of heroine or goddess. The heroine’s journey is quite similar to the hero’s journey, but has the added aspect of claiming or reclaiming her essential feminine self. There is no doubt that the success of a romance novel rests on the broad shoulders of a well-constructed hero. But, in the end, it’s her dream that is realized by the end of the book, not his, and he’d better be worthy of her.
And finally, I really do believe that love conquers all. I can’t think of a single personal or world problem that cannot be solved by love. My view is that evil, in whatever form it comes, isn’t so much the opposite of love as the absence of love. Isn’t it easier to build a bridge of understanding with a person you love than one you’re afraid of? That’s been my experience time and again. When love is present, out goes judgment, in comes an effort to understand, out goes prejudice, in comes a desire to accept.
I believe that romance novels touch so deeply because they deal with the basic human need to be loved and accepted. All of us, at some level, want to be seen for what we are, warts and all, understood even when we don’t understand ourselves, and accepted in spite of our frailties and our shortcomings. In a nutshell, to be unconditionally loved for what and who we are. In life and in romance novels, that deepest bond is usually with our lover. If we’re lucky, that lover is also our soulmate. Think about the popular songs, whether now or a thousand years ago—they exalt the power of romantic love when it’s present and pray to have it when it’s not.