My journey to becoming a romance writer was a long one, but it was still challenging, rewarding and fun. It began when I realized, to my surprise, that I am at heart a storyteller. And then, when I finally gave myself permission to try fiction, that my favorite stories involve romance. I began earning money as a writer 20 years ago, when I started writing feature stories for a local community newspaper. I actually started as a photographer, in the spring of 1998, and then rather quickly came to the realization that I didn’t just want to tell stories in pictures, I also wanted to tell them in words. I was a journalist. A part-time one because I was also working a day job as a teacher at the time. But within a few years, I wanted to be a full-time storyteller and was fortunate to land a position as a reporter/photographer with the daily newspaper in my area.
After 11 years as a journalist, I accepted a position as an associate editor of a new regional lifestyle magazine, where I worked full time for two years. Then I took the plunge to freelance writing— where, of course, all assignments involved nonfiction writing, which is all I had ever done. But I wanted to write fiction. All those years as a writer, I had always told myself that I couldn’t write fiction because I didn’t know how. I envied those who did. But I believed I didn’t have what it takes. Of course, when you tell yourself you cannot do something, you are right. Conversely, when you tell yourself you can, you are right as well. (Or to quote Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”)
One day I had an idea: buy a book on how to write fiction, learn the techniques of the craft and try it. I would quickly find out whether I could do it or not. And nobody ever had to read what I wrote. The book taught me how to write scenes and short stories. And at the end of every chapter were assignments, which I eagerly tackled. Lo and behold, from the very first assignment — a short scene — I discovered I loved making up stories and characters. That I could do it. And that for me, fiction was the most fun writing of all.
Of course, I had so much to learn. For one, writing a novel is much, much more difficult than writing a scene or short story. Then I discovered I needed to chose a genre. I had never thought of that. What genre should I choose? Romance or thriller, mystery or science fiction, horror, literary or young adult? I have been reading books all my life, but when I examined my heart I realized I have always been drawn to stories (books, TV shows, movies, plays) that involve romance. So romance it would be. But what kind? Contemporary or historical? I love history, so historical it was. Historical involves much research, which I also love.
Romance turned out to be a great choice. Roughly 50 percent of all mass market paperbacks sold are romance novels, making it by far the most popular genre. What makes a novel a romance? The relationship between the hero and heroine is the focus of the story, the driving energy of the plot. Readers identify with the heroine and love the hero, and they want the relationship to succeed. Of course, they also want an interesting plot and a happy ending. My kind of story. I loved writing my first historical romance, “Mercy’s Way,” set in 1845 on the Oregon Trail. And now I’m hard at work on my second historical romance, set in 1886 Cape May N.J. That seaside town was America’s first resort. From the research I have done, I can tell it was a really romantic place. My kind of place.