By Sabrina Jeffries, NYT Bestselling Author of The Pleasures of Passion (On Sale June 20, 2017)
If you want to become a romance writer, here’s how not to do it.
Don’t be ashamed of having spent your early years reading them and dreaming of writing them. Don’t listen when teachers tell you that you need a “real” job to supplement your writing of what should be “real” books about the struggles of “real” life. And whatever you do, don’t pursue that job to its logical end before you acknowledge that your true love is genre fiction. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a Ph.D. in English literature, trying to turn a dissertation on James Joyce into a work of literary criticism so you can get a job as a professor, and sick to death of all of it.
That’s where I was the summer I turned twenty-nine—tired of writing about an author I no longer cared about and wondering how I’d ended up there when all I wanted was to write books I enjoyed.
Then I snapped. I can’t remember why (except maybe that having a summer in which to write an “important” work about Joyce so I could get a tenure-track position as a professor made me insane). All I know is I started writing a novel. Not the Great American Novel, a tale of despair about a woman who discovers the deck is stacked against women and ends up dying for love or throwing herself in front of a train or walking into the ocean to die or . . . (Sorry, I read way too many of those tales of woe in grad school. Things always seem to end badly for women in “great literature.”)
No, I wrote a bonafide romance novel, with a hero and heroine and a happy ending. I recognized it because I’d read lots of them while growing up a missionary’s kid in Thailand. Also, I’d guiltily devoured them whenever I was tired of school, so yes, I read more than was considered healthy for a grad student. I read fat ones about love triumphing over war and destruction. Skinny ones with witty banter and ladies dressed in empire-waist gowns. Even Christian ones where the heroine beat out the “painted” lady to win the guy. By the way, those were given to me by my missionary mom who wanted me to read “wholesome” romances, which failed after I discovered Kathleen Woodiwiss at twenty. (Hot sex! Swashbuckling! Heroines who traveled!) But I digress.
Anyway, at twenty-nine, I wrote a contemporary with a hero who ran a silk company in Thailand (gee, I wonder where I got that from) and a heroine who . . . actually, I don’t remember. There was something about her father wanting the hero to look after the heroine and her resenting it. I titled it Passion’s Protection, which my agent said made it sound like a condom. It was awful.
But I was hooked. I loved writing it. I wanted to write more. So I became a romance author and didn’t have to write about James Joyce anymore. I’d finally come back to the genre I loved. I haven’t left it since. Thank God.
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