Occasionally, when I tell someone what I write, the question I am asked is, “Why did you choose to write romances?” I’ve even been asked, once or twice, when I was going to write a “real” book.
I learned a long time ago not to be defensive about romance novels. I understand that tastes vary, though I’ve often found that the harshest critics of romance novels have never actually read any. So, rather than saying that I’ve written over 90 “real” books, I explain that I love writing romance because I believe it is a topic that appeals to a broad range of readers. Everyone can identify with that need to find a soul mate. A safe place to call home. I’ve written family sagas and ghost tales and mysteries and suspense — but within each book is the story of two people who find each other, overcome the obstacles that try to keep them apart, and commit to a lifelong partnership. They understand that there will be challenges and trials ahead for them, and that their relationships won’t always be roses and fairy tales — but they are willing to work hard to make their marriages last, because they have found something together worth fighting for.
I’ve met with my share of cynicism during my career. Why would I write about the search for a soul mate, I am asked, when so many marriages end in divorce? Well, because I’ve seen so many shining examples of marriages that last for lifetimes. My grandparents. Great-aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles, in-laws and family friends. A few had earlier marriages that did not work out, but were fortunate enough to find each other later and thrive in their second attempts.
My parents were married 54 years before my beloved mother’s death last year from pancreatic cancer. My dad still misses her terribly. John and I have been married 31 years — and counting. We married young, right out of college, and we’ve seen our share of the challenges of keeping a marriage strong in difficult times. I make no claims that it has always been easy, but it has been worth the effort. We’ve raised three wonderful children, one of whom is now a year and a half into her own marriage.
So, the search for a partner — for a family — will always be a part of the stories I tell, no matter whether they’re classified as “romance” or “suspense” — a new direction I am pursuing because I have some slightly different ideas I want to explore. It’s so much a part of who I am, and from where I have come.
For every person who has asked me why I am drawn to romantic tales, I’ve received several letters from readers who completely understand. Here are a few quotes from some of my readers:
“I will be 84 this August. I lost my husband 5 years ago … we had been married 54 years. After I lost him, I was so lonely I started reading Silhouette romances. I have never enjoyed reading any so much as your Family Found series. They brought tears and also joy.”
“Books from Harlequin and Silhouette … take your heart away to another place. Authors like you … have done so much for the healing inside that I just wanted to say thank you!”
“I was diagnosed last year with CFS/FMS, so reading is the only thing that gives me pleasure — helps me to escape my pain.”
“I just couldn’t put this one down. I’ve been a regular reader for 5 years since my wife died.”
“Excuse my penmanship. Am an 80 year old woman. As my eyesight is the only thing about my body not falling apart, I read a lot. I love reading (romances).”
“At my age, 85 with 86 coming up soon, I can’t afford to miss a minute of pleasure. And I get most of my pleasure from my books – that’s where I figure my money is well spent. So give us another good story soon.”
“I’m 17, and if I could write a book, it would be one with all the heart and soul of one of yours.”
And one of my favorites … “Thank you, not only for books I have enjoyed reading very much, but for books I can read without flinching. For southern characters who are not named Billy Bob or Bubba. For not finding it necessary to ‘write the accent.’ And especially for using “y’all” correctly.”
After reading these letters and so many more, my response to that pesky question would have to be, “Why would I want to write anything else?”