Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ten Years of Romance

A few weeks ago I realized that I'd let a very important anniversary pass -- the ten year anniversary of my love affair with romance novels. The actual date was back last summer, but I figure now's as good a time as any to celebrate.

It actually all began with fanfiction. I had begun watching the reruns of a show called Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. I enjoyed the new take on the Superman story and that it was called a love triangle for two. I'm still amazed that some hair gel and a pair of glasses kept her from seeing that Clark and Superman were the same. But I digress.

I discovered an online community for other L&C fans and found some of them had written stories about the characters. I inhaled those stories, and soon decided I might be able to write one too. My first foray into fanfiction was a Valentine-themed story. To make a long story short, I wrote maybe a dozen stories, won some in-house awards for a few and then ticked off some people when I dared venture outside canon a bit.

In the meantime, a new fanfic writer appeared on the scene and her stories were amazing! Everyone kept telling her how great her writing was and eventually she confessed she'd paid her way through college writing for Harlequin. Oooooooooh! We were really impressed then. Impressed until one day someone commented, "I've read this before." And they referred to a Silhouette Desire.

Before we openly accused this woman of plagiarism, I said I'd see if our used book store had a copy of the book so I could be sure she'd copied it. And yes indeed, she had. It would have been a word-for-word copy except her beta reader had made corrections and suggestions. How funny is that!

Meanwhile, someone had contacted the author who contacted the site owner and demanded the story be removed. The site owner was angry that a member had posted copyrighted work as her own and banned her. Upon further inspection, we found all her work had been plagiarised and it was all removed. The site owner acted quickly because none of us wanted Harlequin to shut down our little Lois and Clark world. Heck, we knew were were treading on copyright issues anyway, but as long as it was original work, the powers that be never complained, unlike other fanficdoms.

I was also tasked with seeing if I could contact the author to let her know the offending material had been removed and that we'd taken action to ban the "writer." I was able to contact her through her website and that was the beginning of my friendship with NY Times bestseller Leanne Banks.

Her book, The Five Minute Bride, was the first romance novel I read. And I LOVED it! Where had these books been all my life? I hunted down her backlist, read her new releases and then remembered an article I'd seen in the local paper about a Huntsville woman who wrote romance novels. Her latest book had just been released, so I bought that one too.

Hot on His Trail by our very own Maven Linda Winstead Jones, begins on the steps of the Madison County Courthouse, steps I have to walk up and down twice a week for my job (when I'm not in a cast and on crutches). It was one of a series of books set in and around the Huntsville area, and one of them is on my list of top-ten favorite romance novels.

Soon I learned about the Heart of Dixie RWA chapter, discovered Mavens Linda Howard and Beverly Barton and I devoured their books too. And the rest, as they say, is history. I joined RWA and Heart of Dixie in 2004 and attended my first RWA conference that year in Dallas where I got to meet many of the authors whose books I'd read. WOW! What a treat! And how refreshing to learn they were just ordinary people like me.

My writing journey switched from fanfiction to romance with some confessions and short romance stories along the way. And then it hit the wall during my divorce. It's still trying to dig through that wall. But regardless of my divorce, I still love romance novels because I like to concept of a happily ever after.

When did you discover romance novels? Do you remember the title and author of the first one you read?


Kristi said...

My first foray into reading romance novels began in the late 80s when a friend passed me a few historical romances. But I became completely hooked when that same friend loaned me Sandra Brown's Texas series. I was pretty much a goner from that point forward, and I have the bookshelves to prove it.:)

Katherine Bone said...

My mother always read romance. She'd shoo me away when she was reading and I could never figure out why until I read my first romance, Kathleen Woodiwiss', The Flame & The Flower.

Everybody talks about the rape issues but as a 16 year old, it didn't even faze me because I knew it was in the context of history. Things like that happened back then and that wasn't surprising. But times have changed, haven't they?

linda winstead jones said...

I remember meeting you at BAM for coffee. Doesn't seem like it's been that long ago!

robertsonreads said...

For me it was 36 years ago, lord I am telling my age! The summer befor entering freshman high school I picked up a Harlequin, I don't remember title or author, but that changed everything for me. Reading has seen be through divorce, several back to court expeditons, the passing of my dad, and dealing with unemployment. The only time I do not read is if I am very sick with a migraine or sinus headache. And trust me, it has to be really bad.

Angel said...

Ah, romance!!! I've read it as long as I can remember. When I was a teenager I'd save my allowance to purchase teen (they didn't have YA back then!) and inspirational romances through mail order. And when we started going to the library, my sister and I would get 10-12 to read at a time (we were homeschooled).

My mom was pretty strict about which ones we could read until I was about 15, and I vividly remember my first Harlequin. I don't know the title or author, but I remember the story line. :)

PM's Mother said...

I can't remember what I had for breakfast this morning. How do you expect me to remember books that I read 60+ years ago? I really didn't start to read "Romance" until I was maybe 17years old. Does Mary Stewart qualify? Then there is Phyllis Whitney and... and... and... oh, I can't remember!

PM's Mother said...

PS: I did read "Gone With The Wind" when I was in the seventh grade! Yes, I was 13 years old.

Cheryl C. said...

Kathleen Woodiwiss's - The Wolf and the Dove (great minds Kathy...). I was hooked in high school and from then on I read everything I could find. I started writing my own about five years ago but didn't know what to do with them. I found out about HOD from Southern Living magazine of all places - they were very effusive about the HOD ladies and darn right to be. The whole group is wonderful. Great post PM - made me remember why I love this business.

Smarty Pants said...

My mom always read them. She and her friends would buy all the HQs out in a month and just sit all day reading and passing them around. The first I remember reading was in 6th grade. I remember because I did a book report on it. :) It was called Deju Vu and it was a Harlequin Intrigue. Just looked it up and it was by Laura Pender. Check out that cover, will you?

I'm pretty sure I went straight from here to Bertrice Small and once your heroine is kidnapped and forced into a harem, Sweet Valley High just isn't going to cut it anymore.