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?