Becoming a romance writer

This isn’t a thing I actually did on purpose, if you can believe it.

The story starts like this: I was about eleven, and a family member who was about my age knew that I loved to read, and wanted to give me an awesome Christmas present. Somehow, he got his hands on a subscription card. The deal was that you sent in this card, and then the person that you registered would get six books in the mail every few months. He thought this was the best thing ever, and signed me up right away. Neither of our parents knew about it until the first shipment of books came.

As you may have guessed by now, the books in question were a bunch of the Harlequin imprints.

My mother took the books away, but I figured out where she’d hidden them, and took them back. I read them all, and hated them. There was something cloying about those romances, about the way the heroines always let their men come first, no matter what else happened. I hated the secret babies and the ugly ducklings and the smart girls who pretended to be stupid. Oh, I hated those girls the most. But you know what I loved?

I loved the sex scenes. Oh my goodness, did I ever.

So I read the sex scenes until the books fell apart, looking up words like turgid and tumescent in the dictionary, and trying to figure out how they would relate to a penis. (This was 1991, after all, and we wouldn’t have internet access for another four years at my house). But other than that, I went back to my Stephen King, and my Mercedes Lackey, and my Anne McCaffery.

I loved the romantic elements in those books. I sobbed over Talia and Dirk, Vanyel and Stefen, Elspeth and Darkwind. But I didn’t try to read romance again.

When I started to write my own books, I found romantic plotlines creeping into the stories, but they were never the focus. And then, I went through a really bad patch for a lot of reasons (this is a theme I run into for a lot of people who get WAY into genre fiction, and it always interests me), and I found the works of Lani Diane Rich. I devoured every single book she’d ever written, then moved on to her alter-ego Lucy March, and her roommate, Jennifer Crusie. I realized that something had happened in the world of romance in the twenty-mumble years since I’d been away, and I found that I wanted to play in this world in a way I never had before.

I’d started my freelancing career writing blogs, both for independent clients, and also for content mills. All of that work dried up over night, though, and I went looking for more places to write. I found my way to oDesk, and I found a request for erotica. The pay was better than any of the blog offers I’d found on the site. I stared at it for a while, and then I shrugged my shoulders, and thought “Well, why not give it a try?”

One try turned into another, and within about six months, I was paying my bills by writing erotica and erotic romance in a work-for-hire environment.

There’s something incredibly freeing about just writing the story. It’s made me a better writer overall, because I don’t doubt myself like I used to. And because I don’t want to sell my work for a flat fee forever, I’m here, working on writing things for myself, that I can eventually sell, and hopefully see royalties for.

I never thought this is where I’d end up. Especially, all the drama with That Publisher that everyone is currently trying to weather. But early on in the debacle, someone tweeted something about how Romanceland is like a big French family (going with the heritage I can actually lay claim to here); we may not all agree with each other, but holy hell, if you unite us together? A force to be reckoned with.

I know I’m just a wee baby in this word, but I’m glad to be a part of it.


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