Many romance authors can trace their love affair with the genre back to their teenage years, after stumbling on romance novels belonging to their mother, grandmother, or a friend. In my case, I found a romance on the bookshelf at my grandmother’s that belonged to my aunt. There weren’t a stack of them. I’m sure there was just the one, but I started reading it and took it home. Of course I got ‘caught’, got into trouble, got lectured – not for taking the book you understand, that was no problem – reading was to be encouraged. The problem was that it was a romance, and this stirred up a swag of stereotypes and negative attitudes to romance genre fiction, which warrant a whole other blog post.
But the thing that is important for this post is that it wasn’t just any romance. It was a romance by a New Zealander, set in a familar location (the wild Otago Peninsula in Dunedin, New Zealand) and the hero and heroine were farmers. With both sets of grandparents, a couple of uncles, and various other relatives engaged in farming, rural life was something that I was familar with. Twenty five years on, that story is still with me.
A few years later, the memory of that story resurfaced when I read a magazine article either by the amazing and hugely successful Australian romance author Valerie Parv, or recording an interview with her, about writing romance (I can’t remember which). From her advice the seed of an idea formed, but it took several more years before I started writing and at least another decade before I penned my first romance.
If that first romance that I ‘borrowed’ from my grandmother’s bookcase had been set somewhere else about people leading lives I hadn’t observed or experienced, I’m not sure it would have had such an impact. I love to read stories that play out in another country or in a setting that I’m not familair with – my bookshelf is full of them for escapist purposes. But there is also something wonderful about a story that resonates with your own experience. And in my case something inspiring.
A sense of place. For me that’s Downunder – Australia and New Zealand, and further out into the Pacific. Whether you’re looking for something different, to take you away to another time or place, or whether you like to read romance fiction that has a warm and comfortable familiarity to it, I hope you’ll find something in my work to enjoy and entertain.