Do you see any conflict between being a romance novelist and being a feminist? Do you feel an obligation to interject socially conscious themes into your work? Are there authors you respect for their socially conscious stories? These are a few of the questions I was asked during a Q&A with Geek Girl Authority‘s Leona Laurie.
Here are a few soundbites from my responses:
“We’re at a time in our culture where long-standing and important issues are coming to light in a new way—including feminism—and I’m grateful to have grown up in a family that celebrates empowerment. When we empower individuals to feel good, do good and be equal players, I believe we lift ourselves as a whole.”
“In the genre of romance, Nora Roberts must have very strong shoulders because generations of writers are taking taller strides because of her.”
“My job is to tell the most authentic story that I can, each and every time, and I take that responsibility to heart.”
Last week, I was invited by a great publication to do an interview on what it means to be a romance writer who also supports equal rights for women (commonly labeled as a feminist). Sure! Love to! I’m honored!
On Saturday I started in on my responses and found myself fired up. As an autumn storm brought heaving gusts of wind that spun the gold, green, and brown leaves through the sky, I dove in and didn’t come up for air for hours.
Finally I surfaced, took stock of the fallen limbs, the smattering of raindrops on the deck, and was struck with a a bone-deep love for the fact that I’m a woman, a romance writer, and a woman who celebrates other women. What a time to be a woman. Truly.
Important issues in our culture that have been hiding in the shadows for decades–centuries!–are coming to light. Women are coming together, holding hands, and championing one another through difficult discussions (like sexual assault). Now, for clarity, I’m not talking about political affiliations; what it means to be a woman in our culture in this day and age, goes beyond the presidential election. I’m speaking simply about my own gratitude to be a woman surrounded by really awesome women doing really awesome things with their lives. (I love men too, but that’s another topic.) 🙂
On Sunday, the leaves continued to drift and spin and scatter, tree limbs kept falling on the deck, making me think a bird was trying to fly through the french doors, and the rain drizzled enough to coat everything–including my favorite heart-shaped grape leaves–with a nice dampness, but not enough to make true, foot-stomping puddles. I read over my interview responses, tweaked and refined a bit, then got to work on my current book, listening to the occasional gong from the wind-chimes.
The final moments of the weekend were rewarded with a glass of red wine and some homemade “kitchen sink” ramen–so satisfying on a cold evening. (Okay, maybe a cool evening. Yes, this is California in October, not New York in March.)
I hope everyone has a marvelous week!
PS- I’ll post a link to the article once it’s published!
I am often asked how/when/why I began writing. So here’s a short bit about how/when/why it came about:
I’ve always had a vibrantly active imagination. Always, always. But as a kid, perhaps because I’m an only child, I didn’t realize that this was anything out of the ordinary. I thought everyone experienced stories bursting to life in their head like I did (and do), and I thought everyone had an intense drive to write them or act them out. And that’s exactly what I did throughout my childhood–either acting out stories with my best bud, or taking my grandmother’s typewriter, lugging it out to the old woodshed (no idea why the woodshed, guess it felt like a cozy writing nook) and writing stories.
Also as a child, I loved to read. Scholastic book orders were among my favorite events. But I wasn’t a sedentary kid either. I was always zooming around my super small community on my motorcycle (pretending it was a car, acting out stories, of course) and I was in many (many many!) theatrical and dance performances at the local theatre–always expressing feeling and imagination in a disciplined way (not much has changed there). Also, my father was a race car driver so on long trips to wherever his races were, I’d gobble up books, asking to stop in every city along the way for new, fresh reads.
As an adult, one summer I ventured to a fishing village in Florida to visit some family friends and I was desperate for some entertainment while sitting outside in the swampy heat (others were smoking inside), so I headed to the nearest Wal-Mart (the only place in that town to buy a book), and purchased three books by Nora Roberts. And I was hooked. I was home. Having never read romance novels before then, the whole experience resonated deeply within me.
Soon after, I moved to New York after being offered a position at CNN. Across the country from my friends and family, and knowing only one person when I arrived there, I spent a lot of time in my imagination as I wandered up and down the streets, through Central Park, along the Hudson River, investigating the feel and flavors of my new city.
Because I was largely alone–in a densely populated city–that time I spent in my imagination was important for me. It gave me company, it entertained me, and helped me feel connected as I learned the ways of this new life adventure I was on.
I remember one day having this very strong, very distinct feeling under the surface that I wanted to connect with. It wasn’t a neighborhood I wanted to go to, it wasn’t a store, it wasn’t a restaurant, or place. I trekked to the nearest Barnes & Noble, then the Borders bookstore, scanning the shelves, searching for the book that contained the feeling of the world my imagination craved to dive into. It was such a specific feeling that I was seeking, I roamed every aisle, every genre, and couldn’t find it on any page in any book on any shelf.
And I remember it dawning on me like a flash of light bursting in my heart: the story was within me. It was my story to write. So I went home, back to my itty bitty studio apartment on the Upper West Side, and I wrote that story.
That first novel, I’m happy to say, will remain locked away forever. It was me working through those initial kinks as a creator, I suppose. But then I sat down and wrote Hidden Harbor and haven’t looked back.
I am so incredibly grateful for this career. I love the whole process (even on days where a lot of wrestling is involved), including the imaginative elements (the research, the what next-ing, uncovering the motivation), the discipline of writing seven days a week, the re-writing, the polishing. I love falling in love with the characters through their story. I love getting to know my characters each and every time and my favorite book is always the one I’ve just finished because their story is still within me, lingering.
And then I immediately move on to the next book. The story I’ve just finished is no longer mine. It’s for the readers. And my job is to let those characters be adored–hopefully–and to focus on the new story in front of me. A new story to feel my way through, new characters to fall in love with.
I love my job, and I’m so grateful to be doing a job that I love with my whole heart. I love the opportunity to live my dreams just as I love watching my characters strive for their dreams.