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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

You had me at…



By: Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

One of my best friends has an Oscar party every year and normally I try to watch the movies nominated for Best Picture. This year has been an especially busy one for me, and I only got to one movie. But as I drive my kids to school every morning I always listen to National Public Radio. Last week I caught an interview with Bradley Cooper who was nominated for Best Actor in Silver Linings Playbook. What really struck me about Bradley Cooper’s interview was the fact that he could pinpoint the exact moment he knew without a doubt that he wanted to be an actor when he grew up. In case you are wondering Bradley―yes, I consider him on a first name basis―knew he wanted to be an actor when he watched The Elephant Man.

The interview immediately had me considering myself and whether I could pinpoint the exact moment that I knew I wanted to be a romance writer. Without any hesitation the book Ransom by Julie Garwood popped into my mind. I could tell you where I was when I read it and exactly how it made me feel. I was at my dad’s lake house sitting upstairs on one of the double beds in the guest room, and I stayed up all night long to read that book. It was the first romance book I had ever read. I had always been a voracious reader but not of romance. Boy, I’m glad I discovered the genre! The moment when Gillian, the heroine, has to get liquid fire poured onto her arm to heal it, and the hero is so moved by her courage that he realizes she has gotten under his skin, I fell under the romance spell, and I knew I wanted to someday write a romance book.

The journey has been wild, rewarding, fraught with heartbreak, triumphs and lifelong friendships, and worth all the countless hours spent hunched over my computer keyboard. I would not change a thing, and I would do it all over in a second. I wondered after this mini epiphany did other writers I know have that same moment. I went straight to the best source I knew and asked some of my fellow Lady Scribes if they too had one specific book that had made them want to write romance. Today, I want to share with you what some of them shared with me.

“I loved Suddenly You so hard because it wasn't about the usual hero and heroine in England. No one' s nobility at all (not that I don't love those types, too. I do!). In fact the hero is a low class type of dude who claws his way to the top.  It's why I took a chance on writing a movie star as a hero in a contemporary romance.”  Marquita Valentine


“The book that converted me to romance and also made me want to write romance was none other than Johanna Lindsey's Gentle Rogue. I grew up reading books like Treasure Isle but when I realized I could take my love of adventure, the sea, and add romance to the mix, well...that did it for me. What is not to love about that combination? Besides, James Malory is simply irresistible.” Suzie Grant  

“I'll never forget the day I decided to bravely go where I had never gone before...the romance aisle at Barnes & Noble. I don't know what possessed me, but after a good while of browsing I found a book I wanted to try: An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn. I took it home, devoured it, and then went back for more. By the time I had finished the Bridgerton series, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to write Regency Romance Novels.” Jerrica Knight-Cantania

“Though I had read many romance novels, it was Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss that stuck with me more than any other. I could not get enough of her books and that was when I started writing my first novel.  The book was never finished and circumstances forced me to put the pen and paper away for years. However, the passion to write continually called to me until I couldn't ignore it any longer.” Jane Charles 

Johanna Lindsey's "Gentle Rogue" hooked me on historical romance. It's about an American woman that dresses up as a cabin boy to reach London. Of course, it doesn't take long for the rakish sea captain to realize his newest crew member is really a woman. I loved the banter between the hero and heroine, and the romance gave me butterflies. James Mallory was my gateway romantic hero. Once I discovered him, I was a goner.” Samantha Grace

"25 years ago (and - yes - I feel old saying that) I took my saved up babysitting money and bought my very first romance novel - Elizabeth Mansfield's A Grand Deception. The cover spoke of love, elegance and England, three things I adored and still do. I hid the book from my mother who wouldn't approve of that sort of reading (even though the big pay off in traditional Regencies was a kiss at the end.) But from that moment on, I was hooked. I had dreams of writing my own story someday, and I even started writing one in the 8th grade; but I wouldn't see my dream of being a published author realized until many years later. I am very glad I picked up that first book." Ava Stone

There isn't one book that I can point to and say "Oh, that one! That's the one that made me realize I'd like to be a writer. It was an accumulation of great books, a steady diet of fantasy and fiction and romance. There was Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn, L.E. Modesitt and David Eddings. Tracey Hickman and Margaret Weis, Lisa Kelypas, Jane Austen and Dan Brown. I can say that one of my very favorite writers is Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She writes contemporary romance, and has the ability to make me wish I was one of her characters, even when she's putting them through hell.” Olivia Kelly

“Kushiel's Dart made me realize that I could mix sex and love with my fantasy and not be remotely ashamed. At the time, I didn't know about this "paranormal romance" genre, but as soon as I read Ms. Carey's books, I knew I'd found my niche.” Hanna Martine 

“My favorite Regency novel was Affair by Amanda Quick. I really liked how the hero and heroine were intellectual equals. I had never read a romance where there was a true equality between hero and heroine and it made me want to read more Amanda Quick and write more stories like her--with strong heroes AND heroines.” Lily George

“Who hooked me on writing? Karen Marie Moning. I loved her Highlander series, but The Fever series consumed me. The back and forth, sexual tension, and love that bordered on hate that went on between these characters with every interaction pulled me into their world and I would race towards the end, desperate to know what would happen,  and then kick myself for finishing it so quickly.” Andris Bear 

What about you? Did you have a defining moment in your life where you knew with certainty what you wanted to be? I’d love to hear about it.

Have a wonderful day!

Julie

23 comments:

  1. Julie,
    How fun to see everyone's answers and photos! :)

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    1. Doing this gave me a whole list of new books I need to read!

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  2. I pretty much fell straight into romance reading right after I discovered that the Sweet Valley High books ended all too soon. I moved from Sweet Valley to the Harlequin lines (Romance, Temptation, Superromance and Silhouette Desires). Those too I soon discovered were too short. I was going through three to four books at a time and as a teen it as quite an expensive habit. My first memorable romance author was Madeline Baker. I could not get enough of her Native American romances, Leisure soon became my go to publisher; I read everyone from Madeline to Cassie Edwards. However even those couldn’t contain me I was soon reading across the romance genre.
    It was because of my love for books that it didn’t take long for me to begin looking at their covers and saying I could do that. I could create a book cover. So I took classes in graphic design, and as the market changed I started questioning being able to do that. Along the way I was filling my course schedules with history courses for no other reason than I thought they were fun. My defining moment came when I was helping a student study for a final exam and I saw the light go on in him as he began understanding what I was teaching him. It was at that moment I realized that I wanted to help people like myself. Not children, but adults who struggle to learn certain subjects. So smack dab in the middle of my design degree I changed course, and I am now nine classes away from having a degree in history.
    I didn’t need those design classes to teach me how to design, I was already self- taught. I did need those classes to show me my true course in life. I love history, and it is not limited to any set era. There are all kinds of eras that I love to study. There’s a part of me that still wants to design but more so I can’t wait to teach. Somehow I’ll find a way to incorporate both.

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    1. Misty,
      Great story! Maybe you could design historical covers or movie trailers that are historically accurate and eye catching. Thanks for popping in!

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    2. LOL Julie, I'm already working on doing just that.

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    3. Oh Misty! Madeline Baker was the queen of the Native American novels! Loved them all!!! I still have all of her original titles on my shelf. She was definitely a keeper. Glad to see another who loves Native American romance novel!!

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    4. Misty,

      Send me your website, if you have one. I'd love to check out some of the covers you have done.

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    5. I haven't done an official "cover" yet. I have done some practice runs and trashed them. I did do Samantha's header for Facebook.

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    6. I saw it! You did an amazing job!

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  3. Julie,
    This is a great post! I love that books have such power to inspire us and others to write. My oldest has an inclination towards writing and I hope there is that one special book that pushes her over the edge. I would love her to write!

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    1. Same here, Andris. My oldest loves to read and just recently wrote a story of his own. I think it would be great and fun if one of my kids turned out to be a writer.

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  4. Great blog, Julie! So fun to hear how everyone got their start :)

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    1. Thanks, Jerrica! I thought it was neat to see for the most part that we all had a defining book.

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  5. I love reading all these stories! Thanks for putting them together for us. The book that convinced me it was time to try writing was Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh. Well, really the entire Slightly series, which I read one after the other in about four days. Lol.

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  6. I love reading all these answers! Some of them have brought back some wonderful memories of some wonderful books and some I haven't read yet so they're going on my tbr pile! Great blog!

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    1. Thanks, Suzie. I've gotten a lot of new books for my tbr pile as well.

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  7. Great topic for the blog! Love seeing what inspires everyone.

    I can cite a few books besides the ones listed here that have motivated me to write and can tell that they're influencing me when I'm plotting. It's like I put the elements in these books together and making a romance gumbo. :-)

    Mirror of Her Dreams/Man Rides Through (Mordant's Need) Stephen Donaldson. Love the concept that an ordinary woman, living a rather dull life could go to another world and find herself as the center of saving the kingdom. The hero gets her to believe in herself, and Donaldson reveals a little at a time how magic works in this universe. You discover the twists as the characters do. Great starting point to learn how to pace a plot, and how to throw twists at a reader. Worldbuilding at its best (David Eddings also a great one as well with this)

    Love in Disguise: Edith Layton. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.I blame this book (and series) for getting me hooked into Regency Romance. The really skewed "love triangle" of Susanna, Warwick and Julian, Susanna's insecurities(don't we all have them?) make this book truly memorable. It's more then boy meets girl, girl drools over boy, boy is obvilious until heroine is in trouble, they kiss, they fight, they kiss, insert HEA. I ended up special ordering the rest of the series from England when I lived in Vienna, I had to know what happened to Julian! I still have them, and reread them a few times a year.

    Earthbound: Way back when Harlequin did a very limited series back in the 1990's that would come out from time to time called "Dreamscape". My favorite was one of the first, "Earthbound" by Rebecca Flanders. It was a simple ghost story, but Flanders packs in a ton of character growth in the book. I totally fell in love with Christopher Durant and his victorian house.

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    1. Trish,

      You gave me some great sounding books to add to my list of tbr. Thanks!

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  8. I definitely don't have a specific book that I can point to - it was a gradual thing for me when I started reading them from the free little reading library at the apartment complex I was a lifeguard for. Before that, I only read thrillers and adventure, but rainy day by rainy day, I starting reading more and more romance until that was ALL I read!

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    1. Erin,

      I started off reading thrillers. I was a HUGE Stephen King fan. read every book he wrote, and one day I realized I really needed a break from the darkness. The rest is romance history!

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  9. Yes, Julie, I did. When I was a baby, my father passed away suddenly leaving my Mom a young widow with three babies all under the age of three. She worked hard to care for us and gave us a good life. She never remarried but we never felt like we were poor. As I was entering high school, I had always thought that I would like to be a nurse. I had even taken a couple of years of Latin toward that as it was required back then. When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer, I “woke up” and realized that nursing school was just not going to be in my future as we just could not afford it. I guess you would say that was my defining moment in my life. The next day, I marched myself into the guidance counselor at school and changed my classes to Business ones. When I graduated, I became a secretary and had a good career in that arena. I never looked back and I never regretted it.

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  10. Connie,
    What an amazing story. I admire you for your take charge attitude and for never looking back and appreciating what you could do. Thank you for sharing your moment with me.

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