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!