Day 10: Sherry Thomas – Life-Affirming Romance

The Heart of the Matter

I first discovered the romance genre in the book aisle of a K-Mart, within weeks after my arrival in the United States.  I was thirteen, a voracious reader all my life, albeit up to that point only in the Chinese language, so of course I had read my share of romantic fiction, but never anything with such provocative covers!

It was the late eighties, and the heaving-bosom clinch was still very much in vogue.  I am almost certain that when I picked up my first one, I was half-hoping for the content inside to be outright erotica, which would have been a totally novel, forbidden experience for me.Luckiest Lady

Not that I would have been able to appreciate the story, erotic or not.  My English was extraordinarily limited at that point.  I remember reading one back cover blurb, which concerned an infamous pirate.  Well, I knew what “famous” mean, so “infamous” must be its opposite.  I promptly set the book aside.  Who would want to read about a third-rate pirate who couldn’t even manage a bit of notoriety?

But soon I was sucked in.  At fourteen I walked three miles to the nearest Wal-Mart to buy Sweet, Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers.  (It was a testament to historical romance’s enormous popularity then that a sixteen-year-old book was still available at Wal-Mart.) I would regularly haul back bags of romances home from the public library.  And during summer holidays, because I lived on the campus of a university—Mom was a grad student then—I would ride my bicycle to the university bookstore and sit in the romance aisle for hours every day, hoping to come across that next take-my-breath-away read.

As the years flew by, my love of romance turned into a career.

In the beginning, I wrote romance because it was what I loved to read.  Why wouldn’t I want to create fun banter, hot sexual tension, and happy endings?  As I waded deeper into the creation of what I had formerly only consumed, however, the true reason why I love it so much dawned on me.

Other genres offer their own satisfying endings:  Science fiction saves the world from disaster, fantasy completes epic quests, and mystery is wrongdoing uncovered and justice served.  But romance, more than any other genre, goes directly to the heart of the matter and declares that happiness is not only possible, but achievable in the here and now.

And it does so by taking the hero and the heroine on a journey of transformation.  There will be pain, there will be setbacks, there will be pasts that seem too terrible to escape and flaws that seem too ingrained to overcome.  But at some point, in the hands of a great author, these characters rise from the ashes of their fear and their mistakes.  They now understand what it means to make good choices; and they do make those good choices, even if—heck, particularly if—it is the toughest thing they’ve ever done.

It is the most life-affirming message one could find anywhere.  And that’s why romance matters.

 

Recommendations:

Megan Whalen Turner, author of the Queen’s Thief series.  The series begins as a fairly straightforward YA fantasy, but by book 2 turns into one of the most jawdroppingly unusual and affecting romances I’ve ever read.

Also try, Bettie Sharpe, an e-published author.  Try her novella EMBER.  If you don’t mind a bit of rough language, it will be the best $.99 you’ve ever spent.


Questions for Sherry:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

To answer this question, I went on a tour of my house, and what should I see but a naked twin mattress leaning against the wall in our guest bedroom?

My husband, who loves to be prepared, had not wanted to part with the trundle part of a trundle bed when we moved from our old house. He figured we always needed an extra bed when the whole family got together.  But the problem?  We already have a queen bed in each bedroom.  So the trundle itself is in the laundry room and the twin mattress is permanently part of the decor in the guest room!

The things I do for the man I love.  🙂

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

It would be called One Boring Movie, as very little drama happens in my life and I couldn’t be happier about it.  For kicks, Fan Bingbing to play me.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

My husband, who is the least craft-y person around, made me a flower out of old Christmas wrapping paper for our first valentine.  It was ugly and I loved it.  Unfortunately we lost it during our first move, many years ago.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

My favorite of my own romances is NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, so Leo and Bryony.  And the scene would be the scene in their old house, toward the end of the book.

And since that scene is inspired by the globe scene in Meredith Duran’s THE DUKE OF SHADOWS, that would be my general recommendation.

Sherry is generously donating one copy of Tempting the Bride to give away internationally (enter here) and a copy to U.S. readers. To enter the domestic contest, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 8 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


Sherry Thomas is one of the most acclaimed romance authors working today. Her books regularly receive starred reviews from trade publications and are frequently found on best-of-the-year lists. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.  English is Sherry’s second language—she has come a long way from the days when she made her laborious way through Rosemary Roger’s Sweet Savage Love with an English-Chinese dictionary. She enjoys digging down to the emotional core of stories. And when she is not writing, she thinks about the zen and zaniness of her profession, plays computer games with her sons, and reads as many fabulous books as she can find.

Sherry’s next book, THE BURNING SKY, volume one of her young adult fantasy trilogy, will be available fall 2013.

 

Find Sherry’s and other books at Amazon.

Have you seen these other great essays?

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  • Tin

    Hi, Sherry! Thank you for sharing your experience with romance novels. I loved Not Quite a Husband! (And all your other books!) Very excited for Burning Sky and The Luckiest Lady…

    • Sherry Thomas

      Thank you, Tin. And I am equally excited to share The Luckiest Lady and the Burning Sky with you!

  • Polly

    I have enjoyed all your books, and I am looking forward to the YA trilogy. Thanks for the suggestions for books to add to my TBR list.

    • Sherry Thomas

      Thank you! I hope by the conclusion of YA trilogy, it will have one of the best love stories I’ve ever written.

  • Jen C

    I really like your summary of genre endings. That was clever!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Thanks! Some of the credit goes to my 1st agent, who summed up SFF for me.

  • Beverly DeeAnjello

    I was also a teenage romance fan and I love how you went to such great lengths to read them. My mother would buy me one book every Sunday and if I needed more it was the bus to the library.

    • Sherry Thomas

      When I was eight month pregnant, I again walked to Wal-Mart, this time for a Judith McNaught book. So I went to great lengths for romances even when I wasn’t a teenager anymore. 🙂

  • girlygirlhoosier52

    Thanks! It’s nice to know that I wasn’t the only one dragging home a ton of romances from the library!!

    • Sherry Thomas

      You definitely weren’t!

  • Melanie Backus

    Love matters of the heart and happiness!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Yes.

  • tonda hargett

    I’ve been so into all kinds of books ever since I learned to read, but I definitely remember Sweet Savage Love! I bought everything I could find with Rosemary Rogers’ name on it!

    • Sherry Thomas

      I didn’t have enough money to buy everything Rosemary Rogers wrote, but boy, did I check out Love Play a hundred times from the library. As Joey from Friends would say, “I’m not even sorry.” 🙂

  • Erlinda Mejia

    I did not discover romance novels until I was in my mid 20s. I have always been an avid reader, it helped me as English was my second language as well. I could only afford Harlequin novels and between books I had two children, got my husband through college and worked full time. Romance saved my sanity!

    • Sherry Thomas

      More reasons why romance matters! 🙂

  • Kim Cornwell

    I can’t remember the name if my first, but my mom gave it to me. I have loved romance especially historical romance! Thanks for stopping by. Love meeting new authors!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Love meeting new readers. 🙂

  • I loved reading about your discovery of romance. 🙂

    • Sherry Thomas

      Thanks, Brooke.

  • Kareni

    I’m another one who read romances as a teen; I probably had over 100 Barbara Cartland books at one time along with my Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss books! Thanks for your wonderful books, Ms. Thomas. My favorite is Delicious.

    • Sherry Thomas

      Extra squee always to hear a reader enjoyed Delicious!

  • Sandi in OH

    I think romances show that life is a series of ups and downs. There are many trials and tribulations all through life. Romances help us endure them better.

    • Sherry Thomas

      And it is safe, legal, and relatively inexpensive. 🙂

  • Nicole Fortuna

    Thanks for sharing your story about your discovery of romance. I loved Not Quite a Husband and I always look forward to your new releases.

    • Sherry Thomas

      So glad you enjoyed NQAH. Always makes me happy to hear that.

  • Ann Mettert

    Wow. Just wow. To be so accomplished in a second language. And English at that. 🙂

    • Sherry Thomas

      Thank you, Ann.

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Hi Sherry! I so much enjoyed meeting you at RWA last month! I have always loved your writing and I re-read your entire backlist when I got home. They were even better the second time around. I think my new favorite is “Private Arrangements,” but, ” Delicious” is still a very close second. I cannot tell you how honored I am to have been given an ARC of “The Burning Sky”. It is simply amazing! I’m looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy now. I just must ask what made you want to write YA Fantasy and will you also continue to write Historical Romance?

  • christinejensen

    I love that love can conquer obstacles and that romance novels remind us of this!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Hear, hear.

  • Karin Anderson

    The flower is a fantastic idea! I love re-purposing wrapping paper. 😀

    • Sherry Thomas

      Upcycling, in its embryo days. 🙂

  • ki pha

    Hi Sherry! I love your books and am super happy to know an author in romance where English isn’t their first language! You’re an inspiration for all us bi/multilinguals!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Thank you! I am waiting for my critique partner Janine to publish her romance. She is also writing in her second language and her command of English is far more exquisite than mine.

  • Ketta Peters

    I so agree with the “couldn’t be happier” about a drama-free life. I also loved your genre descriptions, so apt.

    • Sherry Thomas

      Drama-free is the best way to live, at least for us. Love the peace and quiet.

  • Barbara E.

    What a great post and interview, I loved reading more about you history Sherry and I’m sure all that reading really helped your vocabulary grow. 😀 I’ve enjoyed quite a few of your books and look forward to reading more.

    • Sherry Thomas

      LOL, I used to say at eighteen I had the English vocabulary of a Victorian old lady. 🙂

  • Ann

    You are an inspiration to many ESL folks out there!

    • Sherry Thomas

      My ESL teachers were awesome. They are the true heroes.

  • Ruth

    I discovered you, Sherry, at the beginning of the summer, when I finally got a hold of a copy of “Midnight Scandals,” because I am a huge Courtney Milan fan. Imagine my delight to also discover YOU (and Carolyn Jewel :))! I loved “His At Night, and I am totally looking forward to “The Luckiest Lady in London.” Life affirming, indeed! Thanks, Sherry!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Ooh, I love riding on Courtney’s coattails. 🙂 And seriously, so glad the anthology introduced me to new readers–we were just wondering the other day whether it did any of that at all.

      • Ruth

        Yep! I’m now a Sherry Thomas fan!

  • Meredith Richardson

    Yay I’m so happy that you get to do what you love!! You’re such an inspiration 🙂

    • Sherry Thomas

      It’s such wonderful fortune to do what I love. I sometimes smile just think about it. 🙂

  • Eirene Oh

    Oooh, romance seems like an awesome introduction to the English language! (Mine was with mythologies, reading The Odyssey was something I was proud of even if it took me a whole month when I was younger.) And what you said about the journey of transformation is so true and I definitely always see it in your books! That’s definitely one of the things I loved most about Not Quite A Husband. (That’s so awesome to hear that it’s one of your favourite romances, it was definitely one of my first books in the genre and it was awesome!)

    • Sherry Thomas

      I always try to write books I will love but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Fortunately, whether I personally adore a book or not do not seem to matter to readers–they find their own favorites. But NQAH affects me so deeply that I really do think it carries across. And I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  • Patty Vasquez

    Oh my gosh! Someone else who loves the Queen’s Thief series! I keep gushing about it to my friends, they say yes, yes, to placate me, but nobody ever reads them. Gah! They do not know what they’re missing. If it wasn’t for the fact that Eugenides is so much younger than me, I would have a major crush on him. (Hmm. I guess I do anyway.) He’s brilliant. And, by the way, so are your books!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Squee, Patty! I love Eugenides for himself, but I love him the most for loving the woman he loves. Makes sense to you, I hope?

      Anyway, I’d named a never-on-stage character in The Burning Sky after him, in tribute of my love of those books.

      • Patty Vasquez

        Yes, it absolutely makes sense. He embodies everything you and the other authors have been writing about for the previous 10 days. Gen puts his queen before himself- always. He understands her mind and her motives and he works to compliment her strengths. He has her back. In the process, he proves to himself he is, in fact, a king. I cannot wait for the 5th book in the series. I live in fear that I will miss it somehow!

  • QuenKne M

    It is a wonderful experience the first time anyone first discovers romance novels.<3
    I will definitely be checking out your books.

    • Sherry Thomas

      It really is a wonderful experience. It’s like one of those huge vitamin pills with everything you need inside. 🙂

  • May

    I did enjoy Not quite a husband a lot. 🙂 Congrats on your book! I pre-ordered The Burning sky already!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Thank you so much, May. Hope you like!

  • Cheryl Castings

    Thanks for writing romance novels. These days they are all I read, and I read a lot!

    • Sherry Thomas

      You are welcome, Cheryl.

  • leah g

    It comforts me very much to hear that I am not the only person who has a random mattress leaning against a guest bedroom wall, just incase!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Leah, you totally made me laugh out loud.

  • BookLady

    What an interesting post! I enjoyed hearing about your discovery of romance novels. Sweet, Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers was one of my first romances. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the great giveaway.

    • Sherry Thomas

      I still have my copy, purchased from my Wal-Mart trip all those years ago. Can’t read it anymore–my tastes have changed–but I’ll always keep it for a memento.

  • Katy M

    I’ve loved everything you’ve written and couldn’t possibly choose a favorite. I’m looking forward to The Luckiest Lady in London and will be looking for The Burning Sky at my library (hardcovers are not in the budget unfortunately).

    • Sherry Thomas

      It’s all good to me–I use my library voraciously. Fingers crossed they will carry The Burning Sky and that you will enjoy it.

  • Dana Shoulders

    I’ve read everything you’ve written so far (or at least published) and loved it. Clearly because you devoured romances as much as I did when I was younger so we’re all on the same page so to speak :).

    • Sherry Thomas

      LOL, hi Dana. Clearly that must be the case!

  • brhill2010

    Delving into the heart of romance makes me love this genre more!!! Glad you are a romance writer!!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Glad you are a romance reader. 🙂

  • Janie McGaugh

    I didn’t really discover romance books until I was 14, and I tumbled headlong into “love” with them. There wasn’t a lot available at the time, and I’d read anything that had even a little bit of romance in it, which is why I started reading my father and brother’s Edgar Rice Burroughs and Zane Grey books. Now, there are so many romance books being published, even in the few sub-genres I read, that I can’t keep up with them.

    • Sherry Thomas

      Definitely there are more books published than ever, but sometimes I wonder if it isn’t also because we just don’t have that much free time as adults. Certainly no long, long summer holidays that need to be filled with books. Now the days are filled even before I open my eyes!

  • Sharlene Wegner

    I never would have guessed English wasn’t your first language. You tell such beautiful stories! And those covers do suck you in, don’t they?

    • Sherry Thomas

      Those covers sure blew my mind when I was a kid. 🙂

  • rebecca moe

    Not Quite a Husband is my favorite of yours too! So far at least–haven’t read them all yet…but I’m close. 😉 Very nice post–thanks for writing!

    • Sherry Thomas

      Thanks for reading, Rebecca. I’d write anyway, but so much more rewarding to have readers.

  • Tina B

    I enjoyed reading your post on why romance matters. It is definitely the HEA that keeps me coming back. 🙂
    Thank you for the book recommendations. I will have to check them out.

    • Sherry Thomas

      I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, Tina.

  • Kim

    Great post! I love your comparison of romance to other genres.

    • Sherry Thomas

      Thank you, Kim. My first agent was the one who told me what SF & Fantasy was about. 🙂

  • Britney Adams

    “Romance, more than any other genre, goes directly to the heart of the matter and declares that happiness is not only possible, but achievable in the here and now” Love that!

  • Olivia Searcy

    One day, a year ago, a fellow romance reader suggested I read Sherry Thomas. I started with Delicious… and fell in love with your characters and prose. I’m glad I’m learning about my own voice, or else I’d never pick up a pen for fear of being compared to you. Keep writing those magnificent books!

  • Kim

    There is no such thing as a bad Sherry Thomas book. All are favorites for different reasons.

  • JenM

    As a teenager in the late 1970’s I can’t tell you how many times I reread Sweet Savage Love. It’s funny how our tastes change. I don’t think I could even get 100 pages into it now, but I sure do remember it fondly.

  • Chanpreet

    My first romance that I can remember is The Love Stone by Deanna James. I found it at a thrift store and I can’t tell you how many times I re-read it. I must have been in the 5th or 6th grade.

  • Rhiannon Rowland

    I didn’t find romances until my early 20’s, but have loved them ever since then. I love knowing that the hero and his lady are going to overcome and live happily ever after!

  • Azucena Rodriguez

    I started reading romance 6 years ago and it all started with Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Ain’t She Sweet? Since then I have devoured many MANY books and know exactly what works for me and what doesn’t. Finding a new author or book series is still one of the many joys I find in reading romances.

  • MK

    All Sherry Thomas books totally rock. I discovered romance books in my 30s, and am so hooked! I read about a book a day, though, which is hard on the pocketbook