Day 16 Anne Stuart – Romance Saves Us

Romance Novels as a Cure for What Ails You

Never Kiss a RakeIf you know anything about me at all you know that I have intermittent bouts of clinical depression. It comes from both sides of my family – one side is made up of gloomy Danes, the other are overbred academics with a tendency toward bipolar illness. Fortunately I’m not bipolar – I’m either depressed or very cheerful. You add to that the normal tendency of artists to get sunk by depression when things aren’t going well, toss in far too many untimely deaths, the upbringing from hell, and it’s lucky I’m as bouncy as I am.

Books carried me through my childhood. I was never big on straight romances – when I was young they were virginal, usually nurse books. I did love historical fiction, but they were often written by men. My drug of choice was gothic romance – the sweet young governess and the brooding master in the big house. I then discovered Georgette Heyer, and I was in heaven. It wasn’t until they started adding sex to romance, both historical and contemporary, that I really switched my allegiance. (Hey, I’m healthy).

I got through my miserable childhood with Mary Stewart and Dorothy Eden and Phyllis A. Whitney. I got through seven years of infertility with rereads of beloved favorites (about the only comfort after a miscarriage is to curl up in bed on a Sunday afternoon with Georgette Heyer). I got through the deaths in my family, the lingering effect of my upbringing, by writing my own dark books.

A great romance gives you a place to go, a safe, transporting place to live out your fantasies, to have great sex, to fall in love with a terrifyingly beautiful man who happens to adore you. It gives you the promise of a satisfying ending (everything doesn’t have to be perfect, but you need to know that the protagonists will be together and be able to face things), it gives you hope when things seem hopeless.

I believe a great book can cure cancer – disappearing into its pages can fill you with endorphins and scare away all the bad stuff. If you didn’t have romance books to turn to, what kind of hope is there?

On Thin IceI was driving back to Vermont this spring after visiting Jenny Crusie, and I was very depressed. I was coming up on the first anniversary of my mother’s death, my children seemed to be in crisis, we had no money, I was feeling like a total failure. I couldn’t think of anything that brought me joy, and I drove the long hours north alternately sobbing and lecturing myself. And then I put an audio book on – one of Sherry Thomas’s historicals – and the tears stopped. Suddenly I was safe again, in the place I knew would never let me down, never abandon me.

People call romance novels a guilty pleasure, soft-core porn, trashy romance novels. They always ask me if I’m still churning them out, totally unaware of how offensive they’re being. It doesn’t matter. These are books written mostly by women, for women, books that we all instinctively understand and respond to emotionally. We don’t care what the mainstream literary establishment says. We know we’re writing books of value, and we honor what we do even if no one else does. There are the beloved classics – Laura Kinsale, Sharon and Tom Curtis, Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer. There are also some newer writers who write books so good I never want them to end, like Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas, Lisa Kleypas, Jeaniene Frost … I could go on forever. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the sheer pleasure of audio books and the added depth a great reader can bring.

Romance novels remind me of a quote from Auntie Mame – the world is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.

As long as there are romance novels it means that’s there’s always a safe place to go to, no matter how tough reality is. There’s always an afternoon or evening that can belong just to us, and no amount of criticism or demands can take away from them.

I may be lucky enough never to have had cancer, but they’ve sure saved my life a number of times. They can save yours too.


Questions for Anne:

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

ayos4

Craziest — might be the Japanese Barbie doll figurine of Yoshiki, a male Japanese rock god.  He has hair to his hips, ruffles and satin and tons of makeup, and I pair him with his Japanese Barbie counterparts.  And make clothes for them.  Pretty nuts.

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

What Fresh Hell is This?  (quote from Dorothy Parker) …  I’d be played by Queen Latifah

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

My children.  (I’m pretty fond of my iPod Classic as well).

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 books are pretty intense, so my best, NIGHTFALL, might be a bit much for a first time reader (though I think Richard and Cass are divine).  I’d probably recommend Chloe and Bastien in Black Ice, and NEVER KISS A RAKE for historical (it’s less violent).


 

Anne Stuart

Anne Stuart is a grandmaster of the genre, winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, survivor of more than thirty-five years in the romance business, and still just keeps getting better. You can find her online at anne-stuart.com

Her first novel was Barrett’s Hill, a gothic romance published by Ballantine in 1974 when Anne had just turned 25. Since then she’s written more gothics, regencies, romantic suspense, romantic adventure, series romance, suspense, historical romance, paranormal and mainstream contemporary romance for publishers such as Doubleday, Harlequin, Silhouette, Avon, Zebra, St. Martins Press, Berkley, Dell, Pocket Books and Fawcett.

When she’s not traveling, she’s at home in Northern Vermont with her luscious husband of thirty-eight years, an empty nest, two cats, four sewing machines, and when she’s not working she’s watching movies, listening to audio books, acting in musicals, and spending far too much time quilting.

 

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  • Ora

    I love your historicals. I can’t wait for Never Kiss a Rake next week. I completely agree with books being therapeutic. Sometimes works better than medicines and definitely help with recovering from an illness and surgery.

  • Kim Cornwell

    I agree totally! Romance books keep me sane! They help take away the troubles of the day! Everywhere I go, I have a book in my purse! Thanks for what you do and stopping by!

  • Sue G.

    What a life you’ve had! *claps* to you for surviving! I agree with you that romance books help you get through everyday life. We all need some happiness added to our lives one time or another. I started reading again after my brother was diagnosed with cancer. It helped during the hour long waits of surgery. Unfortunately, he did not survive, but the books helped me through it.

  • Melanie Backus

    I love that we have a place to go when we are happy, sad, lonely……the inside of a book! Just opening the pages and reading can take one away from whatever is going on and transport to a comfortable safeness. What a great feeling!

  • rebecca moe

    LOVE aduiobooks. A good reader is a must–but when you have one? Heaven.

    Audiobooks and quilting are a perfect pair 🙂

  • Jen C

    What you said — “Suddenly I was safe again” — really struck a cord with me. Whenever I am having a bad time, I think about how soon I can get to sit down and read. And it is for the reason you said. When my head is in a book, I’m safe from all that ails me. 🙂

  • brhill2010

    I love how authors shows us readers how a good romance book could transport them away too. Thanks for being a romance writer.

  • MK

    Yes, books take me out of my own world when it’s bad, and help me cope. Thank you for writing such fabulous books!

  • Nicole Fortuna

    Romance is the best form of escapism. So many romances have turned a bad day around for me and made me feel less stressed. Plus has made waiting for my kid to get out of school and doctor office waits less boring!

  • Nancy Huddleston

    It is my favorite thing to do. Escape to a fun place.

  • Polly

    I am leaning toward historical romance these days. I need happy endings and HAE. Thanks for writing wonderful books that offer ‘great escapes’.

    • So many great historicals right now, and Anne is a terrific read!

  • Vikki

    I can’t count the times in my life that losing myself in a book saved me. I’ve been reading romance since I was a very young girl. I used to sneak my mother’s Frank Yerby books into my bedroom late at night and read all night long. It was hell to go to school the next day, but the stories were worth it. When I lost my mother in December 2011, I took all her Frank Yerby books, along with other memorable ones from her vast collection.

    • warm thoughts, Vikki – what a lovely legacy. xoxo

    • Anne Stuart

      Oh, I remember reading Frank Yerby books. They were some of the few historicals available.

  • Britney Adams

    So glad we can disappear in the pages of a book!

  • Tonda Galloway Hargett

    I love to read romance novels, it’s always been great therapy for me, also. And it appears you and I started out with the same authors!

    • I think it is “women of a certain age.” :o)

  • Sandi in OH

    Romances have always been my life saver. I read all types of romances. Thank you for the enjoyment you have given me through the years.

  • Melissa Cowling Terry

    I love that books provide a escape and allow us to find a safe place. I enjoyed reading your post.

  • Laura Perea

    my childhood was spent moving so books became my best freind they still are

  • Meredith Richardson

    I love those barbie dolls!!

  • MaryC

    Losing myself in a book is the best form of therapy.

  • jcp

    I need to read Never Kiss A Rake

  • Laurie W G

    I take romance books with me everywhere I go. They entertain me!

  • Donna Logan Brown

    Nightfall, Ritual Sins, and Moonrise are go to books on my keeper shelf. Books are an escape for me as well. When life gets to be too much, the pages of a book are a safe haven. So glad you are a part of the wonderful RARM!

    • Me, too! Thanks Donna – and thanks for your kind words on RARM. :o)

  • Stephanie M.

    Reading romance books, whether in print or on my Kindle, keeps me from going insane with mundane life tasks. I live for my reading time while commuting on the train and when I go to bed. I am adding your books to my TBR list. 🙂

  • Erlinda Mejia

    Special Gifts was the first of your books I read and I still have it. Thank you for sharing your talent for great story telling, it is so very much appreciated. And you are right, romance books can save you. They saved me too.

    • Lovely Erlinda – glad you’re here. :o)

  • Kareni

    I’ve read many a book for comfort. Thank YOU for your books.

  • clanwilson

    Oh, how I adore your dark heroes…wouldn’t want to marry one, but I surely LOVE spending time with them in the worlds you create. Yep, I am a Stuart fan. 🙂

    • Lovely! Hope you’re enjoying the other writers at ReadARomanceMonth.com, too! xoxo

  • Chanpreet

    I think I like you…well I already knew I liked your books, but you are hilarious. I love your attitude and wit. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. Stay strong and please keep writing!

    • Isn’t she awesome! Hope you’re enjoying ReadARomanceMonth.com! xoxo

      • Chanpreet

        I’m loving it! Kudos to you for putting it together. It’s been phenomenal so far! 🙂

  • Bernadette Long

    I really liked your “ice” books. I also read romance for my daily “comfort”. Thank you for expressing it so well.

    • Thank you, Bernadette – glad you’re here!

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Anne, your words spoke to my heart today. My parents survived The Holocaust and both lost most of their families and friends. We immigrated to the USA when I was just six months old because they just could not live in the places that surrounded them with so much death and destruction. I often say that my siblings and I grew up in the shadow of WWII, and it has had an effect on all of us. So I can definitely relate to your mood swings. Romance is truly the genre that helps me cope and heal all in one.

    • Blessings, Flora – thank you for sharing. Glad you’re here. xoxo

  • Ketta Peters

    Based on how much I loved “Ritual Sins,” “Lord of Danger” and “Prince of Swords,” I’ve pre-ordered “Never Kiss A Rake.” (yes, Bobbie, I did it thru this site ;D ) Please keep writing, you’re my safe and comfortable place. BTW, I also clicked to request that “Nightfall” be made available as an e-book.

    • Thank you! xoxo And I love Anne Stuart, too. xoxo

    • Anne Stuart

      Nightfall should be out next month, both as ebook and in paperback.

  • Becky Rabalais

    Thank you for a wonderful post!

  • Deb Hinshaw

    I loved your post today and the candid, yet witty, reflections you wrote. I can’t wait to read Never Kiss A Rake! Romances, especially historicals, are entertaining and deliver a bit of fun and relaxation to my busy life.

  • TrishJ

    I loved gothic stories as I was growing up too. And I do get lost in the book and my troubles disappear, if only for a short time. Keeps me almost normal. ;-). This was a great post Anne. Thanks.

  • Ann Mettert

    I’ve always enjoyed your writing. Books and blogs. 🙂

  • MooMoo Cake

    You’re amazing. Thanks for providing readers with cures 🙂

  • Patty Vasquez

    When you wrote of reading gothic romance novels, my mind went immediately to the novel I fell in love with as a teenager, probably the gateway book to my love of historical romance in general: The King of the Castle by Victoria Holt. Reading romance novels has been a life jacket for me many times over. I would never think of navigating the treacherous waters of life without a good romance in hand.

    • Anne Stuart

      The book that made me want to be a writer was Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt.

  • christinejensen

    I too find reading to be balm when my soul is troubled.

  • Larena Hubble

    I agree books are a wonderful escape when life gets difficult.

  • Tin

    I’m not particularly fond of the word “churn” — and it makes me sad that people attach it to authors writing romance novels. I’ve followed authors on FB and Twiiter and I’ve seen the time and thought that goes into the books that they write.

    Love your historicals!

  • Marcy Shuler

    I can’t imagine a world without romance books. Now that would be depressing.

  • Nan Reinhardt

    Great article, Sweetie! Love, love your Mame Dennis quote–my mom used to quote that line all the time!!

  • Karin Anderson

    I’ve never read any of your books, but I have added them to my TBR list. 😀

  • Karen Gallagher

    During my down moments, I turn to Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet. They are lovely women without a huge amount of drama who find lovely men and live happily ever after. If I’ve read them too recently, I turn to Sarah Addison Allen. I love all her books, but Garden Spells is my favorite because it really is magical. And you really can’t every go wrong with Jenny Crusie or Lisa Kleypas!

  • BookLady

    Wonderful post! I love romance because it allows me to escape into a fantasy world of happy ever after. Thanks for sharing.

  • BookLady

    Wonderful post! I love romance because it allows me to escape into a world of happy ever after. Thanks for sharing.

  • Marcia Berbeza

    My goodness, you certainly mentioned some of my favorites. LOVED Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. In fact I just downloaded a bunch of her books to my kindle to reread. And audio books? I am so totally hooked! I load them onto my kindle and listen while I’m driving or processing books. My account with audible is out of control!

    • Anne Stuart

      Mine too.

  • Love that you can share your story…and all the stories you share. 🙂 I, too, suffer from depression. Books are a powerful help.

  • Ann

    “As long as there are romance novels it means that’s there’s always a safe place to go to, no matter how tough reality is.” – LOVE this!

  • QuenKne M

    I love the idea of losing oneself in a romance novel. People who aren’t readers or are anti-romance haven’t got a clue what these books can do for you. I have suffered with intractable chronic pain since I was 14 years old and I will be the first person to tell anyone that books will help get you through anything!!!!

  • Pamby50

    Looking forward to reading Never Kiss A Rake.

  • Glenda

    If being s wonderful romance writer counts as “churning them out”, PLEASE keep ‘churning them out’!!

  • Janie McGaugh

    I’m all about escaping into a good book, and romances are the best choice when I really need a boost, because they are all about hope.

  • Mary McCoy

    Thank you for all your books….and I love that someone else has 4 sewing machines!

  • leah g

    I love that you were so honest. Thank goodness for books we love to bring us back from the brink.
    I think I need to go look up rake, cause I keep seeing that in historicals!

    • Anne Stuart

      A rake is a historical bad boy – the kind of man who needs to be redeemed by a good woman.

  • sniffle. Honestly, thank you for this essay!

  • Kim

    Great post! I definitely turn to books when I’m stressed and need a break.

  • Kim

    Thanks for the essay. I agree with you; Meredith Duran, Lisa Kleypas and Sherry Thomas are wonderful new writers.