Day 22 Kelly Harms – Wings to Crawl Under

Romance – Something to Cling To

When I moved to New York City as a newly graduated Iowa rube with cornsilk in her hair, it was July of 2001. I landed my dream job in August, had a birthday on September 1st of that year, and felt as though I ruled the world.

My dream job was working for a literary agency that represented a wide spectrum of books. Fiction and non. Literary and genre. I think I had been hired there for my literary—and perhaps liberal-leaning—cred, having come from a magazine with both “hoity” and “toity” practically written into its tagline. At that moment in time I was familiar with only a few romance novelists—Elizabeth Bevarly, to be sure, The Googd Luck Girls of Shipwreck Laneand SEP and Jennifer Crusie too. All contemps, all megastars, all hilarious. If I knew the difference between reading one of their fast-paced, smart romances and those ‘mainstream’ bestsellers by Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding, I couldn’t have articulated it. Books was books, then. I told you I was a rube.

Then there were some global events. You may have read about them in the news. They probably affected you, just as they did me, in powerful and surprising ways.

I felt very very far from home by the end of September of 2001. I needed a wing to crawl under. I found wings galore, I am happy to report, and even happier to tell you that one of them belonged to one of the most successful literary agents in the business. The Romance business. She pressed book after book into my hands—maybe to teach me how it was done, and maybe just to help me get through. Gaelen Foley. Stephanie Laurens. Beverly Jenkins. Suzanne Enoch. Regency madness was sweeping us all, but I still found my way to Colonial, Western, and pirate stories, books set around the world and even a couple about Midwestern girls making good in the big city.

These books all made good sense to me, not just as a reader but as an editor too. And they made good sense period. As in: the world is crazy, things are not what they once were. But love stories are timeless, and reading them feels good. Romance is unfazed by global fear or international distrust. In fact, romance actually thrives on those things. The wilder things feel, the more you stretch out your arms for someone to cling to. The more you realize how worth it clinging can be.

In the end, though I worked in the publishing business for many more years, and worked with romance authors of all stripes with great relish, and will read every new release by my favorite romance authors until either they or I can’t see the words anymore, it wasn’t a Romance with a capital R that I was thrilled to release last month. It was a book about friendship and fantasy–and food.

But could I stop myself from slipping in a couple of love stories?

Of course I couldn’t. Because romance matters. It was there when I needed it, and I’ll be writing it for my characters and my readers for as long as they may need it too.

 Questions for Kelly:

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

My toddler. He is beautiful, not ugly. But crazy, absolutely.

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

Oh, there already has been! Didn’t you see Eat, Pray, Love? Except only the Eat part.

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

See the first answer.

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?)

Romance is in the eye of the beholder. When, in THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS OF SHIPWRECK LANE, Janey, a passionate chef, gets taken on a date to pick slugs off heirloom tomato plants, it turns out to be the pinnacle of romance, at least for her…


You are reading this essay at Be sure to visit the About Read-A-Romance Month to learn more, or the Authors & Contributors page to see a list of all the great romance writers who are participating in celebrating the romance genre during the month of August.  Also visit the Awesome Contests page to see how you can register each week to win “A Month of Romance” (31 books), e-readers, and even the Grand Central Grand Prize, an iPad mini. If you love romance, then this is the place to be!

Kelly is generously donating a copy of  THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS OF SHIPWRECK LANE to give away (one U.S. only, apologies to international readers).  U.S. readers, to enter, 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 11:59pm EST Aug 22 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


Kelly HarmsKelly Harms is the author of The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane, coming from Thomas Dunne in the summer of 2013. She has also worked with New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, Edgar, RITA, and Agatha award winners, and Indie Next List Picks in her time as an editor at a division of HarperCollins and later as an agent at the Jane Rotrosen Agency. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her adorable and sometimes imperious toddler Griffin.


Buy Kelly’s Books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble


  • Nancy Huddleston

    I enjoy reading historical, present, and futuristic love stories.

  • jcp

    I love the title of your book!

  • mariannewestrich

    Love that you found the wings to shelter you in romance! It’s been a lifeline for me through family illness, divorce, etc. The authors who allow us to travel in our minds to escape some of reality truly are my “rock stars”!

  • Jen C

    We share a birthday! WOOT!
    I didn’t start reading romances until well after those events. Now it is interesting how its aftermath is worked into so much of what is popular today. I’m thinking especially of military heroes.

  • Kim Cornwell

    Love meeting new authors! Thank for stopping by!

  • Tonda Galloway Hargett

    I love your essay, it’s so heartwarming!

  • Britney Adams

    I can’t wait to read THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS! I have heard so many amazing things!!

  • cynditefft

    “But love stories are timeless, and reading them feels good.” I could not agree more. We hunger for that connection, for those emotions that shine inside when we connect with someone else. I own hundreds of romance novels and I still want more. Love stories never grow old.

  • Melissa Cowling Terry

    I enjoyed reading your essay. I look forward to reading your book.

  • Mary McCoy

    If there can be a best-selling country song called I Want To Check You For Ticks, then Janey can have a slug-picking date. Yay for another Wisconsin writer, and maybe I will see you and Griffin at the Madison farmers’ market some weekend.

    • Kelly Harms

      You’ll know me by my tomato-stained toddler. 🙂

  • Jess Clever McQuaid

    I will definitely add your book to my to-be-read stack!

  • Ann Mettert

    Getting us through the tough times does seem to be a theme, doesn’t it?

  • Anne

    Thanks for the essay. Good luck for the future (no pun intended). I better go find your book.

  • suepeace

    Looks like a fun book!! 🙂

  • Kathleen O

    I have this book on my TBR shelf.. I am looking forward to reading it.

  • Valerie

    Loved your essay… the world is crazy and we all need things that make sense, in one form or another

  • Kareni

    Picking slugs off heirloom tomato plants, eh? Sounds like a fun book! Thanks for your post, Ms. Harms.

  • christinejensen

    Romance has seen me through my own day to day issues.

  • Patty Vasquez

    As the stress of my job waxes and wanes, my family has learned to accept my need for romance novels as a coping mechanism. My family is always there to support me, and I love them for that, but slipping into the fizzy feeling of a good love story and a happily ever after, softens the edges of a crazy world.

    • Kelly Harms

      Well said. We all need and deserve a good softening up from time to time.

  • Melanie Backus

    Romance will always matter and I am so looking forward to reading the Good Luck Girls…!

  • Becky Rabalais

    Looking forward to reading your book!

  • Larena Hubble

    I love how picking up a romance can take us anywhere in the world and time period and you are right it doesn’t matter what is going on in the world especially when reading a romance. They are great escapes.

  • rebecca moe

    A romantic moment involving slug picking? This I have to read…

  • Meredith Richardson

    You are a new author for me *yay* I’m looking forward to reading The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane.

  • MaryC

    Enjoyed your post – looking forward to reading your book.

  • Pamby50

    You truly had a dream job. To get paid to read romance books. I have always told everyone that reading a book can take you anywhere in the world. Romance books are the best. Looking forward to reading one of your books.

  • Ann

    So glad you added writing to your resume!!!

  • Marcy Shuler

    Your romantic scene recommendation just cracked me up! I do love chefs as characters.

  • Karin Anderson

    So would Julia Roberts be you in “Eat”?

    • Kelly Harms

      Hmmmmm well, that sounds good to me! But you’d have to squint a little before you see any resemblance. Squint, and have a couple shots of tequlia.

  • I love your analogy. Romance is always there for us whenever we seek it out. I know a lot of those times are when we are troubled. Thank you for sharing!!

  • Laura Z

    Would love to read books as my job even it was for a week or two. The book sounds good and its now on my wish list to read.

  • BookLady

    The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane sounds like a fun book. Loved the romantic scene with slugs and heirloom tomato plants! Thanks for sharing.

  • Glenda

    Love stories are timeless! Whether historical or contemporary we can relate to the hero and heroine in a romance in some fashion. That’s why we all love them. 🙂

  • Ketta Peters

    What a fantastic job to have, you were so fortunate.

  • leah g

    I love having good people around who can help you through things without you necessarily even noticing until later. They just know what you need and make it happen.
    I also love unusual dates, I am not a big dinner and a movie girl. So picking slugs off tomato plants sounds pretty fun to me!

  • Mary Anne Landers

    Thank you for your post, Kelly. Some say romance fiction should be more like real life. I say real life should be more like romance fiction. Good luck with your new release!

    • Kelly Harms

      Amen and halleluiah!

  • Brenda E

    Wow, you’ve already lived a lifetime having gone through so much, and it sounds like you’ve come out on the other side. You have my admiration, and I look forward to being a first time reader.

    • Kelly Harms

      Thank you Brenda! Enjoy.

  • Kim

    Sounds like a great job! Books, especially romance, have definitely been a way for me to get through difficult times.

    • Kelly Harms

      Such a great job, Kim. It was an all you can eat buffet of good books and I totally binged.