Day 9: Barbara Samuel/O’Neal on The Writer Sisterhood

A quick note from Bobbi and Read-A-Romance Month

* For those of you wondering why Laurin Willig is not here today, the short answer is because she recently had a baby – yay, Laurin! – and we decided to move the deadline back so she could participate when she was ready. She will be posting on the 17th which was originally Barbara’s post date. (Many thanks to Barbara O’Neal who graciously stepped in at the last minute to help out!)


The Left Bank of Women Writers

One of the reasons romance matters is because of the way it transforms the writers who create the genre.  Just think of it! How many women writers are engaged in lives that are bigger, wider, deeper, happier than any life they could have imagined—because they write romances?

Ages ago, there was a group of romance writers on the Genie Romance Exchange.  We called it RomEx, and it was a hideously difficult place to get to because it was an old DOS-based system, so it was a very smart group who gathered there (or else we had smart children, like me, to help us). It was the early 90s.  Most of us were just getting our careers off the ground, and a handful had been published well, or were about to be. In The Midnight Rain

Some of those women have become giant stars and I would tell you their names, but the point is that we gathered there, all of us, to talk about writing, day after day after day.  We came from many walks of life, from hard scrabble working class to well traveled Ivy Leaguers. We talked about husbands and children and health and everything in between, but mostly we talked about writing and books, and specifically about romance novels.  We believed in them, we still do.  At the time, we said we were the Left Bank of women writers, forging the way for women writers who would come behind us.  It sounds a little grandiose now, maybe.

But think about it.  How many romance writers found their lives through this genre? How many more women are writing now, telling their stories their own way, than ever have before?  The number is impossible and thrilling to calculate.  I am a writer because there are romance novels—I didn’t want to tell the other kinds of stories open to me. I wanted to write about women winning, finding their lives and loves and conquering all, and I found those stories in romances.

If the world thinks they are silly tales, they just don’t understand them.  In the meantime, we’re still engaged in the conversation, keeping each other company on lonely evenings or when we’re tired, telling each other stories of good men, and bad men, and the thing that happened to this woman I know…..


In general, I’ve been reading Colleen Hoover and loving her.  SLAMMED is such a great novel.   And you can’t beat Laura Kinsale. She’s the best romance writer who has ever picked up a pen.  In contemporaries, I love Christie Ridgway.

Romance writer readers might not know about, MJ Scott, who writes paranormal urban fantasy, but also has contemporary romances coming out under her own name Melanie Scott.


Questions for Barbara:

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

A Virgin of Guadalupe statue that lights up with laser lights. It’s about two feet tall and she’s draped with mementos from my travels.  My young teen son brought her to me one Easter morning, so very proud of himself, and she’s had a place of honor in my office ever since.


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

The Road is Made by Walking.  Lauren Becall in her prime.

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

My partner, Neal.  He was an absolute surprise and so incredibly right for me that ten years later I’m still delighted and astonished.

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?)

It’s so hard to choose! I love the balance between sexy bad boy Blue and sensible Ellie in In The Midnight Rain, but I love them all, honestly.  One of my favorite scenes is the end of The Lost Recipe for Happiness.  I cried like crazy writing it.


Barbara is generously donating three copies of In The Midnight Rain and three copies of The Lost Recipe of Happiness to give away . 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 9 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


Barbara Samuel O’Neal is the author of a number of highly acclaimed novels, including the Target Club Pick How to Bake a Perfect Life and The Lost Recipe for Happiness, both of which won RITA awards, and placed her in the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. She sold her first novel in her twenties, and has also published under the names Barbara Samuel and Ruth Wind, and her books have been sold in Poland, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Spain, Brazil and Turkey. Barbara loves olive oil, peaches, good ale, gardening, and all big dogs. She’s also a long distance walker who traveled a portion of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in 2010, and hopes to return to walk the rest in the near future. A native of Colorado, she now lives on the skirts of Pikes Peak with her partner, a British endurance athlete, and four animals who convinced her they needed rescue.


Buy Barbara’s and other books on Amazon.


Have you seen these other great essays?

Susan Elizabeth Phillips     Eloisa James   Jayne Ann Krentz

  • Jen C

    I wonder how many romance readers also write romance. Reading these novels has inspired me to jot down some story ideas and drafts of scenes in a notebook, but I’m not in a place in my own life where I’m ready to explore them professionally (yet!). Maybe someday. 🙂

    • Be sure to look into RWA and your local chapter, Jen. Great resources for romance – and indeed, all! – writers. xoxo

    • Barbara O’Neal

      Probably most romance writers were readers to begin with, and continue that way.

      I’m sure your stories will find you if you keep encouraging them.

  • QuenKne M

    Thanks to writers like you, you’ve also made readers have happier, bigger lives; helped us find ourselves and discover that we can do the unimaginable; and most of all, let us know that we too can find true love.

    • lovely! xoxo

    • Barbara O’Neal

      I love that–do the unimaginable. Thanks.

  • tonda hargett

    You are a new to me author, I can’t wait to read some of your books!

    • A treat! xoxo

    • Barbara O’Neal

      Glad to meet you, Tonda.

  • Britney Adams

    Thank you for sharing your writing! Romance matters!!

    • aww – thanks, Britney. xoxo

    • Barbara O’Neal

      Thanks for caring.

  • Melanie Backus

    Ready to read a good book and keeping my fingers crossed!

  • rebecca moe

    I recently read the Slammed series too–and loved it! Thanks for the early post and recommendations (and congrats to Laurin!)

    • right? 😉

    • Barbara O’Neal

      Have you read the Hopeless series yet? I love the first one, haven’t had time to get to the others yet.

      • rebecca moe

        Not yet–I have the first two, I think? So soon, I hope 🙂

  • brhill2010

    I am not exactly sure but every time I come back to read a romance month and find I new author I wonder where they have been hiding. I have not read any of your work yet and haven’t heard of the series you were talking about. Why are you not at a library????

    • A lot of her Barbara Samuel and Barbara O’Neal books should be at the library, but they’re likely under women’s or regular fiction, rather than romance. She’s wonderful!

    • Barbara O’Neal

      I am at many libraries, mostly as Barbara O’Neal. I hope you can find them!

  • MaryC

    Love your Ruth Wind,.Barbara Samuel and Barbara O’Neal books!

    • Thank you, Mary! xoxo

    • Barbara O’Neal

      All of them! Yay!

      Love your avatar.

  • emvark

    RomEx rules 🙂 Hugs!!!

    • Barbara O’Neal

      Hugs back!

  • Kim Cornwell

    Love meeting new authors. Thanks for stoping by and sharing!

    • Barbara O’Neal

      This is so great, isn’t it?

  • Vickie P

    Just picked up some of your books…anxious to read them!

    • Barbara O’Neal


  • Rochelle

    Barbara – I absolutely adore your books. You are an amazing writer who tells gorgeous stories with beautiful characters. Books allow us to escape into another world and leave our problems behind. By the way, did you use your partner’s name as part of your last name??

    • Barbara O’Neal

      Thank you, Rochelle. The new last name actually came from my grandmother. It was her maiden name. It’s very sweet that it also connects me to my partner, however.

  • Bette Hansen

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts today. I haven’t read your books yet but I now have another author to look out for!

    • Barbara O’Neal

      Glad to meet you, too, Bette!

  • christinejensen

    Interesting thoughts. As a reader only (I love the idea of being a writer, but I can’t seem to find the stories to write 😉 )I never thought about the writer side.

    • Barbara O’Neal

      🙂 The idea of being a writer is a lot easier than the actual process.

  • Amy McKechney Lang

    Love discovering new authors through Read-A-Romance Month! Thank you for your post!

    • Barbara O’Neal

      My pleasure, Amy. Hope you’ll find books you enjoy.

  • Meredith Richardson

    I agree there are so many people out there that started as readers, fell in love with books and ideas and then began doing their own writing. I’ve also watched as a lot of writers moved from fan writing to creating their own works. I think the best part of writing is sharing your stories with others. You can make the most amazing friends through shared interests and ideas especially with books and creating your own stories… sorry I’m rambling lol.

    Can’t wait to check out your books.

    • Barbara O’Neal

      You are so not rambling! Love it. I agree that the best of friends can come from a shared love of books.

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Loved your post today, Barbara! I am not a writer and do not have any desire to write, however, I am a voracious reader and I love following some of my favorite authors on Facebook. I have also attended the last three RWA Conferences and have been very lucky to have met and spend some time with many of them. Just as you say, I have been astounded by the caliber of these women. In addition to writing they often lead complex lives as professors, teachers, scientists, you name it, as well as being wives and mothers! All this and they find time for a fan like me! Without execption I have found these wonderful writers to be amiable, approachable, fun and fascinating.

    • Barbara O’Neal

      I love it that you’ve had good experiences at the RWA conference, Flora, and of course all writers love to meet readers. It’s the connection that matters!

      • Flora Segura-Buchler

        Absolutely true, Barbara. Maybe I’ll get to meet you, too, someday!

  • Marcy Shuler

    I hate it when people make snide remarks about romances and I’ll always ask if they’ve ever read one. Mostly they haven’t. Romances give my life a richness I won’t live without.

  • Pamby50

    Thanks for starting early. This gives me a chance to look for books by you. My list of new romance authors keeps growing.

  • Kim

    Great post! I’m really enjoying reading all of the posts from the authors.

  • Ann

    Thank goodness for the power of true friendship – We love and push as only those who care can.

  • TrishJ

    Another new to me author. This has been a great beginning. Not only am I finding new authors from their posts, but the recommendations from each author is great! I am so glad I am a romantic at heart and love to read romance books. It makes me a happy person!

  • Marcia Berbeza

    I love reading romance. I also love sci-fi, fantasy, murder mysteries, adventure, but most of all, I love it when romance threads it’s way through all of those other genres. Keep up the good work!

  • BookLady

    Thanks for sharing your post on women romance writers. Read-A-Romance Month is a fantastic way to learn about new authors.

  • Ann Mettert

    I feel like I am leaving comments that are very similar. But it’s true all of these essays are fabulous. And very different. They have all given me much to think about. 🙂

  • Sue G.

    That sounds like it would have been a fun get together to be a fly on the wall at! I love reading romance. I love a happy ending.

  • leah g

    Isn’t it funny how romance novels are kind of looked down upon. Because they are written by and for women so somehow not as exciting or something?

  • Ketta Peters

    Wow, Genie brings back memories — not that I was ever in the romance forum, but I can relate to DOS-based monster systems! Thanks for a great article.

  • Ruth

    Romance matters because authors/people like you, Barbara, give readers/people like me, hope on and off the page. I expect great things out of a romance story, but when I hear that your Neal was a “surprise” and so right for you that after 10 years you are still delighted and astonished, I want to stand and cheer, “YES!”

  • I totally agree…romance is much more than just a ‘silly tale’.

  • Kareni

    I read The Lost Recipe of Happiness yesterday and enjoyed it very much. Many thanks, Ms. O’Neal!