Day 20 Susan King – Overcoming Everything In Romance

Real Love is Romantic Love

Celebrate romance? Absolutely! I love romance fiction, and I write in the genre because I so love and believe in the power of Blackthornesrose new coverromance. But to be particular about it – I don’t love a sentimental, sticky-sweet, predictable expression of romance in fiction or in life. Hearts and flowers, candy and passionate declarations (dark chocolate is always an exception) aren’t necessary—those forms don’t exemplify romance to me. Genuine romantic love, I think, is something else again—strong and quiet and always completely there, it doesn’t need overt gestures (unless they are made of chocolate). The real deal is unique, unexpected, humble, tender, heart-felt, respected, understood and deeply valued. It’s an almost magical charismatic connection that occurs between two people. And it’s not rare. It’s real.

Genuine romance sometimes sparks hot and fast, and other times grows slowly between two whose need to be together, to give support and love, becomes compelling and strong and enduring. That’s the sort of romantic love I admire and the sort that I want to create in my novels. The couple may begin on opposite sides of a situation, or might be opposite personalities—or they could be very similar. They may have considerable hurdles between them, and the question is whether they can overcome those, or if they want to overcome them to claim something bigger than either of them. As the bond between them grows, these two will overcome anything for the sake of what now exists—equal parts passionate, peaceful, courageous, protective, loyal, that love between them, I think, is utterly romantic.

Creating just that sort of character and relationship arc is a big part of why I love writing romance fiction. In my very first novel, The Black Thorne’s Rose, through all the rest of my books, I want my characters to be authentic within the context of their time and place, and to be totally genuine as people. I want the feelings that develop between them to be timeless, outside the boundaries of their time and place. I want those feelings to seem so real that the story gains power, and the reader feels love and connection with the hero, the heroine and their story. Love and romance are way more than hearts and flowers, sunny vacations and candlelit dinners—true romance stirs in emotions and soul connections in subtle, powerful, meaningful ways that go far deeper than sentimental gestures.

Though if my husband wants to take me out to dinner and give me prezzies, hey, I’m all for that. I know what he means, and I will do the same. But if you’re looking for real romance, forget hearts and flowers (but not, as we have established, chocolate) – if you have a quietly wonderful, passionate, utterly reliable emotional bond in your life, or you create it or read it and feel that—it doesn’t get more romantic than that.


I usually recommend my friends’ books, being in awe of the books they write – especially the Word Wenches (Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Patricia Rice, Joanna Bourne, Cara Elliott/Andrea Pickens, Nicola Cornick and Anne Gracie). Currently I’m enjoying historical mysteries, like the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King. Which author do I love most, out of all that I’ve read? Mary Stewart. In homage to that great lady’s recent passing, I’d recommend reading her entire oeuvre, starting with The Moonspinners. 

 Questions for the Author:

Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

Besides giving birth without drugs? Did that more than once! As a writer, I’ve done some adventurous things in the name of research – like flying hawks or catching arrows. I learned to do the latter from a former marine and 10th degree black belt. Facing a guy like that while he raised a bow to shoot at me, and then actually catching the arrow shaft, took a little courage! The research was for Swan Maiden, set in 14th century Scotland, but feeling that moment of courage was pretty inspiring for me and I’ve carried that forward to try other adventurous tracks in writing and life.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

Even as a little kid I loved writing stories, loved books, and always secretly wanted to be a writer. I took a long, circuitous route through art school, grad school and motherhood. I decided to try some fiction for fun while I was still in grad school, and to my surprise, won a contest and got an agent and a book contract for The Black Thorne’s Rose, my first historical romance. My choice at the time was academics or writing stories – the books allowed me to stay home with my little ones. So I took a chance and followed my secret love, storytelling. I’m still at it.

Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

Many books have changed me, given me insights and inspiration as a person or as a writer. Jane Eyre. The Power of Now. Would you believe Pippi Longstocking? Yes, because that’s the first time I remember very much wanting to write a story that I loved as much as that.  One book, though, that truly changed me was my own novel, Lady Macbeth – not the book, but my own experience creating it. Not only did I have to ratchet up my skills from writing historical romance to mainstream historical fiction—there were deeper challenges to all my skills, writing and research, reasoning and even physical and mental endurance because of the years that went by as I researched and wrote and revised. Lady M, a pretty tough cookie herself, toughened me up—definitely life-changing!

Susan is generously giving away a signed copy of Lady Macbeth or any of her historical romances – reader’s choice. U.S. readers only, apologies to international friends. (entry below)


susanfacebookSusan King is the bestselling, award-winning author of 22 historical novels and novellas praised for historical accuracy and lyrical writing. Her first novel, The Black Thorne’s Rose, was published in 1994 by Penguin. As Susan King and Sarah Gabriel, she has written many historical romances for major publishing houses; as Susan Fraser King, she writes highly acclaimed historical fiction, including Lady Macbeth and Queen Hereafter, published by Random House. Her backlist novels are newly released in e-book form, and she is currently working on new fiction. A founding member of the successful author blog “Word Wenches,” Susan holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, a master’s in art history, and her Ph.D. work was in medieval art history. She lives in Maryland with her family.

Learn more about Susan’s books at,  and

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  • MK

    What a lovely, lively post!
    I love the Mary Russell Sherlock Holmes books with a passion, and devoured Mary Stewarts when I was in middle school and high school.

  • Angie Frawley

    For me,romance is the holding of hands,nice words,and steamy looks..all from my dearest hubby!!!

  • Kathy Nye

    Love your recommendations.

  • Tin

    Oooh, I’ll check out Laurie King’s work! I’ve been looking to read more historical mysteries. ^_^ Wonderful essay!

  • Debbie Oxier

    Please forgive this but I have never heard of you! I will now be looking into your work. Always love finding new authors to read!

  • Fern Martin

    I’m so glad to see you on here. It’s been a long time but I know I’ve read some of your books. I’m going to your website and check out your books.

  • LisaVH

    Historicals were my go-to for years. I devoured them. I have moved on to other genres as of late, but always go back when I need a good escape. I have bookmarked your page and will check out some of your titles.

  • Martha B

    Oh, I love historical romances. Thanks for doing All the research behind your books. What an interesting fact that for Swan Maiden you caught the arrow shaft. The lengths you go for us your readers. Thanks! 🙂

  • Sharon Forbes

    I love many genres of romance, including historical. I have learned so much by reading historical romances, and have truely enjoyed it in the process!

  • Quinn Fforde

    I completely agree with everything you wrote, particularly the chocolate exception. I am good with drug-free births (have done 5 myself), but arrows are right out! I can hardly imagine doing that!

  • Patty Vasquez

    You and the Word Wenches are the best! Thank you for paying homage to Mary Stewart. Many years ago she was my gateway to historical romance.

  • Sue G.

    From early on when hubby and I first started dating I told him I don’t need presents but I always want a card. I want you to write something in it besides just your name. I always look forward to those words….he just has a way to melt my heart!

  • Emmel

    I agree that the glory of romance isn’t its drama; it’s the reliability and solidarity that grows between two people. That said, dark chocolate is a necessity in all cases. 🙂

  • mariannewestrich

    Chocolate is the exception to every rule! 😎

  • Ellen

    Nothing says love like dark chocolate. A few months ago, after a really bad day at work, my husband comes home with chocolate and dessert. Romance is alive and well. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • Erin F

    wow… catching arrows!!! I’m impressed 🙂

  • Cindy A

    Catching arrows and dark chocolate!!! Love is an adventure, too!

  • librarypat

    I am impressed with your training to catch an arrow. I would think that experience was thrilling and inspiration for you writing. Keep writing those enjoyable stories.

  • M Kuxhaus

    I loved reading your essay!

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    Wow!! I didn’t realize that physical research was required in the writing of a novel. I’m impressed!! Great post!!

  • Sheila M

    I’m impressed with your research!

  • Joan Varner

    Your research shows in each of your books. The time that you take to be accurate is amazing. Thank you.

  • Mary Jo Putney

    Susan, you’re clearly onto something with the romance/chocolate connection! Dark chocolate = deep, rich love. *G*

  • Courtney Cogswell

    I agree that chocolate is definitely key…my husband and I regularly bring each other chocolate (and sometimes even share) and I know that means true love 🙂 I also agree that grand gestures are not necessary equated with real love. I have seen it repeated over and over throughout RARM that real love can be small, every day things but if they are important to you, and remind you that you are cherished then I say that is REAL love. As an aside, I cannot believe you actually learned to catch an arrow, I am an awe of your skills! I have not read a ton of your books, but I definitely plan on checking out more of them and I have thoroughly enjoyed those I’ve read so far. Great post and thanks for all that you do.

  • rebecca moe

    Oh, yes–chocolate (dark especially) is always the exception! Thanks for posting 🙂

  • Pamby50

    I love some dark chocolate & he knows that. I actually had to reread the part where you learned to catch an arrow. Amazing. I am going to start with the first book The Black Thorne’s Rose which I just purchased on Amazon.

  • Janie McGaugh

    Yes, dark chocolate is very important. However, our relationship doesn’t rely on the sentimental gestures, either, so I mostly just buy it for myself (since I do most of the shopping), though I do share with him.

  • Tammy H

    You’re quite daring!

  • Adaffern

    What a lot of research you do.

  • Gretchen

    I have given birth 7 times, but only once without drugs. That was enough! My husband said my face turned green, LOL.

  • Laurie W G

    I haven’t read any of your books. I’d love to read THE BLACKTHORNE”S ROSE! I do enjoy most of the authors that you recommended.

  • Judy Goodnight

    Looking forward to reading your books. I’m a long time fan of Mary Stewart & regularly re-read her books.