Day 3 Susan Donovan – Joyful & Important Romance

Channeling Journeys of Love

“Write What You Know”

That’s among the first bits of advice a new author will hear, and I think it’s valid. But what if you aspire to write intergalactic alternate-reality erotica? Or, in my case, hot and funny contemporary romances? Did I have to experience everything I’ve ever written about? Goodness, no. I swear I never tried anything like that poolside/ spray cheese scene from my third novel.

Susan Donovan Book coverBut here’s what I will admit – I’ve walked the emotional path of every character I’ve ever created. I believe readers are smart, and they know when something doesn’t ring true in a novel. As romance authors, our job is to bring to life the whole emotional spectrum of love. The magnetic pull of sexual attraction. The exhilarating moment of decision followed by the tipping point, and the free-fall into passion.

Our job is to open a vein to convey the kind of dead-weight heartbreak that makes it difficult to ever trust again. We need to make the reader’s belly flip with anxiety at that moment the heroine professes love to a man she isn’t sure loves her in return. And, of course, every romance writer should know a little something about the joy and contentment to be found a committed, loving relationship.

I’ve been down every one of those roads. Sometimes more than once. I’ve had my share of fender-benders, flat tires, and empty tanks along the way, too. So by that definition, I suppose I do write what I know.

Romantic love is among the most joyful and important of all human journeys. We wouldn’t have a human race without it. At the same time, romantic love can be the messiest, most complicated, and maddening of all of our experiences here on earth (or in those intergalactic alternate-reality kinds of places.) And that’s why I love to write about love.


I recommend historical authors Celeste Bradley and Grace Burrowes (RARM 8/22), and contemporary author Robin Kaye. (Just as an aside, they are exceptional people in addition to being brilliant writers.) I also recommend newer contemporary authors Sugar Jamison (read her RARM content here) and Kimberly Kincaid.

Questions for the Author:

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

The second most daring thing I ever did was jump out of an airplane. Yes, I was given a parachute. The most daring undertaking of my life was my decision to become a mother. No one ever offered me a parachute.

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?)

I’ve always known I would be a writer, and newspaper journalism was my first career. I worked as a reporter in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Albuquerque, covering everything from crime to fluffy features to long-term investigative projects. All the while, I told myself I would have my first novel written by the time I was forty. One day I woke up and discovered I was thirty-nine, freaked out, and started typing.

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

This is a tough one. In fact, I don’t think it should be legal to ask a writer that question. ☺ Like many people, novels and works of nonfiction routinely change my life by changing the way I see the world, myself, and others. I can’t limit it to one. A few do stand out, however.

When I read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women in fourth grade, I learned how deeply I could care about make-believe mockingbirdpeople. I was horrified when Jo dumped Laurie and married some old German dude. What had that girl been thinking?

I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as an adolescent, and I learned that a perfectly crafted novel did nothing less than define what it meant to be human.

I remember reading my first Barbara Kingsolver novel – The Bean Trees – and being humbled by the beauty and power of her writing.

After reading “ A Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I understood that a gifted novelist was like a great chef. He or she could mix ingredients and cuisines and add a dash of magic to create something completely new and delicious.

When I decided I wanted to be a romance novelist, I was scared because I wasn’t sure my sense of humor would be accepted by readers. Then someone suggested I read Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Crusie, and their writing gave me the courage to let go and just be myself.

Lately, the book that has had the biggest impact on the way I see the world is Eckhard Tolle’s The Power of Now. This tell-it-like-it-is book has been so important to me that it’s beat up, written on, and wrinkled. I should probably buy a version for my Kindle.

Susan Donovan is generously offering the first three titles in the Bayberry Island series—Christmas on Main Street, Sea of Love, and The Sweetest Summer—to one U.S. winner (apologies to international readers). She will also send the winner the fourth novel in the series – Moondance Beach – when it comes out in 2015! Entry form at the bottom of the page.

And don’t forget to enter the RARM Week 1 giveaway – A Month of Romance: 31 Novels from Berkley Romance authors.

Susan DonovanNew York Times bestselling author SUSAN DONOVAN’s novels have won accolades for their humor, characterization, and sexual tension – “brain candy for smart women,” as she calls it. A former newspaper reporter, Susan has written more than twenty novels and novellas that have been translated into dozens of languages. Her novel, TAKE A CHANCE ON ME, won Romantic Times Bookreviews Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Contemporary Romance in 2003, and THE KEPT WOMAN and NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL were RITA finalists.

She is a former newspaper journalist with degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She lives in Maryland with her family and dogs.

Buy Susan’s Books: 

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  • Sharon Forbes

    I agree with you about writing romances. To me, it should always be from the heart,or your readers will know it’s not true.

    • Susan Donovan

      Yep. Thanks for stopping by, Sharon!

    • Guest

      Thanks for stopping by, Sharon!

  • Mj

    You definitely need to take what you have learned, gone through, experienced and ashamed of when in any situation to show who you are. To take that and then put it in writing so the characters are more believable makes you a true author.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Mj!

  • Lady Fitz

    I too wish they would provide a parachute with motherhood! Thank you for the blog, I will be trying one of your books.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Lady Fitz! (I think I’m going to start calling myself “Lady Susan.” It has a nice ring to it.) 🙂

  • Kylan Alexander

    I enjoy Susan’s humor in her books. I think “Knock me off my feet” was the first one I read. But I am a author hoarder, as soon as I decide I loved a book, I go forth and buy all their books. So I have them all. 🙂

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks for appreciating my humor, Kylan. 🙂 I’ll refer my kids to your comment the next time they roll their eyes at me. 🙂

  • Martha B

    I’ve always wanted to try sky diving but I’m content for watch videos of others doing it (e.g. my sister, President George W. Bush, etc.) Despite assurances that it is totally SAFE, I’ve had too many knee injuries (22 times on crutches culminating in 4 knee surgeries,) to truly tempt me. NO way I’m not willing to risk that! However, I accepted a job and moved to Moscow, Russia for 3 + years site unseen. We all seek adventure in our unique own way(s). Ditto for finding love.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Martha! Moving to Russia sight-unseen takes some serious courage. 🙂

  • LisaVH

    This is exactly why I read romance! I love the journey that the characters take in their search (sometime for something they didn’t think they wanted). I love feeling the butterflies of first attraction and flirtation and then the joy and relief when both finally figure out what they have. The emotional ups and downs are seriously addicting.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, LisaVH! Love is indeed a wild ride.

  • Nicole Fortuna

    I’ve read a couple of your books and enjoy the humor in them. Thanks for writing such great romance.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Nicole! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my books.

  • Marcia Boswell-Carney

    Thanks for believing readers are smart! We like smart writers, too!

    • Susan Donovan

      Of course, Marcia. Hey you know what they say . . . smart is sexy. 🙂

  • Emmel

    I love finding the humor in romance. Lord knows we all need it sometimes!

    • Susan Donovan

      Yes, Lord knows we do. Thanks, Emmel!

  • Sue G.

    An intergalactic alternate-reality erotica? Really? But I’m sure there are books out there like that!

    Also liked your analogy about motherhood and jumping out of a plane! Ain’t that the truth!

    • Susan Donovan

      Oh, I’m sure there are alternate-reality intergalactic erotica books out there somewhere. I don’t happen to write them at the moment, but hey, never say never. 🙂

  • TrishJ

    I love books that make me laugh out loud. Life can be difficult at times, a good chuckle can make a difference. Thanks for the recommendations, I am always looking for new authors.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Trish!

  • Patty Vasquez

    I like what you said about authors writing about whatever topic they aspire to write about; however, it’s the emotional journey they’ve no doubt experienced. I know that’s true about readers. I love historical fiction, many paranormal, urban fantasy, and science fiction romance stories. I’ll never experience what the characters experience, that’s total fantasy. But I can totally empathize with their emotional lives. That’s what draws me into the story.

    • Susan Donovan

      You’re exactly right — the emotional journey is universal. Thanks for stopping by, Patty!

  • Erica H

    If you only write what you know, there would he very little variety!

    • Susan Donovan

      Totally agreed! That’s where imagination comes in. 🙂

  • Kathleen O

    I love this series and I am looking forward to reading this book.. Sad tears though that I can’t win the contest…

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Kathleen! (But why can’t you win … ?)

      • Kathleen O

        Because the contest is not open to International participants. I live in Canada..

        • Susan Donovan

          Oh, shoot.

    • sorry. :o( xoxo But we are going to have a Canada only contest from Simon & Schuster Canada. Keep an eye on the giveaway page. xo

      • Kathleen O

        OK I will….tks

  • Melissa Cowling Terry

    I read as a chance to experience things through others. Any book that makes me laugh is a great book!

    • Susan Donovan

      Agreed, Melissa. I treasure authors who make me laugh.

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    I’ve read most of Susan’s books – just not the latest ones. I love the humor you infuse in so many of your books. Looking forward to reading this series.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Eileen! I appreciate the kind words.

  • Lynne Oberdieck Ernst

    New author to me….Will add to my list of authors to read.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks for giving me a try. 🙂

      • Lynne Oberdieck Ernst

        Where is a good place to start?

        • Susan Donovan

          Not sure … what kind of contemporary romance do you usually read? Any fave authors? Trying to think of the right one to get you started . . .

          • Pamby50

            Hi Susan. I am just like Lynne. New author to me. I smiled that you like Janet Evanovich & Jennifer Cruise. So can you give me a place to start also.

          • Susan Donovan

            Why don’t you and Lynn start with Take a Chance on Me and The Kept Woman…

          • Pamby50

            Thanks for the suggestion. I went on-line at the library to see if they have either one. They had Ain’t to Proud to Beg & Knock Me Off My Feet. So I am starting Ain’t to Proud to Beg right now.

    • You’ll love her. xo

  • Kortney

    Love Susan’s books and excited to read this new series!

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Kortney!

  • Brenda E

    Absolutely love your novels. Public Displays of Affection is the first one that had me hooked. Now your books are on my must-read list. 🙂 Also liked what you had to say about motherhood being your most daring venture yet – no parachute – so true. Thanks for sharing all your journeys of love with us.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Brenda! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed my novels.

  • Gina Burgos

    Love your books!

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Gina! It’s so cool to hear from so many readers today — much appreciated.

  • mariannewestrich

    Love that you have lived what you write! 😎

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Marianne! Sometimes living through stuff is hard, but I feel lucky to be able to use it to give dimension to my stories and characters.

  • Thanks so much for your lovely post, Susan, and for taking part in RARM. I am so excited to watch you climb the lists again. xo

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you for cheering me on, Bobbi! 🙂

  • Gretchen Miller


    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Gretchen.

  • Sugar/Ginger Jamison

    Thanks so much for recommending me!!!!! I’m honored!

    • Susan Donovan

      Well, sure! 🙂 You’re good!

  • Bette Hansen

    Great post. Enjoy your books!

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Bette!

  • Quinn Fforde

    Love is one of our few universal experiences. That’s why romance is so popular! Good essay.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Quinn!

  • Michelle Harlan

    I’m not familiar with your work, but after reading this post, I’ll definitely be looking for you when I visit the bookstore. I love that you believe in writing what you know & I am a huge fan of humor in romance. I’m a big believer in “Those that laugh together, stay together.”

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Michelle! I hope you check out The Sweetest Summer when it’s on sale.

  • Tonda Galloway Hargett

    I’ll say it again, let’s hear it for romance writers and readers!

    • Susan Donovan

      I agree! Thanks, Tonda.

  • rebecca moe

    I’m still not convinced that Jo made the right call there, actually. Though Amy and Laurie are cute together and all…

    Thanks for posting! RARM is always such a dangerous month, as my TBR pile becomes even more colossal…

    • Susan Donovan

      Amy. Ha. Never did care for her much. 🙂 So glad you dopped by today, Rebecca!

  • Anna

    I always had a soft spot for Laurie… Rebellious, tortured-artist, and gorgeously rich and handsome… Oh, wait. That describes most of my favorite fictional heroes!

    • Susan Donovan

      Yeah . . . nothing beats a rebellious tortured artist who happens to gorgeously rich and handsome. Except maybe if he also happens to be a Navy SEAL. Wait. Hey, I think I’ll write that hero.

  • Joan Varner

    I have always wondered how far authors carried that writing maxim “write what you know”. It’s good to know that it’s the emotions that is meant and not the spray cheese poolside fun. I look forward to reading your books.

    • Susan Donovan

      No — no spray cheese. And if I haven’t done it by this point in my life, it ain’t gonna happen. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Joan!

  • Bernadette Long

    I haven’t read any of your books yet, but I am looking forward to doing so soon!

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Bernadette! Hope you enjoy . . .

  • Marcy Shuler

    I liked reading your post. I’m a reader, not a writer, but your journey is interesting to me.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Marcy!

  • Sheila M

    To Kill a Mockingbird is an amazing book that has influenced so many!

    • Susan Donovan

      Yes, indeed. 🙂

  • Stephanie M.

    I’m new to your books and will add them to my TBR list. What did you like most about Albuquerque? I used to live there as well. 🙂

    • Susan Donovan

      Hi Stephanie . . . thank you so much for giving my books a try! I liked Albuquerque so much– and for so many reasons — that I’m hoping to move back before the beginning of the year. 🙂

  • Laurie W G

    To Kill A Mockingbird, I agree. I am new to your books. Thanks for sharing your journey. I do like series so I’m off to check out your Bayberry Island series.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you so much, Laurie!

  • Judy Goodnight

    Research & imagination can fill in the backdrop of the story; I agree with you that it’s the emotional arc that must ring true in a romance. Thanks for blogging here at RARM – off to add your books to my to-read list!

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Judy!

  • Courtney Cogswell

    I’ve only read a few of your books but I definitely want to add the rest to my to be read list 🙂 I’ve been on a big contemporary romance kick lately and I know yours will fit the bill! Loved your essay and I couldn’t agree more that romantic love is the most important of human journeys 🙂

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Courtney!

  • Michelle Fidler

    Great giveaway! I like the cover of Sea of Love. I see you worked in Indianapolis. I’ve been there twice. They have a great downtown area with a mall and lots of restaurants.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks for stopping by, Michelle! Yes, I loved living in Indianapolis.

  • Cheryl Hastings

    That’s exactly how I felt when I read Little Women!! It took me years to understand Jo’s reasoning….I’m actually not sure I do now, since did marrying best friend!

    • Susan Donovan

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one, Cheryl. 🙂

  • Ellen

    I enjoy your books and thanks for giving us a chance to know you better,

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Ellen. I am so grateful to all my readers!

  • Jen C

    Maybe a better way to think of it is “know what you write”. I don’t expect every author I read to have had every experience they have written about, but I do expect them to know a great deal about the characters, settings, events, context, history, etc. And I appreciate the authors who do. When I read a historical, I appreciate that the author knows during the dinner scene that X was eaten in that context, not Y. And in contemporary stories, an author who understands the complexities of our time and takes care to acknowledge it is an author I appreciate. Great post!

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Jen! I appreciate you stopping by.

  • Texas Book Lover

    To Kill a Mockingbird was the book in high school that made me want to read. I absolutely fell in love with it!

    • Susan Donovan

      TBL – I think it’s on a lot of “top ten” lists around hte world. 🙂

  • Meredith Richardson

    I love your description of parenthood 🙂

    • Susan Donovan

      Ahhh…. yes. I’m still doing the parenthood-without-a-parachute thing, and my kids are 21 and 19! Thanks for stopping by, Meredith.

  • cheryl c.

    I like Susan’s belief that a romance author’s job is “to bring to life the whole emotional spectrum of love.”

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Cheryl!

  • Karin Anderson

    All of your suggested authors are on my TBR pile, already. They shall be moved up in it. 😉

    • Susan Donovan

      Gosh, Karin! I wish my kids were as quick to follow my suggestions! LOL Thank you . . .:)


    Love your books

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Peggy!

  • Anne

    Thank you for your essay!

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks for stopping by, Anne!

  • Linnea Bassin

    I feel to Kill a Mockingbird is a story that when I was teaching students always reacted too.

    • Susan Donovan

      It is a timeless story. As a kid, I loved Scout’s curiosity and open heart.

  • Rochelle

    Thanks for this great blog. I have read all your books and love, love, love them. I just re-read Take a Chance on Me. T

    Also following your journey on your blogspot.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Rochelle! So glad you love, love, love my books! 🙂

  • LSUReader

    Thanks for the post. I especially enjoyed your comments about Little Women, which made an impression on me when I read it as a girl, and To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the best novels ever. Everyone should read those two!

    • Susan Donovan

      LSUReader — agreed. Those books should be must-reads for everyone.

  • Ann Mettert

    I enjoyed reading your post.

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Ann. 🙂

  • Glenda

    Susan, Great Post! I’ve not read any of your books – yet. My favorite thing about RARM is meeting new authors and getting recommendations from authors I’ve already read. 🙂

    • Susan Donovan

      Thank you, Glenda!

  • Erin F

    Little Women and To Kill a Mockingbird were my childhood favs too! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks for stopping by, Erin!

  • Lorelei’s Lit Lair

    I’m so happy to have discovered you! It’s been a while since I read one of your books, but I will definitely check out your latest series. You’re my kind of author. I’m the kind of reader that likes to experience the emotions as you said. ♥

    • Susan Donovan

      Thanks, Lorelei!

  • Peni Anne

    I’m so glad that you recognize that we readers are not stupid and the stories are best when they are at the very least plausible (unless it is para-normal, then plausible goes out the window) It always gets me when an author has placed a person in two places at the same time or better yet the timing for the birth of a child. I have heard pregnancies to last up to 11 months. Glad it wasn’t me, 9 was enough. 🙂 Love your genre and had the pleasure of reading a couple of your stories. Looking forward to more. Thank you for this opportunity.

  • Rachel F

    Enjoyed reading your post. I am looking forward to reading your books.

  • Gretchen

    I love being a mother, but I’d never jump out of an airplane!

  • Ruth

    The books you list that changed your life are must reads for me.