Blythe Gifford – Reconnecting to Joy

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The Joy of Romance

Before I started writing romance, I read romance.  I still remWAC Cover Webember the early joy of discovery – first of books, then of authors, and finally of a community of readers and writers.

But the dirty little secret of romance writers (at least it’s my secret!) is that it becomes more difficult to read once you start publishing.  That was certainly true for me and it has become more so in the last few years.  Between the demands of a day job and a writing pace that had me publishing and promoting five books in three years, I was burned out.  And not only burned out on writing.  I no longer enjoyed reading.

Oh, I still consumed lots of words, but they seemed to be in emails and Facebook posts or in research reading for my historical period and the occasional book on how to clear the clutter.  I was reading romance when I judged contests, but that only emphasized that to read was to analyze, not simply to enjoy.

So when I picked up a book to read for pleasure, I found myself reading it in author mode:  analyzing the set-up, the marketing hooks, the writing style…doing anything but sinking Cover_SAC_Medinto the story and allowing myself to be swept away.

The joy was gone.

The business, the pace, the distraction and shortened attention span of our digital age all caught up with me.  When I wanted to read for pleasure, I found myself reaching for a thriller (far enough from my writing world that I could take off my author hat) or, more often, reaching for a magazine with lots of pictures instead of words.

And at the end of the year, I looked back at my reading list and saw, in shock, that I was reading less than half the number of books I used to.  What was missing?  Primarily romance and particularly historical romance, the genre I write and love.

Some authors fear that if they read in their genre while they are also writing, they may beBlytheGifford_TheWitchFinder2_800
somehow influenced by another writer’s work.  I’m not one of them.  The truth was that time pressures and my increasingly short attention span had undermined one my greatest joys:  sitting and reading for pleasure.

To find that joy again, I had to do more than just carve out time.  I had to rebuild the reading muscle and relearn my old habits.

I’ve been working on it.  Interestingly, one thing that has helped is to switch back to reading more print books.  With print, I’m somehow more conscious of what I am reading.  Sometimes, reading on my Kindle makes it much too easy to break for email, text, or to check the news.  I don’t do that in the same way with a physical book in my lap.

It’s working.  Halfway through this year, I’ve read twice the number of books I read in all of 2014.  And a couple of months ago, I was sitting outside, reading.  It was a beautiful day and I looked up at the sky and at the book before me and suddenly, there it was.  That overwhelming feeling…

The joy was back.

Blythe recommends:

I’m going to recommend what is on my TBR pile, because as part of my rehabilitation, I’m going back to reading my first love:  historical romance!

Ruth ) won a Golden Heart and has published her manuscript, At His Command, as Book One of the War of the Roses Brides series. 

Elisabeth Hobbes ( also writes for the Harlequin Historical line.  A Wager for the Widow just came out in July.

Finally, time to break out The Dream Hunter.  I’ve hoarded this one for years, unread, in case of a reading emergency.  It’s by Laura Kinsale, ( one of my all-time favorite all time authors. 

Questions for the Author:

Tell us about a moment in your life when you experieBoat Cloudsnced sheer joy. 

In some ways, the entire essay is about that joyous moment of finding pleasure in reading again.  That final moment, when I was sitting and reading and just felt…happy!  Now, to be fair (full disclosure), I was on vacation and sitting on a balcony overlooking the waters off Key West.  Sunny day, puffy clouds, boats sailing by…and a book!  Simple, but at that moment, I wanted nothing else in life.

Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.

Anytime I’m on or near the water, I’m happy.  Fortunately, I live within walking distance of Lake Michigan, so that experience is at hand nearly every day.  Best of all is to be overlooking the water (hotel balconies are great) or on the water (cruise ships – my favorite!), but not IN the water.  My love of water isn’t connected in any way to swimming!

Tell us about a sound that brings you joy.

I’m a junkie when it comes to music.  I am listening to music nearly every moment of the day, including a soundtrack for each book.  But I take particular care in selecting music to listen to while I’m making supper.  I rarely sing along, but you might see me dancing around the kitchen to the soundtrack of “Guardians of the Galaxy.”  Pure fun.  I really do try to enjoy the little things every day.  That’s the stuff life is made of.

What recent book have you read that brought you joy. (Or a book you read in your life that brought you so much joy you’ve never forgotten it.) Why?

The Betsy-Tacy books, by Maud Hart Lovelace, have brought me a lifetime of joy!  Set in the early Twentieth Century, they are autobiographically-inspired stories of a girl who wanted to be a writer.  (No wonder I loved them!)  They follow her from girlhood through marriage, and grow in writing complexity as Betsy (and her best friend Tacy) grow up.  I still have them on my shelves and reread the entire series a few years ago.  I first read them when I was in grade school and one of the wonderful things about the series is that there is an entire community of Betsy-Tacy lovers, now active on the internet.  But years ago, when it was harder to make connections with random strangers, if you met someone who had read and loved the books, the first words you exchanged were “But I thought I was the only one!”  Clearly, I am not!

And for fun, the joy of choice ~

Pick your Chris! Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris Rock, Chris Evans or Christopher Plummer (circ. 1964 aka Capt. Von Trapp?) – trying for a little diversity! ;o)

There’s not a bad choice in the bunch!  But I’m a lover of classical musical comedy and I’ve a soft spot for a man with a guitar in his hand, so I’m going with Christopher Plummer.

Blythe is generously giving away three copies of Whispers At Court to US readers (apologies to international friends).


Blythe Gifford Headshot WebAfter many years in public relations, advertising and marketing, Blythe Gifford started writing seriously after a corporate layoff. Ten years and one layoff later, she became an overnight success when she sold her first book to the Harlequin Historical line.  Blythe writes historical romances set primarily in in England and on the Scottish Borders, most incorporating real historical events.  WHISPERS AT COURT, a Royal Wedding Story, was a June 2015 release.  The Chicago Tribune has called her work “the perfect balance between history and romance.”  Find her at

Buy Blythe’s books:

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  • Carol Luciano

    Hi Blythe, I can’t tell you enough how much I love your books. You’ve brought me many hours of reading enjoyment. Thnk you for sharing with your post.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  • Jennifer C

    I love a cruise ship, too! How lucky that you live on beautiful Lake Michigan! Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Karen Mikusak

    I really liked your interview. Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Molly

    I loved the interview.

  • Amy Livesay Hart

    I loved the soundtrack to Guardians of The Galaxy. I love it when they bring back the good music!

  • jcp smith

    Thank you for the giveaway! I’ll be looking for your books

  • Kareni

    I’m glad you’re re-finding your joy in reading. Enjoy that Laura Kinsale book! And happy writing.

  • Joan Varner

    Living in a landlocked state, I rarely get to read by the water but being on a beach and reading would definitely rank #1 as joy for me.

  • mariannewestrich

    Reading is truly my happy place! It really does bring joy!

  • Diana Michelle Tidlund

    Love to read a book a day….thanks

  • Texas Book Lover

    I’m glad you have found your way back to reading what you love…for you!

  • cheryl c.

    Music is a sound that brings me joy too. And reading romances!

  • Anna

    I love the Betsy-Tacy books too!! When I drove cross-country a few years ago, I realized that I could drive through Mankato, MN, which is where Maud Hart Lovelace grew up and the model for Deep Valley. I totally fangirled while I was driving around. 🙂

  • Erin F

    Best of luck to you in bringing back your book joy 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  • Rhi

    How interesting that once you started writing, you ceased to really read romances.

  • Pamby50

    I saw that you were having an event at the Schaumburg Public Library. You were taking me home. We raised the kids in Palatine. Good memories. I am glad you have found your joy again.

  • Marcy Shuler

    I enjoyed your post and was tickled to see you’re close to Lake Michigan. I’m not to far from it in Michigan. 😉

  • Emmel

    Ah, the Betsy-Tacy books! They conjure up such wonderful memories.

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    I’m so glad you found that joy in reading again. I lost mind joy once I started having babies. I had four kids, was teaching high school full time, & my hubby was working evenings (while I worked days) so I was single parenting. Not much time to read with all of that on my plate. Plus, if I read, it was reading to or with my kids. I revisted lots of my favorite books from childhood. Once they were independent readers I started making time for myself to read. I switched from historical romances to comtemporary because I could relate to them easier. Now, I go back and forth between the two genres but also add in mysteries when I need a break from the romances. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are a new to me author, but I will be checking out your books.

  • LSUReader

    I loved the Betsy-Tacy books, too! Great memories–thanks so much.

  • Dawn Anderson

    I sing and dance around to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack all the time. I love those songs.

  • Michele Hayes

    I love finding authors that are new to me. Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Linda Henderson

    I started years ago reading a lot of different genres so I’d never get tired of reading the same things. Of course my largest area of reading enjoyment is romance, whether it be contemporary, paranormal or historical. I also read a lot of YA books. I particularly enjoy Cassandra Clare, Amanda Hocking, Rachel Caine and Kim Harrison. I love introducing people to different authors and genres. My youngest daughter is 32 now and I got her reading YA a few years ago.

  • I’m very happy for you: the joy of reading is wonderful, and if you add sitting outside and the blue sky, it’s amazing!

  • Aleen D

    I’m happy when I’m around water too. It’s a serene feeling for me.

  • Diane Sallans

    I do adore Medieval romances!

  • I went through a loss of joy for reading for a while. No idea what caused it in my case – I just looked at my list one year & realized I’d only read 28 books. Then I took a road trip & brought a book along for the car ride (while my mom drove!) & that trip brought me back into the fold. 😀 Now I’m back to my 300 or so a year & I’m much happier!!

  • Kai W.

    I love your Viking historical romance series.

  • rebecca moe

    What a wonderful post! It would be devastating, to lose the joy of reading…thank goodness you’re getting it back!

  • K Davis

    The Witch Finder looks like a book that I would enjoy. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Mary McCoy

    I love your reading rehab program, and enjoyed meeting you at the library!

  • kirsten west

    Having a book in your hands is infinitely better than an electronic device. I read on my Nook and Kindle, but there is just something about a book.

  • Bernadette Long

    We all need to have that joy in our lives.

  • Sue G.

    Nice view of Lake Michigan. I just love the water…it’s so peaceful.