Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month 2016!
If you’re a new visitor to RARM, I hope you’ll come back every day in August to read all the wonderful pro-romance posts this year. Check out the full calendar here. You can also find links to the last three years’ posts from the boxes in the sidebar, and if you’d like, you can follow RARM on Facebook. Enjoy August!
The Soothing Balm of Romance
I tend to harp upon the healing power of romance. It’s important to me. I’ll never forget those early years when I was young and broke and lost, spending my spare hours standing in the aisles of the bookstore romance section reading the books that I could not afford to buy. Desperate for that buzz, that endorphin high. Those books pulled me through some hard, confusing times.
So when I started writing romance myself, I did all the requisite soul searching about what kind of subgenres were right for me, how I should develop plot and outline my characters, and all that other writerly stuff—but my main, driving objective, the thing I really wanted to accomplish above all else, was to generate that healing magic balm for other people . . . the kind that could waft you up and over a jagged hard place. Books in general have always done that for me. Anne of Green Gables, Lord of the Rings and Jane Eyre are my base triad of favorites from my childhood, and I reread all of them regularly. But since I discovered romance at age 11, the connection between the romance buzz and mood management became really clear and obvious. What a wonderful, direct, fast-acting tool it was—and far less problematic than all the other mood managing tools one might think of turning to! (Though I do give in to dark chocolate on a regular basis, I must admit.)
I’ve gotten many kind letters and comments from readers over the years, and I treasure them all, but the ones that make me the happiest say things like, “I was so bored after my gall bladder surgery and your book really helped pass all that time in bed,” or “I was so depressed after I broke up with my boyfriend, and your books made me dream about romance again.” Just the other day, a lady who read my latest book posted that she was in the hospital with her mom who was ill, and Right Through Me was helping her get through it.
That made me so pleased and proud. I know that I’m on the right track and doing the work that I was intended to do when I have proof that I’m filling a true and urgent need. A need that deserves to be filled.
But the most lovely tribute I ever got was a couple of years ago. I had been corresponding with a kind and lovely reader from Germany named Madlen who had already told me many nice things about how much she enjoyed my books, which had been translated into German. Then one day, I saw on Facebook a beautiful and vulnerable piece she had posted about her recent painful divorce and the feelings it had brought forth, and shared a picture of the wall above her bed, where she had stenciled in big letters a quote from the end of my first book, Behind Closed Doors, the part where the hero Seth declares his love to Raine.
I confess, at the time, it almost scared me. Seeing my words blown up so large and displayed in someone’s intimate space, and translated into another language, no less, made me feel as if what I had written had taken on its own life and run off to do things for itself without my permission or authorization, or even my knowledge. As, indeed, it had. It had become part of Madlen’s story. It was part of her story arc and healing process and personal mythology now. It wasn’t mine anymore.
Maybe it never was.
That moment made me think about the ripple effect of our words and actions. It’s such a rude, strange, lonely and dangerous world out there. So many of us feel isolated and cut off, even from the people we love. The quote over Madlen’s bed reminded me that the separation we perceive is an illusion. In the depths of our being, far below our silly mental games or our crippling, limiting fears or whatever our own personal brand of ego soothing bullshit might be—we are all deeply connected. And the shining truth of that connection, if we could feel it and own it, could heal all the agonies of the world.
OK, maybe I’m getting a little grandiose, thinking of world healing and hot buzzy romance novels in the same mental space. But I sincerely think that there is room for them there. Little things, big things, they’re all the same things. The world in a grain of sand. Hope and faith in the power of love, stenciled on a bedroom wall, like a guardian to protect the hopes and dreams of the weary sleeper. I looked on those stenciled words with something like awe.
My thanks to Madlen, for letting me share her story and her picture. I thank her also for opening her heart to my stories and letting them come in. I’m honored to have them there. Her story is in my heart now, too, and that is a wonderful thing.
So honored. So grateful.
My thanks to Bobbi Dumas, and to Read A Romance Month for having me here today! I am so pleased to participate! Enjoy the rest of the summer, everyone, and I hope you still have some hot lovely lazy days left to abandon yourself to the healing balm of romance!
My first recommendation would be
Her books are so heartfelt and romantic, and her heroes will give their absolute all for the heroines. Plus, I think she’s brilliant, and has an amazing breadth of knowledge about so many things, so her books are full of fun and delicious details that are only the tip of the iceberg of what she knows about every subject. Her books always satisfy me.
Then, I would say, definitely the delightful
whose fabulous novella One Little Kiss was nominated for a Rita this year! She of the sparkling Wonder Woman shoes and effervescent personality. Her books are hot and delicious and unexpected—just the thing to take on a vacation, stretched out at the pool on your beach or fantasy cruise ship, and dreaming of hot romance as the scantily clad guys wander by. Definitely check her stuff out!
(Read Robin’s RARM ’16 piece here.)
And thirdly, I’d say, definitely
who is a relatively new discovery of mine. Her books are edgy and dark and intensely sexy romantic suspense, and her writing is amazingly fresh and original. Her books always surprise and delight me. She also writes erotic novels under the name Annika Martin, annikamartinbooks.com and those stories are still more edgy and dangerously dark than the Carolyn Crane novels, but they all have her trademark original voice and wild energy. I love them all. Try her books!
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you felt romance surrounding you.
When I think about a such a moment, I’m always pulled immediately to the memory of when I met my husband. I’ve put the story in my website bio, so I won’t go into it deeply here, but suffice to say, I was working at a Renaissance Fair in Tuxedo, New York, and so was he, we were both in costume, and we looked looked pretty damn cute in those costumes, if I do say so myself, ahem. It was many years ago. Men in tights. Gotta love ‘em. It was all ridiculous and fun and lighthearted, and everyone was slightly embarrassed to be having such a good time and geeking out at the Ren Fair, which created an “anything goes” kind of vibe.
But the really odd and special thing about that time was that we did not share a common language at all. He was from Italy, and spoke no English. I spoke no Italian. And yet, in some strange way, I do not remember any block to our communication at all. It’s easy to make crass jokes about that, and I have been known to do so, because he was super hot and I was absolutely smitten from a hormonal point of view, make no mistake about it. But what I have come to believe since then was that not having a common language made it easier for us to perceive each other on a deeper level.
We couldn’t be blinded by words, we couldn’t play word games, we couldn’t protect ourselves with words, we couldn’t snow each other or misunderstand or bullshit each other. Words were irrelevant, because we had none common. Bizarre, to hear a writer say something like that. Words are my stock in trade, my bricks and mortar, my life. But sometimes, I think they are a shield and a veil and a barrier. With him, I had none, and so I think I saw him as he truly was. There is no disconnect between the way I perceived him then, and the way I perceive him now. I now know more about him, of course, and we have plenty of words in common now after 23 years.
But there was a strange and wonderful magic high about connecting on a level beyond words. Ah, the thrill of romance!
Tell us about someone special in your life (other than your partner) with whom you share romance.
A romance accomplice? Oh, that would be my dear friend Lisa Marie Rice, my critique partner, who is absolutely on the same page as me in terms of what we think is romantic and what we think is sexy. We have very similar sensibilities. She is the first one to fall in love with my heroes, and I with hers! It’s so good to have her in my professional and personal life. So grateful.
Do you have a place in the world or a sound that you equate with romance?
A place that I equate with romance? I would have to say, southern Italy. Salento, the tip of the heel of the boot, with its blazing white sand and blindingly blue clear water. The woods full of Mediterranean pines, with the Adriatic murmuring just over the sand dunes yonder, and the cicadas singing so loudly in an a hypnotically rhythmic chhh-chhh-chhh. Heat, and the sun filtering through the pine needles, and the warm sweet smell of pine and the salty smell of the sea. The remains of an impromptu picnic lunch of focaccia and prosciutto and mozzarella washed down with Peroni beer spread out before us, devoured sitting on a beach towel. At night, we go swimming under the moon and the stars, and the surging warm waves are full of tiny bioluminescent organisms that light up like stars in the water as you move your arms and legs. Salt-stiffened hair. Sand everywhere. Pure romance. That was where I spent my honeymoon. I will never forget it.
Who is your (or a) favorite romantic couple?
Oh, boy! One single romantic couple? That’s hard! No, that’s completely impossible! I won’t even try to choose. Jane and Rochester from Jane Eyre were really formative for me, but they are by no means the only couple. I am a huge Jamie and Claire fan from Outlander. I LOVE Romeo and Juliet. In college I wrote about Abelard and Heloise, and I swooned over the way that even though life tore them apart violently in every conceivable way, they found a way to be connected through letters all the way to their death. What turns me on is when the romance is desperately important. It’s a matter of life and death to them. I go for that.
Tell us about your dream date.
My dream date would refer right back to the answer to question number three! I’d go back to Salento and have one of those lazy picnics on the pines underneath a blue flag beach in Salento. Hands down. And the moonlight swim as well. And all the lovely things that might conceivably be annexed to that experience, ahem.
Shannon is generously giving away a signed copy of In For The Kill to an international reader, and three e-copies of RIGHT THROUGH ME to US readers.
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below or on the *Facebook post you’ll find here (or both – Share the Love!) ;o) by 11:59 pm PST Sep 3, 2016. Good luck! ***International friends, be sure to include your country in your comment so we know to include you in the international drawing. Good luck!
(*You don’t have to like the FB page, but we do recommend it. It’s easier to contact you if you win. Also consider joining the Read-A-Romance Book Club page, where we discuss romance of all kinds and will have drawings and events throughout the year.)
Shannon McKenna is the NYT bestselling author of fifteen action packed, turbocharged romantic thrillers, among which are the opener of the brand new Obsidian Files series and the stories of the wildly popular McCloud series. She loves tough and heroic alpha males, heroines with the brains and guts to match them, villains who challenge them to their utmost, adventure, scorching sensuality, and most of all, the redemptive power of true love. Since she was small she has loved abandoning herself to the magic of a good book, and her fond childhood fantasy was that writing would be just like that, but with the added benefit of being able to take credit for the story at the end. Alas, the alchemy of writing turned out to be messier than she’d ever dreamed. But what the hell, she loves it anyway, and hopes that readers enjoy the results of her alchemical experiments. She loves to hear from her readers.
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