A.J. Pine – Awakening Romance

Hi friends!

Welcome to the 5th Annual Read-A-Romance Month!

While I read romance all year long, August is the month we celebrate this awesome genre!  Come back every day to read all three “Power of Romance” posts. Check out the full calendar of authors here. You can also find links to the last four years’ posts from the boxes in the sidebar, and if you’d like, you can follow RARM on Facebook.

Happy August!

#LoveRomance #ThePowerOfRomance

Discovering The Power of Romance

When I was a kid, my reading preferences tended toward fantasy—C.S Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Anne McCaffery. Then I hit my preteen years. Enter Lois Duncan. YA literature wasn’t what it was in the 90s, so my teen years were full of John Grisham and Michael Crichton. And my new adult years? Those were for Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and later—Harry Potter.

It took me a long time to find the book that made me realize I loved reading romance, and then it took some time after that to figure out I was already a romance writer. Then I found my community, and I’ve never looked back.

For thirteen years I was an English teacher, and while I considered reader a huge part of my identity, I often lost time to read what I wanted because I was often reading/re-reading the books I was teaching. It wasn’t until I decided to get my master’s degree in library science that I gave myself a small reading challenge that would change my reading and writing life forever.

We have a local school library association in Illinois called the Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA). Each year a committee of teens, teachers, and librarians put together a list of twenty books (fiction of all genres and nonfiction) that are nominees for the ISLMA Abe Lincoln Award, which is then voted on by students in Illinois high schools to determine the winner. In 2012, when I was in library school, I challenged myself to read as much of the list as I could. Of course, I read all the fantasy titles first, which included one of my favs, Cassandra Clare. Yes, Clockwork Angel and the rest of the trilogy had epic romance and one of my favorite love triangles, but it also had Shadowhunters, vampires, warlocks, you name it!

I finally got to a title I’d been putting off—Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Because I’d never read a contemporary romance book, YA or otherwise, and here was a book that was exactly that. I didn’t think there’d be enough for me. I thought I needed a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world like Hunger Games and Divergent or paranormal creatures and conflict to keep my interest. Yes, these books still had romantic subplots, and I knew I gravitated toward that. What I didn’t know was that I could also fall in love with stories that didn’t have those speculative elements. Now here was this YA contemporary romance I never would have pulled off the shelf were it not on my reading challenge, so I went into it with reluctance.

And I. FREAKING. ADORED IT. Not only was the writing outstanding and the story one that I will go back to and read again and again, but Stephanie Perkins gave me Etienne St. Clair, a YA romance hero who is half Parisian, half American, and speaks with a British accent.

My swoon meter went into overdrive.

At this point I’d written my first book, which was intended as the first in a YA dystopian trilogy, and which now resides quietly in my Dropbox. There was a romance subplot in that first novel, but the main story was the corrupt government and the roles my hero and heroine played in it. When I finished Anna and the French Kiss, though, I realized something—the romance was the story. It didn’t need vampires to hold my interest or clockwork creatures threatening to kill the heroine (though I still LOVE that stuff). In this case, the building relationship between the love interests was all that was necessary to keep me up all night because I was desperate to find out how these characters would find their happily ever after.

It’s that book that inspired me to write my second novel, If Only, an NA contemporary romance, which became my first published book. It’s that book that is the reason why my bookshelves, Kindle, and Audible library are filled with Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han, Cath Crowley, Nora Roberts, Jill Shalvis, Christina Lauren, Linda Lael Miller, and Kristan Higgins, just to name a few.

I still love my fantasy/paranormal. You’ll find just as much Laini Taylor and Sarah J. Maas in my collection as you will my contemporary favs. I even hope to write some fantasy sometime in the near future. But the common thread here, what I didn’t realize until I’d read a book that was just romance and nothing else, was that no matter the genre, the romantic storyline was what I craved.

It’s the same in my writing. Even when I was writing that dystopia, I couldn’t wait to get to the kissing scenes and to figure out how my hero and heroine would reach their HEA. I was already a romance writer but just didn’t know it!

The power of romance is that it is the story. No matter the genre…romance is all I need.

 

A. J. recommends:

I need to give a shout to my extremely talented friends. None of us were published when we all connected on social media. We’re all published now, and I’m honored to be in their company in the romance writing universe.

Love these talented ladies and their books!

 

Lia Riley    –    www.liariley.com     –    @Amazon

Contemporary romance author

 

Jennifer Blackwood    –     www.jenniferblackwood.com      –   @Amazon

Contemporary romance author

 

Chanel Cleeton    –    www.chanelcleeton.com    –   @Amazon

Contemporary romance and historical fiction author

 

Natalie Blitt     –     www.natalieblitt.com     –      @Amazon

YA and MG contemporary romance author

 

Megan Erickson    –     meganerickson.org    –    @Amazon

Contemporary romance..both m/f and m/m, romantic suspense, paranormal romance…both m/f and m/m

 


Questions for the Author:

Tell us about a moment when you felt or were aware of the power of romance.

Writing is a strange activity in that it can be very isolating. If it wasn’t for social media connecting me with my critique partners (who are now some of my closest friends), I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I work well when surrounded by others, so it’s good to know my “co-workers” are always a Facebook instant message away.

But when it really hit me—the power of the romance community—was when I went to the Romantic Times convention in NOLA in 2014. I had just published my first book, If Only. None of my in-real-life friends were romance readers at the time (of course they all read my books now!), so again, even after being published, I was still sort of on an island. Then I got to the airport to fly to NOLA, and Veronica Roth was on my plane. I landed in Louisiana and met up with my agent in the airport (first IRL meet), and as we grabbed a taxi, Christa Desir ran up and asked if she could share a ride with us. Then I got to my hotel and met two of my critique partners for the first time (We were roommates!).

I met up with more of my online friends in my hotel bar, and suddenly I was surrounded by this small community of people who did what I did. And despite having worked all day teaching and traveling late into the evening, I was so full of energy just being around my people. So imagine what it was like the next morning when I walked into the conference hotel and saw elevators wrapped in book covers and romance writers and readers and bloggers and agents and editors and omg—everywhere I turned! That’s when I realized the power of romance—when I saw this giant hotel filled to bursting with all facets of the romance community. And I was over the moon just to be a small part of it.

 

Tell us about an object that has powerful memories for you.

Um…can I talk about objects? This may sound a little silly, but for me it’s my coffee mugs. Yes, I have a set of mugs that match my dishes, and you know what? I don’t use them. Ever. I have another set of mugs taking up every shelf in their cabinet, and each one holds powerful memories. I won’t share them all, but I’ll share a few just to give you an idea (pics attached).

  • I have several mugs of my kids because they are my first and always loves.
  • I have a mug with first lines of classic novels on it, which reminds me of the thirteen years I taught (and loved teaching) high school English.
  • I have a narwhal mug that one of my writer friends got me so I never forget that the unicorns of the sea are real (I maybe, sort of didn’t know they were before I saw Elf).
  • And I have a few mugs that hold memories of my favorite things—like my Luke’s mug, my Fangirl mug, and my Much Ado About nothing mug (favorite Shakespeare play with my favorite couple, Beatrice and Benedick, and it plays a role in my first book).
Tell us about a word that has power for you.

Choice.

Educator me and writer me love this word because for me it all revolves around books. I’m a high school librarian and previous high school English teacher. When I was in the classroom, I had my own classroom library with hundreds of books. Every day, before I started my prescribed curriculum, I gave my students ten minutes of independent choice reading. They could choose a book from my shelf or bring one from home. The only stipulation was that they had to read something they wanted to read. School curriculum is a bit paradoxical as we want to make students better readers, but we can also stamp out the love of reading by never letting them choose what they read.

The same is true of my writing life. I was at a local signing once that wasn’t romance based, just a collection of local authors with everything from memoir to romance to literary fiction. A woman stopped by my table, looked at my novels, and wished me luck in getting to write real books someday.

I choose to write romance because it’s powerful and empowering, because I get just as giddy writing a happily ever after as I do reading one. That woman didn’t get it, but there are so many others who do.

Tell us about a powerful book you read this year (or one that’s so powerful you’ve never forgotten it).

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I read this several years ago, but it absolutely owns a piece of my heart forever. It’s a YA book, and to tell anyone who hasn’t read it what it’s about is impossible. But it’s one of those books that was life-changing for me. It was one of those experiences that just overwhelmed me with how powerful the written word could be. It’s not a romance first and foremost, but it is a book about love—about love in so many different capacities, and I promise if you read it, your life will be forever changed too.

Tell us about a person who’s had a powerful influence on your life.

Much like me having plural powerful objects, I also have more than one influence—the students and faculty at the school where I used to teach. For over twenty years, Fremd High School has put on a spectacular event called Writers Week. For one full school week, during each class period of every day, presentations are held in the auditorium all focused on a celebration of writing. The school invites professional authors, screenwriters, musicians, poets, journalists—you name it. Even faculty members get up on stage and read their own original writing. But what really blew me away, year after year, were the talented, courageous students who got up on stage in front of an auditorium packed with 500+ people and shared their words. It took a few years, but finally I admitted to myself that I wanted to try to be just as talented and courageous. After I wrote my first book (a YA dystopian with romance that still lives quietly in my Dropbox), it was my students who were adamant about giving up their independent reading time so I could read my book aloud to them day by day. It was their encouragement and support that—even though that book didn’t get published—helped me push through the doubt and write another…my first contemporary romance. And that one ended up being my debut published novel.

Main Drawing:

A.J. is generously giving away an ebook set of all four of her Kingston Ale House books (Amazon, iBooks, or Nook) to one lucky U.S. winner.  To enter, leave a comment below by 11:59 pm PST August 19, 2017. (US only)

She’ll be giving away another e-book set copy as part of the international bundles, plus she’s sponsoring the tote & cup giveaway (more info. below)

There are many more drawings too—including international book bundles! See the bottom of the post for more information.

 


A teen librarian by day and a romance writer by night, A.J. Pine can’t seem to escape the world of fiction, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s the author of the If Only series (Entangled Embrace), the Only You series (Berkley/Intermix), the Kingston Ale House series (Entangled Select), and the upcoming Crossroads Ranch series (Forever Romance).

When she finds that 25th hour in the day, she might indulge in a tiny bit of TV where she nourishes her undying love of vampires, superheroes, and a certain high-functioning sociopath detective. She hails from the far off galaxy of the Chicago suburbs.

Learn more:

ajpine.com     |    Facebook     |     Twitter @AJ_Pine

Stay tuned for AJ’s upcoming new series from Forever Romance about three cowboy brothers who inherit a vineyard, the Crossroads Ranch series! Book one, Second Chance Cowboy, releases February, 2018. Add it to Goodreads HERE.

 

Buy A. J.’s books:

availableon-amazon       availableon-nook    availableon-kobo

*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and many text links connect to a Read-A-Romance Month affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!

#LoveRomance   #The PowerofRomance    #ReadARomance


MORE DRAWINGS!

Each RARM post will have one main drawing each day (posted above). Authors are also contributing to weekly (US only) bundles, which will be drawn at the end of the week. Each bundle will consist of at least five books and the amount of bundles will depend on the amount of books the authors contribute.

(A.J. is contributing to the international bundles, and sponsoring the cup/tote giveaway.)

To enter to win these bundles, send an email to Week2@ReadARomanceMonth.com with “Bundles” in the signature line. (1 entry per email address per week)

International friends!

Rather than individual drawings off posts, this year we’ll do sets of books, 3+, depending on how many authors contribute. To enter, send an email to Week2@ReadARomanceMonth.com with “International” in the signature line. (1 entry per email address per week)

Week 2 contests are Aug 9 through Aug. 16

For the 5th Annual Read-A-Romance Month, many of the contributing authors  are supporting an extra-special drawing – high quality tote bags and mugs printed with a fun, pro-romance image (see below).

Read-A-Romance Month, through the generous support of many of the authors, is giving away at least 30 mug & tote combos.

Plus, at least two lucky winners will win a Read-A-Romance Month “Month of Books” Mega Bundle, consisting of 31 books!

To enter these exciting drawings,  send an email to August@ReadARomanceMonth.com (US only, apologies to international friends – though keep an eye out later in the month.

(US only, apologies to international friends – though keep an eye out later in the month. I may include an international cup/tote combo.)

You will not be automatically added to a newsletter, and I promise not to sell or give your email addresses to anyone. I do reserve the right to send you an invitation to sign up for my newsletter, which will also have opportunities to win more prizes and great romance reading tips!

 

Check out all three great posts everyday in August at ReadARomanceMonth.com.  Or you can find the posts on the RARM Facebook page.  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.

#LoveRomance  #HappyReading  #ReadARomance

  • cheryl c.

    I have heard of Anna and the French Kiss for years, but I have never read it. It sounds like I shouldn’t put it off any longer.

    • ajpine

      I highly recommend, Cheryl! It’s still one of my favorite books, one I plan to read again someday!

  • ajpine

    Thanks, Evelyn. Always happy to meet another Stephanie Perkins fan! 🙂

  • Sue G.

    I love when you pick up a book, start reading, and end up being blown away….especially if it is a new to you author!

    • ajpine

      Absolutely. It made me fall in love with romance, and I can’t think of a better effect for a book to have! 🙂

  • Janice Laird

    I’ve read the Clockwork and HP, too, because my kids were reading. Now I am writing, and reading, for me!

    • ajpine

      Hi Janice! I loved the Clockwork series. I might have read it twice. 😉

      • Janice Laird

        Just finished “The One Who Got Away” and LOVED it! There’s a really sweet story behind that alpha beefcake cover!

        • ajpine

          Awww, thank you so much, Janice! I’m so glad you enjoyed. And LOL, yeah, Jamie is a sweet hero. I had a lot of fun writing him. 😉

          • Janice Laird

            Which of your books was your fav again? We met at Wine Women and Words. Yep – I just hope J/B continued to resolve their communication issues as their friends find true love! And “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees (NOT the Anne Murray version) is one of my husband’s big favs!

          • ajpine

            I remember meeting, Janice. 🙂

            And my favorite of this series was book two, Six Month Rule, simply because my hero was British, and I so have a thing for a man with an accent. 🙂

          • Janice Laird

            Well, duh! 🙂 Will have to check that one out. Hope to connect again sometime so I can add to my author-signed collection!

          • ajpine

            I really do hope to make it to a Chicago North meeting one of these days. Just hard because I’m on duty mom on Monday nights. But thank you so much for reading! Hope we can connect soon!

          • Janice Laird

            Plan to hit Sept and Oct meetings in AH!

  • Glenda

    That woman at the signing has a horrible attitude…. I’m thinking she isn’t a happy person.

    I tried to read everything my kids read when they were younger so we could talk about the books. I read the HP books out loud to my kids every summer – long after they were able to read them themselves. It was a longstanding tradition.

    • ajpine

      I’m the same with HP. We’re doing them on audio now (which is a first for me since I read them all hardcover), so we’re all enjoying a first together!

  • MaryC

    How many hours do you spend writing each week?

    • ajpine

      I don’t think I have an average time per day as much as I have an average word count per day. When I’m drafting, it’s usually 1-3k a day depending on the rest of my schedule. When I’m editing, it’s 30-60 pages a day…again depending on schedule. When I’m doing both, I basically don’t even remember my own name let alone stats. LOL.

  • Patty Vasquez

    Your reading experiences match my own. I was/am a dedicated fantasy reader. I started with Lloyd Alexander and moved on to C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle. I still love fantasy. This summer, however, I have been happily venturing into contemporary romance. I read for the HEA, also. It’s the love story that keeps me reading.

    • ajpine

      Aw, yay Patty! I still love fantasy too!

  • Pamby50

    I love that your word is choice. You gave your students the opportunity to choose to read something they love. I was trying to remember if that writing event took place when my kids when to Palatine HS. The local paper always listed happenings at both schools. Congratulations on your ability to stand up and choose to share your work.

    • ajpine

      Writers Week has been going on for over twenty years. I’m not sure what week they are on now, but I do know they’ve since done something similar at Palatine in the last decade. Yay writing!

  • Kezia King

    Thanks for sharing! Not only am I gonna check out your books but I definitely have to read Anna and the French Kiss!

    • ajpine

      Thanks, Kezia. And yes. Highly recommend Anna!

  • Nicole Marie

    Great post, I have a love for coffee mugs as well. Every vacation we take, I always come home with a new mug to remember the trip by. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • ajpine

      I’m glad I’m not the only mug collector! LOL.

  • Audrey

    AJ, thank you for your honesty in how you came to read romance! I love the teacher-turned-romance-reader-in-a-whole-new-genre story. So empowering, and I’m so glad you found something you love. I love the genre too!

    • ajpine

      Thank you, Audrey!

  • Tori Valenzuela

    I have a slight obsession with my coffee myths as well!! My fave is my mothers vintage tweet bird one!!

    • ajpine

      Coffee mugs are the best. I’m running out of room but keep adding more!

  • Ren

    Thanks for sharing. You are a new author to me and I can’t wait to check out your books. Boy this read-a-romance month is giving me all kinds of authors to check out. Yea!

    • ajpine

      Yay! That makes me so happy to hear!