How Romance Novels Saved Me
When I’m asked why I write romance I always say it’s because I want to give readers an escape from the banalities of everyday life. Every time I begin a new novel, my goal is to give my reader a few minutes pleasure, wherein she forgets the dirty dishes, the laundry needing to be folded, the kids in a tug-of-war over some trinket, and that timeless conundrum—what’s for dinner?
Don’t get me wrong. I want to write a good book too. Plot, characterization, symbolism, theme, and point of view are important to me. But the literary elements never overshadow the real reason I write: entertainment.
I sometimes think entertainment has become a dirty word in our society. Entertainment has come to mean teens spending whole days playing video games or couch potatoes endlessly flipping TV channels. But entertainment is necessary in our lives. Every culture from the beginning of time has produced some sort of entertainment. Cavemen drew on the walls of caves. The ancient Greeks and Romans told epic tales. Shakespeare wrote and produced plays. Mozart composed operas and symphonies. There must be a need in our lives for entertainment.
I know when I have faced difficult times in my life, romance novels were always a safe place for me to turn and escape the pain. I might even argue romance novels saved me several times in my life from falling into a deep depression. The first time was at the end of a nine-year relationship and a broken engagement. I’d only recently begun reading romance and hadn’t started writing it yet when my fiancé called off our wedding. Sometimes I think that broken engagement was the best thing that ever happened to me. Suddenly single and grief-stricken, all I wanted was to sit at home and wallow. What did I do while wallowing? I read books by Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux (*posting Aug 27 ~ B), Marsha Canham and Elizabeth Elliott. I couldn’t stay sad after reading those books. They gave me hope. They gave me a sense of purpose. They made me want to write my own romance novel.
The second time romance novels saved me was after a miscarriage. I remember lying on the couch in my house with my husband nearby, looking pretty helpless as far as how to help me recover. His presence and his strength helped me more than I can ever express, but the romance novels I read during that dark period helped me too. I wanted to sink into despair and mourn indefinitely the child I’d lost. Romance novels, this time those by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, and Robyn DeHart, allowed me to forget the real world for a few hours. They allowed me to stop crying, to stop mourning, to heal.
Romance novels at their core are pure escapism. They’re pure entertainment, and I’d argue entertainment is more necessary than ever in a world filled with pain and sadness.
(Thanks so much, Shana. I think we’ve all been there. We’d all prefer to not have to crave comfort, but romance novels are wonderful when we do. And thank you for all the many recommendations, with even more in the questions section. I can’t wait to read True Spies – it looks great! So happy to have you here. ~ Bobbi)
Questions for the Author:
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
It’s a painting that belonged to my husband’s grandfather, who has now passed away. The painting is ugly—an oil of a cowboy riding a horse and the horse is falling over and probably broken its leg. I hate it, but it means a lot to my husband.
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
Sleepless in Houston. Between family and life and writing, I never get enough sleep. I always like Reese Witherspoon. She could play me!
What is the best non-monetary gift you’ve ever been given?
My daughter. Every single day, she never fails to make me laugh, frustrate me with her stubbornness, and simply amaze me with her wonder and innocence.
If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)
I’d say the scene in the garden in Lord and Lady Spy. It was one of my favorite scenes to write, and the book is a reader favorite. If you’ve never read a romance and want to start with an historical, I’d recommend any book by Julia Quinn (*posting Aug 25 ~ B). Another historical author I’d recommend that many readers might not have read is Robyn DeHart. Like me, she writes adventurous historicals, and her books always contain so much emotional complexity. Alternately, if you want to start with a contemporary, you can’t go wrong with This Heart of Mine or Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (*posting Aug 7 ~ B).
Shalen is generously donating three copies of Lord and Lady Spy to give away (U.S. only, apologies to international readers.) To enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both. (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.) Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 5 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.
Shana Galen is the bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Her books are published all over the world and have been featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston’s inner city. Now she writes full time. She’s happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making. Shana loves to hear from readers: connect with her at shanagalen.com.
Buy Shana’s books at Amazon