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A quick word from Bobbi Dumas, your host.
Hi everyone! Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month. You can find out more about this fun, month long event here. And check out all the great authors taking part this year on the calendar, here.
The theme this year is The Romance Of Reading, The Magic Of Books and we have an awesome assortment of writers – both romance and mainstream fiction authors – sharing about books, reading, romance & magic. I hope you’ll visit everyday.
(Also, be sure to check in to The Romance Of Reading FB page, where one of the RARM authors will be hosting the page each day in August. Today Karen Hawkins will also be on the page.)
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Nina Lane – A Return To Love & Magic
When I hear the phrase “magical book,” my mind automatically thinks of Harry Potter, J.R.R. Tolkien, or the magical realism books of Isabelle Allende. But when I’ve finished reading or writing a book that I love deeply, my heart always says, “This is a magical book.”
The dictionary defines the word magical as “beautiful or delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life,” and that is exactly what a good book does for me—takes me out of everyday life and transports me into a new world populated by intriguing and exciting characters. I know I’m in the “magic realm” when I can block out any noise and activity around me or when I’m startled out of the world by someone saying my name or trying to get my attention. I have the same experience when I’m writing a book, whether it’s flowing easily or whether I’m struggling to make the twisty elements of a plot stick together.
The special thing about romance novels, however, is that love is the key magical ingredient that binds the books across all genres. When picking up a romance novel, the reader knows (or expects) a happy ending, and when sitting down to write, I know how the story will end. The fun part is getting my characters there, but throughout the journey, there’s never a question that love will prevail.
In that respect, romance novels can transport us from everyday life in many different ways—letting us visit the Scottish Highlands, battle villains, peek into a billionaire’s mansion, or experience a crush on the boy next door. But what makes the transportive nature of romances so compelling is that they are always grounded in the very real-world power of love.
Romances allow us to experience the thrills and emotions of characters in a world other than our own, but more importantly we relate on an emotional level to the highs and lows of relationships. We can all hope to overcome obstacles, solve mysteries, defeat the bad guy, and right wrongs. We can all wish for a happy ending. So yes, while reading a romance, we are temporarily taken away from our lives, but we return to it with our hearts stronger and our belief in love strengthened. That is true magic.
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2019 RARM Questions:
Tell us about a time in your life that felt magical to you.
In October 2016, my husband and I took our two children to visit Paris. I’d been there several times before, though not recently. Paris was my mother’s favorite city, and I lost her in 2005, the same year my son was born. I’d been to Paris with both of my parents and always knew I’d take my children one day. So our family of four ventured to the City of Lights, where we did all the things I’d intended—walking, visiting, eating, gawking, photo-taking.
The city was more crowded than I’d expected it to be in October, and since we’re a pretty early-rising family, we were usually out and about before nine. When I discovered the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral opened at 7:45am, I decided we’d get out earlier than usual to beat the crowds.
It was a dark, foggy morning, a little rainy. We walked from our Left Bank apartment across the Seine to the Île de la Cité. The streets were almost empty, though the famous city lights and streetlamps shone through the fog.
Notre Dame was brilliant in the dim light—like a huge, glowing sandcastle. The square was empty, and only a few other people were entering through the side door. We went inside and were greeted by a priest’s resounding voice as he gave mass to a dozen or so worshippers seated in the pews. The interior was dark, the stained glass windows dulled by the gray, sunless light outside.
We walked slowly around the perimeter, taking our time reading all the panels and wall texts, stopping to admire the sculptures and architecture. A choir, recorded but still affecting, sang hymns. While I’d been to the cathedral several times before, I’d always been in a crowd of people, often moving in a herd and making it difficult to stop and actually take everything in.
This experience was the opposite. Being there almost alone with just my family, a mass and choir in progress, was truly the definition of the word magical. I lit candles for my parents and grandparents. I pointed out the organ and the vaulted ceiling to my kids. I stood as long as I wanted in front of the chapels, studying the lavish stained glass windows.
In those hours, the cathedral was imbued with a powerful sense of peace, history, ghosts, and holiness. We sat in the pews and looked at the stained-glass rose windows while listening to the mass. And while we were there, the sun broke through the fog outside and infused the glass with light, illuminated all the incredible details and colors.
Tell us about a book that was magical for you.
Harvey’s Hideout by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, was a truly magical book for me when I first discovered it in the library of Foothill Elementary School in first or second grade. I was immediately captivated by the story of Harvey the muskrat, whose arguments with his sister Mildred drive him to his hideout, a deep cave in the ground. The story of sibling rivalry becomes one of friendship and cooperation.
I loved everything about this story, from Harvey’s super-cool hideout (oh, how I wanted one just like it) to the delightful illustrations. Mostly I fell in love with the world the Hobans created—one of river rafts, island burrows, party dresses, secret clubs, tea parties, and the end of loneliness.
In fact, I loved Harvey’s Hideout so much that I used to hide (ha ha) the book in another section of the picture book shelf so that no one else could find it and check it out. Then when I was a teenager working in a children’s bookstore, I found a used book resource where I could buy my own copy. Many years later, I still have that copy, plus another one that I found at a book sale when my children were little. You can bet I’ve read them Harvey’s Hideout multiple times over the years, and hopefully its magic has rubbed off on them.
Tell us about a “magical moment” in your writing or your career?
I can honestly say that one of the most magical moments in my writing career was when I sat down on a July afternoon of 2013 to write what I thought would be a short erotica story. All I knew was that it would be about a woman who was trying to get pregnant (hey, that would make the mechanics of the “erotic” part relatively easy, I figured).
The instant I started writing, Liv West walked right into my head and started talking. She came alive instantly on the page, and I felt like I was just writing down what she was telling me. In a very short time, I knew I would be writing a much more complex and involved story about two people who loved each other deeply. That “short erotica” piece evolved into the seven-book Spiral of Bliss series.
To me, Liv and Dean West are still real people whose story I told, rather than figments of my imagination. I feel like I could walk into a Starbucks and see them sitting together at a table, drinking coffee and smiling at each other, lost to the rest of the world.
For writers who use magical aspects in their books, what attracts you to those elements? For those of you who don’t, are there specific themes or elements you’re attracted to and find yourself going back to? Why do these resonate with you?
I frequently pepper my work with common themes, many of which evoke feelings of coziness, home, gathering places, and warmth. My books have a lot of bakeries and cafés, and my favorite city, Paris, often appears as a dream destination.
However, houses and “places we call home” are one of the most powerful symbols in my work. In the Spiral of Bliss series, Liv creates an incredible home out of a small apartment, which serves as a rejection of her past displacement, and later she and Dean renovate a Victorian mansion together—a symbol of all they have endured and restored.
In The Secret Thief, art historian Eve Perrin discovers the secrets of the town’s mysterious lighthouse keeper and what he’s hiding in the tower. In my What If series, Josie Mays reclaims her mother’s art studio cottage in her quest for the truth about her tragic past. For Kelsey March in Break the Sky, “home” is the wild, unpredictable outdoors where she chases the storms that also brew in her heart. The themes of “home” in my work are always part of my characters’ journeys and their ultimate discovery of themselves.
Creativity is a kind of magical experience. What inspires you, keeps you going, helps you when you lose focus, etc.?
I love to read (of course!), and I often find inspiration in other genres, especially women’s fiction and suspense. I’ve recently discovered the world of podcasts and love listening to 99% Invisible and Art Curious, which always deliver fascinating stories about design and artists’ lives. These slices of life and society are a true testament to the power of creativity.
I also try to do all the things I’m “supposed” to do to stay healthy—I work out regularly, eat my vegetables, take vitamins, and go to bed early. Creativity itself may be magical, but I’m sure going to try and help it along by doing the grassroots, ordinary work!
DRAWING – Nina is hosting The Romance of Reading page, and her giveaways will take place there.
However, comments will also be entered to win a bundle of books from the Week 3 participating authors. You may enter by commenting on this original blog post and/or on the Read-A-Romance Month Facebook page post, here.
Each first unique comment at each space offers an extra chance to win, so check in with each author. Must comment by 8/28/19 11:59pm Eastern to enter.
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New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Nina Lane writes hot, sexy romances about professors, bad boys, candy makers, and protective alpha males who find themselves consumed with love for one woman alone. Originally from California, Nina holds a PhD in Art History and an MA in Library and Information Studies, which means she loves both research and organization. She also enjoys traveling and thinks St. Petersburg, Russia is a city everyone should visit at least once. Although Nina would go back to college for another degree because she’s that much of a bookworm and a perpetual student, she now lives the happy life of a full-time writer.
Discover all of Nina’s books:
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