Whee! This is like rolling off a log! I have so much to celebrate when it comes to romance novels. I never really thought of myself as a very effusive or sentimental person, but I tend to get all sappy about how romance novels have totally changed my life. Here’s how it happened:
I have always been a very late bloomer and romance is just one more example of it. In my late 30s, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer (also known as a molar pregnancy, when the sperm and egg join, then decide to be a disgusting cancerous mass instead of a baby—it’s kind of grotesquely interesting). Anyway—setting aside my weird fascination with medical anomalies—my doctor caught it right away and took it out and that was that. Moving right along.
Wait. What? Talk about a wake up call! After that happened, I looked around at my life and I wanted to LIVE IT! I wanted to have fun and enjoy every minute of my life. And I realized that all the books I was reading were depressing, gripping, painful narratives. Beautifully written, yes. Fun, no. I felt like Rex the dinosaur in Toy Story. I didn’t need to read about near-death experiences, or cancer, or the sadness of life, “I lived it!”
My friend Dorothy was like, “Seriously! Enough with the suicidal literary fiction! Here! Take these romance novels!” Little did she know she was changing my life. I can still picture the small bag on my front bench in my former house…where it sat untouched for many days. I was pretty snooty about the whole thing. I was too smart for trashy books, doncha know. (Too clever by half, more like it.) Whitney, My Love was in that bag. I get chills just typing that. WHITNEY MY LOVE WAS IN THAT BAG! I mean? What the hell? It’s just a romance novel, right? No big deal. Whitney is selfish and immature and Clayton is autocratic and overbearing and HOLY HELL I could not put that sucker down! Some sort of floodgate opened and I was a ravenous beast of romance-novel-consumption. Julia Quinn? Yes. ALL OF IT. Amanda Quick? Yep. MORE MORE MORE. Eloisa James? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE. I was hooked.
Over the next few years, I basically ingested book after book after book until I had one of those Malcolm Gladwell saturation moments and realized I had internalized all of these tropes and story arcs and plot devices and character conflicts. Then I realized I had about a million stories in my head. And then the top of my head sort of blew off like one of those Monty Python/Terry Gilliam illustrations:
Since that moment, romance novels have permeated every aspect of my life. I have some of the closest friendships I’ve ever experienced because I read a book and wrote a fan email and ended up meeting the person in real life and *POW* next thing I know I’m actually FRIENDS with people like Miranda Neville and Anne Calhoun. All these wonderful writers are also real people and—*cue spinning and singing “Love is all around” and quoting lines from Love, Actually*—it’s amazing.
Anyway, there’s a lot to celebrate! I’m finishing up my tenth book (or so) right now, and have also tried my hand at shorter form novellas and that sort of thing, so I have this incredible sense of artistic expression and transformation on a daily basis. I’m getting PAID to do this thing that I just…love. That’s crazy talk, right? But beyond all that, there are (drumroll please) readers. OH. MY. GOD. I get emails (I’m not inundated or anything, just saying) from people who have actually read my books and loved them and told me why they loved them and how my books made them HAPPY. See where this is going? It’s actually within our power as human beings to elevate someone’s mood, to make someone else—someone we’ve never even met, someone who might be going through a really shitty time—happy. I’m not sure I can think of a greater cause for celebration than that.
Thank you so much, Bobbi, for organizing this annual celebration so we can all remember why and how we came to this incredible genre!
Instead of recommending new authors, I thought I’d recommend some of my old skool favorites. When I first came to the romance genre a few years ago, I was so grateful for reader-friends who directed me to these classic romance writers.
Questions for the Author:
Describe the most daring, adventurous, inspiring thing you ever did:
I think by conventional standards of “daring adventure,” skydiving was the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done. I highly recommend it. Nothing in my life will ever match the rush of slowly-slowly-slowly leaning out of a propeller plane at 15,000 feet and then—WHOOSH—plummeting headfirst to earth. When death and life are that intimately entwined, it makes for a very inspiring experience. Oh, and the first time I let someone read my first manuscript—same feeling of terror and exhilaration.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer (did you always know or was there a specific moment):
A little of both I guess. I always knew I wanted to spend my life with the written word, but it took me a while to get around to fiction. When I was younger I wanted to be a restaurant and movie critic (because of what I imagined to be all the free eating and movie watching, of course. Protip: Nothing is free.). Then I wanted to be an editor, thinking that would be a cool way to be a part of the whole creative process (it was). Then I got into the physical reality of books and did a fairly intense bookbinding course and contemplated applying to a book arts graduate program. Then I decided I didn’t like having my true love (books) being a part of my occupation (dirty money). Cue hysterical laughter. So I got a business degree and worked for an investment bank. But as far as the actual writing of romance (after all the groundwork that I didn’t even really know was groundwork at the time: the reading, the editing, the books, the business degree) there was a specific moment…an ah-ha second when I was holding a beloved romance in my hand and thought, “I can do this. I want to do this. This is what I am meant to do!”
Tell us about THE book or A book that changed your life.
There were academic books that opened my mind (Virginia Woolf), changed the way I looked at the world (Alice Walker), made me feel things I never thought I could feel (Lionel Shriver)…but the book that actually changed my life was Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught. That was the book I was reading when I fell in love with romance novels—head over heels, palm tingling, heart racing, falling in love. I fell in love with reading them, fell in love with the idea of writing them. Now, whether Whitney was responsible for that epiphany or just the last straw tossed upon a lifetime of events that were quietly leading me there, I don’t know. But it was the actual reading of that book that somehow crystallized the realization in my mind. I no longer wondered what I would be when I grew up. I knew. I was a reader and writer of romance novels.
Megan Mulry is generously giving away a $50 Amazon gift card and a hard copy of the first Harlequin Presents, Gates of Steel by Anne Hampson.
Megan Mulry writes sexy, stylish, romantic fiction. Her first book, A Royal Pain, was an NPR Best Book of 2012 and USA Today bestseller. Before discovering her passion for romance novels, she worked in magazine publishing and finance. After many years in New York, Boston, London, and Chicago, she now lives with her family in Florida. You can find her online at meganmulry.com
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