Di Dishes

Romance Author Diana Duncan rants...er...discusses life.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Why I Write Romance

I heard from a friend today, who'd had a very negative experience related to reading and writing. I knew it was time to remind myself why I climb out of bed every morning and boot up my computer. This is dedicated to both readers and writers everywhere. :)


I have a confession to make. I’m a book junkie. I have all the symptoms.

Many times, I have accidentally bought a book I already owned. And read it again anyway.

I start to feel twitchy and irritable if I go too many hours without reading.

I worry about characters in books. Will Marcy really marry that cad?

I often support other addictions with reading, for instance eating chocolates. Those colorful stains on the pages? I can personally testify that M&Ms really DO melt in your hand.

Sometimes, I start another book before finishing the previous one.

I miss important activities due to reading…such as, sleeping, exercising and conversing with my family.

I can’t help buying new books, even though I have bags … and boxes … and baskets … full of untouched books begging to be read.

I not only sent fan mail to an author I admired, I named my first child after her.

Are you dying to know who it was? Should I tell you?……..

Really?

You honestly want to know?

Okay, it was Danielle Steele. She wrote me back a lovely letter. The poor woman was probably afraid not to.

This addiction is all my Grandmother’s fault.

My very first memory is sitting in my pram, watching my librarian Grandma visit with patrons and stamp their books. I wasn’t even 2 years old, but I remember thinking, "that looks like so much fun! When I grow up, I want to laugh and joke with people and stamp books!"

Yes, I was a precocious kid, a "blessing" I passed on to my daughters.

But more than that, I believe the love of words was percolating in my blood from the moment I was born. My father was away serving in the Air Force, and my mom worked full time at the post office. The post office did not allow babies behind the counter.

Fortunately, the library where Grandma worked, did. I spent the first four years of my life surrounded by books and people who loved them.

In Republic, Washington – population at that time, about 800 – the library was a tiny white clapboard building with red trim. It boasted two cozy rooms, one for adults and one for children. Shelves of books lined the walls. The moment you stepped inside, the wondrous, cottony smell of paper and the sharp, crisp scent of ink surrounded you, drew you in.

The children’s room had three short red wooden tables and a dozen primary-colored wooden chairs "just the right size" for miniature bibliophiles. Bright blue step ladders helped vertically-challenged tots reach the upper levels.

During those happy times, Grandma and I went on adventures with Curious George, laughed with the Cat in the Hat and boogied with Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things.

When I was five, dad was transferred, and we moved, leaving grandma and the cozy little library behind. Soon, there was a new town, and a new library to explore.

It was a pattern our family repeated often over the years. The first thing we did after settling into our most recent house was find the town library and get our library cards.

It was lonely, always being the new kid. Sometimes it was hard. Meeting different people, adapting to different climates and accents. Saying goodbye to old friends. Attempting to connect with new ones.

But the characters who lived inside my favorite books never changed. My sisters and I would ride our bikes to town, and spend many delicious hours engaged in the selection process. Then we’d pedal home as fast as we could with our bike baskets stuffed full of books.

We couldn’t wait to grab a juicy apple and curl up with our treasures. I could depend on Joe and Frank Hardy to entertain me when I was bored. For Ann of Green Gables to make me laugh when I was blue. For the four March Sisters in Little Women to keep me company when I was lonely.

And hey, if I needed a good cry, the scene where Beth dies never failed to provide a three-hanky read. My childhood copy of Little Women is all warped on those particular pages.

In my preadolescent years, an astute librarian recommended Mary Stewart. Mary’s characters quickly became cherished companions. I eagerly glommed every book she wrote. Discovering a new one was pure joy. To this day, I can recite long passages of The Moon Spinners by heart.
I’ve read that book at least 50 times. I occasionally pull it out for a fond read-through…and you know what? Even after all these years, it holds up. It still gives me both goose bumps and grins.

Then when I was 14, a momentous event occurred in my life.

I discovered a box of Harlequin romances stashed in my mother’s closet. All that summer, I lounged on a blanket under the shade of the big oak tree in our back yard and devoured stories about complex, conflicted men and intelligent resourceful women with the courage to dive into the biggest adventure of all – falling in love.

My imagination was challenged, my soul captivated and my heart thoroughly hooked on the genre. Every couple not only deserved a happy ending, they got one.

Every single time.

When I was 18, I married my very own handsome prince. Yes, I look at my daughter now and cringe. Yikes! Waaay too young to get married!

But I knew within 10 minutes of meeting my husband-to-be that he was "the one."

It did take him a wee bit longer.

Difficult circumstances in my home life had shown me what I did not want in a spouse. Reading romances taught me what kind of man I did want. I learned that I did not have to put up with less than I deserved. I looked for an honorable man, like the heroes in my favorite romances. Someone kind. A man who would treat me with respect. A man who would love my intelligence and support me in whatever I chose to do.

Twenty-six years later, I am still thrilled to see my husband when he walks in the door.

During the past six years, prior to my publication, my husband worked approximately 7,000 hours of overtime so that I could stay home and write. Once, when a particularly nasty rejection made me cry, he sent me roses. The card that accompanied them expressed his complete and utter faith in me, and urged me to keep striving toward my dream.

Now that’s a hero, folks. I am truly blessed to have him in my life.

Back when I was first married, as a newlywed, I continued to read. I read when my husband was away in the Army and engaged in dangerous training, and I was so worried I could barely see straight. I read as a lonely young mother, at three in the morning, rocking a restless baby with one hand, holding a book in the other. I read sitting in dentist's waiting rooms, jittery with nerves. I read in hospital waiting rooms, nearly sick with dread.

The characters in those books became my friends. They helped me forget worry, loneliness, fear and pain…and run away to a new world…a new life…an exciting adventure where I could be happy…even for a while.

And that is why I write.

Some people belittle writers and readers – especially of romance. They think we’re living in a make believe world. They condemn us for wasting time with "trash."

But when I write, I’m reaching out to women – and perhaps a few men – but it’s mostly women who read romance.

Women who've had the worst day ever.

Women with nasty bosses.

Women with broken hearts.

Women who are sick and suffering.

Abused women who've been humiliated and hurt.

Women trying to overcome terrible circumstances I can't even begin to imagine enduring.

I hope that through my stories, I can help ease these women’s sufferings a little. I hope they forget their own troubled lives and take off on an adventure with my characters. That they escape from the real world.

And when they finish, when they reach "the end," and close the covers of the book, they go back to their own lives with a little more peace in their hearts.

Refreshed.

Uplifted.

Better able to cope.

Because in romance novels, good always defeats evil. Tomorrow is a better day. Relationships are mended, hope is restored, love triumphs over all.

This is why I write.

For the angst-ridden adolescent who wonders, "what does real, lasting love look like?"

For the office administrator stuck on the commuter bus forty minutes a day.

For the weary nurse on the cancer ward who's lost one too many patients.

For the young mother with three kids under three and reaching the end of her rapidly fraying rope.

For the elderly woman trapped in a body that no longer works, with a still-young mind that cries out for companionship.

What an incredible gift. What a humbling responsibility.

What a privilege.

Write on.

14 Comments:

  • At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Here's another reason you write...

    to inspire those of us who are still struggling to be where you are...a published author

    this is one of the most inspring things I have ever read (and copy and pasted for safe keeping)

    thank you...
    Christyne

     
  • At 4:39 PM, Blogger Sela Carsen said…

    Ditto what Christyne said. Thanks for the inspiration.

     
  • At 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow. You have touched on everything - the introduction to the wonderful world of stories, the characters who stay close to our hearts to this day, the escape offered during troubling times (or the enhancement they offer during great times) and the joy of creating a story that will hopefully stay with others forever.

    Lori

     
  • At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Kate Hardy said…

    Fabulous post. And guess what? You could have been writing about me. (We stayed in one place, admittedly - but my mother was a voracious reader and passed it on to me. And I've passed it on to my own littlies.) You've reminded me why I do the job I do, and why I love it so much. Thank you.

     
  • At 12:57 AM, Anonymous Mags said…

    Thank you for such an inspirational piece. Kate Hardy gave me the link to your blog and your post about reading and writing. You are a true kindred spirit and your post made me smile and made me cry. I am that woman - both struggling writer and voracious reader, and a person with life problems who finds escape in writing and reading romantic fiction. Your moving words will stay with me and I will not give up. Many thanks again, Mags

     
  • At 2:17 AM, Anonymous Sadhbh said…

    Diana

    Thank you for the inspiration, for the embarrassment of having DH bring in one of the neighbours when I was sitting reading your post with tears streaming down my face (she very kindly ignored them), and for the books

    Hugs

     
  • At 4:55 AM, Anonymous Maggie Kingsley said…

    I just wanted to echo what Kate Hardy said, and to thank you for reminding me why I write and what a privilege it is - a privilege I sometimes (and I hang my head in shame here)forget - that I can write, can touch people, comfort them and help them.
    Many, many thanks. Your words have been copied and pasted and I'm going to put them up by my computer so I don't ever forget this again

     
  • At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Diana,

    What a beautiful, touching article. I, too, am a voracious reader and loved the same books you did. Thank God for libraries and for books (and wonderful husbands.)

    Debra Holland

     
  • At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Danica/Dream said…

    Thanks for such a great post! I really needed this reminder today!

     
  • At 1:41 PM, Anonymous MerrisHawk said…

    Thanks for the inspiration! One of my favorite things about readers, writers and authors is the support we give each other due to our love of books. This is a favorite page now.

     
  • At 4:14 PM, Blogger Anna Lucia said…

    Thank you Diana.

    Wonderful.

     
  • At 3:50 PM, Blogger Deanna said…

    Thank you for this post, Diana. Like you, I've often bought books I already owned...more than once. lol

    I definitely needed this bit of inspiration. It made me wonder how I ever forgot it at all. :-)

    DeannaLynnRW

     
  • At 10:18 PM, Blogger Desperate Writer said…

    I've found my home planet. One of my people.

    Another writer additcted to reading--

    DW

    desperatewriter.blogspot.com

     
  • At 10:19 AM, Blogger Audrey (aka Amethyst) said…

    Oh Diana
    I just came across your blog through a link on another site and I know I'm going to keep checking back.

    Thank you so much for this post. The part about your husband sending you roses when you got that rejection moved me. He sounds like a wonderful man. I too am lucky enough to have a man who supports my passion to write romance and the reason I want to write it is to instill hope.

    I can really empathise with everything you said. I agree wholeheartedly, I want to help people believe that despite all the ups and downs of relationships there is hope. Relationships can work if they are worked at, if you'll pardon the pun.

    Maybe I'm an idealist but I'd rather spend all my life as an idealist who will never stop hoping than die a cynic with no hope.

    I'm on my last chapter rewrite and then I'll have to pluck up the courage to send my ms out. Thanks for inspiring me to keep writing what I love best.

     

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