Dreams and day jobs

What did romance authors want to be when they were young? The answers are often surprising. Underwater archaeologist? Cytologist? Who knew?

Some romance authors give up their day jobs as soon as they are able to do so. Others live dual lives, holding down full time jobs by day and writing by night.

Romance authors come from wealthy backgrounds and poor backgrounds, from well-educated families and from families with no books in the house.


Romance authors wanted to be all kinds of things before they were writers.

Beverly Jenkins: The first thing I wanted to be when I was about nine years old, I wanted to be a cytologist which is a person who studies cells. [laughs]

Sherry Thomas: At one point, I wanted to be an astrophysicist.

Suzanne Brockmann: A cave explorer at one point. I wanted to be an astronaut. I was one of those NASA kids who watched every single space launch.

Elizabeth Essex: Because of also an addiction to Jacques Cousteau specials and “Now we enter a world which is familiar yet strange.”

Suzanne Brockmann: I went through a phase in my early teens where I wanted to join the Air Force and become an Air Force pilot.

Elizabeth Essex: And so I got my graduate degree in nautical archaeology which is the archaeology of shipwrecks.

Suzanne Brockmann: I started my own band. We played our own music, original music, back in the New Wave era.

Romance authors have had a variety of jobs.

Jayne Ann Krentz: Usual story. I waited tables. Did some retail work.

Susan Donovan: Was a pizza waitress. Failed miserably. Poured an entire pitcher of beer on a customer’s lap when I—on purpose actually. Got fired.

James Buchanan: So I went out, and joined an improvisational street acting troupe. It’s like “Okay, here’s your character, and go!”

Susan Donovan: I worked at a phone sex service in Chicago. I did not do the phone sex. I did the mailroom. [laughs]

Jessica Andersen: Landscaped for a year. Decided that working kind of stank. Went back to grad school. Got a PhD in genetics, and started to grow up a little bit.

Susan Donovan: And then I started working as a newspaper reporter after grad school.

Beverly Jenkins: I think what I really wanted to be after a lot of different things was just a librarian. You know, just books, books, books, books, books.

Susan Donovan: I worked in offices. I worked for companies that are now defunct or nearly so.

Jayne Ann Krentz: Worked as a librarian for about 10 years. Tried to write on the side until something started to click.

Susan Donovan: And then I came back to Chicago and worked in corporate public relations, which I hated.

Jayne Ann Krentz: So I went to law school, and, although I was not at the top of my class, the best I can say is I graduated. But, you know, I got through. I passed the Bar, and that’s what counts.

Eloisa James: So that’s eight years of grad school altogether. Then I went off and got my first job as an assistant Shakespeare professor. And that point I was already writing. I started writing as an assistant professor.

At what point were you able to write full time, and when did you sort of quit your job? How did you make that decision?

Jayne Ann Krentz: I made the decision based on the year that I made as much money writing as I did as a librarian, which if you know anything about librarianship, didn’t take long. [laughs]

And many still hold two jobs (or more).

James Buchanan: As a trial attorney, it allows me to be in the courtroom almost constantly which is what I love.

Brenda Jackson: That’s when I started writing. While I was working full time at State Farm. By the time I retired from State Farm, I had written my first 53 books.

Lexi George: But I was told that you should write what you know, and I thought, “I don’t want to write the law!” That’s boring to me, because I’m a lawyer, but what do I know? I thought, “I’m from a small town in the South. I know small Southern towns.” So that’s what I write about. I write about paranormal, supernatural woo woo in [unclear]. [unclear] is a small Southern town, and it’s full of zany characters and alpha males and lots of romance.

Susan Donovan: Gee, I didn’t read romance novels, and I made fun of women who did. Okay. I think life is pretty funny that way. You end up doing what you couldn’t possibly imagine.

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