Not your mother’s romance

When Suzanne Brockmann decided she wanted to become an author, she turned to category romance. Categories gave her a training ground to put her own spin on old tropes, test out different subgenres, and gather a readership.

Transcript

How did you become a romance writer?

So I started thinking about writing a novel, about becoming an author, and I immediately chose genre fiction because I knew what I wanted to do as a screenwriter was to entertain and I wanted to write the type of books that people read when they were being entertained. So I really looked hard at mystery, science—mystery as a genre, science fiction as a genre, and romance as a genre. Now this was back in the early ’90s, 1991, and at the time that I was doing this research, I found out that there were 150 romance novels being published every single month and that math really worked for me and I thought okay, I have confidence, I have faith in myself as a writer, and I feel like if I can find the right format for my writing, if I can find the right genre I’m going to be able to get published.

One of the things that I did was I read hundreds of books. I read hundreds of romance novels that were being published right then, not this older stuff but what is out—I wanted to see what’s out there right now and I was so pleasantly surprised. It was very much a case of these are not your mother’s romance novels. These were books with strong female characters and as a feminist that was very important to me and it just—it—everything I found out just really clicked into place. And I did one other thing as I was doing my research. I did something called role modeling. Now role modeling is what you do when you are looking to have a career and you find somebody who has the career that you want and you study how they got started in their career and how they got from the beginning to where they are today. And at that time there were a number of authors, two in particular, who every time I went into a bookstore I saw their names and those authors were Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown, and so I looked at them and I thought how did these two very successful women get started. And I found out that they both started out their careers writing category romances.

And then I found out well, when you start out as a category romance author the readership is built in. Your print runs are automatically higher because there are people who read—For example, one of the earlier lines that I wrote for was called Silhouette Intimate Moments and the Intimate Moments line produced four books every single month, every single month four new books, and readers who read that line would read every single one of those four books. And the next month they would get those four books and so on and so on, and it didn’t really matter if you were a brand-new author. If it was a Silhouette Intimate Moments, they were going to read your books.

This seemed like the perfect fit for me, and I just read and read and read and read and discovered—and targeted specific lines that I thought I would—that I would be right for. And ironically I saw myself going in as a romantic comedy author and I targeted those romantic comedy lines first and almost as an aside I targeted Silhouette Intimate Moments, which is more of a romantic suspense line, and because that was where I sold first at Silhouette that was all they wanted from me, romantic suspense.

Fortunately I was also targeting a different publisher, Bantam Loveswept, at the time. They had this line of category romances and they were more open to the idea of romantic comedies so early in my career I was writing romantic suspense for Silhouette Intimate Moments and romantic comedies for Bantam Loveswept, which allowed me to do a lot and to get a lot of books out there as quickly as possible.

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