Professors writing romance

Professor Catherine Roach, aka Catherine LaRoche, writes and studies popular romance. Roach shares what it’s like to forge her own way as an author while also following in the footsteps of professor/authors such as Eloisa James/Mary Bly.


Do many professors write romance?

Well, I’m having a wonderful time being a professor of romance studies and a new author of romance fiction. I’ve just published one book, so far, one romance novel. It’s called Master of Love, and it’s totally engaging me and amusing me. I’ve got the second one forthcoming next year, it’s called Knight of Love, with a K. Knight of Love with a K.

There’s also a lot of professors who write romance fiction also, because most romance authors have a day job still until—and even sometimes if they become very successful, they still keep their day job. And a lot of the day jobs are to be a professor, because it means you’ve sort of learned how to write well and you know how to do research, and maybe you’ve had some work experience with editors and publishing. So there’s sort of a natural path. But there’s not a whole lot—I’m not sure there’s really many other than Eloisa James/Mary Bly, who’s now starting to write and talk academically about the romance genre, also.

But other than her, I haven’t really come across people who are trying to combine self-consciously—in a very “out” way — both of these worlds. Some romance authors who are also professors are rather closeted, as is true of many romance authors, who don’t want their two worlds to be known to each other, to collide. I think sometimes romance authors, particularly erotica authors, are quite closeted about their identity. My previous academic book was about strippers, and in many ways I think romance authors are more closeted than the strippers were whom I interviewed for that book.

So I’m trying to be very out about it, and I’m lucky in the sense that I have a really supportive academic job where my colleagues and my bosses are delighted for me to be doing this work. I have a somewhat non-standard academic appointment in a program that’s called New College at the University of Alabama where undergraduate students design their own majors, so it’s a non-traditional, innovative unit, and it encourages the faculty there to be somewhat non- traditional and innovative in their academic research also. So I get to do both. I get to study from the outside this world of the romance genre, the romance narrative, as a professor of gender studies and cultural studies who’s interested in how that narrative works in popular culture. And then I get to go inside the romance community and write as an insider, a newbie, wannabe author. I’m still very much at the beginning stages of this writing career, and I don’t really know whether it’s going to go anywhere, but I get to try to engage in that world as a writer of romance fiction, and it’s just so much fun to be able to do both, from the inside and the outside.

I really like the writing challenge. Professors who write academic prose don’t always get to stretch our writing wings in this sort of way. Learning a new craft of writing, it’s been great fun. Like how to write dialogue. I never wrote dialogue before, I didn’t know how to punctuate dialogue, even as a writer who’d published quite a bit previously. And how to create, you know, sexual tension on page and character arcs over the course of a novel. It’s been great fun trying to learn a new craft of writing.

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