Starting out in romance

For Jayne Ann Krentz, writing is like a compulsion or addiction. She felt the need to keep writing and creating stories, even before a publisher accepted one of her manuscripts. “I just racked up a lot of proposals, first 50 pages of a proposal, kind of thing, and then when that didn’t sell, tried another one, and then, as I said, when the bus came by I was standing there with some manuscripts ready to go.” How was Krentz introduced to romance fiction?

Transcript

How did you start writing romance?

I grew up on the Gothics, I grew up on Nancy Drew, I grew up on Robert Heinlein, and I grew up on Andre Norton, so it was kind of a perfect storm for romance. Those are my formative roots. I never really encountered— well, I had one memorable encounter with a classic romance novel, The Sheik. I was 13 years old. I found it when I was babysitting one night, found it stashed behind a row of books in my client’s house, and I read that sucker all the way until she came home that night. I had never read anything like it. I was 13. I never found anything like it again until I was about 23. I don’t know whether I didn’t run into it, or it just wasn’t out there, and then I discovered that there was this whole genre out there of romance, and I just fell in love with it, and I started reading it. Eventually, I think, if you’re born to be a writer, there comes a time when you want to tell the story that you love your way. If you don’t feel that compulsion you never become a writer, but if you do then you can’t stop, and so that’s when I started writing.

And a lot of people like to talk about how the genre has changed, but it hasn’t really, only the trappings change. All of the popular fiction genres are built on archetypes. We’ve got the archetype of the American private eye. We’ve got the archetype of the American Western. We’ve got the archetype of the American style thriller. We’ve got the archetypes that go with romance. They’re not that different, because all archetypes are based on our concept of what’s a hero, and the hero of a romance novel looks a lot like the hero of a thriller, or a mystery, or a detective novel; same virtues, same vices. And I think that’s why so many people who actually read romance tend to read the other genres, which is another story. But I think that the concept of the hero and what we find heroic doesn’t change much over time or over genre and the same goes for the heroines.

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