May 14, 2007 - Issue #264

From the Desk of Anne Marble:

Where Are They Now?

(We were tight on time this week; please use the mini-search engine on the bottom left for articles and interviews on many of the authors listed in this column.)

A common topic on many messages boards and mailing lists, including AAR's own, is "Whatever happened to..." Everybody has a favorite romance author who disappeared from sight, or at least stopped writing the types of stories we like. When I first started reading romance, Jude Deveraux was one of the biggest names in historicals, Julie Garwood was just writing historicals, and Mary Jo Putney and Mary Balogh were writing Regencies. And of course, authors such as Linda Howard, Elizabeth Lowell, and Nora Roberts were known only for writing categories. As were people like Maura Seger (before she was better known for her historicals). Back then, the field was full of names I only see in the used bookstore today. In some cases, the authors passed away. In others, the author gave up for various reasons, or turned to another genre or subgenre. In all too many cases, the authors were dropped by their publishers.

Inspired by a thread about "missing in action" authors on AAR's Potpourri forum, I tried to find information on an author I had enjoyed, Suzanne Ashley. I remembered asking at the used bookstore if she had written any other books, and keeping an eye open for future books by this author. To no avail. Nobody had been able to help me in the 1980s. But surely the Internet could help, even though I (ahem) only remembered the author's last name and that it was a series romance. So I looked Suzanne Ashley on Amazon...and found Silhouette Special Edition Number 556, Bitter Betrayal by Suzanne Ashley. Next, Google came to the rescue, and imagine my surprise when I found a blog entry by author Delia Carnell, talking about her previous incarnation as Suzanne Ashley! Even better, she was now published through Cerridwen Press and Loose-ID.com. Not only were there more "Suzanne Ashley" books out there, but some of them were erotic romance! You can bet that I bought one of the books (starting out with the non-erotic one), and added the erotic romance books to my wish list.

What about Robin Schone? For the last few years, she topped many of the "Where are they now?" lists. She has a new book out, proving that like Suzanne Ashley, not all authors go "missing" forever.

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Sadly, not every "Where are they now?..." question ends so happily for the reader. Most of them read like "Who's Who" of great authors who are no longer writing romance. The longer you read romance, the more you find yourself searching for the next book by a favorite author, only to find that they have dropped out of sight.

What a difference a few years makes. While cleaning, I found the June 2004 copy of Romantic Times Bookclub magazine. The historical reviews section alone included books by Tina St. John (now writing vampire romances under a pen name), Mary Reed McCall (now retired), and Teresa Medeiros and Kathryn Smith (now writing vampire romances). The series romance section included authors such as Joan Elliott Pickard, Ruth Langan, Sara Orwig, Susan Mallery, and Marie Ferrarella. And the erotica section consisted almost entirely of ebooks except for two Brava titles. (Remember when the Brava titles were considered the naughtiest books in the romance section? How times have changed!) Go back a few years to 2000, and you'll find authors such as Jane Goodger, Delia Parr, Michelle Jerott, Claudia Dain, Patricia Potter, Miranda Jarrett, Veronica Sattler, Shirlee Busbee, Kristen Kyle, and Marianne Willman. You'll also find authors such as Barbara Samuels, Linda Francis Lee, Lisa Cach, Amy J. Fetzer, Susan Sizemore, and Karen Robards in, of all things, the historical section! Today, those authors are publishing everything from woman's fiction to paranormal to erotica and romantic suspense.

We're used to discussions about the ranks of historical romance authors dwindling. What about series romance? When I read the lists of series romance authors in older issues, I find more and more of the authors I used to read when I read category romances on a regular basis. The series romance listings are chock full of some of the authors who are no longer to be found in category romances -- Nora Roberts, of course, but also authors such as Eileen Wilks, Virginia Kantra, Cheryl Anne Porter, Lori Foster, Gina Wilkins, Cait London, Gina Wilkins, Kathryn Shay, Annette Broadrick, Elizabeth Bevarly, Sherryl Woods, Lisa Jackson, Dixie Browning, Lindsay McKenna... Some of those authors have gone on to fame in single titles, but authors are "missing in action."

AAR readers have their lists of "missing in action" writers. These are just a few of the authors AAR visitors wish were still writing.

Katherine Sutcliffe Danelle Harmon
Suzanne Robinson Judith Duncan
Tanya Anne Crosby Rebecca Hagan Lee
Deborah Simmons Marsha Canham
Elizabeth Elliott Emma Jensen
Lavyrle Spencer Tracy Grant
Donna Boyd Shelia Bishop
Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels Kathleen Harrington
Christina Skye Sharon and Tom Curtis
Lass Small Judith Ivory
Maura Seger/Josie Litton Marjorie Farrell
Paula Detmer Riggs Barbara Hazard
Maggie Osborne Laura Kinsale
Dee Holmes Michelle Martin
Joan Smith Marion Devon
Judith Nelson Laura London
Jan Freed Mallory Rush
Joan Overfield Meagan McKinney
Charlotte Louise Dolan Rita Boucher
Hillary Fields Donna Lee Poff
Alina Adams Jane Ashford
Eileen Charbonneau Gayle Feyre/Taylor Chase
Anita Mills Kathleen Sage
Judith Stanton Connie Rienhold
Quinn Taylor Evans Mary Gilgannon
Juliana Garnett Elizabeth Stuart
Kathleen Nance Rebecca Paisley
Diane Farr Shelly Thacker

Missing authors range from lesser known to best-selling, dark to light, prodigious to sparse output. All of them have something in common. Somebody out there still loves them, and still wishes they would come out with a new book.

This list reflects the changes in the romance marketplace over recent years. It’s no surprise that most of these "missing in action" authors were best known for historicals and/or traditional Regencies. Surprisingly, of the rest, most were best known for writing series romances. Maybe that says something about the changes in series romances as well. I went through several years when I hardly ever looked at lines such as Silhouette Intimate Moments, Silhouette Special Edition, Harlequin American, and Harlequin Super romance, even though I used to read those lines all the time. To my surprise, I did buy some Harlequin Presents during that period. Come to think of it, maybe that's because they are still publishing authors such as Penny Jordan and Robyn Donald, the authors I was reading when I was first introduced to HPs.

Some authors, such as Kathleen Nance and Donna Boyd, wrote paranormals before paranormal was in style. Why don't the publishers reprint their books now that paranormals are hot? Why don't they ask these authors to write the next big thing in paranormal romance? Maybe these authors lost out by publishing paranormals when they were still the red-headed stepchild.

Still Writing, But...

Many missing authors are still writing. They just aren't writing what their older fans love. A lot of authors have moved from historicals to romantic suspense, suspense and mysteries, contemporaries, erotica... Anything but historicals, it seems. Some readers think of this as "Going over to the dark side." OK, I wouldn't go that far. Sure, I'd love to sink my teeth into a Candice Proctor historical, or a Theresa Weir romance, but authors have gotta eat. And to branch out and try new things as well.

Here are just a few of the historical authors we miss, even though they're still writing.

Author
Now Writing
Judith McNaught Romantic Suspense
Julie Garwood Romantic Suspense
Penelope Williamson Suspense
Jill Barnett Woman's Fiction
Patricia Gaffney Woman's Fiction
Candice Proctor Historical Mysteries (as C. S. Harris)
Connie Brockway Contemporaries
Susan Wiggs Contemporaries
Elizabeth Lowell Romantic Suspense
Mary Jo Putney Romantic Fantasy
Pamela Britton Contemporary
Christina Skye Romantic Suspense
Iris Johanssen Romantic Suspense
Olga Bicos Romantic Suspense
Kathleen Gilles Seidel Chick Lit
Tamara Leigh Inspirationals

It's not just historical authors who are missed by their fans. While the paranormal field often gets blamed for romance's ailments, there are paranormal authors I miss, such as Lucy Blue (while others miss her historicals, written as Jayel Wylie). Others miss Donna Boyd's werewolf novels. Why hasn't anyone reprinted Linda Lael Miller's vampire series, which predated most of today's vampire romances? We often hear from readers who miss Dara Joy's futuristics, but are afraid to order her new self-published novellas because they've heard horror stories about the way some orders weren't filled. They would buy her books in a minute if she found a commercial publisher. What about the futuristic romances by Justine Davis, an alter ego of Justine Dare? In fact, many readers miss the romantic suspense single titles she wrote as Justine Dare, although she is writing series romances now.

Sometimes fans miss the series romances that their favorite authors wrote. Like many fans, I'd love to read a new Nora Roberts or Elizabeth Lowell series romance. I'd give my eyeteeth to read a new Mary Balogh Regency trad. Other readers miss Laura Leone's romances now that she is writing fantasy novels instead.

But if I want to read a new Mary Balogh or Nora Roberts, I can delve into one of single title books. Much sadder is the situation of authors who are still writing the same type of book, yet no longer making their original fans happy. When I reviewed books for AAR, I read one of Johanna Lindsey's newer historicals, and after reading it, my response was "What happened? Where did she go?" The author I'd once adored was no longer there in that book. Readers have similar complaints about the recent books of Laurell K. Hamilton. Many romance readers hate the sex and the changes in plot and characters. Just as many readers dislike Cheryl Holt's and Nicole Jordan's sexy historicals and yearn for their older ones.

The Controversy

Even the question "Whatever happened to?..." is not without controversy. Writers stop writing for all sorts of reasons -- illness, depression, a death in the family, writer's block, and even lawsuits. Many stop because their publishers don't renew their contracts because of low sales. Some authors find it painful to field questions about this. For that reason, some people have scolded readers for asking questions about whatever happened to their favorite authors. How dare those readers expect their favorite authors to keep writing just to keep them happy?

"What?!"

Yes, it must be a burden to an author to know that they have fans who keep asking for their next book when they simply can't publish that book for whatever reason. Yet surely it's a good sign when fans are that frantic about reading that author's next book. Better that than being one of the authors nobody ever asks about. For all the people asking "Whatever happened to...," I've never heard anyone asked "Whatever happened to those Jove quilting romances? I really miss those." Instead, people ask about the authors they really really miss.

Coming full circle, Delia Carnell clearly understands that. When she found my post about her Silhouette Special Edition, she didn't say "How dare you ask about that book? How dare you wonder if I've written anything else?" No! She was delighted that I could still remember a series romance I read 18 years ago. She was also glad I had been able to find her blog and learn that she was still writing. I think she put it best in her blog: "I have to say a huge thank you to my new friend Anne at All About Romance for brightening the day of a writer who was beginning to wonder whether any of this was worth it. It truly is."

In the course of writing this article I wrote to authors and readers who might know something about writers who have not published in a while. Among those was Tracy Grant, who was delighted to let me know that "Secrets of a Lady", the trade paperback release of "Daughter of the Game", will be published in August. Apparently it’s part of a Jane Austen-themed promotion at Barnes & Noble. The re-release includes a new epilogue, a letter from Charles to Mélanie. It also includes ten- fifteen pages of "A+",(as Tracy puts it) “sort of Avon Trade's version of DVD extras.”

Tracy’s new pages are letters between Charles, Mélanie, and their friends and family. The letters are meant to flesh out the back story and offer some further insight into the characters. Tracy wrote, “If "Secrets of a Lady" does well, hopefully that will pave the way for more books in the series (the third is already written, and I have the fourth plotted). I've also been working on an historical novel set in the Napoleonic Empire in 1811.”

Here are a few more updates:

  • Tanya Anne Crosby's blog indicates she is looking forward to writing contemporaries for now.
  • Deborah Simmons' last published work was a novella in the November 2005 release The Brides of Christmas,, from HQN. We received a note from her which reads: “I've always been grateful for wonderful, supportive readers, and I'm glad they are thinking about me! I'm still writing, and I have a new agent who is shopping around both a historical proposal and my first contemporary romantic comedy. So I hope I will have some good news soon."
  • LaVyrle Spencer has retired from writing.
  • Sadly, the Josie Litton website has this message: "josielitton.com expired on 04/17/2007 and is pending renewal or deletion." I guess this is the Internet equivalent of old soldiers fading away.
  • Amazon lists a 1998 Rebecca Paisley title called Yonder Lies Heaven, but it was never published.

To me, loving books enough to miss them is what it's all about. Some writers affect us so much that we can't help but ask about them, even if sometimes it comes across as nagging. We're not being nags. Sometimes, we're just fans who are sad to lose some of our favorite authors. And isn't it wonderful when we find out that they have something new coming out?

Questions To Consider:

All of us wonder upon occasion, "Whatever happened to...?" So let's talk on the ATBF Forum about those instances when you've asked yourself the question - and if you ever looked for an answer.

 

Anne Marble

 

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