When I was 18 and arrived in North Carolina to go to school, I was thrilled to discover The Regulator Bookshop. Its shelves held fiction so tempting that for the next 25 years, throughout college, graduate school, and grown-up life, I bought as many books as I could afford. To this day, when someone says “indie bookstore,” I think of The Regulator and smile. So it was a joy to see the place I’ve so loved host four fabulous romance writers for an evening of romance and rose. Authors Virginia Kantra, Jennifer Lohmann, Katharine Ashe, and Jessica Scott talked to a standing room crowd about their work.
Each author spoke about why she writes romance, read a snippet from her latest book, and answered questions from the audience.
Virginia Kantra, who’s written more than twenty novels, went first. She spoke about writing what she knows, connecting with readers, and tackling difficult issues in hopeful ways.”Romance is about making an emotional connection between the reader and the writer…. In our books, we have the freedom to explore our deepest fears and desires and the happy ending is guaranteed.”
She then read from Carolina Man and, let me tell you, she is a great reader. She could do her own audiobooks!
Next up was Katharine Ashe. Katharine has a doctorate in religious history and, before deciding to write romance full-time, taught at Duke University. She too spoke about the connection romance forges. “The core of romance is the relationship. It’s the connectedness…. When I was young, my favorite stories were spectacular adventures. I love the fantasy. I love the epic story. I love the adventure. In my writing, romance is that familiar beloved connection between two individuals as well as other people in the midst of adventure.”
Katharine is an animated speaker and she is VERY excited about her latest novel, I Adored a Lord, which she described as “a whodunnit murder mystery.”
Jennifer Lohmann began by telling a story about an edgy gourmet magazine she’d recently read which, along with a photos of vaginas and penises made out of food, had, in its male/female issue, a “woman’s” story in which the heroine doesn’t eat, cuts herself, and uses her sexuality to destroy men. This, unsurprisingly, made her disgruntled.
She sees her fiction as heroine-centric.”What really draws me to romance is the heroine and the story of the woman…. In romance novels, women make lives for themselves across the genres. These are women who are standing up and saying “No more.” The women I know don’t fall over and start destroying themselves when bad things happen to them. They get up and keep going. These are the women I know.” Jennifer read from her latest, Weekends in Carolina, which is set in and around Durham.
Last up was Jessica Scott. Jessica has been a company commander at Fort Hood, deployed to Iraq, and is currently pursuing her PhD in sociology at Duke. She will be teaching sociology at the US Military Academy next year. Many romances have heroes who have left the military; Jessica writes about those who stay. She told of her own experience in 2004 when she and her husband, also a soldier, talked about whether or not to continue to serve. At the time, their daughter was an baby. They made the decision to stay in as long as they could. Families like hers are what she knows and what she writes.
She said “I’m a sucker for a good reunion story.” She read from her book Back to You.
The four then answered questions from the audience. They spoke on issues ranging from how they write (not one does it in the same way) to the validity of traditional tropes in romance. I think the audience would have asked questions all night had there been time to do so.
But, all things must come to an end and there were books to sign and rose to sip. As I left, the woman at the cash register thanked me for coming. I smiled, happy to be there, again, connecting with books in the very best way.