Careers With Staying Power

glitter_baby Reading Maggie’s blog about the unique backgrounds of individuals now writing romance novels caused me to think about writing as a career and how some authors are able to make a success of it for years and even decades, while others fall off the map. Think of all the authors that you loved who no longer have a current contract. (The ease of self- publishing eBooks has given me hope that they will be back.) Some are able to carve out a very comfortable and in a few cases, even wealthy, lifestyle, but then there are many others who have to keep their day jobs. Ability, commitment, hard work, and a bit of luck all have a hand in an author’s longevity. And I think one other element helps authors as well: a perception or aptitude to keep their books unique but familiar.

Falling in love with an author’s work is easy, but staying in love? Well, that just like being married. I’m not sure how many books it takes to inspire loyalty. And of course there are degrees. A fan checks out every book, and most likely buys it, a loyal fan buys every book, and then a true fan girl excuses any disappointment with the saying, “even a bad book by (insert name) is ten times better than what is out there now.”

It is not always the first book that fires our passion for the author’s work, but there is enough there to bring us back Then there is the book. You know what I am talking about. It is perfect, and you wouldn’t change a thing about it. You stand in awe of the writer’s talent and ability. So now you are a fan, and you buy the next book, and then the next one, and the next one until you are up to book seven or so. By this time you are well on your way of being a loyal fan totally in love, or you are not quite feeling the same love because you have figured out her formula and it’s always the same, or because in an effort to shake things up she has blindsided you with some crazy plot device that just did not work.

That is an author’s catch 22. They have to incorporate the items that made us a fan but to generate talk and keep most of us interested they also have to take risks. Twenty years ago, I couldn’t read enough of Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s books. Ten years ago Suzanne Brockmann’s books fascinated me , and five years ago Nalini Singh’s books captured my imagination . Over the years my love for their books has either grown, diminished or completely faded based on how fresh their books still feel. But like a marriage surviving the seven year itch, these authors have proven their longevity. How did they do it? They had the savvy ability to connect with readers with innovative plot devices, or characterization or world building.

Howard, Roberts, and Krentz all started their careers writing series books. I do remember that their books stood out from the others with their protective macho heroes, sassy heroines and the way there were able to evoke so much sexual tension and chemistry. And then all these authors branched out with different types of stories. Jayne Ann Krentz’s imagination took her into historicals, and futuristic in addition to her contemporary books. Nora Roberts continued to write series, but made a name for herself with her romantic suspense, and then her futuristic crime novels. Linda Howard took more and more risk writing her romantic suspense novels with her unique situations and types of characters. Susan Elizabeth Phillips has stayed on a more traditional route, but her books are so uniquely different from each other.

Did I think when I first picked up Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Glitter Baby, that I would still be reading her books twenty years later? Not really. I knew I loved the book and I loved the humor but I had loved Judith Krantz’s Princess Daisy and Kathleen Gilles Seidel’s More Then You Dreamed, too.

Do I think these authors still take risks? Some of them, not so much, but now they have name recognition and comfort status. Others, I buy their book on the release date because they still delight me and write books that feel fresh.

Feel free to talk about authors that have proven longevity for you. Are they still risk takers? However, I would love to get your input on the current crop of newer authors. Whose books do you think you will still be reading twenty years from now? How has this author created her special niche? Does she have a proven track record yet of being innovative?

– Leigh Davis

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23 Responses to “Careers With Staying Power”

  1. Jean Wan says:

    Great blog Leigh. Some of my other classic authors: Loretta Chase, Mary Balogh, Anne Stuart, Laura Kinsale, Jo Goodman (she’s been hanging around) and Carla Kelly, most of whom started with series and are still going strong. Of the newer-ish crop, I do think Nalini Singh will still be around, and I hope – I really, really hope – that these authors will still be publishing in a decade: Sherry Thomas, Kate Noble, Meredith Duran, Joanna Bourne, Anne Mallory, Julie Anne Long.

    Oh, and Kaki Warner. One of the best authors revitalizing the western currently.

  2. wenmc says:

    It’s hard to imagine liking the same authors in twenty years. I started reading romance about 20 years ago and my favorites were all authors I don’t read anymore; Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, Jayne Ann Krentz, or Amanda Quick, and Joanna Lindsey. On the other hand I still love Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Connie Brockway and Linda Howard. My new absolute favorites would include Joanna Bourne, Elizabeth Hoyt, and Meredith Duran. I’ve also really branched out to outher genres with Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Larissa Ione, and Ava Gray. Hope they keep things fresh because I’m loving what they are writing.

  3. maggie b. says:

    I think the authors I will be reading twenty years from now will be SEP and Linda Howard. :-) Seriously, if they are still writing I will be reading them.

    As far as the new crop of authors, Sarah Addison Allen is the first name that came to mind. Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews. Kristan Higgins. Tess Gerritsen. Lisa Gardner.

    One problem I have with todays authors is that I am “stuck” in their world for books and books and books. For example, Nalini Singh has how many in her world in just a few short years? I’ve burned out on Mary Janice Davidson, who I used to love. I am still enjoying Sookie but I also look forward to the end. These long, long series authors have gone for recently have a tendency to burn me out fast. But that’s just me.

    maggie b.

  4. Tee says:

    Interesting blog, Leigh. Julie Garwood, Jayne Ann Krentz (and aliases), Linda Howard, Theresa Weir, LaVyrle Spencer, Candace Camp, Diana Palmer (yes, I admit it), Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown (and aliases), Catherine Coulter, Jude Devereaux, Dorothy Garlock–it’s difficult to remember all the authors who were automatic reads for me when I first began reading romantic fiction 20+ years ago. Some of them remain, but are teetering on the edge of extinction for me–Krentz, Howard, Roberts. Authors Coulter, Devereaux and Palmer are gone, gone from my list; the others remain.

    Oops, forgot Debbie Macomber, Kasey Michaels, Karen Robards, Barbara Delinsky, Robyn Carr, JoAnn Ross. I’d better stop now–I’ve always enjoyed these writers and still do.

    I have others now whom I hope continue their terrific way of writing. Many of them are in suspense, so I won’t rattle of their names. In romance, I enjoy new-to-the-scene Kristan Higgins, Joanne Bourne, Julie James, Courtney Milan–again, there are more, but they’re not popping into my mind this moment.

  5. dick says:

    Some authors are skilful enough that I buy what they write, read it, and can say the time spent doing so was not completely wasted. But I can’t name a single author who I think has completely captivated me. However, I think those who accept the formula without trying too hard to make a book “different” are the ones I’m most likely to enjoy reading and often those are mid-listers, like Candace Camp.

  6. Danie says:

    Great post! It’s so rewarding to discover an author you love and getting to read their whole back list (if they’ve been writing for a long time) or watching eagerly for the next release. I’m hooked on Elizabeth Hoyt and will likely keep reading her books as long as she’s writing them. Mary Balogh, and Loretta Chase are also on my “must read” list. I’ve also started reading Nalini Singh (although her ebooks aren’t available in Canada for Kindle readers which burns my @ss) and am looking forward to see what happens with Meljean Brook as I loved The Iron Duke (but haven’t read her other series).

    I do love Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rachel Hunter and Julie James as well when I want some contemporary romance. Love seeing the other suggestions in this list as it’s giving me some new authors to check out. Thanks gang!

  7. bungluna says:

    As well as all the usual supects already mentioned, Karina Bliss is the author who’s caught my attention latelly. She currently writes categories, but I hope she’ll move to a longer format since I’d love to see what she does with more ‘space’.

    Long-standing authors may come and go from my to-buy list, but I always end up getting their latest, at least from the library. Sometimes I’ll be roped back into the fan-herd; sometimes I just can’t follow where they have gone. I never forger the hours of pleasure they have given me, though.

  8. Leigh says:

    Jean Wan, Loretta Chase is a favorite of mine too. I have her some of her very first regency books, (The English Witch and others) on my keeper self. I don’t read too many historicals, but do know that all the authors you mention definitely get a lot of ink.

    wenmc, and Tee we are almost triplets. I have given up on most of the same authors.

    Maggie b, Sarah Addison Allen is a big favorite (I discovered her from one of your reviews). Like you the series aspect burns me out quickly.

    Dick, I haven’t read Candace Camp in years, but I am reading one this month. It is next in my pile Hopefully the magic is still there.

    Danie, I experience the same frustration when I can’t get Susanna Kearsley’s books here I also saw a cute book I wanted to read by an Australian author but it is not available either. Hopefully in the future, books won’t be limited by geographical boundaries. (we can dream can’t we)

    Bungluna, Karina Bliss books made me take a closer look at Harlequin romance. I was also impressed with Maggie O’Keefe and she is going to the longer books.

    Thanks everyone for posting and for your comments about enjoying the blog. I always have the best time reading your responses.

  9. LeeB. says:

    Definitely a fun blog that makes me think. Personally I think lots of authors will still be writing if they choose to do so, especially because it is so easy now to self-publish.

  10. Carole Underwood says:

    Leigh,
    I think you mean Molly O’Keefe as the Harlequin writer (Super Romances). I feel compelled to ask you that since I am also a fan, and she’s a relatively new writer who deserves a chance at success. (This is not the first time I have seen her name written as Maggie so I checked – Google and Harlequin – and did not find a Maggie O’Keefe. Let me know if I am wrong here.)

  11. Leigh says:

    You are right. . . Sorry it is Molly. . .

  12. Kay says:

    Sherrilyn Kenyon is one author who started out as must- read for me. But I’ve given up on her because her books, especially the Dark Hunter/Dream Hunter series, just became SO repetitive. After reading “Acheron” I wondered how she could possibly write another tortured hero after what poor Ash went through. After that one, her series went downhill for me. I just couldn’t muster any interest in her work. And it’s a shame because I love reading about Greek mythology.

  13. Kerith says:

    I get nervous when there was an author I love says: now I am going to do something different, and I will never be able to write like I use to. I almost cried when Jennifer Crusie said she couldn’t write any other straight romance. She was my first and Bet Me will be a standard that I compare all other contemporary romances. I was scared to read Maybe This Time, but even with the single sex scene I was very pleased (Wow, now I sound like a pervert). MTT still had enough romance in it to make me sigh, and it had Ms. Crusie humor that I love. The ghost story was a little weak, but still enjoyable. Though romance may not be her focus anymore I will still pick up her books.

    Karen Maria Moning, according to her blog said that she mostly like not write another straight up romance novel. The fever series, her first departure from SU romances, I thought was well done, though Mac the heroine got a little annoying after five books (I maybe didn’t need to read them one after another). The world Ms. Moning created had tons of depth and different than other books I have read. But I think the most important thing is that she added a great romance between Mac and Barrons. She is great at writing romance. In my own opinion, she would do herself a disservice if she wrote a novel without any romance in the storyline. I really like the world she created in the Fever Series; I would like to read more about it.

  14. Lori j says:

    I’m a loyal fan to Laura Kinsale, Lisa Kleypas, Judith Ivory (wished she still wrote!), Rachel Gibson, Liz Carlyle and Jennifer Blake. Gave up on Linda Howard, Anita Mills, Mary Balogh, Jennifer Cruisie, Patricia Gaffney and Nalini Singh. Authors I WANT to give up on: JR Ward, Lara Aidan, Kresley Cole and Jo Beverly. New authors I think could write a long time: Julie Anne Long, Meljean Brook, Meridith Duran, Joanna Bourne, Patricia Briggs, Juli James and Elizabeth Hoyt. Great Blog!

  15. Byron Hefter says:

    quality share. thank you

  16. Cynthia Wright says:

    I really enjoyed this post! I’m one of those authors who stopped writing (after 20 years & 13 historical romances) and thought it was all behind me. The ebook revolution has changed that. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there were still readers with my novels on their keeper shelves. And it’s been fun and eye-opening to connect again with author friends who are still writing (many mentioned above) and to realize how many have faded away. The old spark has rekindled for me but this time I don’t feel the pressure. I’ve also enjoyed discovering many of the newer authors – thanks to all who posted for giving me names to add to the list!

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