Journal Entry – Day 2, July 11, 1996

Greetings again from Big D!

It was another hot day in Dallas. Inside the Anatole Hotel, where the Romance Writers of American National Conference is being held, the air conditioning was working fine, but there was plenty of hot and steamy talk going on . . . about romance, of course!

During Day 2 of the conference, I talked with authors Judy Cuevas, Ruth Langan, Catherine Archer, Alice Duncan, Anne Stuart, Jill Marie Landis, Suzanne Barclay, and Alexis Harrington.

Judy Cuevas, whose Jove release Bliss is up for the best long historical novel of the year award, was very frank in her discussions about the so-called mid-list crisis and publishers. She also commented on the quality of romance writing — her view that the quality much better today than a decade ago was echoed over and over again in my discussions with other authors. Now writing for Avon, her next book will be published next April.

Ruth Langan, a lovely and petite woman in a vivid red suit, captivated me with her continued enthusiasm for the genre. She is the author of several wonderful Scots medievals which feature strong women. Her Highland trilogy (which includes the wonderful Highland Heather) features three sisters, each of whom become Laird of their clan. She also writes Texas historicals. Though these two settings might seem utterly different, Ruth sees many parallels between the Scots Highlands and Texas in the 1800’s, such as the untamed quality of the land and its people and the mythologies surrounding the male archetypes.

A writer who has published a multitude of books in the genre, she also writes category and contemporary books. She told me that, when her children were growing up, she used to write “in the closet” and was one day “caught in the act” when her children came home from a half day at school unexpectedly. They tattled on her to their daddy, who surprised his lovely wife with an electric typewriter because “writers need tools.” She added that, “He brought me out of the closet and he spent money on me. What else could I do then but write?”

The theme of encouraging spouses continued during my lunch visit with Catherine Archer and her husband Stephen. Catherine, the author of my favorite medieval, Velvet Bond, is in awe of those writers who can write more than one book a year. Stephen is very involved in her writing. They talked at lunch about Catherine’s characters as though they were real people. In fact, Catherine commented that she waits until her books are completed before writing the love scenes so that she can “get to know” her characters better. And, about those love scenes . . . Stephen told me that whenever Catherine’s children hear her laughing in her study, they know she is working on a love scene!

P. Alice Duncan, a newcomer to the genre, provided one of the biggest laughs of my day when she told me the name of one of her heroines: Emma von Plotz. A funny name in and of itself, it is also funny because “plotz” is a Yiddish word used to convey disbelief. (Fans of Saturday Night Live will remember the “talk amongst yourselves” Barbra Streisand-loving, gossipy woman character portrayed by Mike Meyers. He used to plotz a lot.)

Alice’s first two books were published by Harper Monogram. She has sold two books to Dell and may also write for one of Berkley’s new lines. A woman who sees humor everywhere, she says, “anyone who loves dachshunds must have a love of the absurd”. She has five. When asked which authors she admires, she said, “I’d read Loretta Chase’s shopping list.” Alice’s latest release is Texas Lonesome.

Anne Stuart, author of three historicals, several category romances, and three romantic suspense novels, was greatly influenced by gothic romance. Her love of dark elements is obvious in A Rose at Midnight, which begins with the heroine trying to poison the hero. She believes this is her best historical and I am in strong agreement — it has all the requisite elements of a great historical, including a tortured hero, an equally tortured heroine, strong secondary characters, adventure, danger. . . .

As with several of the other authors I’ve met in the past two days, she has a funky, funny kind of charm. I’d never interviewed someone who showed up for the interview wearing two long strands of Mardi Gras beads before! Anne’s current publisher for her historical fiction is Kensington. Her Prince of Swords will be released next month.

Jill Marie Landis and I talked at length in the hotel’s bar. There is too much “stuff” to try to narrow it down just now — I’ll file a lengthier report later. But I do have two comments: First, Jill looks very, very, very young (her explanation is that she has no children). Second, her new release Day Dreamer (rated 5 Hearts on The Romance Reader) is very much a departure for her. She says she just didn’t want to write “another ‘Little House on the Prairie’ book.”

Medieval author Suzanne Barclay and I sat down for our interview beside two immense elephant statues in one of the hotel’s large atrium areas. She is currently at work on a new series of English medievals for Harlequin. She does plan on revisiting the Scots clans she introduced in the Lion trilogy. That trilogy, by the way, was initially planned as a duo. The second book, Lion’s Heart, was actually an afterthought, although the hero from that book is her favorite hero. He remains closest to her heart because he was an ugly duckling who grew into a handsome Laird. He is based on the son of a friend who was transformed from an ugly duckling to handsome hunk.

The main event of the day was the Literacy Reception wherein hundreds of the authors, with books donated by their publishers, signed and sold their books to the public with all proceeds benefiting literacy. I chatted briefly with Nora Roberts (whose publisher has promised a lengthy interview in the near future), Sharon Ihle (The Bride Wore Spurs), Rebecca Paisley (Basket of Wishes), Jane Kidder (Passion’s Kiss), Kathryn Lynn Davis (Too Deep for Tears, All We Hold Dear)), Denise Domning (Season quintet), Alexis Harrington (A Taste of Heaven)), Iris Johansen (Ugly Duckling), Patricia Rice (Denim & Lace), etc., etc., etc.

Before I pass out, I’ll leave you with some of the most interesting snippets from the signing:

Iris Johansen: I don’t try to make my heroes masterful. I just try to make them men I’d like to have dinner with . . . and maybe something more.

Alexis Harrington: I model my characters after actors. Tyler in A Taste of Heaven was based on Kevin Costner.

For those who enjoyed the debut novel of Nancy Block, Once Upon a Pirate, and have wondered what’s up next for her, her publisher Harper Monogram has cut in half the number of books it is releasing each month. As a result, her next book will not be out until 1997. She is currently at work on a third release.

Pamela Morsi: My daughter is mentally handicapped and I created Jess as a secondary character in Marrying Stone. But he was so good in there, and wanted his own story. When I approached my publisher with the concept of a mentally handicapped hero for Simple Jess, I was surprised they agreed to publish it. I’d been concerned about how readers would accept it, but they have, whole-heartedly.

Julia Quinn: The title of the book I’m working on now is Everything & the Moon. The hero and heroine sneak out one night as teens and he tells her he’s going to give her everything. She tells him she wants everything and the moon.

There is much, much more to report on, but my brain has ceased to function. I can say that I will be busy for months to come preparing profiles on all the delightful women I interviewed today. Until tomorrow, I’m

Exhaustedly yours,

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

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