Journal Entry – Days 4 & 5, July 13 & 14, 1996

News Flash: Catherine Coulter’s upcoming hardcover release, Rosehaven, to be available on July 17, is a medieval. Her publisher, Putnam, is sending a copy of the book to the Romance Reader, for review. We’ll have it on-line as soon as possible.

More News: Jo Beverley has left Kensington Publishing and returned her advance on her upcoming Mallory book. An unusual step to take, Jo was concerned that, as a smaller company, Kensington could not provide the size of print run and promotional support a larger, publicly-held company could provide. She is still working with Kensington, however, on an anthology that will include the works of Mary Jo Putney and herself, among others. She has signed with another publisher and her next Malloren book will be available next summer.

The pinnacle of the conference for many of the attendees were the RITA awards, which are given each year in 11 categories. These awards represent the cream of the crop as they are peer awards. Here are the books voted as the best reads of 1995:

Favorite Book – Born in Ice by Nora Roberts
Contemporary Single Title – Born in Ice by Nora Roberts
Traditional Romance – Stranger In Her Arms by Elizabeth Sites
Short Historical – Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Long Historical – Something Shady by Pamela Morsi
Best First Book – The Warlord by Elizabeth Elliott
Romantic Suspense – Winter’s Edge by Anne Stuart
Regency – Gwen’s Christmas Ghost by Lynn Kerstan and Alicia Rasley
Paranormal – Covenant by Modean Moon
Young Adult – Runaway by Cheryl Zach
Short Contemporary – Single Dad by Jennifer Greene
Long Contemporary – Morning Side of Dawn by Justine Davis
Inspirational – As Sure as the Dawn by Francine Rivers

Congratulations to these talented authors. We’d like to hear your opinions on these choices. On a personal note, three cheers for Elizabeth Elliott on her win for the best first book.

On Saturday, sessions began for the writers at 8 a.m. and continued through until 5 p.m. Many of them were dragging around because of all the publisher parties the night before.

I started my day in a session conducted by Glenda Sanders on The Anatomy of a Love Scene. Among the tips she provided were to avoid clichés. She said regarding first meetings, “Don’t you just hate all that electrical current? If there’s that much electricity out there, we’d all burn up!”

About euphemisms versus anatomically correct terminology she advised authors to stay away from plumbing and create pretty pictures instead. I thought her best advice was that failed love scenes really result from characters that haven’t been developed enough. In order for a reader to care about what the characters are felling, they have to “know” the characters first. I couldn’t agree more!

Coral Smith Saxe gave an impassioned and dramatic, candle-lit talk on myths and fairy tales. Her advice to romance authors? Mine the classic myths and fairy tales; those themes have resonated for thousands of years and will continue to be meaningful to us. Her favorite? Beauty and the Beast.

Sessions continued on Sunday from 8 a.m. until noon. But most of my time both Saturday and Sunday was spent talking with authors . . . and more authors. Joan Johnston had just enough time to tell me a friend had forwarded to her my review of her delightful Captive. She was pleased, especially since her friend had told her how honest we are at The Romance Reader. Joan is busy writing sequels to Captive, to be set in England as well. But she is not leaving the western behind, nor the category contemporary.

Christina Dodd and I talked as well about her wonderful Candle in the Window and her recent release Once a Knight. Christina, as you may know, does not write the typical romance. Candle in the Window features a blind hero and heroine and Once a Knight features a medieval heroine as “honorable” as a knight. In addition to discussing her work, Christina also provided me with some interesting industry information — look for it in my full-length profile of her in the future.

Thea Devine, who writes erotic historical romance, likes to differentiate between herself and Bertrice Small and Susan Johnson. While she definitely exceeds the boundaries most romance authors stay within, her couples remain faithful to one another. Surprisingly, she has always been a fan of Georgette Heyer and loves the careful prose of the Regency style. A free-lance editor for Avon in the 1980’s, she began to write her own romances in 1987. Look for a more in-depth profile of her in the future as well.

Rexanne Becnel, who defied the rule that to write romance you must love romance, began to write romance “just because”. She now loves the genre. Interestingly enough, she writes in long-hand every day in a coffeehouse in New Orleans. A beautiful woman who once planned to be an architect, she dropped out of college just short of her degree to become a hippie. Rexanne is the author of one of the first romances I ever read – A Dove at Midnight. While it delves a bit too much into Court life than I generally enjoy, this is a marvelous two-hanky read.

Though extremely successful as an author, her mother still wants to know when she is going to get her architectural degree. Her upcoming release, to be available next month, is a medieval about twin sisters which explores the mind-set in the Middle Ages about twins. She and I spent about an hour chatting, so look forward to a down-to-earth discussion with this southern belle.

Jennifer Blake has been writing romance since the early ‘70s and has seen a plethora of changes in the industry. She agrees with other authors interviewed that the quality of writing is better today. A soft-spoken southerner, she no longer writes solely historical romances. I look forward to bringing her comments to you on point-of-view, political correct, mythic males, and the like in the near future.

Jillian Hunter, who is currently signed with Pocket Books after publishing for Avon and Denise Little Presents, was raised in Scotland and England until she was 11. Her heart belongs in Scotland, which she refers to as her home even though she has resided in California her entire adult life.

Her signing with Pocket Books clearly indicates a career to watch – her editor also “discovered” and edits Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, Kim Cates, Jill Barnett, and Kathryn Lynn Davis. Her most recent release, The Glenlyon’s Bride, has had a remarkable sell-through rate of nearly 80% so far. While that percentage will level off as paperback books have a fairly high return rate, Pocket Books would not have signed her had they not believed her to be very talented. I look forward to bringing her thoughts to you soon. Perhaps we can discover her together.

My final interview of the conference was with Lisa Kleypas, who wrote one of the first romances I ever read – Then Came You. First published at the age of 21, she is in the first blushes of marriage and the birth of her baby boy. While her first book harked back to the old style of romance with an older man and very young woman, Then Came You featured a non-virginal, older-heroine who is the tortured half of the love relationship. Since then, her books have continued to feature more worldly women and unusual men.

Look forward to an in-depth profile of Lisa. A tidbit to tide you over: when her first books were published, Lisa was writing about emotions and things she had never experienced. She was so busy writing in her youth (writing a book each summer since she was 16) that the experiences of her friends, such as marriage and motherhood, were denied her. She believes her writing is much richer now that she has had a chance to live a more normal life.

As you can see, I’ve been a busy bee these last several days and will be a busy bee for months to come. Attending this conference was truly a dream come true. I look forward to re-living it with you.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

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