Talking with Jane Porter

Jane Porter is one of the few romance writers writing love stories that, among other things, feature Baby Boomers. Her latest book, Flirting with the Beast, features a smart, sexy pair of lovers that are 58 and 61. Be still my beating heart. And check out this cover! The book is one of my favorite reads of 2022. I reached out to Jane and asked if she’d talk to AAR about her work and perspective. She very kindly said yes–here’s our edited conversation.

Dabney: Can you tell me a little about your writing career?

Jane: I’ve had over 75 books published–the biggest chunk with Harlequin Presents where I started my career, with my first sale in 2000.  In 2004 I began writing chick lit/women’s fiction for Grand Central’s new 5 Spot line, and my second title with them, Flirting with Forty, had tremendous success, and was turned into a Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear.  

When my oldest son, then an 18 year old college freshman at Texas A&M, developed a mood disorder and had to return home, my world changed and I couldn’t write while trying to get him stabilized, and it seemed like I would never be able to write at the pace I used to.  I couldn’t predict being able to deliver by approved deadlines, either, and so I turned to the digital market where I could write, and publish, when I was able and this need drove me to the digital market and how Tule Publishing came into existence.  I wanted to find the joy in being a creative still, I needed my friends, and Megan Crane, CJ Carmichael, Lilian Darcy and I created a small town in Montana we could share, and wrote a rodeo series together.  Those first novellas became the basis for individual author series and Montana Born, the first imprint of Tule, was launched. It will be 10 years this September since Tule released the first book (Megan’s!) and has published over 900 books by over 150 authors all over the world.  

As Tule’s founder and publisher, I wear lots of different hats, but my favorite is that of an author.  I write small towns and cowboys for Tule–love my cowboys!–but my Tule stories are sweeter than Presents, and sometimes a little inspirational as I believe faith and love make all things possible.  Two of my Tule books have been turned into movies of the week, with two more in development now.  Tule itself has had 12 movies made from books and I feel really lucky that I can use my creativity, energy and industry knowledge to help other writers.  I don’t know how to internalize success other than try to lift others and help them achieve their dreams.

Dabney: What’s your favorite thing about writing romance?

Jane: I love the happy ending.  I love that romance takes conflict and challenges and transforms them into something encouraging, and inspiring.  We all want love, and we want to feel safe, and we crave hope, and the fact that I get to do that–sharing hope and happiness–through romances is everything.  It’s the reason I keep writing.  Yes, romance is entertaining, but its also deeply validating, and women need more of that.  In my opinion, society doesn’t lift, or respect, women enough.

Dabney: What led you to write romance featuring older characters? 

Jane: If you haven’t picked up on it by now, I’m something of a missionary.  I have this fierce need to remind women how important, and beautiful, they are regardless of their age.  Women are too often raised to see their value only in terms of youth and beauty, and what happens when those fade?  So women are easy targets for advertisers–protect yourself from aging or losing power, buy into our weight loss program, buy our skin cream, buy botox, buy lasers, buy buy buy to remain valuable and relevant.  And this is awful.  It’s so awful. 

We women create life and spend so much of our time on earth taking care of others and so often, we fail to take care of ourselves.  Or, we wait for our turn and our turn isn’t generous, or worse, our turn doesn’t come.  This is why I write, not because I’m good at writing sexy and steamy, but because I believe with all my heart that women deserve every happiness in the world, but happiness isn’t just one thing, happiness is self-respect, and friendship, happiness is being treated well and feeling loved.  So, here’s my very long, impassioned answer as to why I write stories featuring older characters–I want all women, regardless of age, to know they matter.  And they need to know it.

Dabney: Andi and Wolf, the leads of Flirting with the Beast, are both hot as hell. As I read the book, I realized that you managed–no small feat–to both make the two seem realistically in their late 50s, early 60s AND very sexually attractive. There is not a whiff of ageism here but rather the sense that, seen through the eyes of a peer, Andi and Wolf are every bit as sexy as their younger peers. How did you do that? 

Jane: I’m fifty eight, turning  fifty-nine next month, and I don’t feel old.  I don’t feel like an older woman.  I don’t necessarily feel mature, either!  In my heart I’m still…me.  I don’t attach an age to myself, and being married to a man 9 years younger, helps me resist ‘aging up’.  My three sons love me and say they want me around for a long time, and I want to be here.  I think we all want a long life filled with the best sort of people, and so I write stories which could be me, or my friends, or my cousins. 

I write stories that reflect the values I see in women my age.  I’m lucky that I’ve had very devoted readers who found me with Flirting with Forty, and have been in my life for nearly twenty years and I get to follow them on social media and hear and see what makes them happy…and what they worry about.

We all worry about losing our loved ones, and we ‘re juggling our kids and grandkids, along with aging parents, or the loss of parents and grief, and we should also have others to love, and love us back.  If we’re widowed or divorced, we should know that we have options.  We’re never too old to love.  It’s never too late to find romance.  (And even though I’m married to a very hot fifty year old, now and then I still see a stranger that is a handsome or sexy  ‘mature man’ and feel a little swoon.  Desire is a good thing!  It makes us feel and that’s essential throughout life.)

Dabney: This series is published by Berkley. Was it a challenge to get a trad publisher to invest in books with older protagonists? 

No.  Between my agent’s enthusiasm and my incredible editor, Cindy Hwang’s, support–which was pretty much immediate–it was exciting to know that I had an opportunity to write a three book series featuring stories I believe in, stories where women are always valuable and always desirable.  Berkeley was a fantastic home for the series, too, as Cindy really gets my vision, and responded to the proposal in such a way that I knew we’d have something special.  The question always is, will readers embrace it?  

Dabney: What’s next for you?

I write a Christmas story every year, but really loved my holiday release, Once Upon a Christmas, this year as it was set outside Bakewell, Derbyshire at a grand country house, Langley Park.  It was so fun to write (it’s essentially an ode to my love of Regencies) and the second book in Love at Langley Park will come out next Christmas. 

I’m ending one cowboy series and starting a new one in 2023, and the last book in the Berkley series releases late July.  I don’t know if there will be more books with Berkley but I am not done writing ‘mature heroes and heroines’, and I’m certainly not done writing happy-ever-afters. 

I read romance.  Romance is my happy place in a noisy, complicated, chaotic world.  It allows me to escape and heal a little bit from stress so that I can tackle real life again, whether its as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, or writer.  We need balance and books and happy endings give us that balance, so here’s to more stories, more romance, and more validation that we truly, deeply matter.  

Dabney: And I just have to ask, where did that fabulous cover come from?

That is all Berkley’s editorial and art department.  I love the cover concepts for the series.  All three books feature these cropped in close couple, mature faces, glowing with happiness.  For me, that was everything.  These are the faces of love and contentment, the face of someone finding their ‘other’ and discovering that life is always full of opportunity and possibilities.  These covers make me smile every time I look at them!

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