Friday, June 26, 2009
REAL ROMANCE IN THE NEW YORKER
In The New Yorker issue of June 22, the latest to reach me here in New Zealand, there is a lengthy profile by Lauren Collins of writer Nora Roberts.
Here is a taste:
Roberts, (pic right NYT), a romance novelist who also writes futuristic police procedurals under the name J.D. Robb, has published a hundred and eighty-two novels.
In a typical year, she publishes five “new Noras”: two installments of a paperback original trilogy; two J.D. Robb books; and each summer, the “big Nora”—a hardcover standalone romance novel. Twenty-seven Nora Roberts books are sold every minute.
Roberts grosses sixty million dollars a year, Forbes estimated in 2004, more than John Grisham or Stephen King. The writerof the profile visits Roberts in Boonsboro, Maryland, where she and her husband, Bruce Wilder, own several businesses (they live in nearby Keedysville). “You know, writing’s creative and all this, certainly, but you don’t just wander around dreaming,” Roberts says. “That’s not what you’re getting paid for.”
Roberts is not a hugger or a crier. She has a dirty mouth, a smoker’s voice, and a closet full of Armani. Shopping is her main form of self-indulgence.
Listening to the give-and-take between Roberts and her fans is like eavesdropping on the collective unconscious of American women. A self-taught writer, and an irreverent one, Roberts was not, at first, an easy sell. Nancy Jackson, the editor of Roberts’s first novel, notes that Roberts “didn’t follow the formula as strictly as others.”
Roberts is as uninterested in the literary establishment as she is unloved by it. The profile briefly discusses the history of the romance genre, from Samuel Richardson’s “Pamela” to writers such as Georgette Heyer and Jayne Ann Krentz.
Collins tells about the Roberts fan site ADWOFF, which takes its name from a comment Roberts made on an AOL message board: “a day without [French] fries is like a day without an orgasm.” Roberts was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1950. She married Ronald Aufdem-Brinke upon graduating from high school and settled in Keedysville. She had two children. She began to write in 1979 while housebound during a snowstorm. In 1980, Silhouette accepted her novel “Irish Thoroughbred.”
In her choice of milieu, if nothing else, Roberts is the Raymond Carver of romance. Her characters thirst for cold beers on the porch, not Daquiris by the pool. The engine of the romance genre, according to Roberts, is not escapism, but identification. “Character is plot. Make them accessible to the reader.” Tells how Roberts met her second husband, Bruce Wilder. Describes Roberts’s daily writing regimen, discusses her taste in reading and examines how she writes sex scenes. “Sex is important in the books because, without it, it would be like eating a rice cake instead of a cupcake,”Footnote:
This issue of The New Yorker is worth the money for this article alone, although there is of course very much more within its 92 pages including pieces by Hendrik Hertzberg and James Surowiecki, both speakers at the recent Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, and all the usual great cartoons.