At the beginning of my writing career, I didn’t write romance. It isn’t that I didn’t like romance novels; as a teenager I devoured Kathleen Woodiwiss’s books (Shanna remains one of my all-time favorites!), and my eyes sparkled for weeks after reading The Thorn Birds. But when I started writing, my career path was established when I received a contract for my first novel, and it was an inspirational story. There wasn’t a hint of romance in that book.
Then my agent called with the great news that I’d been offered a contract for a second book, a mystery, which I’d submitted to the inspirational imprint of publishing giant Harlequin. The conversation went something like this:
AGENT: “Congratulations! Steeple Hill has offered you a contract for Murder by Mushroom.”
ME: “Woo hoo! Yippee! Hold on while I do a happy dance around the potato display.” (I was in a grocery store when the call came.)
AGENT: “The editor has requested a few changes, nothing you can’t handle. The biggest is she wants you to add a romantic element. At least half the story needs to be devoted to romance.”
ME (whose dance had come to an abrupt halt): “Uh, I don’t know. I don’t think I can do that. Maybe we ought to turn down the offer.”
AGENT (after a very, very long pause): “You did not just say that. It would be unwise to turn down this offer at this point in your career.”
See, the problem wasn’t that I didn’t like romance. The problem was, I didn’t think I could write it effectively. How do you write romance without sex? I knew Steeple Hill published “clean” romance stories, though at that time I hadn’t actually read one.
I remedied that situation immediately with a visit to the bookstore, where I bought all the clean romances I could find. As it turned out, I enjoyed them a lot. By the time I’d devoured the whole stack, I had an idea for turning my mystery into a romantic mystery.
I’ve written eighteen novels since that book came out, and every one of them contains a strong romantic element. My heroes are hunky, sexy men, and my heroines are normal, headstrong women with the same desires as any other woman. Instead of sex, I focus on a deeper desire shared by every human being that ever walked the face of the earth – the desire for love. We all need love, and that need can sometimes drive us to do crazy things. And that’s where good stories are born.
In A Plain and Simple Heart, with I co-wrote with author extraordinaire Lori Copeland, Rebecca Switzer is a seventeen-year-old Amish girl whose family lives in western Kansas in the late 1880s. Several years earlier Rebecca met and fell in love with a rowdy cowboy (the story is chronicled in The Heart’s Frontier) and her love for him has only grown stronger with the passing of time. She strikes out on her own across Kansas in search for her one true love. When she meets up with a group of temperance demonstrators, she is swept into the fervor of their cause and runs afoul of the town’s handsome sheriff. From there matters get quickly, and hilariously, out of hand.
I hope Rebecca’s desire for love resonates with readers. I hope her antics spark many smiles and warm many hearts. My goal for A Plain and Simple Heart is for readers to turn the last page, sit back with a sigh, and say, “That was a great romance story!”
VIRGINIA SMITH is the author of more than twenty Christian novels and over fifty articles and short stories. An avid reader with eclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense. Her books have been finalists in ACFW’s Carol Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, the Maggie Awards, and the National Reader’s Choice Award. Her romance novel, A Daughter’s Legacy, received a 2011 Holt Medallion Award of Merit.
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