My friend, author Maggie Marr, recently invited me to help launch the release of her romance novel Can’t Buy Me Love by celebrating romance on her blog. I had to laugh when Maggie asked me to be featured as part of her “Spring Into Romance” theme, because I’ve found myself as a novelist to be at times adrift somewhere in that multiple-personality world that straddles commercial women’s fiction, chick lit and romance. Often times women's fiction doesn't fit in a particular category, which makes it harder to find a home for the book. And while my novels sometimes have been slotted as romance, I don’t regard myself as a straight-out romance writer in the same way that someone who writes category romances, for instance, does, perhaps because I don’t exactly write uber super steamy romance scenes (I’m too much of a weenie, because I think my teen kids would about kill me if I did). My nomadic genre-straddling was a problem for me when I published books with New York publishing houses-- I think the conundrum of where to shelve my books in a bookstore occasionally confounded the powers that be.
Over the past two years I’ve been able to enjoy a career as an indie author, publishing my work digitally direct to Kindle, Barnes and Noble, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and such, and have grown to love the freedom this provides me. For instance, there was a time when you really had to focus on one specific genre to “brand” yourself, which makes sense on many levels--find readers who like you as an author of historical romances, for instance, and they’ll follow you far and wide and buy/read all of your historical romances. But I tended to be all over the map, with non-fiction memoir, creative non-fiction, women’s fiction, chick lit, I even pitched a self-help book to my agent which I was told I could only sell to a New York house if I had a profile on a national level as an expert in that field. Natch. Oh well. And yeah, lurking in my laptop were a couple of straight-out romances as well, books I figured at some point I’d publish but only once I’d gotten my brand established enough to be able to veer away from it and not leave the “professionals” in New York to wonder what to do with my books.
But with indie publishing, I’ve been able to publish my novels and get them to readers. With the beauty of digital, I can categorize them to reach various audiences, and leave it up to the reader to decide if they like this book enough, maybe they’d like to try another of my novels as well. So that meant I was able to dust off those lurking romances and bring them out into the light of day (and, um, er, yeah, my kids might not be too thrilled, but more on that in a minute). And the thing about my romances is they’re a little too edgy usually to fit in the normal traditional publishing confines of “romance”, so all the better that I can publish them myself and let my audience figure it out! The first romance I published, ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, is a lighthearted story of a woman tired of waiting for Mr. Right to come along. She wants kids, so she takes matters into her own hands (turkey baster, anyone?!). Unbeknownst to her, she’s then hired to be the photographer for her “donor’s” high society wedding. Mayhem ensues, etc.
My next romance, COMPROMISING POSITIONS, could almost be accused of being romantic suspense, but not really. It’s about a woman determined to get hired for a public relations job on Capitol Hill despite rampant sexism working against her. When she lands her dream job against her boss, the press secretary’s, wishes, it’s only because her other boss, a Viagra-sated Senator, wants to add her as another notch on his bed board. Sparks fly as my heroine falls fast for her press secretary (yeah, he falls for her as well) while having to dodge the aggressive moves of the horny Senator. Embezzlement, corruption and yet more mayhem ensue ;-). Oh, and those steamy sex scenes? Yep, I sucked it up and tried my hand at it (I’d originally written this book to enter into a contest sponsored by a New York Times bestselling author in which hot sex scenes were a must). I just decided to not tell my kids it’s out there. Oh, and I published these two novels under the pseudonym Erin Delany. Well, sort of. Jenny Gardiner writing as Erin Delany is more like it. Everyone asks me why I did it this way and I figured it made sense. Readers of women’s fiction are not always interested in migrating to romance, so I didn’t want to confuse those readers into thinking these were straight-out women’s fiction, but romance readers are often happy to straddle those lines, so I wanted them to be able to find my other books if they enjoyed these two romances. Make sense?
Anyhow, so I guess I am a romance writer. Well, sort of, at least sometimes. I like to say I'm a varied author. Whatever it is, I am definitely still a crazy mixed-up kid in publishing. But the great thing nowadays is that this confusion can work in my favor, rather than being a detriment. I hope you’ll go check out these books, as well as my others: #1 Kindle Bestseller SLIM TO NONE, American Title III winner SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, WHERE THE HEART IS, ANYWHERE BUT HERE, WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO’S DETERMINED TO KILL ME, and I’M NOT THE BIGGEST BITCH IN THIS RELATIONSHIP (a humorous anthology of dog stories in which I’m a contributor).
Oh, and to show you how I love to jump all over the place, writing-wise, I'll be publishing a collection of humorous essays in the next week or so. Here's a preview of the cover: