I got a very touching letter recently from a young woman who was inspired in part by reading Hard Evidence to take on the issue of human trafficking through her college chapter of Amnesty International. It’s a huge issue, a terrible problem, and, for those tragically caught up in it, a nightmare. It means so much to me that reading one of my novels helped to inspire this.
I’ve tried hard to include real issues and real topics in my novels. Yes, I know that many women turn to romance novels to escape, but I’ve always felt that there’s room for substance in romantic fiction. I don’t read fluff, and I try not to write fluff. Readers who want lighter stories probably don’t read my books, and that’s okay. To each her own, I say.
How fun it would be to share this letter with the people here in Colorado who know me only as a journalist. Repeatedly I am asked, “Why do you want to leave journalism to write romance novels?” The tone of their voices makes it clear that they find my choice unbelievable and strange, as if I were tossing aside the Holy Grail to drink from a paper cup.
One of them summed it up this way: “But if you write romance novels, you’ll no longer be contributing anything to the world.”
At the time, I laughed. I told this person of the letters and e-mails I had received from people who’d gotten hours of enjoyment from my books. I told her of the recent e-mail from a woman who’d read through my historicals while caring for her dying mother and how my books had offered this woman a reprieve from grief and worry.
But, hey, I’m contributing nothing, right?
I’ve always believed that each of us has a role to play. I think of human history as a tapestry with each person being a thread in the overall picture. Each of us is called to do something, and if we follow that calling, the big picture is much richer for it. Whether you’re a nurse, a receptionist, a flight attendant, a stay-at-home mom, a lawyer, a journalist or an author, you have the chance, as each of us does, to make the world a better place.
I’ve been in journalism for... 17 years? I’ve tried to make those years count for something by taking on issues that other journalists ignore. But I have always wanted to write romantic fiction, that’s what I'm going to do. I firmly believe that a person can make as much of a difference writing fiction as she can reporting the news. I try to make each book about something, but I don’t try to ram my views down anyone’s throat. It’s enough to explore the problem in the story. Readers reach their own conclusions.
So to that college chapter of Amnesty International in Louisiana, I say thanks and hats off to you! And to those who say romantic fiction doesn’t contribute in a meaningful way to our world, I say only this: Obviously, you’ve never read a romance novel.