Do you remember your first?
We're talking romance reading here, just to be clear, and it's a question asked and answered time and again amongst the devoted. Many -- most? -- readers can recite that first book's title, the author, the year, where they read it, the impression it left and the addiction it started. You know that old saying, "you never forget your first."
Well, I have forgotten...or perhaps, more accurately, I never took in the title and author but simply fastened onto the words and the story. I don't even recall my age at the time, but I'm guessing early teens. My mum bought the Woman's Weekly -- the UK one -- for the recipes and the knitting (and probably the royal/celeb gossip, if they did that back then) and I must have been choking for something to read one weekend and discovered the fiction section. They used to publish abridged versions of, I think, Mills & Boon. Definitely classic romance, definitely of the category style, definitely serialised.
I remember the serialised part because of the painfully long wait from week to week to get the next instalment. I recall calling into the newsagent in the mornings on my way to school to check if the new magazine was in, ahead of my mother in the afternoon. Because I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!!!
Fair to say I was a teensy bit obsessed.
This topic has been on my mind, and turned into this blog post, as I've just completed an online course with Romance Writers of Australia on Branding, with the always-brilliant Nikki Logan. One of the questions I found enormously difficult to answer: what is unique about YOUR stories? In mulling this over -- and over and over, from this angle and that perspective -- I went back to the start.
Why did I start writing romance? Why did I start reading romance? And, yes, I loved and still love the optimism of these stories, and the female point of view, and the treatment of real, true, genuine family/human problems, the emotional highs and lows, and the happy endings brought about by character growth and change.
But I also loved and still love the armchair journey into another world. As a 13 year old girl who'd never been further from the farm than an occasional South Coast family holiday, every book-world was exotic and exciting. A quaintly-named Cotswold village, the Australian outback, a penthouse overlooking Sydney Harbour, a Texan ranch, a New Zealand hunting lodge, a Scottish castle, a villa in the south of France...
These were the worlds I visited through my early romance reading and, I realised, my love of armchair travel has carried through to my writing. Each time I start a new story I take off to a new place and experience that world through the eyes of my characters. I trust I am also taking my readers along on the journey to a new and wonderful place.
Do you remember when you first started reading romance? What did you love most about the stories at that time in your life?