When I wandered in to a book signing at Barnes and Noble last week three of the four authors behind the tables were busy. The fourth, Leigh Michaels, met my eyes, smiled, and said hello. As we chatted I picked up one of her books: On Writing Romance – how to craft a novel that sells. It fell open to the “about the author page” and I read that this tiny unassuming lady in front of me was the author of more than eighty contemporary romance novels and that thirty million of her romance novels have been published by Harlequin Books.
I bought the how-to book. Who wouldn’t want to know the secret to that kind of success? I learned she was a speaker at a conference the next day and made plans to attend her session. Several of the books on the table were her romance novels. Almost as an afterthought, I picked up Just One Season in London.
I read just like I eat. Omnivorously. All my life there have been phases when I craved just one particular type of novel, but there has never been a time when I couldn’t take pleasure in almost any title (or any snack) that happened to come into my hands. Since my romance reading phase is several years behind me, I honestly thought I would be using Just One Season in London as a kind of research tool. I saw myself analyzing it, picking it apart to search out Leigh Michaels writing style and technique to figure out ways to use her techniques in my own work.
That night in my hotel room, I flipped open my Kindle, prepared to read a few chapters of a mystery until I was ready to fall asleep. I thought it wouldn’t take long. It was the end of a long day of traveling and I was exhausted. It was irritating when Kindle informed me I needed to recharge its battery, and even more irritating when I couldn’t find the cord. Rummaging through my bags, I found Just One Season in London. That’ll do, I told myself. Just til I get sleepy
It was well past midnight when I forced myself to close the book and turn out the light. Even then, the characters kept dancing through my mind. About three a.m. I gave up on sleep and gave myself entirely over to the Ryecroft family and their season in London.
I haven’t read On Writing Romance yet. I attended Leigh Michaels lecture the next day and took notes, but I was so tired my handwriting is unreadable. It doesn’t matter. I already know why she is so successful as a romance writer. She knows how to keep readers up all night.
Thank you, Ms. Michaels.