Joyce Lamb is curator of USA Today's Happy Ever After blog about romance novels, a USA Today best-selling author of romantic suspense and three-time RITA finalist. She's been a professional journalist for 25 years.
Loren Kleinman (LK): How did you start writing romantic suspense?
Joyce Lamb (JL): I started writing romantic suspense after reading Sidney Sheldon's Rage of Angels. It didn't have a happy ending, and that irked me. So I decided to write my own book, in which I would have control of the ending. That was in the mid-'80s, just after I finished high school and was, frankly, kinda bored. Of course, becoming a self-sustaining romance author then wasn't as easy as it is now with self-publishing. So I kept writing while I went to college and got a regular job to pay the bills to support my romance-writing "habit." I didn't sell my first RS until 2001, so that was a long haul between the mid-'80s and then. But I think all those years of writing just for the fun of it really helped hone my skills.
LK: You are also the curator of one my favorite romance blogs, USA Today's Happy Ever After blog where you talk about all things romance. How did you land this gig and can you talk about any themes you notice with authors in this genre?
JL: I worked for USA Today for 15 years as a copy editor. About three years ago, I was copy editing a USAT blog about video games, and I thought, "Video games are to boys and men what romance novels are to women." I pitched the idea for Happy Ever After shortly thereafter, and it just took off from there. I was soooo lucky that the higher-ups at USAT were open to the idea and enthusiastic about it. Of course, the romance community responded nicely, too. As for themes: What I love about the romance community and the genre is that the themes are all-encompassing. There are trends, certainly (male/male and New Adult romances are superhot right now), but because self-publishing is so easy nowadays, there's a romance out there for just about anyone. No one has to be restricted in their reading (or writing) now that big companies are no longer the only ones deciding what gets published.
LK: New Adult has been trending in the last year. Why do you think there's been a drastic shift from YA to NA? What does NA do for readers that YA can't?
JL: I think some of the shift from YA to NA has come about because the Twilight crowd is growing up, so they're looking for stories that they can relate to. Plus, NA is more easily able to go where it gets tricky for YA -- into the bedroom. Once characters hit the college-age years, sex (and lots of it) is more acceptable. I also think the college-age years are when most of us figure out who we are as human beings, so there's tons of drama and angst to explore as an author, and readers love drama and angst.
LK: What do you see trending in the next five years in terms of romance reads?
JL: I see m/m romance continuing to grow and perhaps a swing back to the more traditional contemporary romances as the NA crowd gets older (but with more tattoos). I also expect there to be a lot more blending of multimedia platforms. For example, authors like Colleen Hoover and Wendy Wax have songs that were produced specifically to go with their books. Colleen's book Maybe Someday has a whole album to go with it (by the same name), by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. Wendy's The House on Mermaid Point inspired the song Mermaid in You, co-written by Wendy and 10th Concession. Also, book trailers are getting ever more complex, almost like mini movies. I imagine someday you'll be reading a book on your e-reader about a rock star, and in the middle you'll get to watch a music video by that rock star.
LK: Do romance novels give us hope that love can last forever?
JL: Most definitely romance novels give us the excitement of everything in the middle! Since we already know how the stories end (happily!), it's what's in the middle that we're most interested in as readers. How do the hero and heroine get from Point A to Point B? There are hurdles along the way, and we want to see how they overcome those hurdles. And we love cheering them on as they clear one after another. I think, also, that romance novels give readers hope in general. Hope that the good guys win. Hope that even the most damaged among us can find healing love. Hope that no matter how bad things get, the possibility that it'll all turn around in a positive way is always there. I mean, without hope, what's the point?