Marry Me Twice and Cassidy's Daddy, the first two novels in the Rose Quartz Series by romance novelist Catherine Avril Morris, were just released in September. Morris and I have been friends since our early teenage years, when we used to spend long hours swapping novels and talking about our favorite plots and characters. To us, writers were like rock stars--people whose art we worshipped, but whom we could barely dream we might become ourselves, someday. So I was excited to talk to Morris about Marry Me Twice, her first published novel. We had the following conversation over several days via Facebook Instant message.
Mary Pauline Lowry (MPL): In high school, we were both really into rose quartz. I remember hearing that it was a stone that helped heal the heart and nurtured love. I carried rose quartz around with me in my pocket, and kept it on my bedside table. Clearly, since you have written a series of romance novels called the Rose Quartz Series, you were at least as obsessed with the stone as I was. Could you talk a little bit about how you felt about the stone then, what made it special to you, and how that led to the Rose Quartz Series?
Catherine Avril Morris (CAM): We were both obsessed with rose quartz! That's so funny. I also carried small chunks of it around with me; I crocheted little "rock bags"--tiny yarn baskets on long, crocheted yarn chains that held a chunk of rose quartz or whatever stone I was into at the moment. I'd wear one or two at a time around my neck. As a kid, I always loved it when I came across one of those polished stone displays, where you could get, like, five stones for a dollar, which usually included a rose quartz, a hematite, whatever. We didn't have the Internet back then, of course, but I would look up information in books about rocks and their energetic powers, and try to carry whichever rock I "needed" most. Usually, that was rose quartz.
Along with my love of the Love Stone, I loved--loved!--New Mexico. I visited Los Alamos with my dad when I was 13, which was a big deal to me since I'd read Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume, which was a really dark, sexy, mysterious book to me at the time. It was set in Los Alamos, and reading it was the first time I'd ever heard about that town's strange history.
When I was older, in college and after, I would drive through far southern NM on my way from Texas to California and back, and I just fell in love with the area. It's so stark and brown and barren-looking, at least from the window of a car driving down the interstate. But when you get out and walk around, it changes.
But even with my obsessions with rose quartz and southern New Mexico, the Rose Quartz novels actually came from a dream. A long dream from which I woke up with all three novels of the series fully realized in my head--completely plotted out, fully realized characters, everything. That's the only time that's ever happened to me (at least, that I actually remembered the next day!).
I took some artistic license with the idea of rose quartz mines in southern New Mexico, by the way. As far as I know, that stone is not actually mined in that part of the country!
MPL: Ah! My next question was going to be about how you came up with the plot of Marry Me Twice! It came to you in a dream! Were you reading a lot of romance at the time? And I know you've wanted to write romance for 25 years. I also know you read all kinds of fiction--why is romance the genre you decided to write? What about it appeals to you? It's a genre that's been unrelentingly popular--why do you think that is?
CAM: Yes, I was reading a lot of romance when I dreamed the plot for the RQ series. I started reading romance when I was about 14 years old, and read a whole lot of it through my twenties and into my thirties. As a teenager, I had a subscription to Harlequin Temptation novels--I'd get four in the mail every month. I loved it! In the past five or so years, I've read less romance. Unfortunately, it's been harder to find authors I love.
I gravitate toward romance for a lot of reasons. For one thing, at base, romance and love relationships are just my whole focus--they shape my entire outlook on life. I always want to know about other people's intimate relationships. How they met their lover, what kind of fights they have, whether they think they're in it forever, and if not, why not. I really don't know why I'm so interested in that stuff. Maybe everyone is? I don't know.
As for why romance is so immensely popular as a genre--once I read an explanation of this phenomenon that was as cogent as I've ever heard it explained before or since. In my pea brain, this explanation came from Sarah Bird--who you know is one of my all-time favorite authors (and who started out as a romance author under the pen name Tory Cates!)--but of course now I can't find the article or interview to confirm. Anyway, the explanation was that romance novels tap into the experience of being an infant once again, when all your needs, emotional and physical, are anticipated and met without your even having to voice them. Bird (or whoever it was who produced this theory!) said the love relationship in a romance novel mimics the unconditional love of a mother for her child, a relationship we all subconsciously wish we could return to.
Catherine Avril Morris
That resonates for me. I also think romance novels are like a piece of candy that is really good for you. So many these days are truly feminist--they are stories mostly by and for women, about women getting what they want most, and usually that's not just the love relationship with a man. Usually the sex and love are kind of second to the heroine's main goal of becoming a fully self-realized, empowered human being. Through the course of the novel, she becomes strong, she works and fights toward a goal, toward what she believes in most, AND she gets the guy--the hottest, truest guy who understands her like no one ever has before. What fantasy could be more appealing to a reader than that?!
MPL: I see what you mean--In Marry Me Twice, the heroine, Janie Adams, seems much more concerned with succeeding in her career in television news--and also in her longer-term dream of making documentaries--than she is with love or romance. And in fact, she agrees to marry Mason in part because it will give her a chance to make her career goals come true.
So, the second novel in the Rose Quartz Series, Cassidy's Daddy, is out as well. Could you tell me a bit about what that novel is about and how it connects to Marry Me Twice?
CAM: Sure! Cassidy's Daddy is a reunion romance about Trixie Belmont, the diner waitress featured in Marry Me Twice, and her long-ago love, Sam West, who has just moved back to Rose Quartz. They were crazy about each other when they were younger, and then Sam left town to go to medical school, and through a series of mishaps and misimpressions, they lost touch... And then Trixie found out she was pregnant. And she had the baby, Cassidy, and Sam heard about it through the grapevine, but he thought the baby wasn't his. And he had no idea she was born with Down syndrome! So Trixie and her daughter have been living this sweet, happy little life together (and Janie and Mason from Marry Me Twice are Trixie's close friends), and then Sam comes back to town and upsets their balance, and it all goes crazy for everyone. Ultimately, in a good way! The character of Cassidy was inspired by my own daughter, Pearl, who has Down syndrome, and with whom I've just been completely enamored since she was born. (Of course, I'm also enamored with my son, even though he just has the typical number of chromosomes!) And the novel is about themes I think about a lot--issues of class and privilege, and parenting, and people's perceptions of people with Intellectual Disabilities, and...a whole lot of stuff.
MPL: In high school you had a small but pivotal role as Julie Simms in the film Dazed and Confused. Why did you decide to pursue a career as a writer instead of an actor? What was it about writing that appealed to you so much?
CAM: You know, I just wasn't an actor, and I knew it! I'd been a writer since before I could physically write. I have a little notebook of stories I wrote starting in 1980, when I was four years old. I would dictate them to my mom, and she would write them down for me. They're all total rip-offs of fairytales, with characters named things like Strawberry and Cupcake who live in creepy little houses in the woods. Once I had my grandfather record one for me. I still remember how hard he gripped the pen and pressed down as he wrote. The words made bumpy grooves on the page, and there was a deep groove left on his middle finger from holding the pen so tightly.
I loved being in Dazed & Confused--it was like going to the best summer camp ever! But I felt very inadequate as an actor in that film. I never felt like I knew what I was doing. My last night of filming was the night before the first day back at school, my eleventh-grade year. I definitely felt some relief when the film wrapped, although I also cried my head off that it was over!