Fast-paced, frisky fun: romance writer Natalie Anderson

Ruthless boss, royal mistressTimaru-based romantic fiction writer Natalie Anderson writes "hopeful and happy stories" with a racy edge. The mother of four and former librarian made the USA Today’s top-selling 150 books list in the first week of 2010 with Ruthless boss, royal mistress.

She spoke with Joyce Fraser about writing sizzling sex scenes, libraries and advice for would-be romance writers.

Ruthless boss, royal mistress made it into the USA Today’s top 150 books sold — what does that success mean for you personally and for your writing career?
I was thrilled that the book made it into the USA Today list. The ’series’ romance books have always been popular and its a thrill to see them getting that recognition now that they’re being tracked in a way that means they can be picked up by the list. For me personally it feels like the loveliest reward for working hard — just a lovely moment. And I hope it will help in terms of raising my profile and in marketing future books.
Why do we read romance novels, what needs do they meet? And, thinking particularly about the sexy scenes and increasingly complex titles, what are the challenges of writing them?
I think readers do love the escapist element in romance novels and I think they enjoy that roller coaster ride that is blossoming love. It sometimes gets maligned but the search for love is such a universal theme. My characters might have glamorous lives or high drama but at the end of the day they suffer the same fears and anxieties that we real people do — fear of rejection, betrayal, loneliness, bereavement …

It’s nice to be able to explore that in a story and provide a hopeful, happy resolution. I get letters from readers who have some pretty big things going on in their lives and if I can provide them with a few hours lightness, laughter and a feel-good ending then I’ve done my job.

However they are a challenge to write, but it’s a great challenge. The stories I write are a shorter format, so you have to keep the focus firmly on the hero and heroine’s journey. I enjoy writing the love scenes — they’re an integral part of the development of the relationship. This is the affair of their lives — they’ve found the person who they’re going to commit to forever — it had better be passionate! The love scenes need to progress the story. Then again, sex always complicates things!

There are romance novels catering for all reader preferences when it comes to sexiness — some leave the bedroom door closed, some leave it wide open. Mine have the door open :)

Natalie AndersonIs this a genre that you’ve always enjoyed reading yourself? Can you tell us about your formative writing and reading experiences?

English was always my best subject at school and I wrote a lot of stories as a child — I’d always wanted to be a writer. Then in my late teens and twenties I was too busy with the OE to write that much fiction — although there were lots of letters and so on. It was when I became a parent that I needed something for ‘me’ and the old dream of being a writer resurfaced.

In terms of reading, my grandmother lived with us and she was a big Mills & Boon fan — actually she read a wide variety of books. You’ll find that most romance readers are voracious and often read a wide variety of genres. Anyway, I loved reading her Mills & Boons — I still have her collection and re-read them even now! So when I was thinking about what kind of novel I wanted to try it was the natural choice. I’m a positive person, with a positive outlook and I like light, fun but heartfelt entertainment. That’s what I try to write.

Virginia Woolf said ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’. How do you juggle the demands of the domestic with your writing? And do you think it is unfair that female writers not male writers most frequently get asked this?
It is a juggle! But it is worth it. I mainly write at night when the children are in bed and write at the weekends when my husband is home to care for them. This time squeeze will improve when all four of them are at school. For now though, we don’t have a telly and I’m pretty disciplined about getting in my daily word count. I’m not so disciplined about the housework — something has to give! My husband is very supportive and I wouldn’t be able to write as much as I do without that support.

I guess It’s not surprising that women writers get asked this — certainly not one like me. I’m an at home mother first, and the writing is my ‘part-time’ job (although in truth over the week I rack up full-time hours). It is an excellent job to have though because it can be squeezed around the children — I like being able to be there for them.

Tell us about your library experiences past and present. Are you an avid library user? Do you consider libraries to be an important resource for writers?
Libraries are a huge resource! I’ve always been a library member and in fact after I finished my Bachelors (in English and Music) I went on to study for a Masters in Library & Information Studies at Victoria University. So I’m actually a bona fide librarian! I had a student job at the Canterbury Uni library which led me to that and after I qualified I worked in law libraries and corporate banking libraries overseas.

I use the library a lot now — even if it’s to take my laptop there, park at a table and write away from home. I get out books on writing all the time and also fiction — many genres. I believe you can improve your own writing by reading, reading, reading. And of course I take the children all the time.

What advice or encouragement would you give to would-be romance writers?
Write! Just sit down and write. Like anything you get better with practice. I’d also join the Romance Writers of New Zealand —it’s a fabulous organisation. Here in New Zealand we have a huge amount of very successful romance writers — and most belong. Every year there is a conference (usually in Auckland) and local authors give workshops etc and overseas authors, editors and agents also attend. Through RWNZ you can find critique partners, get the newsletter which has lots of useful craft/technique articles, and there are excellent competitions to get some feedback with. And of course read — find the kind of stories you love to read and then have a go at writing your own. In the end just read, read, read and write, write, write!

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