Read-a-Romance Month: Hope is a Powerful Weapon
This post is part of Read-a-Romance Month, which features romances all across the genre. You can find out more about the project here, as well as read posts from other authors, and try your hand at prizes. I’m giving away a prize too, so read on.
For my stop on the tour, I’m going to talk about how romance novels celebrate hope and how vital that is for our world, especially right now. I remember, vividly, the day I was given my first romance. My life was insane. My parents were fighting like cats and dogs, but putting off officially divorcing because we had an exchange student. (Don’t ask. It’s never going to make sense.) We’d moved from a great school to one where I essentially treaded water for two years, and where I was the only person in my family with a steady job.
I didn’t even know that the worst was yet to come as far as how much stress I would endure. I’d already gone from the church youth group star volunteer to the girl who went out boozing on Wednesday night with high school dropouts and guys whose ambition was to play darts for a living. I’d eventually start smoking like a chimney and break down intermittently both at home and at school. It wasn’t a great time, no, but it was when I was first handed a romance novel, and I’m here to testify, I don’t think I’d have come out the other side in one piece without them.
Romance novels come in varying lengths, theme, subgenre, and even quality of content—but whatever else they are, romance novels always come with a heaping side of hope and happiness delivered. Bad things happen, yes, and yeah, we can relate to that, but good things happen too. The good guys always win. Love surmounts all obstacles. Whatever darkness comes for the characters, hope carries them through, and love saves the day.
We discount, often, how much that means to us as humans, that power. We forget that the story doesn’t have to be full of meaning and emotional heartstrings to move us. Last year I released a category-length Christmas novel, Let It Snow, the first in a series. I was so excited for it. After writing lots of angst and intensity, this was going to be short, sweet, and fun. Maybe it would be silly. I didn’t care. It was for me, my release, my relaxation. If nobody bought it, so what.
People bought it. People bought it a lot, more than anything else I sold that year. People loved it, had a great time–and wrote me to tell me that it moved them. One reader told me it got her through a rough time at the hospital when she wasn’t sure how things were going to go down for her family. My silly, simple book became her lifeline. Knowing everything would be okay, that hope would win out–that was a gift to her. That was power.
In college, I read dead white men all week, and every weekend I read romances. I can’t remember most of the titles, but I do remember the sense of hope. That safety and comfort. When everyone else went out drinking, I went home to read. I racked up a credit card full of almost nothing but book purchases. And they were more medicinal than any drugs, prescription or recreational, I could have used to get me through. So here’s to romance. To the silly and the serious, the soft and the sexy. To hope. To happiness. Ever after.
Questions from Read-a-Romance
Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.
Well, I’ll tell you about the event that felt daring and adventurous but was mostly silly and unnecessary and me all over. When I was in high school, I hung out with the bad boys a lot, usually during the week. One night we were up on a hill off an old road when a car came toward us and someone shouted, “POLICE!” A bunch of us took off into the night, literally into the woods and cornfields, because anything was better than being caught drinking underage (or providing alcohol to minors, as others would have been guilty of). We wove our way through brambles and harvested corn rows, sobering up in a hurry, ruining our shoes, and scraping up our limbs. It felt epic. It felt terrifying and amazing. There were no cell phones back then, no nothing, and it felt like we were in one of my beloved fantasy novels, living off the land and escaping the law. I remember feeling intensely, acutely alive. Sore and nervous and sick to my stomach, but one hundred percent present, and not bored at all. Especially when I had to walk over the train bridge and hope nothing came to kill me while I was crossing. It turns out there were never any cops. We fell for someone’s joke, and they all had a good laugh about it later. All I know is I still think about that night and how it felt. And that I had to throw out my shoes.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)
I’ve been writing since I was twelve, when Barbies became less satisfying but I still wanted to tell stories. My first novel was published in the school anthology. It was incredible pap and took up over half of the final volume. Very early 1980s saga, but less sex. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it was my first romance novel too. I wrote fantasy until college, when I started thinking, you know, I could get paid for this…
Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)
That honor definitely goes to A Knight in Shining Armor. It was my gateway to romance, both reading and writing. I’d technically been writing romance before that, but mostly I was writing fantasy with romantic elements. This was the book that changed my focus and taught me that romance novels could always make me feel good and safe. I haven’t been able to quit them since. I got to meet her at RT 2013 in Kansas City. I shook the whole time and cried afterward. My original copy, faded from age, is now also signed.
I’m giving away two prizes in two separate contests: one choice of ebook from my backlist, one signed paperback of Family Man, A Private Gentleman, Love Lessons, or Let It Snow.
You can enter both contests, and both contests are open internationally. If you have a post office I can ship a book to, you can enter. (Currently I cannot ship to the International Space Station. Sorry. But you could get an ebook!)
Part of my job in this post is to recommend two other LGBT authors to you, which as you can imagine, only two is all kinds of awful. The first recommendation is easy: KA Mitchell. I heartily recommend you read any and all of her books. Bad Boyfriend is my personal favorite, except now I kind of like the one coming out in December better. (Yes, I’ve read it! Be so jealous.) Learn more about KA here at her website.
My other recommended author is Damon Suede. He’s still working on building his backlist, but he’s brilliant, crazy-wonderful, and my spiritual brother. Bad Idea is one of my favorite books ever, about comic geeks and following your muse, all wrapped up in a big New York bow. Check out his work and his website here.
(As part of this tour, I have to include a bio, so those of you regular readers who already know who I am, please enjoy the overly familiar.)
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks and upcoming releases, at www.heidicullinan.com.