Fifth Attempt Pays Off For Atlanta Writer

Iris Johansen’s story could have been a plot for one of her romance novels. Fifteen years ago, she was a reservations clerk for Eastern Airlines who had written four unpublished novels she was too embarrassed to show anyone.

Finally, she sent her fifth novel to Bantam Books and waited. And waited.

Six months later, an editor plucked “Stormy Vows” out of the slush pile and offered the Atlanta writer a contract. When she was asked if she had any more manuscripts tucked away, she fired off the four novels she had not been able to get published. “They accepted them all,” says Johansen, 53, who has written nearly 50 novels, including the best sellers “Beloved Scoundrel” and “The Ugly Duckling.”

Even with her success, Johansen did not quit her day job for almost six years. “I was a single mother with two children in high school. You just don’t rush out and quit your job when you have two kids to support.”

With her latest novel, “And Then You Die” (Bantam, $22.95), Johansen continues her foray into the action-adventure genre that she began with “The Ugly Duckling.”

“When I got the idea for ‘Ugly Duckling,’ it was going to be more romantic, and it turned into a thriller. I had great fun doing it, so I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

“I think a good many of the people who like what I do in romance have come with me to the thrillers, but there’s no doubt I’ve picked up a new audience,” Johansen says.

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