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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Northwest Passages: Romance is alive and well in the Pacific NW

Romance isn’t dead. Not by a long shot.

There’s a universe of love stories out there, and this area is home to four authors who are well-known writers in the romance genre.

February, the month for celebrating romance, is the perfect time to meet the women who create the storylines behind such successful series and discover that you may have more in common with them than you think:

Katee Robert

Contemporary and suspense romance

Katee Robert grew up in Spokane and used the Running Start program to finish up her high school years as quickly as possible.

“I grew up wanting to write, but my plan did not include writing, really,” Robert said. When her young marriage led her to living overseas in Germany with a pair of children under the age of 2, “Writing became a necessary outlet for my survival.”

Robert’s first book rode the wave of “50 Shades of Grey” popularity boom – “Although my books are not in that soft porn arena,” she said.

While Robert’s romances feature very modern characters of all genders, her storylines also feature real situations and conversations with regard to consent and protection. “That’s an important part of the storyline.”

Writing is Robert’s job, and reading is a very important part of it. The “heavier the deadline,” she said, the more she reads. Robert purposely picks reading outside the genre she writes – which, depending on the month, ranges from young adult horror (“The Hunter of the Dead”) to fan fiction (“Desperate Measures”) and science fiction and contemporary romance.

Asked if she reads the same books as her children (ages 14, 12 and 4 year old), she laughed as the anime genre is very popular in their world. Would she allow her children to read her titles? “They are sooo not interested,” Robert laughed. “Which is fine because while we don’t censor what they read, they shouldn’t read any books I write until they are over 18.”

Even in a town full of authors, people are surprised when finding out Robert’s profession as a romance author. “There is a whole umbrella of patronizing comments that people make, like, ‘Oh that’s not real writing’ and other insults, but you just learn to let it go.” The New York Times bestselling author quips, “They aren’t my audience, they aren’t my readers.”

Latest titles by Katee Robert: “A Worthy Opponent” (“Wicked Villians” series), “Her Vengeful Embrace” (“The Island of Ys” series)

Asa Maria Bradley

Paranormal romance and urban fantasy

“Spokane has an incredibly supportive writing community,” Asa Maria Bradley said. “And to be able to get together with other romance writers, just to chat and have dinner once a month, is great.”

Bradley splits her time between writing and teaching physics at Spokane Falls Community College. Before being contracted to deliver paranormal romances with modern-day Viking warriors, “Someone had to point out to me I was writing romance,” Bradley said. To her, “I was writing a good story.”

Bradley would write mostly during school downtime and breaks, switching hats between teaching and writing daily. However, the publishing industry deadlines don’t line up neatly with the academic calendar. Now Bradley has structured her life to give time to each, working three long days on campus and two days a week devoted to “writing until there are no more words left in me.”

If you had told her 10 years ago that this was what her life would look like as a writer, she would have scoffed. “I thought you went into a cave, wrote the book, gave it to the publishing company and then go back into the cave and work on another book,” she said. The work that goes into the marketing and publicity for the books once they are delivered to the publisher was a surprise, as was the access to her personally that readers of her work requested.

“I think that in the romance genre, more than any other, perhaps because the readers are so voracious, and they want access and expect access to the author,” Bradley said. “That part surprised me. Maybe because I’m Swedish, I don’t think people want to talk to me.”

Social media is a part of her writing life, and Bradley decided early on to only use channels she would use regularly herself. Readers do connect with her on Twitter and Facebook, and Bradley has recently embraced Instagram. Other authors have advised her to stay away from political postings, but Bradley remains true to who she is, using good “social media manners,” she said. “It’s important that the audience knows you are being authentic.”

Latest Asa Maria Bradley titles: “Loki Asccending” (“Viking Warriors” series), “Flash of Fear”(“Power of Lightning” trilogy, Book 1)

Lucy Gilmore

Contemporary romance

“I’ve lived in Spokane my whole life, so yes, why not use the area I know in my books,” said Tamara Morgan, who writes under the pen name Lucy Gilmore for the “Forever Home” series.

Morgan writes under three pen names: Tamara Berry is the name for cozy mysteries, Tamara Morgan is the name under her contemporary romances, and Lucy Gilmore is the pen name created at the request of her publisher. “It was a branding decision,” she said as the puppy romance genre presented the opportunity to start a brand new slate. While she has three genres to juggle with her names, Morgan writes one book a series at a time.

“Each genre requires the same amount of energy for me to write, whether it is a mystery or a romance. I have family that talks to me about my mystery titles but pretend that my romance titles don’t exist, that it’s fodder for jokes,” Morgan said.

Morgan’s background as an English literature major influenced her reading. In her “pre-Kindle college days,” one didn’t walk around with a mass market paperback without inviting snooty looks and comments. “One of my friends pointed out that I might be reading the classics for the love stories, and I thought, huh, maybe?”

Writing is second nature to Morgan. Graduating into the recession, she became a freelance writer creating blog posts and web content writing every day. Sidelined by a surgery that coincided with National Novel Writing Month, Morgan committed to participating in that, and those efforts launched her into an agent’s orbit, which led to a publishing deal, which in turn led to another agent and forays around small publishers and ebooks.

Now, more than 20 books and another agent later, she runs her business in writing with the same stamina she learned with NaNoWriMo: She has a word count that she meets every day and then moves on with her day.

The biggest misconception she finds people have with being an author is that it’s a glamorous lifestyle. “I don’t fly to meet my publishers, I write in my pajamas!”

Lucy Gilmore titles: “Puppy Love” and “Puppy Christmas” (“Forever Home” series)

Rebecca Zanetti

Paranormal and suspense romance

Rebecca Zanetti professes to being very lucky, but it’s obvious her work ethic also is a resounding factor in her success. “I just turned in a book last night at midnight,” she said over the phone last week. “I might sound a tad tired.”

The quiet author life is not one that Zanetti leads. Every day is filled with doing something that propels her bestseller career – promotion, research, writing, editing – it’s always something different. Zanetti has more than 50 titles to her credit, with accolades from the New York Times, USA Today and Amazon.

Zanetti was on the partner track as an up-and-coming lawyer until she was snowbound during a storm in 2009. She then decided to write and completed a book. Zanetti had attended writing workshops and enjoyed reading since sneaking into her mom’s bag of books as a young teen. Her writing then mirrored the suspense, mystery and, yes, romance she read.

“I went from being on the partner track to writing about vampires, and my family was very supportive of that,” Zanetti said. Her husband reads everything she writes, as does her mother. Their children are too young and, she says, frankly not interested in her job.

Zanetti considers herself a mystery and suspense writer. “People think that sex is the main part of what I write, and it’s not,” Zanetti said. “Don’t get me wrong, erotica is a great genre, but that’s not what I write.

Zanetti uses music to help her juggle multiple projects in her pipeline. Listening to a playlist can transport her back into a novel she wrote five years ago, the music triggering her memories of the storyline arc and characters. “Some people use candles, scents help them recall things, I use music,” she said.

“I worry sometimes when I’m talking about my writing out in public with other writers. A snippet of conversation like ‘How do you kill somebody?’ or ‘The body doesn’t take that long to decompose’ could be very easily misunderstood,” Zanetti said.

Latest Rebecca Zanetti titles: “Fallen” (“Deep Ops” series), “Knight Awakening” (“Scorpious Syndrome” series)