Romancing the Soul It's Sure Not Money That Motivates the Writers, Most of Them Women, Who Crank out Romance Novels

By Reese, Joel | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 14, 1999 | Go to article overview

Romancing the Soul It's Sure Not Money That Motivates the Writers, Most of Them Women, Who Crank out Romance Novels


Reese, Joel, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Joel Reese Daily Herald Staff Writer

When she writes, romance sweeps Cathie Linz away from her Naperville town house and its beige aluminum siding.

Filled with the spirit of love, she soars beyond the rusted wheelbarrow filled with decaying weeds in her driveway, and the wooden mailboxes that stand like scarecrows in front of the uniform houses of her subdivision.

Soon she finds herself in a world populated with swarthy, straight-jawed men named Zane, and resourceful, vivacious women named Courtney.

Linz, you see, is a full-time romance novelist.

She's written some 37 books since she left her job as the head of acquisitions for Northern Illinois University's law library in 1980. Her works include titles like "Too Smart for Marriage" "Too Sexy for Marriage" and "The Rancher Gets Hitched."

Her books have won her many awards, including the Storyteller of the Year from Romantic Times magazine. Several works have been translated into Polish, Greek, Dutch, Japanese and other languages.

The one thing romance writing hasn't done is made her rich.

Even though she's sold millions of books and earned truckloads of kudos, Linz still drives a 1985 Ford Taurus. "It was new when I bought it," she notes.

For the fledgling romance writer, she advises: "If you're entering the writing world to get rich, I'd suggest you enter the stock market instead."

Yet despite her middling financial position - "I'm probably in the middle income bracket," she says - Linz is one of the lucky ones. She writes from noon to 7 p.m. every day in her air-conditioned basement, surrounded by pictures of national parks and dozens of teddy bears.

Many of the 2,000-plus aspiring writers who attended the recent Romance Writers of America convention in Chicago would gladly trade places with Linz.

So would members of local romance writer groups like the Windy City Romance Writers, which meets twice a month in Lisle and Naperville, and the Chicago North chapter of the Romance Writers of America, which meets twice a month - once at the Rolling Meadows Police Department, and once at the Des Plaines Library.

Why would so many people strive to write romances, when Linz - who is one of the better-known names on the genre's circuit - is not exactly living the life of Riley?

Perhaps because so many people (OK, let's just come right out and say it - so many women) love reading the romance books.

Indeed, Harlequin Enterprises, the grande dame of the romance novel world, sells a whopping 160 million books worldwide each year. (That's 5.5 books per second.)

"Romance is something that seems close to many women's life experience, so they think, 'Hey, I can do that,' " says Marsha Zinberg, senior editor and editorial coordinator of special projects at Harlequin in Toronto. "Once they get into it, they find their beliefs were quite off the mark."

The next Nora

Let's get a few things straight about romance novels. First off, don't you dare call them "bodice rippers."

"That term - I hate it," says Lisle author Lindsay Longford (a.k.a. Jimmie Morel). "These aren't bodice rippers. It has nothing to do with what's going on now."

Secondly, there is no shortage of those who want to become the next Nora Roberts, the reigning ruler of romance writing.

Roberts has written more than 130 books, which have been translated into 25 languages. Last year alone four of her books hit the top spot on The New York Times' best-seller list.

One who aspires to Roberts' rarefied romantic air is Ruth Berman, a lawyer from Buffalo Grove.

"I've been reading romance novels for years," says Berman, who attended several seminars at the recent Romance Writers convention in Chicago. "I finally decided I could write as good as some, maybe not as good as others."

She's penned two books of her own, but has yet to find a publisher. …

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