Genre Love Stories: How Did You Fall?

I was twelve years old and babysitting, at least in body. In my mind, I was Jenny MacPartland—a single woman who’d been knocked punch-drunk breathless in love with an alluring man she at a trendy New York art gallery. While the real, live characters—i.e., the kids—played in the background, I stayed with Jenny as she began discovering clues to Mr. Seemed-So Right’s sordid past. As her marriage and life neared their perceivable ends, so did my babysitting career. (I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say it involved twin toddlers, one’s digestive issues, a locked bathroom and some unusual, um, “artwork…”)

Mary Higgins Clark’s A Cry in the Night had me at page one.

During middle school, mysteries and thrillers saved me from math and science class boredom, kept me entertained during lengthy car rides and distracted me from insecurities that run too rampant in teens. After high school, the spine chillers kept me company at New York modeling castings and became my only “friends” in an apartment full of roommates by whom I felt intimidated. One clue that I was in dire straits later on, while living in Paris, was the fact that I couldn’t enjoy the stories I’d so loved.

So, it came as no surprise when my first novel turned into a thriller—before I had a grasp of genres, much less which one my story suited. I suppose the takeaway from my genre love story—likely from yours, too ;)—is this: Read and write what you love. Oh, and if you have kids, do not hire a hyper-focused daydreaming girl with a book bag…

What’s your genre love story?

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36 Comments

  1. Kara Flathouse

     /  March 15, 2012

    Okay, so I got hooked on romance novels myself while babysitting. A family I frequently sat for had shelves of books by Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught and the like. After the kids went to bed I read like crazy since my mom objected to me reading such “unrealistic stuff”. I couldn’t get enough and still love a good, happy love story:)

    Reply
    • Maybe all babysitters are problematic! Oh wait, you waited until they kids went to BED. I knew I went wrong someplace… 😉

      Glad you took to happy love stories so you can share them with US!

      Reply
  2. Mary Stewart’s THIS ROUGH MAGIC enthralled me. I loved the setting on Corfu, and the tale of an ordinary woman who found herself in jeopardy and didn’t know if she could trust anyone around her.

    Reply
  3. I have read books in many genres during my teen years. I guess, the fascination with fiction in general was strong enough for me to enjoy almost any fiction genre. And I still read almost anything: YA, adult, paranormal, urban fiction, fantasy, thrillers, historical, contemporary… and the list goes on. I don’t enjoy a gory horrors though. At least not on paper (somehow the scary movies are not off limits for me).

    Reply
  4. Twofold, both happened the same year.

    I’d always enjoyed quirky stories and sci-fi/fantasy stuff as a kid, but when I was in fourth grade I discovered two very different worlds that changed my life:

    Anne McCaffrey’s “Pern” – I started with Dragon Drums and expanded from there until I’d read everything she’d written (then; I haven’t read a few of her latest yet). The world was fantastic and practical and complete and populated. It was also sci-fantasy (since Pern was populated by colonists from earth who’d then lost modern technology and regressed). Sci-fantasy is a genre that still holds a special place in my heart, and the first “grown-up” stories I ever tried to write were building the infrastructure of my own universe.

    The second was ElfQuest, which not only made me fall deeper in love with fantasy AND gave my a particular lack of body-shame, but also prompted me to learn to draw. Literally, I just wanted to draw those characters, and I put in the work to learn how. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Reply
    • Sounds like your sci-fi is my mystery—my gateway to thrillers, so to speak. I feel very nostalgic about Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark, though I haven’t read either in years. (One exception—King’s memoir, ON WRITING, which is phenomenal.)

      I love that ElfQuest inspired you to draw. An author who can illustrate her own covers… How awesome is that! That kind of inspiration? Must be love… 🙂

      Reply
  5. I think I went on binges of book genres. I would read tons of old mystery novels like Agatha Christie, and then lots of sci-fi by Kurt Vonnegut, then paranormal YA by Christopher Pike, and lately it’s been historical fiction. LOL I’d like to think I’m eclectic, but maybe I have a short attention span.

    Reply
  6. Confession: the people for whom I babysat had quite the collection of erotica. I used to put the kids to bed and devour it! I remember stumbling upon Judy Blume’s WIFEY. I loved Judy Blume. Who didn’t? But what was she doing in ths bookshelf…

    What the deuce!

    I still remember the first line. So naughty. I was hooked.

    But.

    I can’t write erotica. I love nearly all fiction and non-fiction love stories. I have even taught a course on hottest 20th century romances. And, of course, steamiest 21st century romances. Of course, they were really called ENG 305 and 307 respectively. But where’s the music there?

    Le sigh.

    Reply
    • Man. I babysat at the wrong house! (I’m certain the parents who hired me would agree.)

      Perhaps erotica is best set in our real lives… I mean, we have to do SOMETHING between crafting our fiction and nonfiction prose, right???

      PS I bet titling those ENG courses properly would fill more seats. 😉

      Reply
  7. I was fifteen when I “fell.” I’ll never forget the first romance I read – but damn it, I cannot remember the title or author! lol I remember sneaking into the bathroom at night to sit on the toilet seat and read…sometimes I’d be in there for HOURS. I’d crawl in bed exhausted, and so stiff and sore. I’ve been a voracious reader ever since 😉

    Reply
  8. I was one of those girls with a book bag, August. thank heavens none of those little ones never got hurt. i loved mysteries but read anything and everything,.

    Reply
  9. fivereflections

     /  March 15, 2012

    those dark hours of the night – reading and stirring the imagination – i still like the old classics – but if i start a good book, i’ll finish it.

    August: interesting post and comments as always!

    Reply
  10. The summer between my freshman & soft more year in college I got a babysitting job working for a veterinarian.The vet office was attached to the house so the mom would take regular breaks to feed her infant girl (so cute!). It was a great job, I managed to read The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy while the baby slept. 🙂 Of course that’s what I thought it would be like when I had my own baby. Boy was I wrong there! What I found too was I always looked for the romance in any genre I read…

    Reply
    • LOL! That’s too adorable, Kecia. It’s interesting how certain topics and themes resonate with us, regardless of genre. I love anything psychological…and romance, when well written, can make most any story fantastic.

      Reply
  11. I love a good fantasy (and by that I mean it needs to have a decent pace to it and not fall into pages of description), but I also have a soft spot for romantic suspense.

    Reply
  12. BoJo Photo

     /  March 16, 2012

    My favorite book and love story is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens would be second.

    Reply
  13. Babysitting drama – love it! I had a few of my own babysitting stories to tell. LOL!!
    I love the advice, read and write what you love. So true!
    I would have to say my first love would have been romance. I was a huge Daniel Steel fan as a teen. Then I fell for Nicolas Sparks and Nora Roberts. But I also started to dabble with John Grisham and Maeve Binchy. A few years ago I discovered and fell for paranormal. And who doesn’t love a good chick lit to cleanse the pallet. So you can see a variety. But what I love is just a well told story that has multi-faceted dimensions, some love story component, and good pacing; whatever the genre.

    Reply
  14. I read what my mom read- in the fifth grade I was devouring the Clan of the Cavebear series along with Danielle Steele. But I also read tons of books recommended by teachers and friends mysteries, historical, comedies, even horror. I’ll read almost everything, so I fear, my writing career will also be multi-genere despite recommendations for authors that you don’t do that.

    Reply
  15. After you’re published, we can all say that we knew you when. 🙂

    Reply
  16. Coleen Patrick

     /  March 16, 2012

    I’ve gone thru genre stages–historical romance, mystery (I loved Mary Higgins Clark & Sue Grafton,especially), horror, almost everything. Now I read a lot of YA, more than I did when I was actually a young adult, but mystery, romance and even non-fiction find there way into the rotation. 🙂
    It’s funny, when I babysat I always watched TV–probably b/c there were 6 people at my house and one TV–babysitting was the only time I was in control of the tv!

    Reply
    • Ha! Coming from a big family, I totally see the benefit of that TV control time.

      There are huge benefits in reading multiple genres. Even when we have a preference for one, we can learn a lot form dipping into others. Sounds like you’ve had some fun phases. 🙂

      Reply
  17. ROFL, I had a few babysitting gigs like that.

    I read everything but am drawn to the stories with some kind of romance woven into them whether a straight out romance or some other genre with a romantic thread. Probably why I have a hard time branding what I write. Romance is at the core but everything else is up for grabs 🙂

    Reply
  18. My first book crushes were Nancy Drew mysteries (it just took me 4 tries to type that word, so I apologize for future typos). From there I moved on to more mature content with romance novels of a G-rated nature. Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt were two of my favorites. Between my mother and me, we must have bought every single one of their books (which I still have).

    Now adays I read everything from thrillers, mysteries, women’s fiction, biographies, and all kinds of other things, but I still love the books with romance elements and happy endings.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Reply
  19. I hope I don’t bore you to death with this one-I’ve told this story waaaay too many times: I was eight(or nine) and my Dad bought me a Ladybird (Childrens) Classic version of Dracula and the rest as they say is history.
    While all the girls in my class read Nancy Drew and Judy Blume, I sat with Peter Haining anthologies and Bram Stoker. Everybody thought I was weird.
    Go figure!

    Reply
  20. The summer after 6th grade – Harlequin Romances – All summer, I laid around and read and started that “girl thing” toward the end. It was surreal. Mary Poppins came out in the theaters right around then so it was Harlequins and Mary Poppins.

    Reply
  21. I actually don’t prefer one genre over another. I just love a good story. In my youth, I read The Black Stallion books and The Hardy Boys. The Hardy Boys were dumbed down in the last few decades to meet politically correct standards, but the ones I have from the 30s are raw and gritty. Nancy Drew never had as much fun or as much danger as Frank and Joe did.

    For my own books, I chose post-apocalyptic sci fi for one main reason. I started writing before there was much in the way of an internet, and I had small children who made library research difficult. I found if I set something in the future, I could make it any way I wanted it to be.

    And for the spy thrillers? How could I miss the chance to work with a guy like Holmes? We’re working on one now.

    Like I said, any genre will do. I just love a good story.

    Reply
  22. Kourtney Heintz

     /  March 18, 2012

    I loved mysteries and paranormals as a kid. I still do. Frankly, I can’t read a straight mystery without thinking it lacks something–the paranormal. I still adore those genres and write in both of them. Sometimes blending them together. 🙂

    Reply
  23. I’ve always enjoyed real life stories in any format — books, newspapers, TV news, in-person.

    Reply
  24. Paranormal romance. I was the quiet kid in school, always daydreaming. One day a classmate handed me a book The Hunter, part one of a trilogy called The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith, and that was it. I was hooked on supernatural stories, and if there was some romance involved, even better!

    Reply

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