Please introduce yourself and your book(s)
I write historical romance from home while my four-year-old and two-year-old run around me (with help from my partner). In my past lives, I was a wedding photographer, a high school English teacher, and an academic / adjunct professor who specialized in medieval and Renaissance literature. I picked up my first romance book almost exactly one year ago when Bridgerton first came out. It was a little too explicit to watch around our toddler so I downloaded the first book onto the Kobo my husband had just gifted me for Christmas. I had sworn to never be an e-book reader. We lived in the Arctic at the time and I would pay hundreds of dollars a year to ship up paperbacks (which are now still mostly in the Arctic…) but the Kobo was a gamechanger. Reading that first Bridgerton book made me realize there was a genre I’d never explored and it seemed one that would be really fun to write in, so I took a leap!
I have six books out right now in two series. My first series is kind of my own personal fantasy as it follows four sisters—a la Pride and Prejudice, but all of these sisters are actually likeable!—something I wish I had. They each get their own romance quest, basically, but for me adventure and suspense are really crucial to a good story so almost all of them are love stories with a twist.
Tell us about the characters and relationships in your stories
Parenting small children is a huge part of my life at the moment, so I often make that a big part of my characters’ lives. I know that statistically a lot of romance readers are women, and many of these are moms or grandmas, who want passion and romance in what they read but also enjoy seeing reflections of themselves and their own realities (and yes, one of my heroines is a grandmother who gets a “late in life” second romance). My children are so hugely important to me that they always manage to wind up in my stories in one form or another, though they might be unrecognizable to someone who knows me.
My first heroine winds up with a single dad who has not done a great job of being a parent but is trying to learn. My second heroine was assaulted as a teen and has a child from that experience, a young son who is being hunted by his birth father (please note that while my characters might have darker histories, I do not depict assault or nonconsensual activities on page as I find these incredibly triggering myself).
But another focus of mine, almost right from the start, is representing diverse characters and their relationships. I started off with a curvy / plus sized heroine in my third book. Nothing too groundbreaking, but there are not a lot of those in historical romance. But in my second series I’m trying to expand beyond this. My most recent book features a Jewish heroine. The next has a Black heroine (book 2) and the series will end with a lesbian couple’s romance (book 4). My next series is going to feature at least one more curvy heroine and an Asian hero (not necessarily together, but we’ll see!). I know none of these are exactly “boundary pushing” in most genres, but as someone who is very new to historical romance, I see a lot of room for us to expand when it comes to diversity in this sub-genre.
What lessons could readers learn about real-world relationships from your novel(s)?
Romance is all about the one perfect romantic relationship. Finding your soulmate. The be all, end all in the game of love. There must be a HEA (happy ever after) and readers often want to see justice carried out, too. The one time I failed to sufficiently “punish” a bad guy character, I received quite a bit of flack. This is a hugely escapist genre and even though it is “historical” and I try to be accurate in details, it is very much fantasy. That said, even though I’m writing idealized relationships where things must work out in the end, I truly believe in the core values of family loyalty (especially between siblings) that I depict and in the true possibility of creating “found families” of friends. I also include characters who are healing from trauma in their relationships and sometimes draw on my own experiences. Triss, my most recent heroine, is estranged from her family due to religious reasons, for example, and carries a great deal of hurt from that. So, while the main romantic relationship may be somewhat “perfect,” the hero and heroine are not perfect. They are flawed like myself and like my readers and they carry their own emotional baggage which can complicate their achievement of an HEA, just like in real life.
What real-life relationship experiences, observations or insights have influenced your writing?
Age and heartbreak have influenced my writing. I sometimes wonder how different my stories might look if I were writing them as a twenty-year-old and not the forty-year-old I am right now. I also identify as queer and so while all of my couples have been heteronormative thus far, I look forward to mixing that up starting with The Bluestocking Beds Her Bride (June 2022), an F/F romance that’s also got an “age gap.”
As for insights, I have seen both how transformative and how toxic romantic relationships can be. They have the capacity for so much good and so much bad. We desperately want to experience being “in love” but being in love can be so damaging when it is with the wrong person.
Now that I’m a parent, I feel like a whole other kind of love has suddenly opened to me. I love my partner deeply, but to me the love for a child is an even “purer” kind of love and totally different from what I expected it to be like. We hear cliches about parental love all the time but just like with trying to describe the experience of”being in love”, it is impossible to convey what it feels like to love a child–and yet they are both such heart-encompassing-experiences. I try to represent both kinds of love in my writing, as well as love between friends and other types of family bonds.
Are there any relationship themes or topics you want to cover in future releases?
I want to continue creating amazing sibling relationships across my books. I think the secondary relationships in romances are just as important as the one between hero and heroine, or hero and hero, or heroine and heroine! So, my next series will likely follow seven siblings, bound by blood and love but not necessarily both, as they find their happy ever afters. In the future, I want to keep writing female heroines regardless of genre, and am playing around with a few possibilities including some gender-bending reversals in medieval fantasy / romance!