Sunday, December 6, 2020

Kissing Books

My love affair with romance books has taken many twists and turns over the years, as has my love affair with running. Both loves require some attention, some care, and sometimes those relationships have lie dormant for years. However, it just so happens that I have a healthy relationship with both at the moment. So, on my long run today (which isn’t long at all when looking at my youngests eleven mile run yesterday), I thought about romance books and what they mean to me.

As a middle school student, I was obsessed. Always a lover of series books, my mom bought me the first book in the Couples series of the 80s. Lordy. I read and reread each book, wanting to be friends with these characters, trying to learn more about relationships through them. My heart was broken along with a few of them. Side note, check out that 80s fashion. Goodness, we did love a bit of neon. Also, second side note, I know I read this book, but now I’m trying to figure out of Conway was writing about a polyamorous relationship. Surely not. 

When I hit high school, I was ready for more. My mom gave me one of her Danielle Steel books. While I devoured all of them, the one I remember the best was Jewels. I loved everything about Steel’s books. Eventually, I began to realize that there was romance in more than just these books. Heck, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry had elements of romance and I read that one countless times between high school and the end of college.

As I hit college, I moved away from romance and, quite frankly, any leisure reading. A history major for my undergrad degree, I barely could keep up with the weekly reading for all of my classes. It was intense. After college, I found my way back to books - first for myself with books like Jan Karon’s Mitford series, then with books for my students like Lightning Thief

Over the years I began to read more and more young adult books. My friend Franki and I teased two other friends about kissing books, even writing a Nerdy Book Club post about our favorites. I still argue that Sam from Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver is one of the best book boyfriends of all time. In reading a few of these YA romances, I began to look to romance books written for adults.

First, I checked on what makes a romance a romance. Many folks will list Nicholas Spark’s name when they refer to romance books, but many of his don’t follow the number one romance rule - a book qualifies as a romance if it’s a love story with a happily ever after. Dealing with a ton of anxiety in 2017, I decided some reading that could guarantee me a happy ending sounded absolutely perfect. And thus, I dove in. 

This year I’ve read 355 books. I’d guess that over 275 of those books have been romances just for me. I’ve also written my own. My first short story is published in a romance anthology that came out on November 30th. You can find it here. My story is the second one in the book, Love at the Library. My first book is currently with an editor, my second one is in revisions, and I’m writing my third. I’d love to publish the three of them next summer, but we’ll see. 

I smile when I look back over my time with “kissing books” and wonder what my twelve-year-old self would have said if she’d known that one day she would write those books she loved. Instead, I just pay it forward and when a student tells me they’re stressed and they just need to find something to read that makes them happy, I say, “Have you met Jenny Han? I think I have something for you…”

PS - This is my teaching blog, so I don’t write much about my writing life here. If you’d like to follow that journey, head over to my writing website and subscribe to my newsletter. It comes out around the 7th of each month.