Nora Roberts has over 400 million copies in print of her many novels, making her one of the most well read romance writers in history. Although primarily a romance novelist, she has also published many futuristic mystery novels as J. D. Robb. Movies made from her books include Northern Lights, Montana Sky, Carolina Moon, Blue Smoke, and Angels Fall. Her latest novels are Happily Ever After (Book 4 of the Bride Quartet, for The Bachelorette lovers) and THE WITNESS. Her latest is HIDDEN HEART, with FIRST SNOW and YEAR ONE to follow.
Audiobooks Today: After IRISH THOROUGHBRED you wrote IRISH ROSE and IRISH REBEL. Are you Irish yourself?
NORA ROBERTS: Yes. I’m Irish on both sides of my family, with some Scot thrown in. I’ve always had a strong connection to Ireland. When I was able to go to Ireland the first time years ago, it felt like going home.
AT: How surprised were you at your success? How difficult was it to establish your name?
NR: It was a gradual process. Selling the first book was like a miracle. I had, until that point, sought some avenue for creativity in every craft known to man. Ceramics, embroidery, sewing. I even put little flies in overalls I made my sons. How sick is that? Canning, macrame, needlepoint, baking. I had a distressing craft addiction. Fortunately writing cured me of it, and Silhouette opened a marvelous door for me.
AT: Do you have many male readers?
NR: Yes, I do. A varied and interesting base which has expanded since the Robb books were published. I got a letter from a guy who drives a rig, and habitually listens to my audios when he’s on the road. He assured me he was a real guy, but that parts of JEWELS OF THE SUN had him in stitches at the truck stop. I love that. I’ve also seen father-daughter readers at signings. I’ve always had mother-daughter readers, and I love knowing my books are a bond between generations.
AT: How did you decide to mix the SF and romance genres in the Robb titles?
NR: I write quickly. That’s just my natural pace. As a result, both of my publishers had considerable inventory. For some reason they refuse to publish only my books. Go figure. My agent and editors suggested I write under another name. I dragged my feet on the idea until my agent said, “Nora, there’s Pepsi, there’s Diet Pepsi, there’s Caffeine Free Pepsi.” And the light went on in my head. I could be two popular brands! So I agreed to try it if I could do something a little different. I’d had the germ of the idea for Eve Dallas years before. Tough, haunted, driven murder cop of the future. I really enjoy writing romantic suspense, and was intrigued by the idea of adding just a whiff of SF. Nothing too fanciful. Fun tech toys, societal changes, but keeping the basic human element. And I wanted to do it as a series, with continuing characters so I could develop relationships, and the romance between the man characters, over a number of books. Then Roarke walked onto the page, and the rest is history.
AT: What about female readers for Roarke?
NR: I have a lot of female readers who seem to enjoy the In Death books as much or more than the books I write under my own name. Roarke has a lot to do with that. After all, he is Roarke. And Eve seems to appeal to both men and women because she’s strong, just a little dark, courageous and sexy. They’re grittier, more violent books in many ways. So I’ve found there’s considerable overlap.
AT: What about films, like SANCTUARY with Melissa Gilbert. Did you visit the set?
NR: Yes, I was able to spend a couple days–nights really–on the set in Toronto, to meet Melissa and Costas Mendaylor, the marvelous and gorgeous actor who plays Nathan. The cast and crew were wonderfully welcoming, and I had the opportunity to watch them make a hurricane. It was freezing! Cold, dark, rain machines, wind machines, lightning machines, mud. And our actors out there in shirt sleeves as this was supposed to be summer on an island off the coast of Georgia. I felt the script stayed very true to the book, to the characters and the emotions. But filmmaking convinced me to keep my job where I can stay inside and stay warm.
AT: Where did you find the time and determination to do what you have done?
NR: You don’t find time. You make time. I have a fast pace–that’s just the luck of the draw, like eye color. But I also have a great deal of discipline, a gift from the nuns who educated me for the first nine years of my schooling. Nobody instills the habit of discipline and the shadow of guilt like a nun. I write six to eight hours a day, occasionally on weekends as well.
AT: So you do overtime, and you’re a fast writer to boot! How many drafts?
NR: I do a first draft fairly quickly. Just get the story down and don’t worry about fixing or fiddling. Straight through, no looking back. Once I have that initial draft, I know my characters more intimately, know the plot more cohesively, so I can go back to page one and go through it all again, fleshing out, fixing little problems, finding where I went wrong and adjusting it, or where I went right and expanding that. Adding texture, sharpening the prose. Then I go back to page one again, for a third draft, polishing, making sure I hit the right notes.
AT: The hard part is in the rewrites, so true, and the initial draft is a voyage of discovery. More fun. So you have an instinct when it’s ready?
NR: No book is perfect. I try to send in the best book I can write at the time. And I trust my editor to tell me if it can be made better.
AT: Now tell us about the phrase “a day without fries is like a day without an orgasm.”
NR: (laughs) Actually, that was one of those on-line message board conversations. Just silliness. There was some discussion on one of the AOL boards about dieting and cutting out beloved yet fattening foods. Fries came up, and I happen to have a deep emotional attachment to fries, so this was my response. Some of my readers caught it, so when they established a reader web page for me, they named it ADWOFF–A Day Without French Fries. A delightful and fun site.