Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I knew who Thea Devine was before I even knew who she was, the "Queen of Erotic Romance," Romantic Times calls her. I was in awe of meeting such a legend in the industry, and a bit star struck. I had just started reading her newest Sex, Lies and Secret Lives--and it was immediately so sexy and so good! Everything you would expect from the queen.   Thea is such a warm person, I felt instantly comfortable with her and that is the secret to her success. Everything that I have ever believed about love and happiness she embodies. She glows when she speaks about her husband of forty years.  For everything she talks about there is a playfulness and a curiosity that she is filled with that is contagious. She told me about a brown notebook she used to keep which she wrote down all sorts of notes that might fall into a novel at some point--maybe not. But she is always inspired, and inspires. After meeting her, I bought a tiny black Moleskine notebook to I keep my own notes, I wanted to incorporate the things that she did so I could aide my own writing. If ever the term the "real deal" was coined it must have been with Thea in mind. A gifted, natural writer, we are so lucky to have, and I was so lucky to meet, Thea Devine in my lifetime. I am sure I sound like a groupie and I am! I asked her to sign my copy of SEX, LIES AND SECRET LIVES. Inside she wrote, Live the Fantasy. Thea Devine makes and lives fantasies--read her bits to be as enchanted as I am with her....

I'm a crazy romantic. I love love, I love being in love.

I've loved reading romance since I was in high school, especially Emilie Loring who had a very distinctive voice and whose books had a very colorful New England flavor. My dad was a newspaper man, in distribution, and he would bring home all the best sellers. What I found I liked was the romance within the bigger plots. And even though I'd known I wanted to write since I was 9 and reading Nancy Drew, I never dreamt I'd be writing romance this many years later.

What's also interesting to me is that, on rereading the stories I wrote in college, I can see vestiges of the way I write now.

When I started writing, my books were categorized as "spicy romance." But I was the first author whose books were reviewed and niched as erotic romance.

In my first book, I had a situation where the hero was going to take the heroine. But I kind of got that if he did, there was nowhere to go with the story. So I had her put her hand between his legs. And instantly the power shifted. She saw she could affect him just as much as he could her in a sensual way.  It changed everything, that moment, and informed everything I've written since.

A long time after that, a very astute reader defined the relationships in my books as two people continually trying to get control of each other. She got it exactly right.
I think that even if you aren't literally writing, you're writing in your mind. You're watching people, you're reading the paper, watching TV, you're talking to people -- you're thinking -- I'm thinking -- all the time, "how can I use this? What if -- what if -- what if?" Ideas are everywhere. Write everything down -- a line of dialogue, a description, a name, an incident, a theme -- you'll never remember otherwise and you'll regret you didn't take note.

Most RWANYC'ers know I was a manuscript reader for about 25 years. You may not know I worked in advertising during the "Mad Ave" years. We had to type print and TV ad scripts on clunky old manual typewriters, an original and seven carbon copies. There really were two hour (and more) lunches, and big celebratory parties. And endless rewrites of copy. I worked for two women copywriters, one of whom I remember asking, as she was redoing copy for the umptieth time, "how do you know?" By which I meant (remember, I was very young) , what to change, whether it would work.

She said, "I just know."

I never forgot that. And now, I know --when you've been writing long enough, you "just know."

I write the kind of book I like to read, and anything I'll write will have a strong erotic component. I set my own ground rules for that early on: there's always going to be a romance. The heroine will always have some control. The hero won't force her or hurt her. They'll be together at the end. They'll be in love or on the cusp of it. They have to be falling in love.

Historically, I like the antebellum period. So you can guess I love GONE WITH THE WIND, and I also collect women's civil war diaries.

I also love to play guitar. A guy gave me a guitar in college, and I learned a few chords -- C F G -- with which you can play hundreds of songs. Just like one idea can generate dozens of different stories.

I met my husband at a party and what I remember is that we talked all night. Many years later, we were doing a tag sale of some of his mother's effects after she died. It was the middle of July, candles were melting in the heat, and hardly anyone came, but there we were, sitting and talking, and I thought, how amazing, we still have stuff to talk about. It struck me forcibly that nothing was too insignificant to talk about, and that there always IS something to talk about.

I'm a Brooklyn girl, born and bred, even though we live now in Connecticut. My younger son, Tom, calls Brooklyn the "mother country."

I'm a TV-holic; I'm recording every night. I'm watching Vampire Diaries, Glee, Army Wives, V, Pretty Little Liars, House, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, One Tree Hill, Life Unexpected -- and more. I love them because under the skin, they're about family and community. I think in this culture, in these times, we're yearning for that connection. I know I am; I have a great nostalgia for the time in my childhood when cousins and grandmas lived close enough for that "do I have to?" Sunday visit. I wish my cousins all lived that close now. And all my friends.


  1. Great advice! My notebook is now in my purse. Thank you!

  2. Thea, so good to listen to your warm and full-of-life chatter. We've missed you so much at RWA, but what a joy to see you're still as engaged and busy as ever. And always ahead of the curve. The Queen of Erotica is also the Queen of Nice Ladies. How on earth do you manage the time to watch all those shows and still turn out your blazing novels! What a trooper. May all the best continue for you and that terrific family.
    John Lovelady

  3. Thea, writers are in love with life. You embody that. Thank you!

  4. I just love having this fabulous personality to go with the books that I have been reading for decades, and which were my introduction to erotic romance. Growing up on Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney and then Kathleen Woodiwiss, I knew I'd struck paydirt when I found my first Thea Devine. I have a great memory of the RWA/NYC's first conference back in the late '80's, I believe (all I remember is that I was living in NYC at the time). It was a weekend conference (at the Radisson on 10th Ave. or something?) and Thea was one of the speakers. She told a terrific story about a speaking engagement where all the women had come decked out with pearls, in honor of a divine Devine heroine who had done, ah, interesting things (!) with a rope of pearls (Seduction, I believe?). From then on, from the steamy historicals to the contemporaries like His Little Black Book and Bad As She Wants To Be, I've been a fan. Congrats, Thea, on a long and, ahem, satisfying career!

  5. I remember the days when some stories were too hot to handle. You wrote and stood by your great stories, always keeping it romantic and always pushing the envelope to heat things up. We're long past the RWA/NYC days meeting at the Kraft Diner, but what great memories. Thank you!

  6. Thea, I want to be you when I grow up!