gmhTODAY 24 gmhTODAY Feb March 2019 - Page 66

AUTHOR ' S corner Jordan Rosenfeld Jordan is the author of four writing guides and three novels. Her articles have been published in such places as: Alternet, The Atlantic, Marin Magazine, the New York Times, the Petaluma Magazine, Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post and many more. Heatherly Bell… Local Author Empowers Women Through the Romance Genre T he romance genre is often unfairly stigmatized as a lowbrow cousin of literature. Yet those who write it— largely women—are “educated women, lawyers, professors and the whole gamut,” said Heatherly Bell, the pen name of a Morgan Hill romance author. She feels that romance is “maligned” possibly because it is a primarily woman-dominated genre. Bell said that the days of simple bodice rippers are a thing of romances past. “Now you find that most of romance is about people going on a journey together. Part of it is falling in love, but it’s also about self-realization and meeting goals.” She said that she personally writes to empower women. “I’m really drawn to writing strong women that know exactly what they want in every aspect of their lives and are going to fight for it.” She does feel there’s a double standard, however, where men protagonists can be more flawed than women, but she strives to write sympathetic protagonists of both genders. Romance features a wide swath of categories: “There’s romantic suspense, contemporary romance, historical romance, inspirational romance, Western romance and so on.” She tried her hand at the inspirational but has found her niche in contemporary romance. In fact, Bell has been writing all of her life, she said, typically literary 66 works in the vein of Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman, but in 2003, at the age of 38, she decided to try her hand at writing for publication. It took her several years of trying to pin down which genre she wanted to focus on most, but by 2010, when a friend challenged her to commit to finishing a book, she chose romance “because it’s a billion dollar industry. I figured I might as well try to get some money out of it,” she said with a laugh. Bell independently published a seven book series, which is popular in the genre, and they sold “really well.” Not long after, she signed a three-book deal with the romance publisher Harlequin, the first book of which, “One More Night,” comes out in early 2019, and the others in 2020. Age 53 now, she has 15 published books under her belt and more to come. Since she chose romance writing to make an income, she said she treats it like a business, committing around 21 hours per week to writing, sometimes all day on the weekends. “If these books are successful, I’ll write more,” she said. Her newest book, “She’s Country Strong,” is the second in a two-part series called Country Gold, featuring the three Wilder sisters. The sisters’ country rock band broke up over a scandal in book one, and they returned to their hometown of “Whistle Cove,” which is a fictional version of Monterey. Bell describes the novel, published in GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN february/march 2019 November 2018, as, “When a disgraced country singer meets a wealthy rancher, sparks fly.” Bell loves planting small real life seeds in her books, and finds that readers enjoy picking them out as well. There are many iconic locations from the beach town of Monterey in “She’s Country Gold.” She has also fictionalized Morgan Hill as “Fortune Valley” in a separate series called Wildfire Ridge, in which the male romantic interests are first responders or military men, such as the ex-Marine who stars in the first book, Wounded Hero. “I’ve put this wildfire ridge in the second book, a hill like El Toro that is prone to wildfires,” she said. In the first book, her protagonist is trying to build an outdoor adventure company in this town to attract Silicon Valley people who like extreme sports. “I try to pull from the real world as much as I can. I feel like a sponge for everything I’ve ever read or heard,” she said. Perhaps her favorite aspect of writing romance, Bell said, is that “there’s always going to be a happily ever after. We don’t have enough of that in real life. I prefer to spend my time in a happier place, especially as I get older.”