a New Romance This Valentine's Day
By GAIL A. SISOLAK
the month of Valentine's Day. Of course your thoughts of a new
romance are tempting. Go ahead; no one will know! Time to treat
yourself to a little indulgence. Take a bubble bath, pour some
wine, light a few scented candles and slip between the covers
with a good ... book.
novels account for close to 50 percent of paperback sales, according
to first-time romance novelist and Wilmington resident Carolyn
Matkowsky. Seaford resident Colleen Faulkner, another Delawarean
romance writer, agrees and says that readers keep coming back
to romance novels because "it makes them smile. They have
enough of the real world every day; if they want to see that,
they can turn on the television." When readers pick up
a romance novel, they know there is going to be a happy ending.
Women Behind the Romance
the saying goes, behind every good man there is a good woman.
Three long-time Delaware residents use their talent and skill
to create some fabulous heroes and heroines.
French, best-selling author of 23 full-length historical romance
novels and five novellas, is a native of Kent County Delaware.
Avon books published her first novel in 1985. She now has more
than 1 million books in print, many published in a variety of
languages worldwide including German, Dutch, Chinese, Russian,
Italian, French, Danish, Norwegian. Her daughter, Colleen Faulkner,
is also a best-selling author, and continues the strong tradition
of storytelling that has been shared by their family for generations.
French is married, writes full time, and lives with her husband
in a restored farmhouse that has been in her family since the
sold her first historical romance to Kensington Publishing in
1986 at the age of 24. She has since sold 25 full-length historical
romance novels, six contemporary romances, a mainstream suspense
novel and seven novellas.
are also published worldwide and she has appeared on QVC home-shopping
network to promote Zebra historical romances.
resides in southern Delaware with her husband and four children
ages 10-20. She is currently under contract with Harlequin/Silhouette
Books and Kensington Publishing.
Matkowsky, also a Delaware native, graduated from Claymont High
School and Goldy-Beacom College. She and her husband of 26 years
live in North Wilmington, and have one adult son.
writes part time, eking out moments during lunch hours and Sunday
afternoons. Tuesday nights are spent either writing or having
past work critiqued by fellow writers.
writers share a few common traits. All of the women are voracious
readers and have been interested in reading and storytelling
from an early age.
As a little
girl, French's father read to her every night. Edgar Rice Burroughs'
tales of Tarzan, Kipling's stories and her father's favorite
author, Zane Grey, filled her evenings.
daughter French and Faulkner come from a long line of storytellers.
French can remember sitting with her grandfather, who at 90
could still enthrall family members with ghost stories, family
sagas and true regional tales. She said she grew up hearing
stories about "the trouble with England" and "the
trouble between the states."
until later when she started studying history in school that
she realized those stories were about the Revolutionary War
and the American Civil War. History, for French, was "a
jigsaw-puzzle of family lives."
connection to local history sparked her interest in writing
historical romance novels. French said many people are under
the misconception women in the past had little power or lacked
a significant role in society. According to her, it depends
on the time and place you study. The Mid-Atlantic States were
settled by educated people, who in turn, educated their daughters.
These women kept the accounts, ran plantations, shipyards and
businesses in the 17th and 18th centuries. French heard about
these strong women in her own family and wanted to write about
them. The female characters she created needed strong men, French
said, and their relationships struck a chord with readers.
initially didn't want to write romance novels, even though she
shared the same heritage as her mother. In fact, she "never
wanted to be a writer. Who wants to be the same as their mother?"
and French both made sales at an early age. Faulkner sold a
story at age 16 to an old magazine she thinks was called Delaware
Digest. It was a ghost story told to her by her grandfather,
and she thought it was great to receive money for a story. But
her mother was already working as a freelance writer while she
was in high school, and Faulkner was not interested in following
in her mother's footsteps.
had made a sale in her teens, to a concession magazine similar
in style to True Confessions. At age 17, she sold a short story
about parents dealing with a child born with Down syndrome.
French laughed when she compared some of those magazines of
the 1950s and 1960s to the romance novels sold today. She said
the pictures on the covers may have appeared "lurid,"
but the stories inside were often family oriented.
did not start writing until later in life, she was an avid reader
and constantly haunted the bookshelves at the public library.
the First Break
said an article she saw in The News Journal prompted her to
write and sell her first romance novel. In the early 1990s,
she and a friend had discussed a Harlequin Romance they had
read and said, "we could write one of these." At around
the same time, The News Journal featured the Delaware Chapter
of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), now disbanded, in a
story. Matkowsky and her friend took the day off from work and
drove to Dover to meet with the group. She said she was "in
awe" of the published authors she met, including French
now admits she was overly optimistic about how easy it would
be to write a novel, and that she didn't know anything about
point of view or the conflict between the hero or heroine that
is an essential element in a good romance novel. By joining
RWA she was able to attend conferences and workshops to learn
the necessary writing skills.
also found a critique group at Borders Books, which she said
gave her valuable feedback. Most importantly, she persevered.
"You won't get published if you quit," she said.
came when she met Erin Cartwright, editor for Avalon books at
a New Jersey Romance Writers Conference. Cartwright asked to
see the first five chapters of Matkowsky's book in 2001. When
she liked what she read, she asked to see the remainder in February
of 2002. In May of 2002, Avalon Books offered to buy "A
Catered Affair." The novel is due out later this month
as part of the Avalon Career Romance line. Matkowsky said the
sale of the novel was actually quick for the publishing industry,
especially for a non-agented author.
Set in Delaware,
Matkowsky's contemporary romance tells the tale of a stubbornly
self-reliant catering business owner, Mary Beth Kendrick, and
her forced business relationship with the man who once broke
her heart, Tom Sackett.
said her book sale was fast, then Faulkner's first novel sale
was meteoric. She managed to find an agent who sold her book
on the strength of a proposal alone. The market was vastly different
in the mid-1980s, Faulkner emphasized, and her publishing house
had just opened. They were looking for new authors they could
keep and build. Faulkner admitted she was in the right place
in the right time.
Work and Happy Endings
followed up on the opportunity given to her. She wrote her first
book on a typewriter and used the money from the sales to buy
a word processor. She has since received numerous nominations
and awards in the romance writing industry, and in 1999 was
presented with "The Diamond Award," given by the Delaware
Chapter of the Romance Writers of America for literary excellence
in the state of Delaware. Her next release, "The Other
Twin," scheduled to be released in August of 2003, will
be her first suspense novel.
most recent release was "Falcon's Angel," published
by Ballantine Books in February 2002 and set in the early 19th
century in the Outer Banks of Carolina and in Charleston. Her
next release will be a Scottish historical romance, "Wedded
Bliss," Kensington Books, May 2003. Her current project
is a contemporary romantic suspense, set in Dover and along
the Delaware Bay. Her many awards include: Romantic Time's Magazine
Career Achievement Award for American Historicals 2000, Affaire
de Coeur's Best Historical 1989, Delaware Diamond Award for
Literary Excellence and the Colorado Romance Award of Excellence.
So the next
time you decide to escape between the covers of your favorite
romance with the dashing hero and a confident heroine, remember
these local women who worked behind the scenes to carefully
weave the stories.