About Kathryn Falk
RT BOOK REVIEWS Founder and CEO
She is the "Queen of Romance," in the words of the New York Times. A "brilliant" and "phenomenal promoter," key figures in the publishing world have called her.
But whichever of her labels - merchant of romance, writer, entrepreneur, Lady of Barrow - may best describe her, one thing is certain: Kathryn Falk - the founder and CEO of RT BOOK REVIEWS Magazine and the author of LOVE'S LEADING LADIES (1980) and HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE AND GET IT PUBLISHED (1982) - has almost single-handedly propelled the paperback romance genre into the ever-growing billion dollar industry that it is today.
"She had the courage," Walter Zacharius, the owner of Kensington Books, has said, "to go forward at a time when people didn't believe in her vision. She and RT BOOK REVIEWS became a voice for fans and professionals who had none."
Her ambitious dreams began in her hometown of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, where she was the eldest of five children. "I was the only child for six years, so my mother could have a built-in baby sitter when the rest came along. Mother played Bach every morning and read us a lot of children's books."
Is being the eldest and having a load of responsibility with them one reason she has never married or desired children. "I prefer houses," she quips. "You can rent them out. Besides, I'm too young to get married."
Her father, Bernie Falk, was a local hero. A television personality, he was also a consultant to the Grosse Pointe schools and an entrepreneur. His businesses included owning Kamp Kenwood, a boys camp in Harrow, Ontario, Canada, across the border from Michigan. "Growing up, I was raised with boys every summer which made me appreciate men and the outdoors. We rode horses, shot bows and arrows, fished in the stream, and took hikes. It was an idyllic life. On top of that, I adored my father, and like him, I wanted my own business when I grew up, " she adds.
After attending the University of Detroit for two years, majoring in history and communication arts, she packed up and moved to Manhattan, a place she'd only read about. Hat-checking while she went to Fordham and modeling, she lived in Greenwich Village during the hippy area of the early 60s and traveled in the summers to Switzerland, Paris, and Austria. At the age of 29, she invested in a house near Woodstock, New York, and a farmhouse in Austria.
In her early 30s, she opened Mini Mundus shops on Lexington Avenue that specialized in miniatures and dollhouses, helping to turn it into the second largest hobby in the country. She also edited a quarterly magazine on the hobby, and wrote two books on the subject. MINIATURE NEEDLEPOINT AND SEWING PROJECTS FOR DOLLHOUSES was named a New York Times Notable Craft Book of the year and sold to four book clubs.
But her real dream centered around books, and the life-long fan of romance novels decided to fill a gaping hole in that then-fledgling industry by writing LOVE'S LEADING LADIES, the genre's first reference work. Profiles of the top romance writers, particularly historical romance writers, was one of the first trade editions, when it came out in the early 80s.
During her research, Kathryn discovered that there was no newsletter for this burgeoning genre. She always remembers that she never had to do any marketing research. "I was an avid reader, and if romantic novels were selling in the millions, I figured there must be other women like myself who wanted to know about the available books, the authors, and how to write a romance." She started RT BOOK REVIEWS in 1981, working "out of a walk-in closet." A year later, Crown published the hardcover HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE, a work that USA Today called "the bible of romance writing." It remained in print, with updates in the paperback version, for nearly 20 years. With the assistance of Ann Peach, she wrote HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE FOR THE NEW MARKET AND GET PUBLISHED, published in November 1998.
In the 25 years that have followed RT's launching, the magazine's "closet" has expanded considerably, with offices situated on Bergen Street, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, not far from Kathryn's carriage house in Brooklyn Heights. The format has evolved from a tabloid-style edition of 24 pages into a glossy, features-packed monthly, now in full color, that is indispensable to both readers and writers alike.
In the process, Kathryn's personal "closet" has also exploded, taking the sixty-something redhead from the leafy avenues of New York's Brooklyn Heights to Austria and England (where she also has homes and where, in the latter, she acquired the title of Lady of Barrow), to Texas (where she purchased a ranch in 1996) and to Calabria, Italy where she has restored a 1535 villa in an 11th century Norman City above the Ionian Sea.
Like the world of romance, the village of Barrow (in the English county of Suffolk) hasn't been the same since Kathryn arrived on the scene in 1994. During that time, she has been a devoted "lady of the manor," making donations toward the restoration of the town's beloved church bells, assisting with renovations to the All-Saints church, winning over the local populace with her "earthiness" and "generosity" and showing off a village that has endeared her to a legion of visiting U.S. visitors. As various residents of Barrow told the London Daily Telegraph during one of her recent sojourns, "Kathryn is a very successful lady and very generous. She has clearly taken a keen interest in the place. She's good news and not a bit snobby."
Kathryn also uses her phenomenal energy to organize the annual booklovers' conventions that began in New York City in 1982. This event takes place in a major city every spring, and attracts over 1000 readers, booksellers, and writers.
She has also organized a variety of exotic theme tours -- past destinations have included England, Ireland, Italy, Iceland and Scotland.
Years ago she created the concept of the incredibly popular Mr. Romance Pageants, after personally discovering the most famous cover man of them all, Fabio! "The readers wrote in asking about the tall blond Viking, and we tracked him down for interviews. When we invited him to our convention in Savannah, in the early 90s, which was covered by People Magazine, USA Today, and lots of other media, he soon became a household word."
In 2005, the Oxygen Channel produced a six-part Mr. Romance reality show, which was also shown in Italy. Fabio was the co-host, with Cindy Guyer, and Kathryn was a chief judge of the pageant, along with friends Heather Graham and John DeSalvo.
When her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Kathryn retired from running the magazine to take care of him until he passed over in 2000. Her fiance, Kenneth Rubin, stepped in to work with publisher Carol Stacy, and they have taken the magazine to new heights. Kathryn and Kenneth were officially engaged after 27 years, during the 2005 convention in St. Louis. Their marriage took place November 28, 2009.
When a reader wrote in asking for books to send to soldiers in Iraq, Kathryn was astonished to learn that many soldiers needed supplies, letters, homemade cookies, and kind words from appreciative Americans, particularly at the start of the war. She created SOS America, Inc., a not-for-profit charity, with the help of Brig. General Sidney Baumgarten.
The romance readers and writers immediately responded. Their ranks swelled to 1100 members within a year. Thousands of letters and boxes started flowing to the troops. When the Pentagon launched "America Supports You," Kathryn's organization was one of the first charities to be listed. She attended the first "America Supports You" meeting in December, 2005, hosted by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and announced that she was turning her father's ranch in Alvin, Texas, into a B & B/Spa for wounded soldiers recovering at Walter Reed and Brooke Medical Center's burn center in San Antonio. Members of SOS America and the public are invited to visit and enjoy the countryside near the Gulf. Their donations support the soldiers who arrived with their family and stay for free.
The B & B/Spa is also the center for New Age Lectures and "transformation weekends." Guest speakers and topics range from Raw Food, Alternative Medicine, Chinese Exercise, and Herbologists to Psychic Mediums, Intuitives, After Death Experiences, Spiritualists, and whatever improves the life of "seasoned women." A devoted "juicer," and raw food follower, Kathryn and her visitors at the B & B/Spa enjoy home grown organic food, wine grapes, local honey. The spa features include two types of saunas, a hot tub, and a swimming pool. In addition, the property, which was treeless in 1996, now boasts over 100 palm trees, two dozen fruit trees, and assorted other varieties, ranging from cypress and willows, to live oak, pines, and cedars. Each fall the tangerines yield several hundred pounds of fruit.
In a world where we all could benefit from enthusiasm, good will, and a romantic heart, Kathryn Falk reigns supreme. Long live the Queen!