RWA 2012: Literacy Author Signing

There’s no denying that authors are, first and foremost, readers. This year hundreds of readers-turned-authors met with fellow readers to raise money for literacy at the Romance Writers of America’s annual “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing. The annual fundraiser, which was open to the public for free, took place on Wednesday evening during this year’s national RWA conference in Anaheim. With so many book lovers in attendance, we asked authors to weigh in on which novels that started them reading. Check out what they had to say, and which of these authors’ books we think are best for romance beginners!

Author Linda Howard is known for her stunning stories of romantic suspense. She says she can trace her love of reading back to when her mother would read her the comics on Sunday morning. "I got so frustrated that I couldn't read them myself, that I worked and worked and worked and when I was 4 years old, I taught myself to read the Sunday paper." Howard said that by the age of 9 she had already written her first book. "It was about twins finding a hidden treasure. And I had no idea what a chapter or margins were. I just wrote all over the page!"

Authors Sarah MacLean and Linda Howard

We caught Howard chatting with one of historical romance’s new shining stars, Sarah MacLean, who was also influenced to read by her family. She says, "My mother is both English and a teacher so it was a major thing to go to the library every Thursday. I was the only one of my friends that didn't have a limit on the number of books I could check out. So I would come home with 15 to 20 books a week. What can I say, I was a total nerd!"

When we asked these two authors if they had a favorite romance they would recommend to new readers, Linda said one word, "Outlander," referencing Diana Gabaldon’s famous work. Sarah choose Judith McNaught's Something Wonderful.

If you are hungry for a read that features a happily-ever-after, two of our favorites are penned by these authors. Howard's 2000 novel Mr. Perfect will delight suspense fans. And if you prefer to be whisked back in time by your reads, you won't go wrong if you pick up a copy of MacLean's March novel, A Rogue By Any Other Name

Author Cherry Adair, one of romantic suspense's reigning queens, shared that she fondly remembers the first time she was allowed to go into the adult section of her local library. She revealed to us, “The first adult book I read was Gone With The Wind. I rewrote the ending three different ways before I was satisfied, and never looked back.” We aren’t surprised that the author wasn’t thrilled with the classic novel’s not-so-happy ending.

So which Cherry Adair story do we recommend to new romance readers? RT’s Whitney suggests you check out 2000’s Kiss and Tell. She says, “It’s full of high-octane suspense, a dark and troubled hero and of course, the Adair antics that make her books so much fun to read!”

Pamela Morsi

Pamela Morsi is one of our favorite romance writers who has switched to mainstream fiction in recent years. She told us she started reading because she lived in a "crappy" town that she wanted get away from. Her mode of escape: the stories of Louisa May Alcott. "I read Little Women and decided that one day I was going to be just like Jo, and I have been trying ever since." Another author that Morsi says she loves is Mary Balogh. "I never miss one of her releases." And she also recommends Kristina McMorris' Bridge of Scarlet Leaves.

On the other hand, RT's Morgan has been known to push copies of Morsi’s 1991 novel Courting Miss Hattie into the hands of new readers, avowing that this may be one of the best historical romances you'll ever read. She told us, "I came across this novel when I was just a teenager and it was the first time that I'd ever read about a heroine who was not a 'diamond of the first water' but still got the guy. This really resonated with teeange me because if Hattie could get her man, well, I knew I'd be able to get mine, too!"

Jennifer Echols

If you prefer your heroes and heroines on the younger side, well Jennifer Echols is a talented voice from the YA genre. She revealed that she became a reader when she discovered Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? by Paula Danziger. Echols said that while reading the story, she realized that books written for kids could be funny. "When I read Danziger's book, I thought something has gone wrong because a book shouldn't be this good. Then it got me thinking, could I possibly get away with writing a book like this? I decided to try." Another book that Echols says is too good to be true is Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. "When a book is as good as this one, you just feel like you are getting away with something!"

And if you want to kick off your new reading spree with a book from Echols’ bibliography, we think you should start with this summer’s Such a Rush.

Joanna Bourne

Joanna Bourne has made a name for herself in historical romance, and it’s no surprise that readers love her stories of spies and intrigue in post-Revolution France and England. We discovered that she started reading with C.S. Lewis' Narnia books. She told us, "They are warm, wonderful big stories about love, sacrifice, truth, honesty, weakness and redemption."

If you’re looking for a romance novel that shares many of these same qualities, test the waters with a book by Bourne, specifically, her 2008 novel The Spymaster’s Lady.

Lynsay Sands

Paranormal author Lynsay Sands says that it is her grandmother's fault that she loves romance. "Growing up, my family would spend summers on Pelee Island where there was nothing but water and sand. No TV or anything else. But my grandmother had romance novels, and I would sneak them. They filled a lot of summers!"

So what does Sands read now? Lots of horror. A particular favorite is Dean Koontz, especially his early stuff. She says Tick Tock is one of her favorites because of the dark humor.

If you want to read a romance written by Sands, we suggest her 2003 novel Single White Vampire, a story about a fanged writer and his beautiful (human) editor, which may just leave you in stitches!

Sylvia Day with a fan

Author Sylvia Day has written it all. Well, almost all — she’s known for her erotic romance, historicals and paranormals. This author says she fell in love with romance when she was very young. When she was only 12 her mother handed her a copy of Desert Hostage by Diane Dunaway. "It was a total bodice ripper," the author says with a laugh. "But when I read it, it totally rocked. There was a duke who was also a sheik. The heroine didn't trust him because of his dark skin, so he kidnapped her. Total bodice ripper."

Now she says her tastes run more to modern erotic romance. Some titles that Day recommends to readers are Lauren Dane's Laid Bare, Maya Banks' Sweet Persuasion and Shelby Reed's The Fifth Favor.

And which of Day’s works do we suggest for someone taste-testing the genre? That’s easy — we can’t get over Day’s 2008 novel Don’t Tempt Me, which flawlessly combines an extra helping of steamy romance with a compelling historical story. However, another good option is Day's erotic romance Bared to You which has garnered a lot of attention as it climbs up the bestseller list this summer. (This novel is also one of several erotic romances on the shortlist for a Hollywood film adaptation.) 

Do you agree with the novels on this list, or have one of your own to suggest to romance newbies? Let us know in the comments below. And for more RWA 2012 coverage, check back all week long. You can also learn all the latest genre news on RT’s Everything Romance Page.