I remember the first book that piqued my interest in reading. It was Kristy and the Snobs, The Babysitter’s Club series #11. I got it for Christmas as part of a box set. I can still remember the pink cover with Kristy and her poor old dog—a collie. SPOILER ALERT—The dog dies at the end (doesn’t that just break every rule?), and Kristy bonds with the snobs over it. Or something like that. It’s been at least twenty-five years, so it’s a miracle I remember that much when I can’t even remember what I wore yesterday.
Except I could probably tell you the basic plots for the majority of the entire series, which was well over a hundred books.
I soon graduated to Sweet Valley Twins, then Sweet Valley High, the Nancy Drew Case Files, and the beloved Sunfire romance books. I spent many hours in libraries and book stores with checklists for the various series, making sure I didn’t miss a single one.
These books were not great literature by any stretch of the imagination. I remember them so fondly that I’m hesitant to go into the attic and dust them off—I’m terrified by what I’ll find between the covers. (My tastes have gotten a little more sophisticated over the years.) And yes—I still have them. I can’t bear to part with them even though my reason to keep them (for a daughter) is no longer valid since I only have sons. The Mister has learned to accept it, reluctantly carving out a permanent space in the attic for what are important pieces of my childhood.
The thing about these books is they were the source of so much happiness for me. They started my lifelong relationship with reading commercial fiction, namely, romance. I have a master’s degree in English literature. My area of concentration was Shakespeare. For a long time I hid my love of commercial literature from my colleagues because they were more interested in discussing T. S. Eliot and Kate Chopin than heaving bosoms and whatnot. I still love Shakespeare—don’t get me wrong—but I’ll take Richelle Mead, Kelley Armstrong, Jill Shalvis, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Charlaine Harris, and J. D. Robb over proper Literature (pronounced Lit-tra-ture) any day.
Will a romance novel ever win a Pulitzer? I think I can safely answer that question with a resounding “no.” But has a Pulitzer novel spread as much entertainment, as much contentment, and as much joy as a romance novel? Granted, I haven’t done any formal research on this, but I feel confident that the answer to this question is also “no.”
And that’s why I write. I’d love to quit the day job one day and make a living with it. But I write because I want to create something that will affect readers’ everyday lives, something that will cause them to sigh with a smile as they close the cover after reading the last page on an otherwise crappy day in the life.
I want make a difference in people’s lives, one book at a time.
7 Comments on “Why I Write”
Marnee BaileyApril 22, 2014 at 9:08 pm
This is a great post, Jessica. I loved all these books too. You and I talked about the Babysitters Club, I think, in NJ. 🙂 Your reasons are similar to mine. I remember wanting to write my senior thesis in college on how 19th century British lit mothered popular romance novels. My adviser looked like she might have a fit. Like a full fledged toddler tantrum.
I wrote on something else.
JessicaApril 22, 2014 at 9:12 pm
I devoured these books as an adolescent. Series worked for me because I was a voracious reader. I’m still a sucker for series, but I like to wait until they are all out so I can read them all at once.
I did a lot of graduate work on adaptations of Shakespeare and other literature. My college interests sound similar to yours.
lynnlovegreenApril 23, 2014 at 1:06 am
Jessica–I kept nodding and saying “yes” to myself as I read this. Like you, I love Shakespeare and romance, and see no problem with that. There are places for both in this world. And I love your last line. If you haven’t already, one day you’ll do that too!
JessicaApril 23, 2014 at 9:11 am
Thanks for your comments! I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who can appreciate literature and romance.
Sheila GriceApril 23, 2014 at 5:56 pm
Great article, Jessica. Thanks for sharing.
Carole St-LaurentApril 24, 2014 at 5:16 pm
The first series I read as a child was the Contesse de Ségur’s series. Yes, it was all in French. Then I latched onto Fantomette and le Club des Cinq, both about young sleuths having to hide their true identities. I love them!
JessicaApril 24, 2014 at 8:54 pm
Thanks for stopping by! I’m afraid my childhood reading wasn’t quite as sophisticated as yours! When I was in high school, I did get in trouble in English class for reading Jane Austen instead of paying attention. Oops…