Female Friendship in My Book (And My Life)
In many ways, Penelope Callahan is just like me.
Penny—the heroine of my debut novella, Broken Resolutions—works at a small, rural library in Maryland. For almost two years, so did I.
She serves as the children’s librarian for her branch. Until I switched to the central branch of our library system, I too ran storytimes for kids.
She’s an introvert, quiet and uncomfortable in crowds no matter how calm she appears to be. Among trusted friends, though, she’s mouthy and raunchy. As am I.
And in the first draft of my story, she was like me in one other crucial way: unmoored by a strong circle of female friends.
I had friends, of course, most of them wonderful and supportive. But there weren’t many I felt comfortable calling for no reason, or if I needed to cry or share a funny story or bitch about a tough day. Over the years, that lack had become a constant ache within me, not always acknowledged but always present.
When I was looking over my first draft of Broken Resolutions, I realized I wanted more than that for Penny. I wanted people in her life who would bolster her through heartache and celebrate her triumphs. She needed friends. Good ones. And I was going to provide them for her.
Funny thing, though. Just as I was revising my story to give Penny a BFF—Angie, her outspoken, erotica-loving supervisor—and plotting my second book to expand their network of close friends even further, I found myself inundated with like-minded women in my own life. Warm, smart, and hilarious, they appeared like magic as soon as I made my first tentative foray into the world of romance writers and readers.
You probably already know this, but women (and men) who love romance are amazing. They lavish affection on people who offer the same in return and are bafflingly generous with their time and energy.
Seemingly all at once, I had a fantastic critique partner, Mia Sosa, whom I could call for any reason whatsoever. Some writers I met for drafting (coughCHATTINGcough) sessions, while others I saw at special events and online. And on Twitter, I grew close to so many women whose real names I may not know and whose real faces I may not have ever seen. But they are real to me nevertheless, and so is the acceptance and support they’ve offered.
Life imitated art. My heroine found her tribe, and so did I, simply by telling her story. I’m almost forty, and for the first time in my life, I have a teeming circle of faithful female friends.
Full circle, full heart. It wasn’t too late for Penny. It wasn’t too late for me. And if you’re lonely like I was, I truly believe it’s not too late for you either. Go forth and find your tribe.
Happy reading, everyone—and happy everything else too.
LOVE BETWEEN THE LINES
Romance has never had a happy ending for librarian Penny Callahan, who could write the book on cheating, heartbreaking liars. So she’s made a resolution: no men for the next twelve months. If she can just get through the library’s New Year’s Eve singles night, she can return home to her pajamas and a good book. But when she finds herself checking out a hot hunk with an irresistible smile, an evening in the stacks becomes a lot more tempting…
Reclusive author Jack Williamson never should have trusted his mother. Even though he’s trying to avoid being recognized, she guilts him into attending a dating meet-and-greet—where an adorable librarian makes him question his lonely lifestyle. Is this just a fleeting, flirty scene? Or could love be the next chapter for them both?
Thirty or so years later, I have a few answers. 1) Because my mom apparently fancied pirates at that time. Now she hoards romances involving cowboys and babies. If a book cover features a shirtless man in a Stetson cradling an infant, her ovaries basically explode and her credit card emerges. I have a similar reaction to romances involving spinsters, governesses, and librarians. 2) His manhood. Also, her womanhood. 3) It’s his “hard length,” sometimes compared in terms of rigidity to iron. I prefer to use other names for it in my own writing. However, I am not picky when it comes to descriptions of iron-hard lengths. At least in romances. 4) Because explaining how an orgasm feels can prove difficult. Or maybe the couples all had sex on New Year’s Eve at Cancun.
During those thirty years, I accomplished a few things. I graduated from Wake Forest University and earned my M.A. in American History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I worked at a variety of jobs that required me to bury my bawdiness and potty mouth under a demure exterior: costumed interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, high school teacher, and librarian. But I always, always read romances. Funny, filthy, sweet–it didn’t matter. I loved them all.
Now I’m writing my own romances with the encouragement of my husband and daughter. I found a kick-ass agent: Jessica Alvarez from Bookends, LLC. I have my own stack of books in my closet that I’d rather my daughter not read, at least not for a few years. I can swear whenever I want, except around said daughter. And I get to spend all day writing about love and iron-hard lengths.
So thank you, Mom, for perving so hard on pirates during my childhood. I owe you.