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Nova Scotia writers fall in love with romance novels

Romance writing 'more vibrant than most people realize'

4 min read
caption Authors say reading romance is the first step to learning how to write a good romance novel
Michelle Pressé
Authors say reading romance is the first step to learning how to write a good romance novel
caption Authors say reading romance is the first step to learning how to write about romance.
Michelle Pressé

“His hands were on his hips, his dark gaze fixed on her. Swallowing deeply, she tried to ignore the excitement rising in her chest and push aside any idea that she might be the object of his attention.”

This is an excerpt from Michelle Helliwell’s 2015 novel Not Your Average Beauty.

The Brooklyn, N.S., native was inspired to become a romance writer after words of encouragement from her Grade 10 English teacher who she had a crush on. He had a British accent and resembled Sting.

Now 46, the Nova Scotia Health Authority employee and mom of two finds time to write and serve as president of the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada.

The group is growing and has nearly 40 members in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland who come together to learn and talk about the romance publishing industry.

“It’s much more vibrant than most people realize,” says Helliwell. “When you get a bunch of romance writers together, it’s always fun.”

She says love and its small, meaningful gestures inspires her work.

“Like, look – there’s two people who have jobs and kids they’re trying to raise, and throughout the noise, they find time to sit and be with each other, even if it’s just going to Tim Hortons for a cup of coffee.”

While the characters in her books are typically royal, they share the same emotions as everyday couples.

Robin Spittal, the communications and development officer for the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, says all writers could learn something from romance authors.

“Getting your work published is a business,” says Spittal. “Publishers now expect authors to market themselves, and romance writers do that especially well.”

Spittal says this is because romance is more commercialized.

“Romance writing is something you can make a living off of, more so than other genres,” says Spittal.

According to Thomas Stewart’s 2014 article Which 5 Book Genres Make The Most Money in The Richest, the romance/erotica genre is worth $1.44 billion.

The second most profitable genre, crime/mystery, is worth $728.2 million.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cathryn Fox writes for the romance/erotica club.

The 49-year-old Bedford resident quit her job as an accountant more than 15 years ago. Fox and her husband were working for Environment Canada in Churchill Falls, Labrador, a town with less than 1,000 people. She read books to make the town more “spicy” and decided to try writing herself.

Since then, she’s written more than 70 novels.

“I’m not cut out for a nine to five job behind a desk,” says Fox.

She says neither of her adult children have read her more steamy novels, although her son Alex’s girlfriend is a fan.

“When she tries to tell Alex things that are in the books, he’s like, ‘La la la la,’” says Fox. “I say, ‘You have a lot to live up to, Alex.’”

Fox doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“There’s so many stories inside me, and I’m happy when I’m writing,” she says. “Maybe I’ll stop when I have nothing else to write, but I doubt that’ll ever happen.”

Her latest book, Betting on the Wrong Brother, came out two weeks ago. Her next book, The Tempting Dare, will be out this April.

She says if any of her novels ever turned into a movie, she would play the lead female role, and already has a male lead in mind.

“Chris Pratt or Ryan Reynolds,” says Fox. “I’ll take either one. That’s a whole other ball game, though.”

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