Lynda Simmons is the author of Island Girl, the story of a fifty-five-year-old woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and her daughters, Liz and Grace. It is not an easy topic to tackle, in part because it makes many readers uneasy. After all, it is a rare individual who can say that his or her life has not been touched by Alzheimer’s, either because a friend or a relative has struggled with it. And because there is no cure, it is frightening to know that we could be afflicted, like Ruby, at a young age. In Island Girl, Simmons challenges her readers contemplate if they would respond the same way as Ruby were they diagnosed at a young age. Simmons is also the author of two more light-hearted books, Getting Rid of Rosie and Thie Magic Moment.
I’m delighted to welcome Lynda to Colloquium today with this piece about her transition from a romance novelist to being the author of a work of general fiction.
Making the Leap From Romance Shelves to the Deep Dark Woods of General Fiction
To be honest, I was not a romance reader when I became a romance writer. It was the mid-nineties and I was busy pounding out horror stories in a market that could best be described as “soft.” Romance, on the other hand, was booming and my mother taught me early on how to recognize a dead horse when I was beating one. So I took a breath and made the leap. A stretch, you say? Not really because as I tell my writing students, the elements of fiction, just like the elements of music, are always the same. It’s what you do with them that determines what you get.
In music, the elements are key signatures, notes, staffs, etc. and when you play with those elements you can produce jazz, hip hop or a symphony. The same holds true in fiction. The elements are dialogue, viewpoint, setting, etc. and you play with them differently to produce a thriller, a cozy or a literary novel. It may be hard to believe, but the elements of horror and romance are not that far apart. So I turned my stalkers into sexy, intelligent white knights instead of sexy, intelligent socio-paths. Made my strong and worthy heroes into strong and worthy heroines, and went back to hitting the keys with a fresh determination.
I truly believe that coming cold to the world of romance worked to my advantage because I had no preconceived notions of what a romance novel “should” be. By stroke of luck, Silhouette was launching a new series of romantic comedies called Yours Truly. Humour had always found its way into my writing – even the horror novels – so Yours Truly felt like a natural fit.
I wrote six romantic comedies for Silhouette and Kensington, and enjoyed every one of them, but I did feel boxed in by the necessity to always focus on the male/female relationship. Often, I was more intrigued by what was going on between the heroine and her mother, or her daughter, or her friends, than I was by what was going on between her and the hero. Let’s face it, sex can only hold my interest for so long. I felt like I was always making dessert the main course, when what I really wanted was a steak.
Again, I took a breath and leapt, this time into mainstream fiction. Getting Rid of Rosie was my first step away, but Island Girl is the one that has taken me out of the relative safety of a genre shelf to the vast, dark woods of General Fiction where I have always wanted to be. And as the old adage says, be careful what you wish for.
I don’t kid myself. I know Island Girl can get lost in that woods with all two copies shelved spine-out among the full facings of Browns and Kings and Rowlings. And sometimes I feel like a one-man band with a drum in my hands, a harmonica in my mouth, and cymbals between my knees. Oh look, it’s the Lynda Show. Lynda Who? Beats me. Oh, look over there! Here comes the Dan Brown Big Brass Band! Let’s get a spot before it’s too late.
While I could easily learn to dislike Dan Brown, I don’t regret making the leap because I have always believed that Shakespeare was right when he said “to thine own self be true.” But I admit to having my fingers crossed for this book because I’d like to say put. Who knows where one more leap could land me?
Lynda Simmons grew up in Toronto, Canada. She loved to read Greek mythology and make up stories about bodies in the basement. She and her husband have two grown daughters. They reside in Burlington, a small city on the water just outside Toronto, where Linda is a novelist by day and college instructor in the evenings.
From an early age, Lynda has had a penchant for bringing home stray cats. Her love of writing — and a husband with allergies — saved her from becoming a little old lady living alone with hundreds of cats. She does have one very spoiled Birman, though. When she’s not writing, teaching or picking up her husband’s allergy medication from the pharmacy, you can find Lynda avoiding the treadmill that she has cleverly stashed in the basement of her home. Out of sight, out of mind, spared from exercising, right?
Lynda has very generously provided a copy of Island Girl for me to give to one lucky Colloquium reader! So be sure to check back this Saturday, June 11, 2011, to read my review of Island Girl and enter to win!