|Leigh Greenwood: Real Men Write Romance|
Romance knows no gender. Just ask Harold Lowry, who under the pen name of Leigh Greenwood, writes some of the most romantic novels around.
This bestselling author contends he never planned to write until his wife introduced him to the romances of Georgette Heyer. The books struck a chord, and with the help of his local Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapter, the one-time music teacher carved out a new career. But Leigh Greenwood remained loyal to his literary and organizational roots. Recently, RWA members returned the favor by electing Lowry as their first president of the new millennium. For Lowry, the experience gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "getting the call."
Leigh Greenwood: Actually it has been very easy for me. I went to my first meeting of a local RWA chapter in 1985 and was accepted immediately. At no time was I aware that I was the only man present. Maybe I was too focused on trying to learn why my books didn't sell to notice, but I don't think so. I've always been accepted at the local and national level. Members seemed genuinely happy for my success. RWA is the most warm, supportive, accepting group of people in the world.
Crescent Blues: What inspired you to write romance?
Leigh Greenwood: I guess you could say I'm a romantic at heart. Once I found romances (my wife introduced me to them), I liked them immediately. I don't know why I suddenly wanted to write. I never had before, but I loved the stories and wanted to tell my own. As I've said before, despite the fact that our stories are considered fantasies, they're based on the realities of the world around us. They are also among the most uplifting books published. Our characters face problems and succeed in conquering them. We give people hope and a road map for life and entertain them at the same time.
Leigh Greenwood: It was a gradual journey. The first two books I wrote were not westerns. I was working on a Civil War book when I went to the RWA conference in Atlanta in 1985. They said Civil War was out and westerns were in. So I went home, plotted a western, wrote it and sold it. For the next nine books I alternated between westerns and other locations. I sort of got stuck in the West when I wrote the Seven Brides series. It was so much more successful than anything else I'd written I decided to do a second series set in the West, The Cowboys. Now no one thinks I can do anything else.
I haven't read a great number of westerns except Louis L'Amour (and I've read everything he wrote several times), but the main difference is the emphasis on the romance rather than the action. Too, many of the westerns focus on the conflict with the Indians. Romances are more likely to make the Indians the heros.
Leigh Greenwood: I'd originally planned to do 13, but my publisher wants me to stop after nine and start a new series. I hope to come back and finish up. I hate leaving loose ends. Besides, every orphan deserves his own story.
I supposed the greatest challenge is to find a way to make the books all truly connected yet each able to stand alone. I like to have characters appear in several books, but it's not always easy to find a logical reason for that. It was much easier with the Brides because they were brothers. Orphans wouldn't have the same feeling of connection.
The greatest pleasure is definitely being able to keep favorite characters around for several books. I would have hated to lose George and Rose or Jake and Isabelle after that first book. I really liked those characters and what they stood for. It was also fun having them around with the women being bossy and the boys loving them in spite of it. I also like seeing characters grow up and change. Characters like Jeff can have serious flaws when it's not their own book. Later you get the fun of making something admirable out of them.
Leigh Greenwood: There is no technique. You just have to come up with an interesting story each time. The only real hook for writer or reader is that you already know something about all the reoccurring characters and you want to see how their story turns out.
Crescent Blues: How long have you been writing contemporaries? How do you distill the expansive style of your single-title westerns into the strict requirements of category romance?
Leigh Greenwood: I wrote my first contemporary, a Superromance, with a friend in 1997. From there I was able to sell two books to Special Edition and two to Zebra's Bouquet line. I had two out in 1999 and two more in 2000. I loved writing contemporaries -- I'd written my first one ten years ago and couldn't sell it -- so I was thrilled. I had no trouble switching style or compressing the story. I've written four novellas, two historical and two contemporary, so different lengths didn't bother me. I've just signed to write another Special Edition, so I hope there will be more contemporaries in my future.
Crescent Blues: Do you consciously seek mythic models or popular culture icons? What's the lure of redefining these models? In addition to the connections of the "Brides" series to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, I couldn't help wondering if the private investigator in Love on the Run was inspired by John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee.
Crescent Blues: How did you get involved in Romance Writers of America? What do you see as the value of RWA to the romance reader, fledgling writer and professional?
Leigh Greenwood: I don't remember how I discovered RWA, but I discovered it after I'd written two books (which were rejected) and was 200 pages into the third. I had read lots of romances, but I didn't know a thing about the market. I joined my local chapter in May and went to the 1985 national conference in July. I learned what they were buying (cowboys), what they weren't (the Civil War book I was working on), and where to send my book when I finished it.
RWA is a professional organization of published writers as well as aspiring writers. It's critical to anyone wanting to be published in romance. We not only teach writing skills, we teach the market, and we offer a chance to meet editors and agents. We're also a fabulous support group. I'm certain that I wouldn't have been published if I hadn't joined RWA.
Leigh Greenwood: Two things. First, several people did their best to convince me to run. I resisted before finally deciding to run. I changed my mind because there are several things I want to do that I think are important for the future of RWA. To be honest, I thought I had a really good chance of winning.
Crescent Blues: How long will your term last?
Leigh Greenwood: My term as president is two years followed by one year as immediate past president. After that I'm prohibited from ever again holding an office in RWA, so I'm free. Nobody can talk me into anything.
Leigh Greenwood: The way I learned I'd won is rather interesting. The election results were to be announced on Tuesday, October 19th. On Monday, I flew to California to spend several days with my son before speaking at the Orange County RWA conference that weekend. My son works in outdoor education, and he wanted to spend the week showing me places like Yosemite and Sequoia National Park. I landed on Monday morning and we drove north, spending the night in Monmouth Lakes. Next morning we woke up to six to eight inches of snow and the mountain passes into Yosemite closed. We spent the rest of the day driving north trying to find an open pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
I had hoped to call the national office on his cell phone to find out if I'd won, but it wouldn't work in the mountains. We finally found a pass and stopped at a telephone on a mountainside. There wasn't even a booth. I had to stand in the freezing cold and swirling snow. I got the results then we drove on as quickly as we could to avoid being caught in the mountains in a snowstorm. I hope that's not a harbinger of my two years in office.
By the way, Yosemite and Sequoia were absolutely beautiful in the snow. Driving up those twisting mountain roads with no shoulders or guardrails nearly gave me a heart attack, but I'll never forget those magnificent mountains and incredible trees covered with snow in the brilliant sunshine.
Crescent Blues: What short- and long-term goals have you set for yourself as president? How much progress have you made towards these goals?