Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ode to a Mentor

To Romance Authors, Kathleen Woodiwiss was a legend - the godmother of the modern romance novel.

Her first book, THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER was published in 1972 when I was only seven years old. While I didn't read this book until 1980 or 81, it truly changed my life. I knew, in that moment, I wanted to be a writer. To this day, two of my all time favorite novels are THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER and ASHES IN THE WIND.

While her earlier titles might seem dated now, at that time, her work set a new standard of excellence in the industry and the modern romance novel was born.

Kathleen didn't make many personal appearances during the 1990's though she continued to write bestsellers such as MARRIED AT MIDNIGHT and PETALS ON THE RIVER. Basically a shy woman, she was very nervous about attending conferences and this is how I met her.

A mutual friend was acting as her publicist and official hand-holder for Kathleen's return to public life in 2000. I received an email from Judy, our mutual friend, and she asked me to give her a hand in befriending Kathleen and easing her way into the circus that is the romance world.

Me and Kathleen Woodiwiss, one of the greatest romance writers of all time?!?!? Are you KIDDING me? I would've paid just to stand next to her let alone chat her up and put her at ease. I wasn't too sure *I* would be able to get a coherent sentence together as I'd be groveling at her feet.

Looking back now, I'm not sure what I expected from the first goddess of romance! Boas? Spike heels? Red Lipstick?

When Judy introduced me to Kathleen, it was one of the most exhilerating moments of my life. I can attribute my getting into writing to many things and this woman, this amazing creature, was such a huge inspiration for me. She was everything a role model should be. Intelligent, kind, humble and with a smile that immediately put people at ease. I'll never forget how completely out of touch she was with her standing in the literary world.

"Do you think some of these readers would like to meet me?" she whispered to me while sitting in the lobby of the Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, NJ.

It took everything I had to not start fawning and bowing at her feet. I can't imagine any romance writer NOT wanting to meet her. I mean - come on, the author of THE WOLF AND THE DOVE and SHANNA?? By the end of the conference Kathleen was much better able to circulate on her own and just kick back and enjoy herself. I ran into her a couple of years later at another conference and she was having the time of her life.

Kathleen Woodiwiss passed away today. She survived thirty years in the romance industry and that alone speaks to her talent and longevity. She was an amazing woman, an awesome writer and a legend in her comfy slip-on shoes. For the rest of my life I will treasure the time I was able to spend with her along with the many, many hours I spent losing myself in her work. Kathleen Woodiwiss changed my life with her work, and if reach one tenth of the people she did, I will consider my life a success.

To sum it all up, I will let KW have the last word - she would've loved that. :)

"Dear Readers, I'm delighted with the opportunity this website is affording me in being able to converse with such ease with my readers. Although The Flame and the Flower may have launched a whole new genre in the publishing world, I'm usually the one dragging my heels when trying something new and innovative in the area of communication, preferring all the bugs to be worked out before I venture forth. Although websites may not be as archaic as I'm getting to be, I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear comments like "Kathleen-come-lately" in reference to my emergence on the web, but here I am nevertheless, old as Methuselah and green as fresh corn stalks. Kathleen "


N.J.Walters said...

That is so sad.

She was such an amazing writer! A Rose in Winter and The Wolf and The Dove are my two absolute favorites.

Her writing had such an impact--on writers and readers alike. You were so very fortunate to have met her.

TinaGerow said...

The world has lost a truly terrific author. I never got a chance to meet Kathleen, but she has inspired so many people, she will be remembered!

Grammar Geek said...

She was one of the first romance authors I read too... I always loved her books.

She'll definitely be missed.