On Valentine’s Day six years ago, romance writers Amy Andrews and Anna Cleary gave a funny and informative talk at the library. They suggested that we form a writing group; today we are all still writing. Amy Andrews showed us the power of women supporting other women and recently, I was thrilled to meet the USA Today best-selling author again to discuss all things romance.
Amy is the author of over 50 romance books, the first penned at the tender age of 22. Determination has been her friend over those years especially during the publishing process.
“I wrote my first book in just a few weeks and sent it off to a publisher,” Amy says. “My first rejection letter made me determined to eventually be published and twelve years later I finally was. That first manuscript has never seen the light of day,” she says with a laugh.
But given Amy is published all over the world, there’s no regrets about that manuscript staying in a drawer.
“My first book to be translated was in Iceland. My medical romances are popular in France, and in Japan they produce the most beautiful manga books.”
Amy’s loyal readers are mostly women and she is unashamedly writing for the enjoyment of other women. She has the awards to prove it including two Ruby awards – the Romance Writers of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year Award.
“I am really proud of winning the Ruby Award as they are voted by readers,” she says. Her most recent Ruby was for her novel, Risky Business. “It took a while to be published so I’m glad I persevered.”
Before romance writing
It won’t surprise you when you learn that Amy began her career as a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit nurse and her first foray into romance books was in the medical romance genre.
“In the early days I had to be careful not to add too much medical jargon. It is always about the romance,” Amy says.
“I liken it to a Christmas tree. The romance is the strong and sturdy tree and everything else is the baubles and tinsel hanging off it.”
Today she still writes about one medical romance a year. She has also done collaborations with her sister Ros Baxter and written some Bold and the Beautiful titles that leap off the shelves.
Influences and change
“I thought I want to write like them. No-one in Australia was doing that and writers like Helen Fielding [author of Bridget Jones’s Diary] paved the way,” Amy says.
“We were shifting away from the bodice rippers and naughty boss and secretary stories from the 80s to reflect society and the changing roles of women,” she says.
“Women characters became much stronger. The advent of hybrid genres also allowed a little more variety but you do need some structure as reader’s have certain expectations about what a romance novel contains so you can’t disappoint them. Digital publishing allows more avenues to push the boundaries.”
The Fifty Shades influence
Amy answered thoughtfully when asked about the impact of Fifty Shades of Grey on the contemporary romance scene.
“It has helped to reframe the conversation we are having about romance writing,” she says. “It has brought in new readers who may not have read this genre. It didn’t help in the way romance writers were seen in literary circles. It seems to have become a bit of a thing to put down Fifty Shades and yet the money it made enabled other authors and more books to be published.”
Amy says that attitudes to romance writing are changing. “Academics are writing more critiques on romance than ever before and with more women’s publishers, more women’s voices can be heard.
“Literary festivals tend to have a more literary bent and focus on love stories rather than romance writing.”
Amy suggests that sports romances, rural romances, and new adult romances could be the next big trends.
Her novel ‘Playing by the Rules’ launches an eight-part series based on a fictional rugby union team called the ‘Sydney Smoke’, published by Brazen digital imprint.
“My American publishers saw the interest in rugby growing in the US and as the sports genre is becoming popular I was happy to be involved.”
Amy is also working on a medical rural romance and two new series – one on Aussie fire fighters and one on professional bull-riders.
Advice for writers
With her friend Anna Cleary, Amy offers a manuscript assessment service for writers of all genres – I don’t know where she finds the time to do it.
Her advice to budding romance writers is to join Romance Writers Australia and find good critique partners whom you trust.
“Don’t just give your romance manuscript to your mum. Find people who either write or read romance and are familiar with the genre.”
As for love, Amy says, “I love that idea of falling in love and the many layers that go along with it, but day to day I’m not that romantic. I enjoy loving gestures like receiving flowers unexpectedly but don’t need to be showered with gifts to feel loved. Of course I do love watching romantic movies and reading romance books.” Who doesn’t?
Amy’s latest novel, Playing By the Rules is out now.