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Paperback writer pens hot-selling novels

June 27, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Anne Marie Winston's stories sizzle with sex and romance and they sell, usually more than 100,000 copies in the month that they sit on the bookshelves before they're pulled for next month's batch.

Winston is a pen name Anne Marie Rodgers uses on the romance novels writes in her Waynesboro home for Harlequin Ltd.'s Silhouette Desire line.

Winston grew up in Waynesboro, the eighth generation of her family to do so. She graduated with a degree in education from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. Later she did graduate work in school administration at Shippensburg University but decided she didn't want to be a school principal.

"I was frustrated with the paperwork," she said.

She taught special education in rural Virginia schools and in Washington County and Franklin County, Pa.

Winston quit teaching in 1989 to be with her two daughters, now 10 and 12. She had a difficult pregnancy with her younger child, Elise. It was during the three months she had to stay in bed that she decided to try writing books.

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"I thought I could stay home with the kids and still have a career on the side," she said. Her husband is a local businessman.

Winston tried writing children's books first. "I even took courses, but the words just didn't seem to flow," she said.

Then she tried to write romance novels like the kind she liked to read. The first four bombed, but "Best Kept Secrets" was picked up by Silhouette and her career was launched.

Last year, she had two books published. The advance money she made plus what she'll make on royalties will more than make up her teacher's salary, she said. Next year, she will have four books out.

Her 10th book, "Seducing the Proper Miss Miller," comes out next month. It's set in the fictional town of Geiserville, a takeoff on a southern Franklin County town. Its main characters are a straight-laced minister's daughter who falls in love with the handsome village Romeo. Its plot is typical romance novel's - girl meets boy, falls in love, then has to overcome some conflict between them before they can live happily ever after. The books are laced with descriptions of sex.

"If my books were movies they'd be R-rated," said Winston.

She said her inspiration "comes from everywhere. I see all kinds of funny things that spark a thought, an idea," she said. She just returned from doing research in the Badlands of South Dakota for a series she's planning.

"Women don't read romance novels for the truth. They read them for the adversity. Women are tuned into relationships and these books are all about relationships," she said.

Romance novels either move off the shelf fast or are pulled off and sent to a paper recycler.

"My books have four weeks to make an impact," Winston said. "Harlequin publishes about 60 new books every month. These books are very consumable."

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