Her passion is hard work

August 07, 2005|By JULIE E. GREENE

Nora Roberts' name often is synonymous with romance, but she also is a warrior on the bookfield.

Putnam recently released "Origin in Death," the 160th book written by Keedysville-area resident and New York Times best-selling author Roberts.

As of Friday, "Origin in Death" was No. 11 on The New York Times best-seller list for hardback fiction. On the best-selling paperback fiction list, Roberts' "Night Tales: Night Shift, Night Shadow" was No. 5 and "Black Rose" was No. 6.

Roberts, who doesn't rely on inspiration, said she works hard to craft each story, working ideas out, doing research and working from a skeleton of the story line.

Asked how many of her stories didn't work out, Roberts said, "None. I'll make them work out. I'll win the battle. I beat it into the ground."


So, which was the toughest?

"Probably all of them. I'm just starting one now and the battle has already begun. I don't think they ever go smoothly," she said. "It's work. It should be work. It should be hard work."

The reason she is so prolific is no secret, Roberts said.

It's a combination of "really loving what you do, being disciplined enough to sit your butt down every day and just having a fast pace," said Roberts, who writes six to eight hours a day.

'Death' lives on

Because she has been published so often and her romance novels are so popular that her former publisher, Silhouette, reissues her books, Putnam last fall began putting an encircled NR on her new Nora Roberts books. They include thrillers and romantic suspense.

The symbol helps readers know, when they go to make a purchase, whether it's a new book or a reissue, she said.

Asked whether she had retirement plans, Roberts, 54, said, "What would I do? What would I do all day? What would I do with all the stories in my head? Why would I stop doing something I enjoy?"

Roberts' latest book, "Origin in Death," is the 21st in her "In Death" series, which are futuristic police procedurals with a romance.

Roberts began writing the "In Death" series a decade ago under the name J.D. Robb after her agent convinced her it was a good marketing strategy - to have two popular brand names the way a soda company has different varieties.

Using J.D. Robb also allowed the series to succeed on its own merits and not because of her already established name. The author revealed her true identity with "Betrayal In Death" in 2001 and now both her names are printed on the "In Death" covers.

The J.D. Robb name comes from the first letter of the names of her sons, Jason and Daniel, and Robb is shortened from Roberts.

Already this year, Putnam has released three original titles this year, including "Survivor In Death" and "Black Rose," and expects to release "Blue Smoke" and "Red Lily" later this year, said Roberts' publicist Heather A. Connor with Penguin, which publishes Putnam books.

Craft of ideas

Roberts doesn't wait around for inspiration to strike.

"I think if you sort of sit around and wait to be inspired, you're probably going to be sitting there a long time. My process is more about crafting, working an idea through my head to see if it's a good concept," Roberts said.

The concept for Roberts' latest futuristic fiction is not too far gone. The future is familiar to readers.

Set in 2060, "Origin in Death" allows her to "play with the more things change, the more they don't - as far as human nature is concerned," she said.

It also allows her the fun of writing about a long-term relationship, the series' protagonist, New York Police Lt. Eve Dallas, and her husband, the wealthy Roarke.

Not having to wrap up the relationship as she does in her single novels, Roberts can explore - and her readers can learn - more about this ongoing relationship.

Keeping in touch with her readers is important.

Roberts finds interacting with fans fun and even shared at least one vacation with them using an online travelogue. She also communicates with fans through online message boards and at book signings such as the one July 23 at a Hagerstown Suns game or at husband Bruce Wilder's Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe in Boonsboro.

"I think if you sort of segregate yourself from the people you're actually working for, you lose that contact, that connect and what they want," she said. "You don't want to interact in a vacuum."

On the author's shelf

As for Roberts, she enjoys reading popular and science fiction - "stuff that's a little tilted off the now."

She was reading Michael Connelly's "The Closers."

"It's really good," she said.

She also enjoys reading stories by Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Parker, Patricia Gaffney, Elizabeth Berg, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.

Roberts hasn't read J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books yet. She's waiting for her 3-year-old granddaughter, Kayla, to get a little older so they can read them together.

"I'm so amazed and astonished and delighted by the success of those books and the millions of children she has turned into readers and their enthusiasm for it," she said. Roberts said she thinks Rowling should get a medal and be canonized.

"She's a phenomenon," Roberts said.

Has she considered writing a children's book?

"I just don't think it's my area," Roberts said. "It's not the way my mind works."

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