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Roberts on Time's influential people list

May 04, 2007|by TAMELA BAKER

SHARPSBURG - It's a plot twist that even Nora Roberts couldn't anticipate.

A novelist living in southern Washington County hones her craft, finds a massive and loyal audience, and ultimately is recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by one of the world's most influential publications.

Roberts is among 20 artists and entertainers named this year in Time Magazine's list of "the 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world." The Time 100 edition hits newsstands today.

Others included in the category are actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Tina Fey; director Martin Scorsese; musicians John Mayer and Justin Timberlake; "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller; and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.

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"I don't know who I'm influencing, but I think it's delightful," Roberts said Thursday.

"I was delighted and surprised" when her publisher notified her of her place on the list, she added. "Of course, my publisher is delighted, too it's incredibly flattering."

And while the magazine purposely sought antithetical, sometimes startling guest contributors to write about some of the honorees - Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich writes about current Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example - Time turned to its veteran literary writer Andrea Sachs to explain why Roberts is so influential.

"At 56, she makes her fellow authors look like slackers, having written 175 novels, the majority of them best sellers," Sachs writes. "There are nearly 300 million copies of her books in print."

"That's a lot of books," Roberts concedes.

But "I don't think about influencing people when I write," she said. "I think about entertaining them."

Nor does she spend a lot of time pondering the sheer volume of volumes she has produced. She concentrates instead on what she's writing now.

"It's always just about the book," Roberts explained. "I don't think about the numbers until I have to I always just want to do the best work I can each time."

Roberts' career spans a quarter-century, and while her writing roots "are deep in romance," her novels include variations on the theme -such as paranormal romances and the mysteries she writes as J.D. Robb. The Lifetime television network recently produced film adaptations of four of her novels.

But if Roberts is influencing the rest of us, who's influencing her?

"My family," she quickly answered. "It's important to have a life."

And life outside of work revolves around her home, her husband, her children and two grandchildren.

In fact, her current passion deeply involves her family. The renovation of two historic Boonsboro hotels is slated to produce a new restaurant - Vesta - that will be run by her son, and a bed and breakfast called Inn Boonsboro.

"Turning that one into a bed and breakfast will take a year, and that's being optimistic," she said, but "it's really, really exciting."

It does, however, take a little time from writing.

But not too much. "I still have to write," she said.

Nevertheless, she seems as enthusiastic about the local influence those projects will have as she is about the influence her books have generated. Roberts wants the transformation of those two buildings to so impress people who see them now that they will "come and book a room 'Inn Boonsboro,'" she said.

So what's next for the influential novelist/developer?

"Oh, gosh, this is so much enough," Roberts said.

The immediate "next," however, is to head to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville this weekend. She'll forego the gala the magazine is throwing for the Time 100 next weekend in New York, though. Two weekends away from home in a row is too many.

But Roberts isn't the only Time 100 influential who likely won't make the party but will attend the Derby. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, listed among the 20 most influential leaders and revolutionaries, is scheduled to watch the race Saturday.

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