Really, it’s as simple as that. And as complex as that, too. I had just graduated from college. I was somewhere I didn’t want to be, sharing a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles with my mother. It was a trying time all around, and writing became my refuge–if I was writing I didn’t get into spats with my Mom; if I was writing I didn’t have to think too much about what I was going to do when I left LA and started out on my own; and if I was writing I could be tall and witty and beautiful (none of which my 22-year-old self was) and meet a tall, handsome, witty guy. With red hair.
Here’s my dark secret: I wasn’t writing for publication. I was writing to give myself exactly what I needed to be reading at that point. A comfort read, full of froth and dress descriptions and a happy ending. And I got to write about an historical period I find fascinating, which meant doing research, and that was totally a plus. When it was done, for the hell of it I sent it to a friend of my mother’s who was an editor, just to see what she thought. And she thought it was good enough to publish. (I went through years and years of guilt because I didn’t “suffer” enough before I was published–but then I decided I wanted to write SF and I faced plenty of rejection; I like to think I got my suffering in there.)
Thirty years later, I look at Althea and it holds up. There are occasional sentences that make me want to take my 22-year-old self aside and say “no, really, honey, no.” It’s not a mature work, as the lit-critics say, and I am pleased to say that my writing has certainly improved since then. But Althea was exactly what I needed it to be then: a fun, frothy entertainment. If you’re in need of a little romance of the popcorn variety, Althea returns to sale today as a BVC e-book. I’m not just delighted to see it available again, I think I’m actually kind of proud of it. The 22-year-old girl typing away in that one-bedroom apartment had no idea what doors that work would open.
Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and a double-handful of short stories which are available on her bookshelf. She has just finished The Salernitan Woman, set in medieval Italy, and a new Sarah Tolerance novel, The Sleeping Partner (coming in Fall 2011 from Plus One Press). Her first Regency romance, Althea, is now available from Book View Café.