By Caro Carson
It all started when I was a teenager. A book arrived in the day’s mail, a promotional freebie from a publisher named Silhouette, whose marketing department had aimed at my mother. They missed. She wasn’t interested, but she was an English teacher who loved books too much to throw one away. I can remember, as clear as day, how she walked into my bedroom and handed it to me. “Would you like to read this?” she asked, like it was no big deal.
In a way, it wasn’t. She handed me books all the time, too many to count over the years, from Madeline to Little Women to Pride and Prejudice. This slender paperback, though, this was different. It had grown-ups on the cover, a man and a woman, and they were almost-kissing.
Why yes, my fourteen-year-old self would like to read this, indeed.
The book was highly educational. For one thing, the main characters got past the almost-kissing phase and spent an entire page French kissing. The whole tongue thing was kind of gross, but rather fascinating all the same. I couldn’t figure out why the heroine found his “hard thigh” so wonderful to be pressed against, but the biggest surprise of all was the ending. The angry, swaggering, unreachable, wealthy man ended up confessing that he was helplessly in love with the heroine. Forever.
I didn’t see that coming, I swear to you.
That summer, I realized the library had a whole shelf of slender paperbacks, row after row of books like the one my mom had given me. I wasn’t loyal to any particular line, but I did start seeking out particular authors, choosing the books whose spines said Nora Roberts, Penny Jordan, Anne Mathur, and more. Many, many more. I read one book–a category romance–every single day.
It seems obvious I’d grow up to major in English like my mother, and then write for Harlequin Special Edition, doesn’t it? But no. I was strangely good at math, and the history and traditions of the military dazzled me, so I ended up with an engineering degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point. I became a Military Police officer, went to Airborne school, deployed to Panama. I left the military to work for a pharmaceutical company, and spent my days talking with physicians about cell membrane calcium ion transport. Marriage and motherhood, with their demands and rewards, filled my life.
A decade (or more, but who’s counting?) passed this way, until one day, after browsing the limited book selection at a grocery store on my lunch break, I couldn’t find a book I wanted to read. I went back to my car, opened my laptop, and started to write. And when I finally, finally started to write, the story that came out of my head was a category romance. I think it was ingrained in my brain at the tender age of fourteen that the best books were the ones where boy meets girl and love wins in the end.
This month marks the debut of my first published novel, a Harlequin Special Edition called Doctor, Soldier, Daddy. It’s the first book in my first series, “The Doctors MacDowell.” Some day in the far future, I hope I can look back on a long career as a romance novelist and say it all began in September 2013. But between you and me, it all started when a publisher named Silhouette sent my mother a free book in the mail.
I’ve got a couple of questions for you, if you don’t mind me asking. Do you remember how your love of romance novels began? Does anything in particular stick with you from that first book? Do you still like the same type of romances you first started reading? Do you—sorry, maybe I’m asking too many questions. I can get carried away. If you care to comment, I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say! Cheers!