Historical writer Kathleen Shoop explains how she ended up entering the romance sphere.
Okay, so I’ve always been a fan of sappy romantic comedies. I used to binge on romance novels. And, I’ve adored history since I first noticed my parents’ bookshelves bursting with thick hardbacks; I love the dark, digging into the nitty-gritty details of facts and research. But for some reason I’d never merged romance and history into my writing — well, not until a little over a year ago.
I was invited to contribute a novella to a romance anthology called Bliss. Each author would contribute a story that was set in the same house on the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. But, each story would be set in a different era. I’d never written romance before, although I’d say that some of my novels definitely had elements of “love” woven into them.
Could I do it? Did I want to? Well, I gave it a shot and fell madly in love with writing love. My first draft of Home Again (book one in the Endless Love series) was bulky even in its novella length. My editor, Sue, sent the manuscript back to me with the note “get rid of nearly everyone and everything that is not related to the main characters falling in love.”
Whaaat? Well, okay, I thought. Then what? I was used to shaping and molding 120,000-word historical novels that embodied entire worlds for each character including the secondary ones. I didn’t even know what she meant — how could there be a story without all that other stuff unrelated to falling in love? I panicked. I went for a cleansing walk. And, I felt a calm settle over me as my mind unwound and I realized what she meant. My mind traipsed back through all the books I’d read, the movies I’d seen, my own experiences with falling in love. It was simple and clear — when people are falling in love, there IS nothing else in life for them.
What fun it became to craft this first novella. These characters had lives, of course. Set in 1969 in a place in that which I was unfamiliar, I still needed to do my trusty research. I still needed to build atmosphere and tone into each scene, and my characters still needed something to do. I felt such freedom in crafting a story that always needed to circle back to just two people — falling in love, encountering obstacles, the passion, the worry if they should really be together… the water, the warm North Carolina air, Vietnam, Woodstock, April and Hale — always going back to them.
Well, I wrote the novella, it sits among its sibling novellas in Bliss and it also went into the world on its own, being named a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. It’s been rewarding. But, the real reward has been that I fell in love with April and Hale and I knew their story would not end with that short, but lovely first tale. I’ve written the next chapters of their lives in the novel, Return to Love.
This young couple is separated by war and though the book doesn’t cover them first meeting (that’s in the novella), their love is always fresh and new because each time they come back together when Hale is on leave, they find familiarity in their embrace, in their touch, in each kiss, but there is an ocean of emotional distance to cross each time. Yes, this couple fascinates me. Writing light, writing romance is just as fulfilling as the heavier, “deeper,” historical fiction stuff. I just hope that readers find April and Hale as fun and captivating as I do.
April and Hale Abercrombie’s love is tender and sweet. While he serves in Vietnam, their marriage is marked by trust and the belief that they will grow old together with a gaggle of grandchildren at their feet. But, their charmed marriage changes in the face of losing their newborn daughter.
On leave from his tour, Hale can barely wait to hold his wife and her help her heal. When he arrives, his embrace, his touch, and his love are as perfect as April remembered. Their reunion is passionate and their physical connection is strong and soothing. But, April’s heartache remains. Hale stumbles through his attempts to prove to April that their future will be rich and full of wonder. His good-hearted, but take-charge approach causes her to retreat. Even in grief, April can see Hale’s earnestness, yet she finds solace in putting space between them.
They must learn trust that real love will endure even in the face of all that has gone wrong. Set on the beaches of the Outer Banks, Return to Love is the second book in the Endless Love series. Book one, Home Again, was named a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Kathleen Shoop holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.