The Cultural Gutter

we've seen things you people wouldn't believe

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

Everybody’s Hero

Chris Szego
Posted August 30, 2007

She's Number One!The Harry Potter books are an oddity in the book world. Not just because they sell so well, but because of how they sell – or rather, when. Each book has a strangely limited shelf life. Rowling’s newest title might sell three-quarters of a million copies in 24 hours, but then, well, it’s pretty much over. Sales fall off the map. Each of her books is the Best-Selling Book Evar!, but only for a week. Every other week, every other day, the best-selling author in the world is Nora Roberts.

Some of that is sheer logistics. Backlist is what truly powers an author’s career. Rowling has seven books. As I write this, Nora has more than 175 titles in print, and the gods alone know how many reprints. The real estate she occupies in terms of shelf space is truly extraordinary. There are so many reissues, repackages and omnibus editions of her work that her publishers brand each previously unpublished title with a stylized ‘NR’, so her legions of readers will know what’s actually new.

Which still gives readers lots to choose from. Roberts usually has five or six new titles each year. That number used to be higher, seven, eight, even nine, but in the late nineties, Nora stopped writing category romances (‘category’ is an industry term for line novels, like those of Mills & Boon, Harlequin, and Silhouette). Nora was, in fact, one of the primary reasons for the success of Silhouette Books, which began as a category imprint of Simon & Schuster. After the bloody publishing house wars of the mid-eighties, Harlequin emerged triumphant, but kept all the Silhouette lines as a separate imprint within their romance empire. Roberts continued to write for Silhouette throughout, even as she branched off into writing more mainstream titles for Bantam. Eventually, she moved to Putnam where, in the words of my Putnam rep, “she finally found an editor who could keep up with her”.

noranew.gif
The story of Nora’s start is well known in romance circles, and loved with fairy-tale familiarity. It’s also vintage Nora. At the time, Roberts was a young single mother with two small (and energetic) sons. Trapped indoors by a blizzard that kept school cancelled for days, her only respite was the writing break she allowed herself in the afternoons. The boys were told not to interrupt unless there was fire or blood. Practicality, humour and hard work: these are some of the reasons Roberts is such a huge success. It took a few tries and several manuscripts, but in 1981, Irish Thoroughbred was published by Silhouette, and a publishing legend was born.

Sounds melodramatic, eh? ‘Legend’. But it’s true. In the publishing world, Nora Roberts is Babe Ruth and Wayne Gretzky combined. She has won every award in the field multiple times. She has had more books on the New York Times list than any other author, in the number one spot, no less. She was a founding member of the Romance Writers of America, and the first person inducted into the Romance Writers Hall of Fame. Last year alone, four of her books were made into movies for the Lifetime Channel, and earlier this year, on Time Magazine’s list of the top 100 Artists and Entertainers, Nora was #7.

Her stratospheric career has not been entirely free from strife. Janet Dailey, herself a successful romance novelist, inexplicably plagiarized one of Roberts’ novels. Nora sued and won. But she didn’t dwell, and she wasn’t vindictive. She donated the settlement to a literacy foundation, and moved on.

The wellspring of Nora’s creativity is grounded by a work ethic of pure steel. Her book tour schedules read like a Spartan death march: TV spot at 6am, radio at 7, warehouse by 8 to sign a thousand copies of the new hardcover, then off to the bookstore for noon… and it goes on like that for weeks. But tours aside, she doesn’t live the jet-set lifestyle. Her family is her centre. And besides, she always more stories to tell. Well-grounded, well-liked by her collegues, and well-loved by her fans: that’s Nora Roberts.

~~~

Chris Szego thinks the world would be a better place if more authors acted like Nora while on tour.

Comments

2 Responses to “Everybody’s Hero”

  1. Henrie Timmers
    August 30th, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

    I’ve never read Nora Roberts’ romance stories, but under her pen name of JD Robb, I’ve read all of her books. I admire her work ethic and ability to write creatively and constantly. Writing is not a hobby and not to be taken lightly. Real writers rely on perspiration more than inspiration!

  2. Christopher
    September 28th, 2007 @ 3:01 am

    Good reasoning

Leave a Reply





  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Actor, director, writer and artist Leonard Nimoy has died. Nimoy was most famous for playing Spock in Star Trek, but he also appeared in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), In Search Of…, Ancient Mysteries, Columbo, Fringe, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Faerie Tale Theatre, Mission: Impossible, Dragnet and Bonanza.  Nimoy directed Three Men And A Baby (1987), two Star Trek films and an episode of Night Gallery (“Death on a Barge”) among others. The New York Times and The Guardian have obituaries. Here are some tweets from William Shatner’s online memorial for Nimoy. George Takei remembers Nimoy. Zachary Quinto remembers Nimoy. EW also has other remembrances, including one from President Obama. Code Switch’s Steve Haruch discusses Spock’s importance as a biracial character. Nimoy talks about his work at the Archive of American Television. You can see some of Nimoy’s photography here. And a reminder that Nimoy had an Etsy shop.

    ~

    At Graveyard Shift Sisters, Ashlee Blackwell considers Jonathan Demme’s Beloved as a horror film as part of their Black History & Women In Horror Month series. “Beloved takes us on one journey of the Black American experience of slavery through the body of a Black female protagonist.”

    ~

    Watch Nigerian writer and director Nosa Igbinedion’s Oya: The Coming Of The Orishas here.

    ~

    At Bitch Media, Sara Century wonders why Michonne isn’t in charge and considers which medium is better for the ladies of The Walking Dead: comics or tv. “As I was thinking about the numerous questionable writing choices made with these could-be-so-great female characters, I got to wondering, which medium is better for the ladies of The Walking Dead: the TV show or the comic? In other words, which one is less sexist?

    I wrote up a short list of the main female characters that appear both on the show and in the comic to decipher the differences in how these women are written. These descriptions contain spoilers through season five of the TV show, because it’s impossible to write about The Walking Dead without talking about how people die all the time.”

    ~

    Vixen Varsity shares Olufemi Lee-Johnson’s tribute to Milestone Media and Dwayne McDuffie. “For the first time in my life, I was around comic writers of color telling stories that mirror or surpassed the storylines of America’s favorite heroes. Icon dealt with being the ultimate immigrant and not understanding current black culture. Rocket (Raquel Irvin) was his guide, but also aspired to be more than just a woman in the projects. Static (Virgil Hawkins) was just a normal teenager dealing with fitting into school and then was put into this extraordinary circumstance of being a hero. Hardware (Curtis Metcalf) wanted respect from his mentor, but later learned about the bigger picture when it came to being a hero and the characters from Blood Syndicate…they were just trying to make it day by day and maintain their respect as a gang.”

    ~

    At Soundcheck, John Schaefer talks with Jim Jarmusch about “making music for someone else’s films, and a penchant for walking the tightrope between narrative and abstract art in his own movies. And if you thought his C.V. was looking a little thin, Jarmusch is also working on an upcoming opera about the Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, with Robert Wilson and composer Phil Kline.” (Thanks, Kate!)

    ~

  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

    -------

  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: