The New Yorker Profiles Nora Roberts

Oh, let us celebrate the positive press about the romance! This week, in the 22 June issue, Nora Roberts is profiled in The New Yorker – alas, the article is not available online but I’m begging for a PDF to post here as soon as possible.

As part of their “Profiles” section, Lauren Collins takes a look at the career and impact Nora Roberts has had on publishing and American fiction. From personal history to a discussion of Roberts’ online marketing chops – including appearances on AOL chat rooms, blogs like this here site, and her own bulletin board, ADWOFF – Collins’ profile is very, very well done, and of a well-deserving subject, too.

In the New Yorker podcast interview with Lauren Collins,, the host, Curtis Fox, discusses his own embarrassment at checking out a Nora Roberts novel in preparation for the interview, and then goes on to ask about romance – why is it dismissed and ignored, and what did Collins learn about the genre as part of the article research. Collins namechecks us as the source for the basic summary of romance novels, which was written by Candy: “Boy meets girl. Holy crap, shit happens! Eventually, the boy gets the girl back. They live Happily Ever After.”

Nora herself also appears as part of the interview.

I have to say, the degree of preparation that Collins revealed in her own writing was considerable: she references the plot and characters of several novels from Nora’s career, as well as narrative habits and character attributes that are unique to Roberts’ protagonists. When I did the phone interview with Collins, she asked me what I thought were some of Nora’s trademarks in her writing. I said without a doubt the triple infinitive – “to taste, to grab, to experience” for example – and she said, “Oh, yeah, I noticed that one, too.” Collins did her homework.

And the result from my perspective is an article that balances very well. Anyone curious about Roberts has plenty to read about while someone who may be derisive of the idea that a romance novelist appears in The New Yorker is served up some steamingly impressive stats to possibly cause them to rethink their attitude about romance and the women who write it. She quotes me as well, and the start of the article mentions how many Nora Roberts scenes were referenced in this thread when I asked about your favorite pieces of dialogue from romance.

If I had to pick a favorite piece of this article, I think it might be this one:

Listening to the give-and-take between Roberts and her fans is like eavesdropping on the collective unconscious of American women.

In all, well played. The issue is on newsstands now, or you can buy digital access for the single issue. If I can get permission to include it, I’ll post it.

 

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  1. 1
    SonomaLass says:

    Thanks, SB Sarah, for covering this.  I LOVE the quote!

  2. 2
    Laura (in PA) says:

    Can’t wait to read it. I think I’ll be stopping on the way home to find the issue. I was at a book signing at Nora’s husband’s bookstore several months ago, and the New Yorker writer was there, sitting behind Nora, all day. She also talked to a few of the attendees. She obviously spent a lot of time on this.

    Thanks, Sarah – Now I need to check out that post about favorite dialogue. Which will probably burn my afternoon. Oh well, who wants to work anyway? ;)

  3. 3
    azteclady says:

    I never buy magazines, but if I can’t read it online I may go buy the dead tree version.

  4. 4
    DianeN says:

    Gotta love The New Yorker—they can always be counted on for well-researched, in depth articles on a huge range of subjects. It seems like every time I pick one up there are multiple articles that are “must reads,” and they’re frequently about something I had no idea would fascinate me! I once had a subscription, and I even managed to read them in a timely manner—no small feat, since they’re a weekly publication. Sadly, I ran out of both time and money, and I had to let the mag go. But this one I will buy for sure!!

  5. 5

    Can’t wait to read it.  I think it will force me to actually go buy The New Yorker rather than walking past my newsstand every week and thinking I should buy The New Yorker.

  6. 6
    Nora Roberts says:

    I think the article came off very well—and SB Sarah is quoted, lavishly.

  7. 7
    Janet W says:

    I have a subscription—actually a gift from my dad and his wife—and he is such a fan his shower curtain displays New Yorker covers. This summer, when the whole family is gathered in Cape Cod, the New Yorker stamp of approval for La Nora and books like hers will make it a LOT easier for me to hit every UBS in sight and then sit on the sand and read my newly acquired treasures. Not one has forgotten the summer I read every single Georgette Heyer—again.

    Can’t wait to read this article!

  8. 8
    Stancje says:

    I’ve read a piece of that while at my friends’ recently but didn’t get a chance to finish it. I’d really appreciate the pdf version.

  9. 9
    SB Sarah says:

    Alas, the New Yorker has said Hell to the NO on the PDF version. WOE, I has it.

  10. 10
    shuzluva says:

    Annoying that they won’t let you post, but I’m not surprised. I’ll buy it because I’m dying to read the article.

    That quote is priceless.

  11. 11

    Good to see SB Sarah in the first line of a New Yorker article! I agree, well played piece (just locked myself in bathroom to read it!)

  12. 12
    Diane says:

    You can actually read the entire article for free when you click on “Digital Edition – Free Preview” in the upper right corner of The New Yorker’s website—gets you four free digital editions of “The New Yorker”.

    It was a great article.

  13. 13
    SarahT says:

    What Diane said. I just signed up for the ‘New Yorker’ digital edition preview and was able to access the article. It’s very detailed and well worth reading.

  14. 14
    aninsomniac says:

    “Listening to the give-and-take between Roberts and her fans is like eavesdropping on the collective unconscious of American women. “

    Not just American! XD

  15. 15
    Erin says:

    This is an interesting post in light of the interview with North Carolina librarian Jennifer Lohman re: presenting romances to library students.  Here is Nora Roberts, queen of American romance, profiled in the New Yorker, which Lohman uses as an example of “formulaic” writing.  I myself am a librarian and closeted romance fan, slightly ashamed to admit how hard it is for me to display some of the racier covers.  Maybe articles like this will make it a little easier!

    I do enjoy Nora’s books, but her “triple infinitive” makes my brain twitch.  Do.  Not.  Want.

  16. 16
    Esri Rose says:

    Got my copy today. The very first line is:

    Last summer, Sarah Wendell, an editor of the Web site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, posed a question to her readers:

    I counted three mentions of you in all, and they got the name of the book in, too. Congratulations!

  17. 17
    Teresa says:

    Curtis could have always said he was buying Nora for his wife, girlfriend, sister, etc…. I hope he gets over his embarrassment.  Besides, aren’t men supposed to be “sensitive” these days?  AND, there are men who read Nora.  AND if he had done is research, he could have bought JD Robb, her alter ego.

  18. 18
    Jess B. says:

    A little late to the game, but thanks for the alert to the article! I finally bought and read it last night. Thought the whole thing was wonderfully researched and a rather fair representation of the genre (not to mention an awesome insight into La Nora). I was just mildly annoyed by this one line: “Most writers have worked out the kinks in their writing by the time they are published, but in romance many writers develop on the job.”

    I don’t know what she intended, but when I combined that line to the several references to romance writers in general being self-taught, it just came off a little snide to me. Especially since it seems to imply that an (literary) author is only ready for publishing once they have mastered their craft, as if writing is not as much a practice as medicine. Yes, there is a certain amount of baseline knowledge required (though for in the case of writing, as opposed to medicine, a traditional education is not nearly as necessary), but one of the reasons Nora and other authors retain their popularity and constantly gain new fans is that same professional growth.

    I might be reading too much into this statement, so I’m sorry to bring the negativity, it just really annoyed me and I wanted to see if anyone else had a similar feeling.

  19. 19
    SarahT says:

    @Jess B: I also found that line a little off. It sounded as though she was implying newbie romance writers are allowed to publish crap and will stay published as long as they improve over time. I doubt this is true for any genre.

  20. 20
    Laura (in PA) says:

    I finally got my hands on a copy of the magazine, and read the article. I think it’s pretty respectful of Nora and the genre. I loved some of the quotes showing Nora’s salty way of speaking, especially the one referring to the “nursing mother covers”. Lol.

    I was also excited to see my “title” from the Adwoff board mentioned in the part discussing her interaction with that board. :)

  21. 21
    Laer Carroll says:

    Perhaps the “in romance many writers develop on the job” quote is true in category romance, but the few I dipped into recently were surprisingly well-written. The only problem with them was that they tended to be schematic and cliched, but only what you’d expect from a publishing category that is intended to be fast-paced, suitable for a reader who may have two jobs and a family to care for and only gets to read for fun on the subway.

    I’m a long-time (male) fan of romance, a professional non-fiction writer, working to become a pro fiction writer. I’m VERY critical of writing, and very sensitive to the all the levels of skill from word choice to how to structure an epic. But when I look at the first books by my favorite romance writers such as Georgette Heyer, Mary Balogh, and Roberts I see amazing talent and I can only hope that my books approach their level of skill.

    Laer Carroll

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