Bitchin' Blog Posts
Here’s a unique Bitchery request: old editions of Nora Roberts novels - for academic study!
I’m a graduate student pursuing a PhD on romance, genre and authorship based on Nora Roberts’ oeuvre. For my research I need old editions of Nora’s novels and I have some difficulty getting my hands on old romance novels. I analyze both the text and the paratext - cover, blurbs, etc. - of romance novels, which means that each new edition of a book is important to my analysis, even if no changes to the text have been made.
For example, Nora’s first novel, Irish Thoroughbred, was published in 1981 as Silhouette Romance # 81, reissued in the Language of Love series (# 1) and reissued again in 2000 in a Silhouette mass market compilation volume. I’m looking for all three editions of this book – and many others - but while one can rather easily buy the 2000 edition, it’s far more difficult to get the 1981 or language of love editions.
So, my question is: how should I go about gaining access to old editions of romance novels? I live in Belgium, which makes onling buying of large quantities of novels quite expensive because of shipping costs. As a graduate students my funds are limited.
I asked for more info about her project, because, whoa, dude. Here’s the scoop, if you’re curious and nebby, like I am:
The project is an absolute delight; as a long-time Nora fan I kind of get to turn my hobby into my profession, which is a blast.
Re paratextual analysis, what I’m looking at is how both the genre and the author are represented on the cover and how this changes as the position of the author changes within the genre and within (popular) culture in general. Very basically, if you look at original editions of Nora’s early categories, she’s published just like any beginning category romance author (back then) in a line. The books’ paratext is completely dominated by the line - to the extent that the individual author seems to not really matter; or at least, she’s not focussed upon. The book is presented and sold as “a Harlequin” or “a Silhouette” from a specific line - i.e. it is identified and categorized in terms of genre.
As Nora became more popular, her position within the genre changed. She started publishing single title romances and emerged as an individual author within the genre - which was reflected in the paratext: e.g. her name on the cover became bigger and bigger. The more popular she became - and becomes - the more the focus shifts to the author name ‘Nora Roberts’ instead of the line/publisher/genre - so, eventually the very same novels which were originally sold as romances in a partciular line, are now re-issued and presented as romances by Nora Roberts. Her readers no longer necessarily buy/read ‘a romance novel’ but ‘a Nora Roberts’.
To map and track this change and how it came about - e.g. the role of different publishers played in the process, Nora’s tendencies to write connected books - I want to compare paratexts of different editions of novels. I’ll complement this analysis with a textual analysis - looking at Nora’s particular use of genre conventions, her renegotiating and changing some of those conventions, her tendency to mix in different genres while still respecting and skillfully using the romance framework, etc. In that way I hope to eventually be able to demonstrate how Nora Roberts has “outgrown” the romance genre - her name has become a brand name in itself - both in terms of what she writes, as how this is presented and sold to the reader.
That sounds like a very savvy project. I hope that’s very well received by your professors, An! So what’s the issue?
Well, since An’s in Belgium, and as a grad student, the fundage, it is limited. Hence An is looking for a number of things: “I want to buy all editions of all of Nora Roberts’ novels in English, published between 1981 and 2008. I have two questions: how do I determine which editions exist (I do have the Companion, but only covers reissues until 2003) and how do I get my hands on them?”
Oh! And the Harlequin shop at Lughnassadh Books, which specializes in old Harlequins. If owner Derek Stafford doesn’t have the books you’re looking for, he might be able to find a source for it, or at least trace all the editions you may need.
Any other sources you recommend, Oh Wise Bitchery?