Maryville romance writer hits success with favorite genre
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Who are the romance writers of the world, and more importantly, who are the successful ones?
In Maryville, it’s Janice Maynard, wife of a United Methodist minister, mother of two daughters, grandmother of three and former elementary school teacher.
Maynard, who taught kindergarten and second grade for 16 years in Sevier County, sold her first romance novel in 1996. She wrote her first four for Kensington Publishing, then several for Penguin before signing on with Harlequin a few years ago.
There are now 20 books with her name on the cover and her characters inside who inevitably find themselves in some sassy, spicy, saucy situations. Two of them have made the USA Today Best-Selling Books list. She has contracts for four more that will be coming out between now and January 2013.
Maynard’s great aunt can take some of the credit for instilling a love for books and gift of a creative imagination. Maynard was just a teen when she had total liberties to raid her aunt’s book collection.
“She was my grandmother’s sister and they lived in the same house,” Maynard said. “She would let me pull anything off her bookcase. I am sure I read things I never should have at that age.”
And there were the fall festivals at her junior high school where grocery carts full of Harlequins grabbed Maynard’s attention. “They were all 10 cents a piece and I was a book junkie,” this author admitted.
Just starting out
She and husband, Charles, lived in Chattanooga and dated in high school. They were married after their sophomore year at college and managed to graduate on time. Charles became a United Methodist minister and Janice, a teacher. They have two children. Janice said while she absolutely loved being a teacher, she had always secretly hoped she could take a talent for writing and turn it into a second career. One with no early mornings.
One day she came home after a day of teaching to find a message on her answering machine. It was from an editor interested in her story pitch. And that’s how it all started.
Not that those 20 books all came in rapid succession. Maynard said as her two daughters were entering high school and college, she didn’t do much to promote that new career. Kensington gave her a contract for more books in 2003, and Maynard made the smart decision in 2004 to acquire an agent and see how far a dream can go.
“That made a huge difference,” Maynard said. “Some publishers won’t look at anything unless it’s from an agent. The other thing is, if I send something to a publisher, it might be nine or 10 months before I hear anything. You are just eating up big blocks of time. An agent can cut that way down.”
When Maynard’s career in romance writing began to take off, her husband was director of Friends of the Smokies. Later he worked in fundraising for the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. Today, Charles serves as Maryville district superintendent for the conference.
So what kinds of reaction does Janice get from folks who read her sensual novels, knowing the strong link she has to the United Methodist church?
“If there are people out there who think it’s terrible, they haven’t told me,” she said. “Most people are very complimentary.”
If you’ve never read a romance novel, they do focus on a relationship, and there is a happy ending. But, Maynard said they are a lot like other genres. There is no ‘formula’ to crafting the stories of love and passion. Murder mysteries must have a murder, a western has a certain locale and crime stories have their police presence, she said. That’s the flavor of genre fiction.
“Romances are like any other kind of fiction except the focus of the story is a relationship rather than a military coup or a detective case, etc.,” she explained. “I really believe most people, even men, would find they enjoy the work of many romance writers I know.”
Husband Charles is also a writer, having published series of books for school libraries in addition to a book on the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also a storyteller and avid outdoorsman who advocates for a well-kept planet.
Janice said the demographics of who reads romance novels are women ages 20 up to 80. She said of all the paperback fiction sold in the U.S., over 50 percent are romance novels. About 10 percent of the readership is men, she said.
From the heart
After writing 20 such books with more on the way, one might start considering Maynard a relationship expert, which she says she is not. She does have 37 years of marriage to draw from, and a real interest in the human heart.
“I am just fascinated by relationships between men and women,” she said. “Some work out and some don’t. Some are lucky to find their soulmate early on. There are others who have never found the right person. I believe in the power of a relationship that’s really strong.”
Romance novels are a source of entertainment and they reveal personal encounters some feel uncomfortable talking about. Maynard said God created us to enjoy sex, which is a natural part of marriage. She doesn’t write anything degrading women or victimizing a female character.
“Romance fiction at its best celebrates the fact that when a man and a woman find love and commit to marriage, all of life’s hardships become a bit easier to bear,” she said. “I think if more couples decided to read romance novels together, marriage would be a lot more fun.”