The first book I remember flipping through was a pop-up Greek mythology book. It had these great “statues” of the gods along with simple tales about them—including love affairs. I loved that book. I paged through it until it began to fall apart. This is a pretty typical story. Most kids have other picture books, usually featuring kittens and puppies. Not me—well, I probably had them, but I don’t remember them.
What I do remember was curling up next to my grandmother (I couldn’t sit on her, because she’d had cancer and was going through treatments) while she read me her Harlequin romances. Yep, at the age of three, she fed me a steady diet of boy meets girl, secret babies, millionaire bosses, Cinderella tales, and more. She really didn’t like picture books, but she did love her Harlequins.
Whenever the scene might get “steamy” she would tell me the characters had to go to bed to take a nap or they had to do their chores. Even after I learned to read, she would take an hour each evening and read aloud to me from these magical tales where everything worked out in the end.
It was a natural extension for me to see romance in everything I watched, whether it was Star Wars or Superman or Grease. (Not really hard to see it in Grease, I know!) Part of that was because I liked seeing the friction between people turn into loyalty and love and partly because I really do believe in that happily ever after. Yes, it takes work to achieve, but if all these characters could find it, then so could the rest of us.
Don’t forget, I got to watch this huge fairytale wedding on television in 1981 when Lady Diana Spencer wed Prince Charles. I was also hugely invested in the Trixie Belden series and shipping Trixie and Jim (this was before I even knew what a ship was) and I loved my New Teen Titan comic books and rooted for the couples like Robin (he wasn’t Nightwing yet) and Starfire, and more.
My grandmother took ill later that year, and she was bedridden. I remember wanting to do something for her—anything—so I pulled out one of her Harlequins and read it to her. She drifted in and out, but I can still see her smile as I read—then I found my first steamy scene.
Eye opening, because that was a very strange way to take a nap. Taking a page from her book (pardon the pun), I skipped over it and kept reading. I read her several books that winter, then just kept reading them for myself. I have never forgotten my very first Harlequin. It was written by Penny Jordan and it was named Escape from Desire.
Over the years, my passion for romance continued to be fueled by shows like Hart to Hart and Moonlighting, and movies like Dirty Dancing, When Harry Met Sally, Return of the Jedi (Han and Leia forever) and so many more. When I started writing at fifteen, it was no surprise that a troubled romance was at the center of my action/adventure/superhero tale.
When I got married, my husband wanted the whole romance package and our wedding at DisneyWorld included a ride in Cinderella’s carriage. The surreality of it all had me laughing all the way through the wedding, but I gotta admit, it was romantic and magical.
When we ran into some roadblocks and separated for a time, I threw myself into my writing and embraced my romance couples. I worked out my anxiety and took encouragement from these disparate individuals overcoming their obstacles. In some ways, my writing romance became both therapy and support as the hubby and I worked out our issues. I believe in the HEA, but I also know it takes work and the more you invest, the greater the rewards.
Three years ago, I had surgery on my spine and when I first woke up, I was terrified. I understood what it meant to have pain shred my thoughts and at first I couldn’t lift my arms. This very real fear that they’d paralyzed me locked up my brain, but I made it through the next several hours because I held onto hope. When they kept me in the hospital for three days, the hubby brought me romance movies, and a couple of audiobooks—romance was my companion through the worst of it.
My passion for romance has sustained me through good times and bad, because I still believe in hope and happily ever after!
USA Today best-selling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas summertime. From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories—her characters drive the books. When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.
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