Guest Post

How Reading Romance Shaped Mari Carr As a Writer

Into the Fire
I write because I read. It’s as simple as that. I grew up with my nose in a book and, as my mother would say, my head in the clouds. I truly believe reading enhances and builds imagination. In my case, it built it up to the point where I had a million stories inside my head fighting to get out on to the page. Looking back, I can almost chart my course from reader to romance writer by simply looking at the stories I’ve read.

I read my first romance book in middle school. I checked Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret out from the library no less than a dozen times in sixth grade. I was enthralled and scandalized by the kissing in the closet scene! Then, my mother gave me another book by Judy Blume. Forever.

My mother, ever the teacher, handed it to me the summer before tenth grade with the words, “We’ll talk about it when you’re finished.” I read it in one day. For those of you who haven’t read the book, it’s a great story about a teenage girl’s first time. After I finished the book, my mother asked, “What did you learn?” I said, “I learned that if you really love someone, it’s okay to have sex.” My mother said, “No, you learned you should wait until after marriage.” The fight that day was epic and in the end, my mother didn’t try to instruct me with books after that. Now, as adults, we still laugh whenever that story is told!

Of course, when I look back, I realize both my parents were instrumental in guiding my future career as a romance writer. My father was a HUGE fan of romance books (and shhh…even the erotic ones). I stealthily lifted his copies of Jackie Collins’ Lucky Santangelo books all the time. He caught me reading one once and after the initial shock wore off, he simply said, “Don’t let your mother catch you with that.”

By high school, I was guiding my own way through fiction. My all-time favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. It was assigned in sophomore English. I read it three times in the time it took the class to read it once. Harper Lee’s characters were so real to me, I felt like I knew them. I learned there is power in words. I constantly quote lines from the book and I cry at the end…every time.

As an adult, I discovered Regency romance novels and the bodice-rippers of the eighties when a librarian handed me Iris Johannsen’s My Beloved Scoundrel. I devoured it. It was the epic tale of a jaded, but lovable (snort) hero, a sympathetic, spunky heroine and some of the hottest sex scenes I’d ever read. I was hooked, reading romance novels by the boxful, finishing three or four a week. I was married with two young kids and those books were my escape from days filled with the evil day job, housecleaning, and diapers. In a sort of corny way, I think they saved me, got me through the rough times, and encouraged me to keep going.

Through books, I’d been slowly building a bridge between my reader self and the writer dying to emerge. Two series closed the gap and encouraged me to finally make that leap. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series are some of the best books I’ve ever read. I admired the way those authors created characters that were real, worlds that were magical, stories that kept readers turning the page until the very end, and then making them want even more. Gabaldon’s books made me believe in the power of romance and the wonder of true love and I try to bring those feelings out in my stories.

So why do I write? Because I read.

My latest story is one that I am most proud of. After a decade of storytelling, I’ve found my books reflect where I am and who I am. Into the Fire is the story of a woman who has suffered terrible loss in her past. Because of that, she has set boundaries as a way to protect her heart from any more pain. That’s all well and good…until she crosses paths with a Compass Boy.

The Compass stories have been a major part of my life since 2011. I know this family. And while they may be fictional…to me, they are very, very real.

Into the FireINTO THE FIRE

James Compton is a man of two worlds. For half the year, he’s Seth’s oldest boy, working with his family and the horses on Compass Ranch. The other half, he’s Jamie, a daring smokejumper on the West Yellowstone Squad. Those two halves make him feel whole, happy, satisfied. Until he meets his boss’s daughter, Ivy…

Ivy Wagner’s life should be complete. College degree in hand, she’s excited to embark on her career as a large-animal vet. Add in the attention of one very sexy James Compton, and her future should be all sunshine and steamy shared showers. However, a shattering loss in her past ensures Ivy will never date a smokejumper…no matter how perfect for her James may be.

As the couple grows closer, it’s clear they’re headed for a day of reckoning. Ivy can’t lose someone she loves to a raging wildfire, and James may be incapable of giving up a vital part of himself, of living half a life.

When James faces his own loss, the pair are forced to confront their individual demons. What will they willingly let go of…and what will they choose to fight for?


Writing a book was number one on Mari Carr’s bucket list and on her thirty-fourth birthday, she set out to see that goal achieved. Too many years later, her computer is jammed full of stories, novels, novellas, short stories and dead-ends and she has nearly eighty published works. Virginia native, Mari Carr is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller of contemporary erotic romance novels. With over one million copies of her books sold, Mari was the winner of the Romance Writers of America’s Passionate Plume award for her novella, Erotic Research. Join her newsletter so you don’t miss new releases and for exclusive subscriber-only content.

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