Monday, January 29, 2007

The Gellis Interview

Many years ago (No my very dears, The Dean shall not reveal that exact number) in a university not all that far away.....
The Dean was but a lowly graduate student with an academically radical idea--that the Romance genre was an important component of publishing and Romance writers were the lifeline of many small independent bookstores (yes The Dean knows it is almost unbelievable, but this was in the time Before B, B&N, and A).

But The Dean's graduate advisor scoffed at The Dean's ideas and refused to believe until confronted with real evidence. So The Dean (perhaps more properly labeled the grad student) did some laborious research--in that far off time there was no Internet *gasp*--and found a conference of the Romance Writer's of America at which the guest of honor was to be none other than (da da da!) Roberta Gellis.

So after much leg work and setting up of interview times, the grad student threw all her RG books in a bag and took off for the conference. The grad student met Ms Gellis in the lobby of the hotel and almost didn't recognize her because her hair was beautifully brilliantly silver white, but the only picture of Ms Gellis had been on the back of the hardback library copy was an old black and white showing her with black hair.

We talked for over two hours about all facets of writing and that's when Ms Gellis told the grad student that she was very proud of her Gothic romance, as it was one of the first she had written, although not the first she had sold.

The grad student asked about the seeming confusion in the order of publishing Knight's Honor was the first published, but Bond of Blood clearly comes first (The Dean admits that the grad student was a bit of a book geek). Ms Gellis told the grad student that Bond of Blood was written first but was only commercially viable after the success of Knight's Honor and that furthermore there was another chapter at the beginning showing Leah's younger childhood days before she is married.

Other revelations were that the character of Simon Lemange is really based on William Marshal (who has a small cameo in Roselynde) because he was a fascinating historical figure, but RG wanted the freedom to send her characters where the story needed to go. Ms Gellis also revealed that she had never really considered her historicals to be primarily romances but was happy to have a new audience. Before the end of the interview, Ms Gellis asked the grad student which was her favorite of the books and then signed that one:

"To (grad student) who is doing a thesis and raising romance to literature. Roberta Gellis" (The Dean allows a small sigh of remembered pleasure)

Many years later, The Dean contacted Ms Gellis again (this time through the delightful medium of email and engaged in a delightful conversation with Ms Gellis again. At that time RG revealed that at the time The Dean interviewed her, RG was quite nervous because that was her very first romance conference where readers also came and she had been quite nervous. She seemed just as wonderful as The Dean remembered.

Another reminder from that conference was finding out that one of the hot names in romance was really a collaboration of two middle aged women from the Midwest somewhere. The Dean still sees those books on shelves (one assumes that the partnership kept bringing in additional writers or the retirement home has some interesting activities for their residents).

The Dean has been remiss in not posting this interview before but hope it met your expectations, particularly dear Colleen. Remember that authors put some part of themselves in every book so treat them gently a bit, my dears. To write is nowhere near as much fun as to read--this is not to say that they do not have some responsibility to get better (see author sins), but they are doing all the heavy lifting for the enjoyment of the readers, so complete snarkiness (The Dean deplores the use of these peculiar onomatopoeia words but it seems the coin of the blogworld realm) while momentarily amusing in some situations, really smacks of self-satisfied grand standing. Very bad form, my dears.

From The Dean's Desk

The Dean


Colleen Gleason said...

Ahhh...thank you for putting me out of my misery, O The Dean.

I hope that Ms Gellis comes to RWA National this year so that I can do another fangurl swoon.

Next to Roarke, Ian de Vipont is my favorite hero.

And...I'm going on a search for Sing Witch, Sing Death. Never heard of it!

Next up: MPM stuff???

The Dean said...

From The Dean's Desk:

My very dear Colleen,
The Dean agrees absolutely that the next point of discussion should be MPM. Maybe starting with her Gothics is the way to go. Of course, only a very few of our dear readers are probably at all conversant with those older tomes, but The Dean believes deeply in perseverence in pursuit of knowledge.

Lindsay said...

It's too bad not every grad student had the freedom I enjoyed. My department was surprisingly supportive of my research on romantic fiction. Of course this is the age when I can go online and quickly dig up fantastic sales figures for the genre; this usually worked to convince them that the research was not useless or needless. It also helped that my discipline often lends itself to the examination of pop culture.
Did you go on to complete such research? If so, I for one would love to hear about it.

The Dean said...

From The Dean's Desk:

My dear Lindsay,

What a delight it is to The Dean that graduate education is so enlightened these days. How uncharacteristically refreshing. And charming that data is now available--The Dean interviewed, mailed, researched and generally wore out shoe leather and car tires finding all this material.

The Dean did not in fact publish this thesis after the idiot major professor (Euro American, elderly gentle soul but not much advanced in the notion of popular culture and commerce--and he blushed at the open sex scenes) said he simply could not bring himself to read it. However, all was not in vain, as The Dean gave two very cogent and well received presentations at academic conferences. Not thrilling, but in academe, what is the lowly curriculum vitae-starved grad student to do?

The Dean

Colleen Gleason said...

Hey! Hey! I'm on your list! WOOOT!

I'm on a list with EP/BM and Gellis! A list! Together. With them!

Yay! Thank you!

And thanks for coming by my blog.