Nora Roberts, known to many as the "Queen of Romance," is a powerhouse in the world of literature, having penned over 225 romance novels, under her own name and various pseudonyms. With a writing career that spans several decades, Roberts has earned the distinction of being the first author inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Her books have spent a staggering 861 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list, with an impressive 176 of those weeks at the number-one spot.
Nora Roberts, born Eleanor Marie Robertson on October 10, 1950, in Silver Spring, Maryland, is the youngest of five children. Her Irish ancestry and the love of books within her family have greatly influenced her life and writing. While Roberts always had an active imagination, she did not start writing until later in life, with her earliest efforts limited to school essays and, as she humorously admits, "really good lies."
Her education and experiences in Catholic school instilled discipline and determination in her, which would serve her well in her writing career.
Roberts's personal life is as intriguing as her novels. In high school, she met her first husband, Ronald Aufdem-Brinke, and they married against her parents' wishes in 1968. They settled in Boonsboro, Maryland, and started a family, eventually having two sons, Dan and Jason. Roberts's "Earth Mother" years, as she calls them, were filled with crafts and family care, with her crafting talents extending to ceramics and sewing her children's clothes. This marriage ended in divorce in 1983.
In 1985, Roberts met her second husband, Bruce Wilder, a carpenter whom she hired to build bookshelves. Together, they owned the Turn the Page Books bookstore in Boonsboro and the historic Boone Hotel, which was transformed into the Inn BoonsBoro in 2009. The suites at the inn were inspired by and named after literary romantic couples with happy endings.
Roberts is also known for her love of baseball and has been honoured by the local minor league baseball team, the Hagerstown Suns, on multiple occasions.
Nora Roberts's journey into writing began during a snowstorm in February 1979 when she was snowed in with her two sons and running out of activities to entertain them. With her supply of chocolate dwindling, she decided to give writing a try. It was during this time that she fell in love with the writing process.
Roberts's early attempts to break into the world of publishing were met with rejection. However, her determination and passion for storytelling led her to produce six manuscripts that she submitted to Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance novels. Her tenacity eventually paid off, and she received a rejection letter that praised her work's promise and entertainment value but mentioned they already had their American writer. That writer turned out to be Janet Dailey, who later admitted to plagiarising some of Roberts' work.
Roberts has been an advocate for discipline in writing, emphasising the importance of dedicating eight hours a day, every day, to her craft. Her writing process is a testament to her dedication, as she immerses herself in one novel at a time. She starts with a key incident, character, or setting, writes a short first draft with the basic elements of the story, adds details and character development in the second draft, and finally polishes the work before sending it to her agent.
Her preference for trilogies is notable, as she completes all three books in a series in succession to maintain continuity for her characters. Previously, her trilogies were released in paperback due to her belief that the wait for hardcover editions was too long for readers. However, in recent years, all of her new publications are released in hardcover first, followed by e-books and paperback editions.
Nora Roberts's diverse writing career led to the use of multiple pseudonyms, each catering to different genres and themes:
Nora Roberts: Her original name for contemporary romance novels.
J. D. Robb: Her pseudonym for the In Death series, which explores futuristic science fiction police procedurals featuring detective Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke.
Jill March: A pseudonym used for specific works, including the story "Melodies of Love."
Sarah Hardesty: Used in the UK for the Born In series due to publisher requirements.
Nora Roberts has had a stellar career marked by numerous accolades and impressive sales figures. In 1996, she passed the milestone of one hundred novels with "Montana Sky" and in 2012, doubled that number with "The Witness." Her novels consistently top bestseller lists, and she has been featured on The New York Times Best Seller list since 1991. As of January 2023, her books have spent 948 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list, with 148 of those weeks in the number-one spot.
Roberts's contribution to the romance genre has been recognised by the Romance Writers of America, with her becoming the first inductee into their Hall of Fame. She has received numerous RITA Awards, with 21 to her name, and she was honoured with the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
In addition to her literary success, Roberts has made the transition from page to screen, with several of her novels adapted into television movies. Notably, she was listed by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2007, praised for her ability to explore the passions of the human heart.
Nora Roberts faced plagiarism in her career when fellow romance writer Janet Dailey admitted to repeatedly stealing her work. Roberts sued Dailey, and her settlement was donated to various literary causes, including the Literacy Volunteers of America.
In addition to her writing, Roberts is known for her philanthropic efforts. Her donations support organisations promoting literacy and the arts, as well as children's causes and humanitarian efforts. The Nora Roberts Foundation has played a significant role in funding these initiatives. Moreover, Roberts endowed the Nora Roberts Center for American Romance at McDaniel College, which supports academic scholarship on the American romance novel.
Nora Roberts's literary journey is a testament to her discipline, creativity, and passion for storytelling. From her humble beginnings as a struggling writer to her status as the "Queen of Romance," she has left an indelible mark on the world of literature. Her works continue to captivate readers worldwide, and her legacy extends beyond her novels to her philanthropic endeavours and commitment to the art of storytelling. With over 225 books to her name, Nora Roberts is a literary force to be reckoned with, and her influence will be felt for generations to come.