Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hail to the Queen!!

Today's New York Times has a remarkable article. I was so stunned by the numbers that I had to verify them for myself. It turned out that the figures were even more amazing than I first thought.

The article entitled "A Romance Novelist's Heroines Prefer Love Over Money" was written by Gina Bellafante about Nora Roberts, uber romance novelist.

To understand the reverence that the romance industry has for Nora, all you need to know is her nickname: Queen Nora. In a twenty-five year writing career, the Queen has had thirty-one novels DEBUT on the New York Times best-seller list. That, in and of itself, is remarkable. However, I haven't gotten to the really amazing numbers yet.

Queen Nora's first book was published in 1981 by Silhouette Romance, which at the time was owned by Simon & Schuster. Now comes the remarkable part. The figures I am giving you come from Nora's own booklist, which you can find on her website (www.noraroberts.com). Here are the numbers I compiled based on that list:

Books Published as Nora Roberts: 156
Books Published as J.D. Robb: 23
Novellas Under Both Names: 11
Reprints/Reissues: 34

If you ignore the novellas and the reprints and only look at the novels, Nora Roberts has produced an average of more than seven books a year for twenty-five years. The Times article said that next Tuesday she will publish her 166th book. I couldn't reconcile her booklist to that number. However, it doesn't matter. The woman is unbelievably prolific.

For the purists in our reading audience, I need to say that a great number of those books were published by Silhouette (now owned by Harlequin) and were category romances. Silhouette's current guidelines indicate they are looking for books between 60,000 and 65,000 words so many of those novels were on the thin side. Still, I don't think that takes ANYTHING away from the woman's work ethic. This is one disciplined writer.

Let's ignore her first two years as a writer, when conceivably she was getting her sea legs in her new profession, and only look at the twenty-three years since. You find that, from 1983 to 1994, she produced 84 novels, exactly seven a year on average.

In 1995, she started her J.D. Robb series, which the Times described as a police procedural. While that's a fair description, I would describe the novels as hard-edged futuristics. Personal admission: I like my novels much edgier than the standard Nora Roberts' romance. However, I am a huge fan of the J.D. Robb novels, which feature Eve Dallas, a homicide lieutenant in the New York of fifty years in the future.

Since Eve Dallas debuted, Nora has published two J.D. Robb novels a year. In the years from 1995 to 2005, she produced a total of 85 novels, almost eight a year. In other words, in the second half of her career, she has gotten more prolific, not less.

You have to admire the woman.

In addition to her discipline, Nora presents a remarkably stable and sensible face to the world. Over the last few years, I've read a number of her posts on blogs and a couple of letters by her concerning RWA. I have not seen any indication of a prima donna. Rather, she seems to care deeply about her profession and her fellow writers.

I salute you, Nora. You're one hell of a dame.

1 comment:

Emjay said...

She's great ... blah, blah, blah.

But I find the whole thing horribly depressing.

Still I managed to produce one post to your blog today ....