Monday, September 28, 2009

Requiescat in Pace, Kate Duffy

Before leaving the house this morning to head to the university, I checked Twitter. I was taken aback to find several tweets about the death of Kate Duffy.

Hoping the blogosphere was mistaken, I emailed a good friend who writes for Kensington and who was one of Kate's authors.

On the way to work, I remember thinking of Mark Twain's famous quote: "The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated." I said a quick prayer that Kate's death was one such rumor.

Kate Duffy was Editorial Director at Kensington Books. She was a force to be reckoned with in the world of romance novels. Over the years, she'd worked with the top names in romance. Names like Janet Dailey, Jude Deveraux, Lori Foster, Judith McNaught and Mary Janice Davidson.

When I got to work, I immediately checked my email to find that the rumor was true and that Kate Duffy had succumbed to illness.

I wasn't one of Kate's authors and I don't write for Kensington, but she had a huge impact on my life anyway. You see, Kensington released The Lady's Tutor in 1999. That book was the first erotic romance I ever read.

I cannot tell you the impression that book made on me. First, I hadn't read a romance in more than a dozen years when I purchased The Lady's Tutor from a hotel newstand in Oklahoma where I was stuck overnight, waiting for a meeting the following day at a local stock brokerage house. I'd tired of the genre's coy language and mincing approach to sex. The Lady's Tutor was a revelation to me. I hadn't known there were romances written in such an honest, straightforward fashion.

When I returned to Dallas, I went looking for more erotic romances. They were hard to find back then. Eventually, Ellora's Cave, an e-publisher specializing in Romantica (neologism combining "romance" and "erotica"), opened shop in 2000, but did not initially offer p-books (physical books).

Kate Duffy was a genius. She understood that the time was right for a print publisher to get into the erotic romance genre. She was the force behind Kensington's Brava line, the first imprint devoted to erotic romance in the U.S. The first release from Brava was Intrigued by Bertrice Small in February, 2001.

For more than a year, I watched for each new release from Brava because there were no other print publishers offering erotic romance. Kensington is an independent publisher, which meant that owner Walter Zacharius didn't have to report to a skeptical mega-corporate board. He just trusted Kate's instincts.

Brava's success attracted a lot of attention. Before long, every New York publisher had its own erotic romance line.

On a personal level, I started writing my first erotic romance in 2004, inspired by the books I was reading.

So Kate Duffy had a real impact on my life.

Requiescat in pace, Kate . . . and thank you.


PaperbackWriter said...

WOW! I love hearing stories on how people one has never met in life affects them in such a unique and profound way.
It is sad to hear of a great mind in any business passing, though hopefully her legacy will live on into the future!

lynneconnolly said...

Better than I could ever have put it, Maya. We've talked about The Lady's Tutor before - a great book, but it took someone with the vision of Kate Duffy to take the chance and put it out there.
I didn't know her, met her once, briefly, at Pittsburgh, but I admired her hugely.

Maya Reynolds said...

PaperbackWriter: What a nice sentiment. Reminds me of an Indian saying: "When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that, when you die, the world will cry and you will rejoice."

Maya Reynolds said...

Lynne: I've always found it interesting that writers of other genres tend to denigrate romance. By contrast, Kate Duffy took romance very seriously. There's a video of an interview with her floating around the blogosphere right now. In it, she says:

"And I love romance novels because they're entertaining, they're informative and they make pots of money for my publishing house, where I'm an editor, too."

See the video here:

Thanks for stopping by.

Warm regards,


Confucius Cat said...

I am so sad to hear of Kate Duffy's passing. After meeting her and hearing her speak at a conference, I was so impressed by her intelligence and wit.
Patricia Mason

laughingwolf said...

great tribute... not my area of interest but will now look more closely... thank you