“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
-Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5
If I was ever to get another tattoo, this quote would be it. Throughout my life, I’ve believed that we choose who we want to be–that while we might be the sum of our decisions, we as people are transient. Our identities change with each decision we make, and how we choose to present ourselves.
My public face today is quite different from who I was at twenty-four. I only embarked on this romance journey two years ago, when I met my dear friend Jennifer DeWoody. It was through her guidance that I started to realize what I wanted to write was mainstream historical romance–sexy, smart novels that properly depict the regency period. Before that, I had been more of a historical fiction author, and before that, I wrote science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary. I’d never really had a successful brush with novel writing, and instead focusing on short stories.
But I’m perpetually long-winded, as you’ll see in my blogs, and so short stories for me ended up as what I now know is a novella. Now, I’m plugging away on two works in progress–a full-length at what I hope to be 100,000 words and another shorter category-length at 60,000. I’ve found my place in regency writing, but in the future, who knows what I’ll decide to do. I like to look at a writer’s journey as a tree, with many branches out.
When I’m not writing, you can find me mooning over shoes (particularly stilettos of impossible heights), drinking coffee (blasphemy at a tea blog, I know), reading mysteries (I’m working my way through Georgette Heyer’s old mysteries), cuddling my beloved pets (a pit bull mix, an AmStaff/Basset hound mix, and a 20 pound calico), watching the television (current favorite shows include Castle and Nikita), or playing around on social media (I am a Twitter addict and you can find me as EricaJMonroe).
I’ve been told I’m supposed to answer some questions. Normally, I balk at being given orders as I’m a future world dictator, but I adore these girls and the questions amuse me immensely, so here goes.
1. What is the first romance novel you ever read?
I’ve always leaned toward books with romantic elements, but I’d never really read a complete romance before two years ago. In high school, I grew to love Jane Austen, for her books were about courting and marriage and had some of the best love stories I’d ever seen. High school was a stressful time for me, as I carried a heavy courseload and knew I’d be moving from Maryland to Florida for college, and I loved reading Austen because I knew the only bad things that were going to happen was that the marriage wouldn’t take place or someone would get their heart broken. No one got gruesomely murdered or raped, and in the end, it always became happy.
In college, I studied writing, but I ended up with an English minor because of my concentration in 19th Century British Literature. I read George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre 3 times) and of course more Austen. I think this is why I started romance so late–I didn’t have time until a few years ago to read for pleasure! On my rare breaks, I devoured the first two books in Lauren Willig’s The Pink Carnation series.
Georgette Heyer was my first brush into romance, because she was like a contemporary Austen and it felt like home to me. I started with her The Reluctant Widow and The Masqueraders. From there, I branched out into more modern historicals, coming upon Lisa Kleypas after a recommendation from fellow writer Olivia Kelly.
2. Your house is on fire–which five romance novels would you save?
I would pick Jane Austen’s Emma, the first Austen I ever read and still my favorite. It’s not a direct mainstream, but to me, it’s still one of the best love stories I’ve ever read. Then, I would pick Heather Snow’s Sweet Enemy, Sarah Maclean’s Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, Lisa Kleypas’ Mine Til Midnight, and The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig.
3. What is your secret passion?
I don’t have many secrets, as I’m a perpetual loudmouth with little shame. So instead, let’s say something that surprises most people.
I married a computer geek. I like to think he chose me not just because I’m delightfully adorable, but for my past “geekishness.” I’ve always been drawn to nerdy topics, like Shakespeare and my aforementioned classic lit love. But my father was a huge sci-fi fan, and I think he passed down that gene to me.
In high school, I considered myself a devout Trekkie. I loved the romance between B’Elanna and Tom Paris on Star Trek Voyager (pictured). While I don’t really watch Star Trek anymore, I still love that sense of the unknown, of exploration and what could possibly be around that sci-fi instills.
While I’m by no means a serious gamer, I do dabble in Diablo III. My husband, known as MrMonroe on Twitter, built me a gaming machine so that I could point-click-kill in high resolution. I swear it helps me with my anger issues.
4. Why do you write romance novels?
For all my blustering, I’m inherently someone who just wants everything to turn out happily. I loathe sad movies and sad books. I think I was meant to write romance from the beginning, as I’m definitely not a literary fiction lover. In all my writing classes, I was drawn to stories that had at least an element of attraction between the characters. I love the idea of a hero and a heroine, and I want to become attached to them as people even outside the romance.
I am, I suppose, in love with the idea of love. I want to see people strive to reach a certain goal, and I want to see them triumph over the odds. I read and write romance because it comforts me to know that in the end, it’s all going to turn out okay.
If only we could say the same about real life.
5. Is there anything in your book that comes from personal experience?
In both of my works-in-progress, Almost Scandalous and The Lady Wore Red, my characters have personal demons they have to battle. They either suffer from the belief that they aren’t worthy of affection, or they’ve done something in their past they want to forget. I think I delve into my own past emotions for this.
While I like to pretend that I’m ridiculously confident, I’ve also struggled with the thought that maybe I’m just not good enough to have happiness. I found my true love pretty early in life, and there’s days where I start to think I got far too lucky. And so I try and move forward, to deserve this wonderful life I’ve been given. In the end, I think my characters have to learn that there’s someone out there who will accept them for who they are.
6. What is your favorite kind of tea and how do you drink it?
It depends on the time of year and how I’m feeling. As a kid, I drank a ton of hot tea, especially Bigelow and Lipton teas. To this day, I want Lipton tea with milk and sugar when I’m not feeling great. I love Bigelow’s Lemon Lift, Constant Comment, and Raspberry Royale as they remind me of growing up. My mother always had a fully stocked tea cabinet, even though she rarely drinks hot tea now.
I also love chai tea, which I drink with Soy Silk Very Vanilla. I buy the chai tea liquid mixes from either Tazo or Oregon Chai. And Mr. Monroe likes to brew his own iced tea, so I drink whatever he makes.
So now you’ve met me. I’m fabulous, right? (See, my ego does a nice job at overcompensating.) Tell me about you, and we can become fond friends.