For Truckee novelist fiction is more fun than facts
Nevada Appeal News Service
TRUCKEE – After obtaining a double major in journalism and accounting years ago at California State University-Northridge, Jill Shalvis thought she wanted to document the factual.
But after five years as an accountant, she realized making things up was much more fun.
“I was just never happy writing all the real stuff,” she said. “Fiction’s always better than real life.”
At age 30, Shalvis took her first manuscript to a publisher, who asked her to add a romance to the story. Soon it became her first book.
“I got really lucky,” she said. “It turned out that I kind of had a knack for writing the romance, so I stuck with it.”
Now Shalvis has written more than 50 books, ranging from Harlequins and Silhouettes – formulaic books in which a boy meets a girl, loses the girl and then regains the girl, Shalvis said – to longer and more complicated novels. Her 2009 book “Instant Attraction,” part of a trilogy, was recently nominated for a Romance Writers of America RITA award for contemporary romance, single title and for a National Reader’s Choice Award, Shalvis said.
RITA honors romance fiction, according to the Romance Writers of America website. This is Shalvis’ fourth nomination.
“Instant Attraction” is set in the Sierra Madre Mountains, and Shalvis usually sets her books in this area or in Los Angeles, where she originally lived.
“It’s really important to me that setting be a character – that I know it well enough to write about,” she said.
The Shalvis family moved to Truckee nine years ago from Southern California, and Shalvis said she enjoys the scenery and atmosphere of Truckee-Tahoe.
“I like that there’s no traffic. It just seems like a healthier lifestyle,” she said.
Shalvis knows the stereotypes about romance novels, but the Romance Writers of America says one-fourth of all books purchased are in the romance genre.
“We joke about Harlequin or beach trash fiction, but they sell,” she said.
Shalvis’s books do sell – one has appeared on the USA Today Bestseller list and many others have hit the Amazon Top 100 list and the Borders and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists.
“I do OK for a stay-at-home mom,” she said.
Married with three teenage daughters, Shalvis said her family has been supportive. Since her books are R-rated, her daughters weren’t permitted to read them when young but now have the option, she said. Her husband has been supportive of her success, too.
“He laughs all the way to the bank, really,” she said. “He shrugs it off.”
Romance novels, to Shalvis, are a way for women to escape into the world of a story – a world that’s complete and also includes a romance.
“It’s a whole story, and there’s love in it,” she said. “It’s brain candy. It’s fun. It’s escapism.”
Her novels have unapologetically happy endings, she said, but it’s what she likes to write and what her readers want.
“Oprah fiction is not my thing. I want to be happy, so that’s what I write,” Shalvis said, referring to the often serious themes of the talk show host’s book club selections.
Characters in her books aren’t based on real people, Shalvis said, but she does use traits of people she meets in the characters she creates.
“I try to keep (life and art) very separate,” she said. “But you can’t help but write what you know.”
Shalvis said she was lucky to get a book published and have her career take off, but it can be tough to make a living as a writer.
“I want to say most of us don’t,” she said.
But for those who have considered writing a manuscript or a journal, Shalvis said she encourages them to actually do it. Being a writer is difficult, she said, because it’s hard to stay disciplined.
“Everybody says they have a story,” she said. “Sit your butt in the chair and write – I mean, do it.”ȶ
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