On Jan. 20 from 7-9 p.m. students, faculty and community members gathered in the Huntsman Reading Room of the Gerald R. Sherratt Library for “A Glance at Romance.” The event, which was organized by the Friends of the Library, involved a discussion which featured bestselling romance author Julie Wright and was moderated by renowned sci-fi and fantasy author L.E. Modesitt Jr.
“A lot of people have misconceptions about what romance is,” Modesitt said at the beginning of the panel. “I thought it would be a really nice idea to have Julie, somebody who’s in this, here so I can ask her all sorts of nasty questions.”
Wright has won a number of awards for her writing, including the Whitney award for her novel “Cross My Heart” in 2010, and the Crown Heart award for “The Fortune Cafe.” She has written over 20 books, her most recent contemporary romance entitled “Lies Jane Austen Told Me.”
“I feel that it’s something everyone needs, on a very basic level,” Wright said. “We need food, we need shelter, and we need affection — we need love, we need companionship. We desire and crave that.”
Wright also said when she writes romance, while it is about love it is also about what she considers to be a basic human condition. She strives to write novels that are appropriate for all ages, specifically ones that she would feel comfortable with her children reading. Neither she nor Modesitt have ever written a sex scene, a decision that both authors credit to the respect they have for their younger readers.
“When I was thirteen years old, I loved the library,” Wright said. “I remember I picked up one book by a middle-grade author I’d grown up with, and this was shelved a little differently. It was a Young Adult. So I took it home and started to read it … my eyes went big and I thought ‘I will never be old enough to read that kind of a book.’ So I still write books that I could hand-deliver to a 12-year-old, so that even if the themes are a little more adult there is never anything that I would worry about as far as that goes.”
Wright and Modesitt also discussed how they got started in the publishing industry. Modesitt, who has published exclusively with Tor for several decades, noted that while his relationship with his publisher has never necessitated a literary agent, changes in the industry mean that prospective writers should acquire one before searching for a publisher. Wright agreed and said that agents act as mediators between publishing houses and authors, and ensure that there is a fair split of profit between the two.
At the end of the panel, both Wright and Modesitt took questions from the audience.
“I take a lot of responsibility as an author,” Wright said in answer to a question regarding the responsibilities that writers have towards their readers. “I believe that writers have changed the world. I mean, if you think in the context of Thomas Paine a couple years ago, he changed the face of nations … I think words have power and words have meaning, and we give them hope.”
Modesitt also addressed the importance of optimism in writing.
“I’ll put it this way,” Modesitt said. “There is always a shred of hope in anything that I write. I just do not believe in putting others down. I think it’s useless, I think it’s counterproductive.”
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