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Get to Know Nora Roberts

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • September 02, 2021

Born Eleanor Marie Robertson, legendary romance author Nora Roberts has written more than 225 novels, many of them bestsellers. Her vast bibliography displays a wide variety of styles, settings and subgenres. Her newest book (written under her pseudonym J. D. Robb), Forgotten in Death, comes out on September 7.

1. Roberts started writing while stuck at home with her two young sons during a blizzard.

Some things in life are out of your control. You can make it a party or a tragedy.

Despite being a lifelong reader, Roberts didn't consider a career in writing until age thirty, when she was stuck at home during a 1979 blizzard with her two young sons. She has said that with three feet of snow, a dwindling supply of chocolate, and no morning kindergarten, she had little else to do. In any case, she fell in love with the experience of writing and quickly produced six manuscripts for romance novels. Her initial attempts to get them published by Harlequin ended in rejection letters, but in 1981, the newly formed Silhouette Books, published her first novel, Irish Thoroughbred.

2. She writes eight hours a day, even on vacation.

I write every day. Even if I'm not writing well, I write through it. I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank one.

The famously prolific author has credited the nuns of her Catholic school education for her discipline. During the first several years of her career, between 1982 and 1987, Roberts produced no fewer than fifty novels. In 1985, she released Playing the Odds, the first in her MacGregor Family series. The book was an immediate bestseller, a trend that has played out time and time again throughout her forty-year career. She has since had as many as sixteen publications in just one year.

3. She writes under several different pen names.

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place.

After several years of writing, Roberts developed an interest in writing romantic suspense novels like those of Mary Stewart. Her agent discouraged the shift in her early years as she was developing a following, but when she moved to Putnam in 1992, her new publishing house quickly realized they were unable to keep up with her abundant output. They suggested that she adopt a second pseudonym, which would allow them to publish more of her books each year. This provided her with the opportunity to try out a new genre.

For her new nom de plume, she chose initials "J. D." for her sons, Jason and Dan, and "Robb" as a shortened form of Roberts. As J. D. Robb, the author began publishing futuristic police procedurals, all part of the In Death series.

4. Roberts had thirteen bestsellers in one year.

My only job is to tell the story. I think that if more writers focused on that, they'd be better off and probably more successful.

In addition to being one the top-selling authors here at Thriftbooks, Roberts is a genuine publishing and bestselling phenomenon. There are over 500 million copies of her books in print. Over the last twenty years, an average of thirteen of her books were sold every minute. She's had upwards of seventy New York Times bestsellers and on a few different occasions, she had as many as four books on the NYT list at the same time! In the year 2000, she penned the top five bestselling romance novels of the year:

5. She was repeatedly plagiarized by a fellow romance author.

Be yourself. Be true to that, to your heart. Patience. See what happens if you step back instead of bounding forward.

In 2005, fellow bestselling romance author Janet Dailey admitted to repeatedly plagiarizing Roberts's work. This was discovered by a reader who happened to read Sweet Revenge by Roberts and Dailey's Notorious back-to-back. After noticing several nearly identical passages, she posted them to the internet and Dailey confessed to having lifted ideas and language from her colleague's work. She apologized both to Roberts and her fans, blaming the behavior on personal stress and an unnamed psychological disorder.

6. Roberts was the first author to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame.

We make destiny with every turn, every choice.

A founding member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), Roberts has been a driving force in the genre for many decades now. The first author to be inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame, she was also the first to receive the organization's Centennial Award when she published her 100th novel, Montana Sky. In fact, she has won almost every award given in the romance writing world, including several Lifetime Achievement Awards. In 2007, TIME included her on their list of 100 Most Influential People, saying she "has inspected, dissected, deconstructed, explored, explained and extolled the passions of the human heart." In short: She is a legend.

Whether or not you're already a fan, we hope you're intrigued to check out one of her myriad titles including some of our favorites (several are series starters):

  • Vision in White: Four best friends start a full service wedding planning business. Romance galore!
  • Chronicles of the One: Her foray into dystopian fiction breathes new life into the genre.
  • Whiskey Beach: For a taste of her romantic suspense, try this novel about a lawyer looking to get away after the unsolved murder of his ex-wife.
  • The Next Always: Three brothers team up to restore a historic hotel on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
  • Blue Dahlia: This paranormal romance features love, heartbreak, ghosts and gardening.
  • Midnight Bayou: As Declan Fitzgerald renovates a dilapidated New Orleans mansion, he begins to believe the rumors that it's haunted.
  • Naked In Death: It's the year 2058 and New York police lieutenant Eve Dallas is determined to protect the victims of our near-future.

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