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  • Writer's pictureSherelee Clarke


By Anna Klein

There’s a particular reaction that people give you when you tell them you’re a romance writer. People get excited when I tell them I'm an author, but that smile slips when I answer “what do you write”. They usually say oh in a strange tone, as if they can’t quite disguise whatever real emotion is flashing through them. I always wonder what’s happening when they say oh. Are they looking at me and wondering how much smut I put in my books? Do they suffer from the misconception that all romance is badly written trash? Maybe there’s something stuck in their throat?

Their follow up question usually tells me it’s one of the first two. Yes, my mother knows (she reads my books, even). Yes, I’m a good writer. No, it’s not even half as easy as people think. I make sure I tell every person, with complete sincerity, I write romance because it’s so uplifting.

I came to writing the same way many have done before me: through a love of books and reading. I’ve been an avid reader all my life, devouring any book I could get my hands on from the moment I could read. By my early teens I had settled into a steady of late 1990s Scholastic mass market pulp series: the Babysitters’ Club, Animorphs, Goosebumps, Sweet Valley, and the rest. Scorned by adults, nevertheless these literary institutions provided me with vast back catalogues and continuous new releases. And they were fun.

I completed a Master of Arts in English literature, reading broadly across history, from Beowulf to the early 20th century. In my studies, in looking at the history of tales being written down, love and sex were amongst the most common stuff of stories. Love, sex and romance are a fundamental part of our experience as humans, and of the stories humanity has told.

I wanted to be a writer… but I ended up working in IT for almost a decade. I held off pursuing being a writer because it seemed “unrealistic” and because I believed “no one really makes it.” In 2015 I discovered the New Zealand romance writing community. The Romance Writers of New Zealand was a friendly, welcoming space that surrounded me with real people who wrote for a living, and showed it was not only possible to do, it was possible to do and absolutely crush it.

My first novel came out in 2017 and I have published three more since, all playing with slightly different subgenres of romance. My pulp adventure childhood tastes mean that along with hearts to win, there’s always a mystery to solve as well and someone nefarious to thwart between the pages of my books. But love always wins, that’s what I love best about romance: in a world that feels darker than ever, I can create bubbles of humour and hope and goodness to escape to and recharge in. That’s what I write. That’s what romance is.

I would love to give one reader a signed paperback copy of Heart and Hearth so if you’re keen, please send an email to sherelee.newjourney@gmail.copy.

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