Alumna Jane Porter became tenacious after her writing was mocked in college. She felt uncomfortable reading her writing aloud, but realized she needed to keep opinions that resonated and discard the rest.
Porter said she wrote 15 novels in 15 years early in her career that were never published. That changed in 2000, when at age 35, she found her real voice and started selling her novels to the publisher Harlequin. Today, The New York Times bestselling author has penned around 50 titles with 12 million copies printed.
Porter recently attended the Romance Writers of America conference in New York from July 22 to 25. The RWA is an association with over 10,000 members, including published and unpublished authors, librarians and publishing professionals. Porter won a RITA award for excellence in published romance stories at last year’s conference and estimated she has attended the annual event 18 times.
Porter’s upcoming book, “A Christmas Miracle for Daisy,” is set to release in November. In the story, a man adopts his orphaned two-year-old goddaughter, and she mischievously asks Santa Claus for a mommy for Christmas. While she typically writes romance novels, Porter said she is experimenting with a younger audience.
The Daily Bruin’s Lindsay Weinberg spoke to Porter about failures that inspire her, why the RWA conference is unmissable and her advice to hopeful authors at UCLA.
Daily Bruin: Why did you choose to focus on the romance genre?
Jane Porter: I come from a very successful business family on my mother’s side. You have to have a market. I just knew you could write all the poems you want, and I’ve been published by lots of poetry journals … but you can’t support children on copies of a magazine. Since my father died when I was in high school, I had a very swift, brutal lesson in life economics. I’m a woman. If I want a family, should I be a single woman or mother at any point, I have to pay bills. Romance is a huge market; it’s a healthy market. It would help pay bills if I could succeed there.
DB: How do you find inspiration for your stories?
JP: Now, my inspiration comes from real life and parenting and loving. Failing – I probably have my greatest stories and inspiration from failure, from heartbreak. I don’t mean cheesy romance, but things just don’t always work out. You lose a beloved grandparent, your parents divorce (or) you divorce.
When I was going through a divorce, I had young children, and the divorce was so shocking. I realized I needed to write something besides love stories, romances. Reality forces you to look very hard at how do you be a woman, and I really strongly believe women need to make sure they’re always able to provide for themselves and their children. I think if you don’t, you become extremely dependent on others. I ended up being divorced with two young children, and my writing took care of us.
DB: You recently attended the RWA conference – how was that?
JP: It’s amazing. It’s a much-needed opportunity to gather with other writers, with your editors, agents, the publishing industry itself. You recognize outstanding books from the previous year as well as talk about what’s to come. So there’s a business meeting and (there are) the author chats with your friends.
DB: What were some of the highlights of this year’s conference?
JP: There’s been a settling between the traditional publishing path and the new indie digital publishing path. I think there’s been tremendous tension for the past five years between the two – which one is more legitimate, which one is the best, which one should we respect. Now both are equally viable and more and more writers are hybrids.
(The conference) is a fantastic opportunity. I attended one (workshop) from two of my favorite historical authors and it was basically 10 tips for making the most of your book. Little, tiny things about making your prose jump to life.
DB: What’s your advice to UCLA students who want to get into writing?
JP: It’s going to be challenging and have lots of ups and downs. If you are passionate, go for it. And then read widely, write a lot and one of the best things you can do is start submitting. Be critiqued, just don’t take the critiques personally. They’re not talking about you as a person, they’re talking about the work. But when you’re just starting, it’s very hard to separate. As you go along you’ll toughen up, and that’s maybe the other piece: toughen up, toughen up, toughen up.
Compiled by Lindsay Weinberg, A&E senior staff.