Natasha Oakley - British Romance Author

Writer of tug-at-the-heartstrings, feel-good romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not so guilty pleasure

Did you listen to Radio 4's programme?

I'm breathing a sigh of relief. All told I think it was a fair and balanced programme. Within the first minute or so I was laughing as my fellow PHS editor, Nicola Marsh, had her book, 'Two Week Mistress', picked off the stand in the foyer and the blurb read out. Nice that the inclusion of a wombat made it sound fun.

Presents/Modern author Sharon Kendrick did a great job countering some very silly arguments. As did the editors. And really what's to defend? M&B is a global brand and our books sell in millions. One look at the figures should surely silence most critics.

I listened politely to Mary Evans criticisms of the genre and my considered response is that she has a staggeringly low opinion of the intelligence of women. She's just rude. We know, of course we know, that our lives will not be perfect ever more if we only meet the right man. For a start there just aren't enough 6ft 2" Greek billionaires going around! (Incidentally I have never written a hero like that although I thoroughly enjoy reading them when other authors do. And if you'd like to buy my latest release, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride' you'll discover a disfigured hero. Just thought I'd mention that since the implication was you wouldn't find him.) That's the point though. It's fantasy. It's life as we wish it was.

The year I've just lived through has been my bleakest yet. My mum died of ovarian cancer. My husband was rediagnosed with his cancer and we are currently mid chemo. Horrendous timing because he's also been made redundant. And I have five dependent children who are firmly looking at me to keep things steady for them. It's not fun.

The thing is I know I'm not alone. I know there'll be people reading this who are experiencing similar life issues. Some of you will be coming out of dark times and others of you slipping into them. That's life. Real life. And I don't want to write about that. I don't want to read it either. Nor do I want to see movies, however clever, that make me feel miserable.

Other people are welcome to read and write what they like but I'm tired of apologising for wanting a happy ending. I want to escape into something 'safe'. I want to believe my life can change for the better in a moment.

Does that make me a 'rather miserable, rather disappointed, rather jaundiced' person? According to Mary Evans it would seem it does. But I disagree. You know, I'm standing upright, I'm holding things together, I'm managing to do all that without medication AND I enjoy what I'm writing. Most days. :) What's more my books have hit the Waldenbook Bestseller Lists.

I think I'm going to go have a coffee and get back to work. If you missed the programme, and it's really entertaining listening, you can catch it here. It's called Guilty Pleasure.

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  • At 5:05 pm, Blogger Kate Walker said…

    You're doing more than standing upright and holding things together, love. You're being a tower of strength and loving support to your lovely husband and family and you're doing that with grace and dignity and even managing a smile. You have courage and dignity and you're handling a time when life has thrown more than your fair share in your face - and while you're dealing with that, you're still writing wonderful bestselling books that so many people want to read and enjoy - I know I do.

    No way are you miserable, disappointed or jaundiced - you're one of the strongest, most determined, most life-affirming women I know - in your books and most of all in your life. I've loved watching the way that you've grown as a novelist from the first manuscripts we worked on together and I'm proud to have you as a friend.

    Phooey to the Mary Evanses of this world - I remember once reading an article by Maureen Lipman where she classified people as either radiators (warm, giving, welcoming) or drains (cold miserable 'draining') - you're definitely one of the radiators - and in those comments at least Mary Evans is a great big miserable drain.

    Keep on doing what you do and I'll keep reading - and being glad I know you


  • At 5:34 pm, Blogger Trish said…


    And doesn't it just show how great these little books are from both sides too??? Escapism and fun for the reader AND the author... BLESS EM....

  • At 7:06 pm, Blogger India said…

    Having just checked out the respective Amazon sales rankings for The Tycoon's Princess Bride and Celia Brayfield's most recent fictional offering I think this is one instance when numbers really do speak for themselves...

    No wonder Celia's so bitter.

  • At 1:18 am, Blogger Nicola Marsh said…

    Glad Wally the wombat made such an impression ;)

  • At 8:41 am, Blogger Ray-Anne said…

    Well said.
    One final comment. The community of romance novelists and wannabe novelists has to be something unique in this world, and to a large extent, I think category fiction contributes to that.
    We support eachother, care for eachother and love the work we do and the work of other authors in the same boat. Can you see that happening in literary fiction or critical journalism?

    Thank you Natasha for remininding us of the powerful force for good the work can bring, and Kate is, as always, spot on.
    Hope you have smiles today, Ray-Anne


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