I didn’t realize how many romance writers have chosen Alaska as a site for their novels until I started my search. But then, perhaps it’s not surprising, because there are a lot of romance readers hungry for books, and Alaska qualifies as an exotic location. According to statistics provided by the website theromancereader.com, romance accounts for almost 50% of the mass market sales in the United States. The same website quotes research by Barnes and Noble indicating that romance customers can typically spend up to $100 per month for books and will read as many as 40 books per month. (It also cites a Psychology Today study indicating that women who read romance novels make love with their partners 74% more often than women who don’t.)
To get some insight about romance novels in general, but more specifically romance writing in connection with Alaska, I contacted Tiffinie Helmer, author of SHIVER, a Romance on the Edge novel, and numerous other romance and mystery/suspense novels.
Tiffinie, you have very strong connections to Alaska. You were raised in Alaska and attended the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. I also understand that you engage in commercial fishing in the Bering Sea in the summertime. Perhaps it’s logical that you place your romances in Alaska. Is there anything about Alaska that you think is particularly conducive to the romance genre?
It’s wild. Men are men and most of the women I know, including myself, love a man who knows how to survive in a land that is extreme. They are problem solvers and don’t waste an opportunity. There are no games. Life is precious. Love even more so. The type of man who thrives in this untamed, hostile environment is one that I’m extremely attracted to. In fact, I married my own wild man of Alaska.
Tell us how you started your writing career. Did you always know you wanted to be a romance writer?
Reading has always been an escape, but there comes a time in a writer’s life where reading isn’t enough and you are compelled to pick up a pen and create your own story. I got serious about writing when my youngest child headed off to kindergarten, but I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t telling stories. My mother used to tell me to quit lying when I was really young. So I honed my craft until my mother couldn’t tell if I was lying or not. Then I started writing them down.
What do you think romance readers look for in a romance novel?
A happy ever after! Romance readers know going in that there will be a happy ending. The guy will get the girl and they will live happily ever after. No one dies at the end, unless he’s the villain. I also think romance readers are incredibly loyal because romance novels promise hope. No matter what is going on in the reader’s life, he or she knows that this story will end happily. The good guy, even if he has a bit of bad in him, wins the girl. Or the girl wins the guy. Either way, love wins. Why would you want to read anything else?
I counted nine of your novels for sale on Amazon. Do they all use Alaska as their setting? You locate your latest novel, Shiver, in Chatanika, a community north of Fairbanks. Is this a part of the state that you’re particularly familiar with?
On Monday I have an anthology being released called MY BLOODY VALENTINE. My story in the collection is HEARTLESS and not set in Alaska. But other than that all my other books are set in Alaska. Alaska is HUGE, and I like to take my readers on a journey of what Alaska has to offer. Each story is set in a different part of the state. Those who are Deadliest Catch fans will get a taste of that in HOOKED. If you watch Alaska: The Last Frontier check out EDGE which is set on Kachemak Bay outside of Homer. As for SHIVER, I grew up in Fairbanks and Chatanika is only 30 miles away. DEATH CACHE, my 4th book in the Romance on the Edge Novels is set up by the Arctic Circle.
In Shiver, your main character Raven is an Alaska Native, and I’m presuming, given her location, that she’s Athabascan. She’s strong-willed and resilient as well as strikingly attractive. Is she a typical romance protagonist?
She is in regards to being resilient and strong-willed. I consider myself a strong woman. I’m a freaking commercial fisherman, strong is just the tip of the iceberg. In the coming year, I will be publishing stories on the Wild Women of Alaska and you can bet the farm they will be resilient, strong-willed, and will probably kick some ass. I can’t wait to meet them.
Tell me one thing about romance novels that you think people who don’t read romance novels might not know.
They are more than just sex. I’ve seen people turn their nose up at me when they hear that I write romance. These are usually the same people who have never read romance. Romance is about relationships. I write books about relationships. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can benefit from books that deal with relationships. I love what you quoted earlier about women who read romance novels making love with their partners 74% more than women who don’t. That alone should tell people something. Women, and men (as I have a big male readership), are more attentive of their partner’s needs, probably better conversationalists and communicators with others in their life as well.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading? Who are some of your favorite authors?
Romance, of course, but I also read mystery, sci-fi/fantasy and thrillers. I cut my teeth on Nora Roberts, so I have to mention her. Linda Howard, Jennifer Crusie, and Karen Marie Moning are some of my auto buys. In mystery it’s Harlan Coben and Janet Evanovich, Sci-fi/fantasy Kevin Hearne is my man along with Jim Butcher, and Charlaine Harris. Some great new authors to watch are Kerrigan Bryne, Cindy Stark, Cyndi St. Aubin, and Mikki Kells.
Stephanie, thank you so much for having me. Your research into romance readers was fascinating and I hope others will check out why romance has such a huge and loyal following.
You can find out more about Tiffinie and her fiction on her website: www.tiffiniehelmer.com
Tiffinie's latest release is described below. Tiffinie has offered to give away a book, so the first person to send me a request on my contact form will receive a copy of BAIT. UPDATE: The giveaway book has been claimed!
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Bait-Short-Story-Tiffinie-Helmer-ebook/dp/B00HNUN6M4/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1391720083&sr=1-3&keywords=tiffinie+helmer