Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Meet Roger Sanderson Romance Author


By Peter Jackson
BBC News

As Mills & Boon marks the end of its centenary year, the romance publisher is still selling millions of copies. Its 200 staff writers have something in common - they're all women, except for one. So how does a gruff former rugby player Yorkshireman writing under the pseudonym Gill get away with it?

When it comes to blushing heroines and dashing heroes, Roger Sanderson is well versed in the art of seductive prose.

The Mills & Boon author has had 48 books published over 12 years and seen his work sold in 26 countries around the world.

But unlike the subjects of his fiction, Roger the romantic writer does not conform to the stereotype.

The broad-shouldered Yorkshireman goes weight training three times a week, mountain climbing at the weekends and enjoys a drink with friends at his rugby club in Waterloo, Merseyside.

Now an active member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, he believes he would probably be a soldier if he was not a writer. His father was in the Royal Air Force for 35 years, his grandfather won a gallantry medal in World War I and one of his four sons is a Royal Navy captain.

But life chose a very different path for Mr Sanderson, the path of breathy romantic fiction.

"I'm happily married and I have been in love, therefore I have the basic qualification," he suggests. "I know what it feels like and from there everything will develop."

But there was plenty to learn along the way.

"Women's feelings are just a little different from men's. I have to try to put myself in a woman's frame of mind," he says.

"They're far more interested in relationships and talking about them.

"Talking to women helps give me inspiration. Sometimes I'm told that no woman would say or do a certain thing, it's not always obvious.

"Over the last 12 years I think I've improved my understanding of women. For example, on the subject of abortion, you have to deal with that very carefully indeed and reactions to it.

"I used to have the male attitude that in certain circumstances it was the reasonable, proper thing to do - the other side of that is what does it feel like?

"The emotion is all. Women tend to be more emotional probably."

Whatever the provenance of Mr Sanderson's insight into the psyche of the female romantic fiction aficionado, he has clearly achieved a high level of empathy, churning out four books a year.
Mills & Boon is quick to dispel any suggestion it is a relic of a bygone age. It says it sells a book every three seconds in the UK and 130 million a year worldwide.

The economic downturn has even triggered a rise in sales as people look for escapism and a happy ending.

Editorial director Karin Stoecker believes healthy sales will continue.

"Generally speaking, we have been quite successful in gloomier economic times... it's a value-priced entertaining escape from otherwise harsh realities."

So, how did it all begin for the man of Mills & Boon?

He used to write scripts for Commando war comics until one day he picked up his daughter's Mills & Boon on the sofa and promptly read another four.

At first he co-wrote with his wife Gill, but was soon sufficiently interested to take her name and go solo.

Today, he specialises in medical romances, setting many of his stories in the Lake District around chisel-jawed doctors, with hearts either beating or melting.

His latest book has the working title A Nurse At Christmas Time and is about a doctor who returns to the Lakes from London and bumps into a girl he met 15 years ago.

It is not likely to shy away from the odd sex scene or two.

"We're much more open now about the physical aspect of love making, we're through the bedroom door now," Mr Sanderson explains.

"It must be, above all, emotionally driven. The physical must be subservient to feelings."

Ms Stoecker agrees that emotions are key and describes what she looks for in a Mills & Boon author.

"The first quality to have is an empathy with the genre and an understanding. You really need to be able to write emotion.

"It doesn't necessarily help to be a woman, but if you were telling a story from a female's point of view, it will help to have some insight into that point of view."

Academic and author Jay Dixon, who wrote an analytical study of the publisher in her book The Romantic Fiction of Mills & Boon, has read around 3,000 titles.

Some of the unsolicited manuscripts written by men stood out from those written by women for the way their female characters viewed themselves.

"The heroine, at some point in the story, always looked in a mirror and admired herself, something a woman would never do as she would only see her flaws," she suggests.

She also believes male authors tend to go into more details about how something works than women.

But would she be able to find clues in Roger's text that his books were written by a man?

"I can find nothing in Roger's romances that would alert even an experienced reader to the fact that he is a man... Roger is one of the few men who does have the knack."

Perhaps it helps to be, as Roger admits, an old romantic himself.

"Every now and again you look at a woman and for a moment there's that little flare of remembrance of what it was like those years ago when you weren't married - and I think that's rather nice."

January 12, 2008: Here is another article about Mr. Romance.

Mr. Romance from the Daily Mail – Roger Sanderson

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