Three Minutes, Three Questions: Author Eloisa James

Three Minutes, Three Questions: Author Eloisa James

Eloisa James is the pen name of author Mary Bly, who has written over 30 Regency and Georgian romance novels. The daughter of poet Robert Bly and author Carol Bly, she is a tenured professor of English literature at Fordham University. The prolific author kept her sideline secret from her fellow faculty members — out of fear they would sneer at the fact she writes in the sometimes-maligned romance genre — until she was tenured and had a book on the New York Times best seller list; she then announced the news by passing out copies of her latest novel at a faculty meeting.

And in case that’s not cool enough, she’s also married to an Italian knight.

James was kind enough to answer three questions for What’s Up! ahead of her Sept. 22 visit to Northwest Arkansas for Rogers Public Library’s “Conversations and High Tea” event.

Q. As a best-selling author, you participate in a lot of events like the one you’re part of at the Rogers Public Library. Can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like to see so much of the United States?

A. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of time for sight-seeing. What I love is meeting readers from all parts of the U.S. Romance is one of the great unifiers in American society. A group of romance readers doesn’t care what politics someone espouses — they want to know if they’ve read the latest Lisa Kleypas, and what they thought. It’s not that we aren’t modern — I’ve been part of fascinating discussions of consent and alpha heroes — but readers approach these conversations with the joy of meeting new friends. I rejoice every time I’m a part of one of those joyful discussions.

Q. You were born into a highly impressive literary family. Was there an emphasis on developing your talent for writing as a child, or was it simply a by-product of growing up among writers? Do you have an opinion on how much of your writing talent is nature vs. nurture?

A. A fascinating question! My parents definitely saw their role as nurturing writers. We had no TV in the house and books were everywhere. I am the eldest child, and I thrived on that literary focus. I began writing novels and plays shortly after I learned to put sentences together. My parents happily purchased my works of literary genius (I mean that ironically), so I also got a good grasp on the commercial side of fiction. But my three siblings went sharply in the other direction — all three are business executives. Even so, when we’re together in the summers, we talk about books. So my parents successfully created four readers.

Q. Thirty years ago, romance novels were not held in very high literary regard. More recently, there have been articles about how big the romance novel market is, how romance novel readers span a wide range of educational and income levels — there’s even data that shows that male readership of romance novels has grown considerably over the decades. Since you published your first book, has this shift in acceptance and increase in respect for the genre been noticeable to you? Has it affected how people respond to you when they find out in what genre you write?

A. I do think there has been a cultural change in opinion of romance novels. I have been told in the past that I write “porn for women” or “sex stuff”; now I rarely hear anything so pejorative. Partly this is because feminist scholars began pointing out that a genre written by women, for women, deserves respect. For example, the struggles that are portrayed in the #metoo movement have long been depicted in romance novels — and in our books, the woman always finds a respectful, loving relationship, and the abuser finds himself behind bars or without a job.



‘Conversations and High Tea’

With Eloisa James

WHEN — 4 p.m. Sept. 22

WHERE — John Q. Hammons Center, 3303 S. Pinnacle Hills Parkway, Ballroom 9 and 10, Rogers

COST — $40

INFO — 621-1152

Categories: In The News