Weekly Feature



2017-12-06 / Lifestyles

Celebrating 30 years of Happily-Ever-afters

While romance novels vary in subgenres, time and place, and levels of sensuality, there’s one element readers can rely on: a happy ending.

For 30 years, the Western New York Romance Writers, chapter of Romance Writers of America, has provided support and knowledge to authors who write in all genres of romance. “We’re not a book club. We don’t come together and read. It’s about learning, the connections we make and helping each other reach our goals,” said Alison Stone, romantic suspense writer and member of 15 years. The nonprofit organization meets on the third Saturday each month and features guest speakers, such as local authors, and marketing and networking professionals. The group also invites people from different careers to learn how to write about the professions realistically.

Jessica Topper, romantic women’s fiction writer and six-year member, said the group also hosts writing workshops for members, who range from beginners to multi-published authors.


The Western New York Romance Writers group celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. From left are members Helen Jones, Mary E. Thompson, Alison Stone and Jessica Topper. Right, romance novels by members of the Western New York Romance Writers. 
Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The Western New York Romance Writers group celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. From left are members Helen Jones, Mary E. Thompson, Alison Stone and Jessica Topper. Right, romance novels by members of the Western New York Romance Writers. Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com “When you’re writing, you’re usually alone and you wonder if you’re the only one going through [struggles],” said Topper. “So, it’s nice to know you’re not alone and to bounce ideas off each other.”

Helen Lynch, contemporary romance writer and 20-year member, said the supportive atmosphere inspires members to keep writing.

“With all of these years of rejection, I think the support is phenomenal,” said Lynch. “Whether you do something successful or you get a rejection, there’s always somebody there to cheer you on.”

The group’s 22 members stem from all walks of life. Topper is a former librarian, and Lynch is a retired journalist. Stone is a former engineer and started writing when she became a stay-at-home mom. She wrote short stories and articles but later began researching whole-length fiction.

“I think being an engineer and planner, I did research on what was the biggest market, and romance was the biggest market,” said Stone. “Then I realized I enjoyed it.”

Stone attended an RWA conference seven years ago, and at the conference, she discovered the Toronto-based top romance publisher, Harlequin, needed more Amish romantic suspense.

“I thought that was intriguing,” said Stone. “I researched the Amish and went to an Amish community about an hour from here and felt, ‘This is gold!’”

Since then, Stone has published 15 books, most about Amish romantic suspense through Harlequin. However, Stone considers herself a hybrid author, an author who also self-publishes.

Several other members have followed the indie publishing route, including vice president Mary E. Thompson. Thompson, also a former engineer, joined the group two years ago and has self-published all of her 36 contemporary romance novels.

According to Paula Stelluto, founder of the group, most self-published novels are e-books.

“In the past five to six years, publishing has changed the most,” said Stelluto.

“When I started the group, you would submit a manuscript and wait to hear back, which could take six months to a year, and a lot of times, it would be rejected. Now, you can post it on the internet and make your money on it.”

With the addition of the

Amazon Kindle in 2007, one of the first viable platforms for e-books, authors could write on their own schedules and control their book’s content and cover Last year alone, 36 million romance design. e-books were sold and around 83 million self-published romance e-books sold, according to an NPD Books and Consumers study.

Self-publishing was once frowned upon, according to Stone.

“But now, there are many authors doing it on their own who are putting out beautiful books that are very successful,” she said. “Ultimately, the readers decide if your books are any good.”

Romance remains one of the largest-selling literary genres, and Stelluto believes its success isn’t just from the sweet or steamy romance.

“The female characters in romance novels take charge of their lives,” Stelluto said. “They know what they want, they go and find it, and they don’t settle for less. People also love happy endings. In this world, especially lately, readers want to see good people win at life.”

For more information about WNYRWA or to join, visit www.wnyrw.org.

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