Romance novelist Gwyn Cready, AB’83, MBA’86, reveals her inspirations.
When I interviewed Gwyn Cready, AB’83, MBA’86, for the Core, I learned that one doesn’t have to be an aficionado or even that familiar with romance novels in order to become an award-winning author in the genre. Cready instead draws ideas from various forms of pop culture, her education, and her own imagination. If you’re in the mood to write something steamy this Valentine’s Day, consider using some of Cready’s influences.
Books written and/or set centuries ago
I was a literature major undergrad, but it was not until I read Pride and Prejudice did a book directly speak to something I’m interested in. I liked Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea, but Pride and Prejudice was about a woman. [Jane Austen] was concerned about things I was concerned about. That was very eye-opening for me.
I didn’t grow up reading romance novels, but then I was introduced to a book called Outlander, published in 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. I loved it so much—I was shocked. I didn’t even know I was reading a romance novel. Outlander focuses on [Scotland] in the 1740s, during the last uprising of the clans against British soldiers. A point in history that kind of rushed them toward the 1740s was the Acts of Union in 1707. [The English Parliament] bought off a lot of noblemen to agree to the country’s forming into a single nation. As we know from the news from [last year], it’s not something they’ve forgotten yet. That would be an interesting period to write about. The title Acts of Union: if that’s not the best romance title, I don’t know what is.
To be honest I don’t read that much romance. I think that gives me a distinctive voice. I did grow up in love with romantic comedies. My point of view in romance novels is informed by romantic comedies. My favorites include When Harry Met Sally of course, with that University of Chicago connection. I also love 13 Going on 30 and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
I’m often watching a movie or a TV show, and I think, “I bet I know what will happen next.” The thing I think should happen next is often a better idea than what does happen next. So I put that into my own stories.
The University of Chicago (by way of Johnny Carson)
I often think about Steve Martin remembering being on The Tonight Show for the first time. Johnny Carson leaned over and said, “In show business, you will use everything you ever learned.” I think that about my writing. I’m very grateful for my liberal arts education at the University. I’ve written about military tactics, intelligence and war, border disputes, English history. Aching for Always is a story about maps. I did a lot of research on mapmaking and learned how maps are someone trying to control your view of the world and they hide as much as they reveal.
Experience working for GlaxoSmithKline Healthcare as a brand manager
You think of your books as a brand, you as an author as a brand. In my first book, the heroine worked in brand management at a large pharma company. Anything in the corporate world is pretty funny.