What Is Love: A Romancelandia Roundtable

Romancelandia. It's a sprawling and fascinating place, and some of its most exciting authors are here together (virtually) to talk about the genre, its challenges, and the very best parts of writing happily-ever-after.

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49th Shelf: Imagine you were welcoming a new reader to Romancelandia—can you provide a brief description of the lay of the land and its regions? Where in its world do you live?

Barb Curtis: Romancelandia is a world where lovers of the romance genre (both readers and writers) can connect over all things romance. If you follow the hashtag on Twitter, you’ll discover industry news and discussions, book recommendations based on your favourite authors or tropes, and reviews. It’s also a place where important conversations are happening about politics, women’s rights, and representation. It’s a community that comes together and stands up for all that romance is and can evolve into.

Romancelandia is just a click away and all you need to fit in is a love for any genre of happily-ever-afters—from historical romance to paranormal romance to romantic suspense.

Kelly Bowen: What a fun question! Here goes, according to my handy guidebook interpretation (which, of course, is not the only one!):

Romancelandia is a huge, fabulous world that welcomes all readers and writers of romance—the only requirement for entry is that you must love romance (and happy endings!). There are many, many different regions of Romancelandia that you can tour at will, depending on what sort of journey you're in the mood for. 

 

Romancelandia is a huge, fabulous world that welcomes all readers and writers of romance—the only requirement for entry is that you must love romance (and happy endings!).

Kelly Bowen

We offer a sprawling Contemporary region that boasts small towns and big cities, knitting clubs and motorcycle clubs, small business owners and billionaires, scientists and artists, SEALS and surgeons, musicians and athletes—I could go on but no doubt you'll find your favourite heroine (or hero) in each of these neighbourhoods. 

Heading out, we'll come to the Romantic Suspense region—stay on your toes here because there is mystery, danger, and intrigue around every corner that our heroines and heroes have to navigate (while falling in love). 

A little farther over, we have a Paranormal region where you'll find, among others, shape-shifters and vampires, demons and angels, witches and aliens, with many ready to transport you to amazing worlds through secret portals (I hope you brought your passport).

If you'd like to travel somewhere hot, head over to our Erotic region where your favourite characters delve into absorbing plots and earn their happy-ever-afters with a scorching, steamy heat that shapes their romance. 

And finally, welcome to my region, the land of Historical Romance. There is a dazzling array of different neighbourhoods here to visit as well, defined by period and place (want to visit a Roman villa during the time of Caesar, a Scottish castle during the Reformation, or a French brothel during the Revolution?) My stomping ground is the fairly large neighbourhood of Regency Romance, where you'll find an abundance of dukes, smugglers, gaming halls, horses, ballrooms, and illicit trysts behind every potted palm (among other places). The Prince Regent is all about the sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, and the military, social, and economic upheaval going on in the background is quite something, indeed.

So please visit awhile and look around while you're in Romancelandia. Keep in mind that each region offers stories for all ages and heat levels (except, perhaps the Erotic region, which is smoking hot all the time) and all types of relationships. Choose all that catch your fancy (there is no requirement to limit yourself to one region) and stay for the love and happy-ever-after!

Sara Desai: Romancelandia at its core is the virtual space where lovers of happily-ever-afters—authors, bloggers, influencers, librarians, booksellers, bookstagrammers and readers—meet to talk about everything romance. But more than that, it is a place of love, passion, and friendship. Romancelandia is filled with supportive, kind, wise, and fierce people who are as willing to mentor a new romance writer as they are to raise funds for a reader in need. We have our queens (Nora Roberts) and Duchesseses (Courtney Milan). And we have drama—lots of drama. We have dragons and evil villains who try to tear us down or pull us apart. But we also have faith in the power of romance to bring us together again.

Romancelandia is filled with supportive, kind, wise and fierce people who are as willing to mentor a new romance writer as they are to raise funds for a reader in need. We have our queens (Nora Roberts) and Duchesseses (Courtney Milan). And we have drama—lots of drama.

Sara Desai

Uzma Jalaluddin: Romancelandia is a fun, generally supportive, occasionally confusing place where romance writers and fans live. You can take an exit to literally any interest that strikes your fancy—from space cowboys vs. sexy aliens to secret baby to enemies to lovers. I live in the romantic comedy space, as I write funny stories about second generation immigrants from the south Asian, Muslim diaspora in Canada. I love to read contemporary and historical romance, and I’m here for diversity in all the books I read (and write!) What I appreciate about Romancelandia is that it is increasingly a vocal place to discuss gender and racialized people’s lived experience.

Zoe York: You're exactly right, it's a vast readerscape. I exist in a couple of different spaces inside it: Twitter Romancelandia is different from Goodreads, which is different again from Facebook and Instagram, and all of those are different from the readers I know as an author who sign up for my email newsletter because they aren't on social media. Some of the social media spaces are (and should be) reader-only, so I've had to step back from them as I've grown into being an author with a platform, which makes me a tiny bit sad, because I'm still a reader first! 

 

What I appreciate about Romancelandia is that it is increasingly a vocal place to discuss gender and racialized people’s lived experience.

Uzma Jalaluddin

Farah Heron: Romancelandia is an amazing place full of people who love reading, writing, and talking about romance novels! There is something here for everyone since there is a subgenre of romance for every taste. I live in the romcom neighborhood, but I like to visit the historical, and contemporary romance regions. We’re a fun bunch, and we’re very welcoming to newcomers, as long as you respect the genre and remember that romance novels must end with a happily-ever-after, or a happy-for-now.

Damhnait Monaghan: Welcome to Romancelandia Theme Park. I see you’ve chosen the RomCom Taster. Here’s your humour headset so you can laugh at our characters’ foibles and frolics along the way.

Peek inside the Meet Cute café, where we plot comical or awkward meetings between characters. That woman staring pensively out the window is protagonist, Helen. The man texting at the counter is potential love interest Paul. They haven’t met… yet. Maybe Helen’s a waitress and accidentally spills a drink on Paul. Maybe Paul accidentally takes Helen’s identical looking backpack. Or maybe they’re in an actual accident in the parking lot. Only a fender bender of course, this is a romcom.

On to the Games Arcade. Spin the wheel of fortune to determine Helen and Paul’s romantic fate: Love at first sight? They lock eyes and instantly know. In that case, we need a few obstacles to keep them apart until much closer to the end of the story. Enemies to lovers? Paul finds something embarrassing or incriminating in Helen’s backpack, so she hates him forever. Or at least until closer to the end of the story. Friends to lovers? Paul is chilled about the spilled drink. He and Helen become “just friends.” There’s no romance, at least until ... you get the idea. As with the Meet Cute menu, other options are available.

Finally, climb aboard the Emotional Roller Coaster. Hold tight as we plunge down the double dip of misunderstanding and miscommunication, before a rapid rise towards possible connection, only to hurtle downwards, tilting sharply at the last chance for romance bend where, after a final ascent, Paul and Helen enter the Tunnel of Love on their way to the Happily-Ever-After exit.

49th Shelf: How did you arrive in romance, as a reader and as an author? 

ZY: For a long time, the only romance I read were books I found at yard sales and used bookstores; when I gravitated to those piles of lovely worn books, it was always the romances I picked up. Like other genre fiction I read (mysteries and thrillers), they were reliable entertainment with certain promises: the romances would make me feel warm and tingly, in the same way the thrillers would shove my heart into my throat. But I didn't follow any authors or collect any specific series until I read a book by Pamela Clare called Unlawful Contact. It was clearly set in a larger storyline, and there was a secondary character who had a wife: clearly, there was a book for him, too. I did an Internet search, discovered the larger series (The I-Team Series), and a fan was born. That would have been maybe 2009?

By 2011, I was deep into using Goodreads as a reader, and followed a number of authors, including Canadians like Elle Kennedy and Vivian Arend, and small-town authors like Brenda Jackson and Jill Shalvis. Then a friend gave me a used Kobo e-reader for my maternity leave, and my reading world shifted again in a profound way. I didn't need to hunt for books by my favourite authors at bookstores anymore, or wait until I could find a used copy of an out-of-print title: now every book in a series was available at my fingertips. Within a year, that new understanding of books as structured digital content, available online on demand, turned me into a writer of romance, too.

 

Then a friend gave me a used Kobo e-reader for my maternity leave, and my reading world shifted again in a profound way. I didn't need to hunt for books by my favourite authors at bookstores anymore, or wait until I could find a used copy of an out-of-print title: now every book in a series was available at my fingertips.

Zoe York

SD: I came to romance as a reader through my Irish grandmother. My Nana used to bring an entire bag of Harlequin romances when she came to Canada for a visit, and after I turned 13, she shared them with me!  I wrote my first romance in 2009 while I was recovering from a serious illness. I put together my experience as a lawyer with my love of happily-ever-afters and I haven’t looked back since.

UJ: [I arrived at romance through] marketing, mostly, which is something that new writers often don’t think about. I didn’t even know what genre I was writing in, just that I wanted to write joyful, funny books about Muslims living in Canada. I’ve always been drawn to stories that are entertaining, but have a deeper theme that runs through them. Those are the books I enjoy the most, and I confess I’m a sucker for a HEA (happy-ever-after), or HFN (happy-for-now). Life is hard enough!

BC: I’ve been a reader of romance since I was a teen. My first summer job was at our local community’s “Historical Society,” which was an old house with diaries, photos, and lots of antiques. People passing through could stop in for tours, which rarely happened. One of the committee members showed up one day with a bag of romance novels so the two of us that worked there would have something to do to pass the time. We devoured them, and I became hooked on the genre and a lifelong Nora Roberts fan.

I got into writing romance sort of accidentally. I thought what I was writing was women’s fiction, but after comparing a few “rules” of both the women’s fiction and romance genres, I realized what I was writing fit more into the romance category. I wasn’t sure what to think of that at first. I worried about the reputation of romance as a genre—that people perceived it as less revered than other genres. This stigma still exists unfortunately, but I suppose I’ve stopped letting it bother me, because for every person who scoffs at the romance genre, there are thousands more who love it.

KB: I've been reading romance since long before my mother probably would have wanted (it seems more than a few of us started early by sneaking books out of closets and off nightstands). By nature, I am a voracious reader of everything and anything but there has always been a special place in my heart for those stories that resolve conflict and challenge and allow the characters to have a happy-ever-after. Happy-ever-afters, no matter how often you read them, are always good for the soul. As a writer, history is my passion and writing historical romance is how I was able to marry both loves. 

FH: I was a romance reader from when I was quite young, inhaling teen category romances long before I was a teenager. And of course, like so many romance fans, I’ve been a Jane Austen superfan since high school. As an adult, I loved the chick-lit boom in the '90s, but it wasn’t until my thirties that I really dived into real adult romance novels and started reading them voraciously. Romance is the only genre I’ve ever attempted writing. I’d had a few difficult years prior to starting writing, and immersing myself in the hope and optimism of romance novels was exactly what I needed. 

 

As an adult, I loved the chick-lit boom in the '90s, but it wasn’t until my thirties that I really dived into real adult romance novels and started reading them voraciously

Farah Heron

 

DM: As a reader, two words: Gilbert Blythe. I read and reread the Anne of Green Gables series as a child. Talk about a slow burn. Seriously, how could Anne not realize that Gilbert was her soulmate? I knew it, you knew it, everyone in Avonlea knew it. How many times did poor Gilbert have to propose before Anne said yes?

Sheesh, who knew I’d still feel so passionate after all these years? But that’s how romance hooks readers—by making us care about characters and their relationships. Heck, I’m still so invested in the Anne and Gilbert drama I’ve named the potential love interest in my WIP Gilbert.

As for the romcom genre, the very name highlights its appeal. Romance and comedy, love and laughter. What’s not to like? As a reader and a writer, especially in the current climate.

Until recently, I mostly wrote flash fiction with sad themes—death, grief, dysfunction. Early drafts of my novel were more serious, too. By degrees I stripped back the sadness in my novel, opting for a lighter, more humorous tone. I’m late to the romcom party but thrilled to don my glad rags and join the fun.

49th Shelf: As an author, what are the biggest challenges writing within this genre?

DM: Romcoms employ certain tropes. A writer’s challenge is to put a fresh spin on them. Many of the features in my debut novel are common. A young woman arrives in a small community looking for a fresh start after a painful period in her life. She tries to fit in with the locals, meets a potential love interest, faces challenges and conflict, confides in her BFF and works towards resolution of her problems, all while striving towards happiness.

My (I hope) fresh spin is location and culture. The setting of my novel is glorious Newfoundland and Labrador. My protagonist, Rachel, is a newly arrived mainlander, who becomes immersed in the local accent, dialect, and culture. The location allowed me to develop storylines involving traditional music and crafts such as rug hooking and quilt making.

A more personal challenge for me is writing love scenes. Want me to write some snappy dialogue, I’m in. Want me to describe what’s happening in the bedroom? I’m also in. As in hiding in the closet.

He would kill me for sharing this, but my teenage son was doing homework at the kitchen table, while I was writing the love scene in my debut.

Him: This Spanish is hard./ Me: I’m working on something harder./ Him: What?/ Me: I’m writing a sex scene./ Him: I’m going to work in my room.

BC: For me the biggest challenge of writing romance is having two main characters with wounds and back-stories to flesh out and to bring full circle, while also ensuring the overall romance arc happens in the best possible way. Also, reinventing the happily-ever-after every time so that each story is fresh and unique.

SD: It is difficult not to get distracted by the latest shiny new thing and stay true to the kind of stories I write best. I binged Bridgerton on Netflix and immediately started plotting a historical romance even though I’ve never written anything involving a parasol or pelisse!

 

I binged Bridgerton on Netflix and immediately started plotting a historical romance even though I’ve never written anything involving a parasol or pelisse!

Sara Desai

FH: Honestly, everything is challenging about writing romance. We have to write great, believable, well-rounded, empathetic characters who readers have to root for so they will be emotionally invested enough to feel the same euphoria that the characters feel as they fall in love. And we have to do all that with two (or sometimes more) characters. Plus, we have to develop emotional and physical intimacy, chemistry, and character growth, all while juggling an external plot, too.

KB: This is a good question. The writing itself is the best part, as is the collaboration and the incredible support of the romance writing community and romance readers. The biggest challenge, I find, is the reception and stereotypes romance readers and writers run into all the time outside our community. 

As a writer—and I know I can speak for many of us—my stories are often dismissed by readers who have never read a romance, or haven't read a romance in the last 20 years. I regularly hear comments like, “So you just write mommy-porn?” or “romance is just formulaic and anyone could write one” or my personal favourite, “When are going to write a real book?” (I also write historical fiction yet in discussions about that genre, no one has once asked me when I plan on writing a real book.)

If by formulaic, one means that there is a happy-ever-after at the end, then yes, we're guilty. But today's romances tackle some very significant and complex issues that real people deal with on a daily basis. I cannot overstate the value that many find through an author's voice working through the emotion, vulnerability, consequences, and realities of those issues while at the same time offering hope, healing, and joy. 

As a reader, I often hear romance referred to as a guilty pleasure and I would like to toss that term into a volcano forever. The idea that one should feel guilty reading something that gives them pleasure is ridiculous. Read what makes you happy and embrace that happiness.

 

As a reader, I often hear romance referred to as a guilty pleasure and I would like to toss that term into a volcano forever.

Kelly Bowen

ZY: [I’m challenged by] keeping my eyes on my own page and sticking to my plan. There's a lot of noise about what the market likes and doesn't like, what business best practices are, and where you "have to be" to find readers. Romance is a giant chunk of the book industry (billions of dollars a year), and we're proud of that, but that overall genre success can create a lot of individual pressure to perform at a certain level.

UJ: Unfortunately, romance as a genre often gets overlooked as purely escapist, empty fiction, and that can be frustrating. I hate snobbery in all its forms, and literary snobs are especially annoying. A lot of important conversations are taking place within romance novels, and within Romancelandia, and there are many many many talented voices making waves across all of commercial fiction, which some people too easily dismiss. The other challenge is trying to find a fresh spin on familiar tropes, and of course the evergreen writerly complaint, of finding the time to write!

49th Shelf: What do you love about writing romance?

FH: Just like reading romance, I get to feel all the amazing, hopeful, happy feelings along with my characters as their lives get turned upside down for love. I’ve always loved strong, character-driven books and I think romances are the most character-driven stories out there. I love deep diving into a character’s emotions and motivations. Also, the fact that the story must end with the couple together adds another layer of challenge. I love problem solving, and figuring out how to make these people happy against all odds is so satisfying.

DM: Creating dialogue. Not just sparks flying between the romantic leads but also scenes where female friends riff off one another.

ZY: The happy endings. My favourite craft structure is a story circle, the idea that a protagonist goes out on an adventure into the unfamiliar, starting from a place of confusion and disquiet, and through a new and unexpectedly profound connection with another person (or a few other people!), learns what it is they need to return to their familiar in a more whole and settled way. That sense of peace at the end of a romance novel is beautiful.

UJ: My writing always starts with my characters. They come alive and begin to live in my head, which is entertaining and occasionally spooky. When it comes to romance, I really enjoy the experience of watching my two main protagonists begin to spark on the page. Writing chemistry, writing dialogue that is romantic and filled with tension, is always fun!

When it comes to romance, I really enjoy the experience of watching my two main protagonists begin to spark on the page.

Uzma Jalaluddin

BC: What I love about writing romance is falling in love with my characters so they can fall in love with each other, and transporting myself into another world. I’ve always felt that reading romance is an escape, and writing romance really is too. There’s something comforting in the knowledge that no matter what turns the book takes, in the end, you know that everything is going to be okay, and that these characters you’re investing in and that your readers are investing in, will get their happy-ever-after.

KB: One of my very favourite parts of writing romance is my ability to use real-life heroines from the history books as inspiration for my fictional heroines. One of the challenges of writing historical romance is often people's perception of history. For example, Jane Austen wrote fabulous stories based on the world that she viewed around her, but hers was only a single viewpoint from that period. And a single viewpoint can never represent all who lived during that time. When it comes to my heroines (who are unapologetically forward-thinkers) I am often presented with comments like “a woman wouldn't have done that or known that back then.”  I love having the opportunity to dig into the real-life records of women who, in fact, did everything they were told they “shouldn't” or “couldn't” and bring them to life in my own stories—women who would make it possible for me to have the opportunities I have had years and years later.

SD: I love living the journey to a happily ever after with a couple who would never have imagined they would be together, and that breathtaking moment when they suddenly realize they have found their heart’s desire. For me, every story is like falling in love all over again.

49th Shelf: What kinds of romance novels are still yet to be written?

FH: I want to see all the tropes, subgenres, and heat levels of romance written by marginalized authors with marginalized characters. Romance was, for a very long time, dominated by white, cis, heterosexual voices, and we are long past due for more diversity in the genre. Great strides have been made in recent years, but it has not been enough. Every year, the romance-focused bookstore, The Ripped Bodice, publishes a study showing the percentage of traditionally published romances written by authors of colour. In 2019, only 8.3% of romance books published by major romance publishers were by people of colour. Clearly, we have a long way to go.

BC: This is a good question, because at a quick glance, a romance novel is pretty basic. Two people must get out of their own way and fall in love. And yet, we have thousands of authors reinventing the wheel every day. I think there is always room for new ways to tell tried and true tropes, more diverse characters, stories from BIPOC authors, and exploration of real life issues—books that tackle tough topics, in a way that really reaches readers.

DM: I’m wondering about the potential emergence of pandemic-themed romance. What does he look like behind that mask? Or perhaps a meet cute in a breakout room on Zoom?

 

I’m wondering about the potential emergence of pandemic themed romance. What does he look like behind that mask? Or perhaps a meet cute in a breakout room on Zoom?

Damhnait Monaghan

UJ: I’d like to see even more diversity in romance, As for what has yet to be written—I’m sure there are many manuscripts waiting in people’s hard drives, hoping for recognition and publication.

ZY: An infinite number of variations on the theme! The thing here is that probably any answer I might give, from my limited vantage point in the parts of Romancelandia I occupy, will already exist, but I haven't found it yet. Lots of people say things like, "I wish we had more soft and squishy romance heroes," but those books absolutely exist. One of my favourites is called Private Politics by Emma Barry; Jackie Lau was just tweeting the other day that she is planning to write one of these later this year, too! But there are underrepresented corners of the market, too. Vanessa Riley is writing Black characters having HEAs in Regency romance, which is great; let's acquire ten more Black authors to write that alongside her, and there will still be untapped potential. That's the beauty of genre fiction: "It's been done before" is just the starting-off point. Let's do it again, but with different writers. Let's do it again, but with a mashup. Let's do it again, but with a twist.

 

That's the beauty of genre fiction: "it's been done before" is just the starting off point. Let's do it again, but with different writers. Let's do it again, but with a mashup. Let's do it again, but with a twist.

Zoe York

KB: If I'm still sticking to historical romance here, I would love to see some more Canadian-set historical romance (yes, I know, I'm biased). We have some incredible history of our own (and I do manage to sneak some Canadian history into my stories—my heroine from A Duke to Remember is Canadian!)

Broadening my wish list to all sub-genres of romance, I'd love to continue to see more diversity in romance stories—more own-voices romances. As a reader, there is nothing I value more than being transported to new places, new history, new cultures, and new viewpoints. We live in a wide, wide world and there is always room on the shelves. Learning is a life-long lesson.

49th Shelf: What are some of the Canadian romance writers you’re particularly excited about right now?

SD: There are as many love stories out there as there are couples waiting to find each other. I hope our romance future holds more diversity and embraces the many facets of love.

KB: Canadian romance writers are some of the most generous, kind people I have ever met. I'm sure I'm missing many but here is a list of some truly talented Canadian romance writers whose work I enjoy immensely:

Kelly Jameison, Geneivieve Graham, Susanna Kearsley, Farah Heron, Jackie Lau, Jenny Holiday, Toni Anderson, Melanie Ting, Elle Rush, Zoe York, Sadie Haller, Elle Kennedy, Ruby Lang, Uzma Jalaluddin, Rosanna Leo, Viola Grace, Victoria Denault, and Sara Rider.

FH: I am really excited that so many diverse romance writers are thriving in Canada! I’ve been really enjoying Hudson Lin and Jackie Lau lately. Also, for anyone who loves romcoms set in Canada, I urge you to keep an eye-out for a debut this year, The Stand In, but Lily Chu. It will be published by Audible in the spring, followed by print copies by Sourcebooks a few months later. I’ve read an early copy of it, and the book is so fantastic.

UJ: Canadians are talented romance writers. I love Kate Hilton’s Better Luck Next Time, which is more Women’s fiction, and absolutely delightful. Sonya Lalli’s Serena Singh Flips the Script is also a timely and fun read!

SD: I am loving the wave of desi writers who are bringing to life wonderful stories of diverse cultures such as Sonya Lalli (The Matchmaker’s List), Farah Heron (The Chai Factor), Sabina Khan (The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali) and Uzma Jalaluddin (Ayesha at Last), all of whom have new books coming out this year. 

ZY: Mimi Grace is a Calgary-area author with two books out, and she's definitely someone I'm excited to see more from in the near future, because I gobbled up her "fake date for a wedding" contemporary romance Make a Scene. One of my favourite parts of Romancelandia is the networking and professional development that happens, but on top of the obvious benefit that has to learning the ins and outs of genre fiction, it also gives you a chance to watch someone's career flourish and cheer them on. I met Mimi through TIARA, for example, and some of the other authors I'm really excited about are in Toronto Romance Writers (which I'm on the board of, full disclosure): Hudson Lin (queer romance that is thoughtful and sexy), Farah Heron (who is writing both adult romance and has an upcoming YA debut that will be huge), Elly Blake (YA fantasy!), Molly Fader (a veteran romance writer as Molly O'Keefe, she is now also writing women's fiction that is just lovely).

DM: Sticking with romcom, I’m especially excited about two upcoming books:

Hana Khan Carries On, by Uzma Jalaluddin. Hana Khan is a waitress/radio station intern. When a new halal restaurant opens she finds herself attracted to its owner, despite the potential impact on her own employment at the Three Sisters Biriyani Poutine.

I enjoyed Uzma’s debut novel Ayesha At Last. And, for this former French teacher, who once lived in Montreal, to borrow a romcom expression, Uzma had me at poutine.

The Holiday Swap, by Maggie Knox. Identical twin sisters switch lives in the lead-up to Christmas. Say no more. I have a tradition of reading a Christmas-themed book over the holidays and swapping places is one of my favourite tropes in romcoms. And my husband is an identical twin!

Maggie Knox is the pen name for authors Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley. As a writer, I’m intrigued to hear about their collaborative process. As a reader, Christmas can’t come too soon.  

BC: I’m really excited for Farah Heron’s new book Accidentally Engaged, a romantic comedy that comes out in March. I also love Jenny Holiday, Kelly Siskind, and Rosanna Leo.

****

Kelly Bowen:

Award-winning author Kelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, and attended the University of Manitoba, where she earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in veterinary studies. She worked as a research scientist before realizing her dream to be a writer of historical fiction. Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two sons.  

Barb Curtis:

A happily-ever-after-crafter at heart, Barb Curtis’ love for writing began with a quick-witted style column, and her background in marketing led to stints writing print and web copy, newsletters, and grant proposals. The switch to fiction came with the decision to pair her creativity with her love for words, and crafting characters and settings she could truly get lost in. Barb happily lives in a bubble in rural New Brunswick with her husband, daughter, and dog. You’ll find her restoring the century-old family homestead, weeding the garden, and no doubt whistling the same song all day long. For more on Barb and her books, visit BarbCurtisWrites.com.

Sara Desai:

Sara Desai has been a lawyer, radio DJ, marathon runner, historian, bouncer, and librarian. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband, kids, and an assortment of forest creatures who think they are pets. Sara writes sexy romantic comedy and contemporary romance with a multicultural twist. When not laughing at her own jokes, Sara can be found eating nachos. Visit Sara at www.saradesai.com

Farah Heron:

Farah Heron’s debut, The Chai Factor, was named one of the summer’s best books by The Globe and Mail, and has been praised in Book Riot, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Bustle and more. Her next release is Accidentally Engaged, out March 2nd, published by Forever/Grand Central Books. Her YA debut, Tahira in Bloom, will be out in late 2021 by Skyscape.

Uzma Jalaluddin:

Uzma Jalaluddin is the author of Ayesha At Last, a revamped Pride and Prejudice set in a close-knit Toronto Muslim community. The book has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and Kirkus. Ayesha At Last was named the 2019 Cosmopolitan UK Book of the Year, long-listed for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour (Canada) and the Toronto Book Awards, and short-listed for the Kobo Emerging Writer Award. In addition to fiction, Uzma writes a culture and parenting column for The Toronto Star. She lives in the Greater Toronto Area with her husband and two sons. Her next novel, Hana Khan Carries On, will be published in April.

Damhnait Monaghan:

Damhnait Monaghan is an award-winning flash fiction writer. Her debut novel New Girl in Little Cove is a light-hearted "fish out of water" romantic comedy, forthcoming with Harper Collins Canada, Graydon House Books/Harlequin (US) and Suhrkamp Insel (Germany).

Zoe York:

Canadian romance author Zoe York lives in London, Ontario with her husband, two kids, and two cats. She is a proud member of Toronto Romance Writers, and in-between writing books as Zoe (and sometimes as Ainsley Booth), she travels around the world with her family.

February 8, 2021
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