I think there's a lot of truth in a comment I read recently about writing. It doesn't matter what you read now, it's what you've read in the past that most affects your writing today.
Growing up, I steeped myself in romance. I'm not exaggerating when I say I read hundreds of the old hardback Mills and Boon. I also lapped up Jane Austen, the Brontes, Georgette Heyer, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Barbara Cartland, Daphne du Maurier and many more. I was about 14 when I read 'When the Lion Feeds' by Wilbur Smith. I absolutely loved this sprawling drama about the Courtney family in South Africa. It can't be classified as a romance but it is a tremendously romantic story. For me, anyway, Wilbur Smith created the quintessential romantic hero in the fabulous Sean Courtney.
I've been cried down in discussions when I compare Mills and Boon to Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. All I can say is that I loved to read about one man and one woman who lived only for each other in worlds far removed from mine. I lost myself in these stories and absorbed the writing as if by osmosis. Over the years I've read more widely but I believe it's as a result of those early years of reading that I've finally achieved my goal of becoming a published writer in the romance genre.
My first completed novel, Kincaid's Call, which was highly commended in the Romance Writer's of New Zealand Clendon Award, will be released by The Wild Rose Press in May, 2010. It's taken me more than two decades of stop-start writing to achieve this.