When I tell people that I’m a romance writer, I get a myriad of responses. The eyebrows usually shoot up, I get a once-over and a snicker. It’s the same sort of response I get when I tell people that I’m also a Middle Eastern belly dancer.
I’m an anomaly. In my youth I was painfully shy, quiet and nerdy. I was more brainiac than sexpot. Somehow, through the years I morphed. Yes, a leopard’s spots can be changed. Maybe that’s why my favorite color is “animal print.” Anyway, that’s another story.
I’ve been writing my entire life and grew up reading all of the fairy tales and believe in “happily ever after.” Though I’m a feminist who believes that women are equal to men (in some ways superior), I believe that life is like a cake. The cake is great alone but the frosting, men, make it a lot more interesting and sweet. That’s why I prefer stories with endings full of promise.
Romance and women’s fiction novels offer hope. In this stress-filled, fast-paced, self-centered society, I’d rather escape to a happier place. These novels offer the vacation without the plane ticket. I’ve been snubbed for not writing “literature.” Literature, to me, is angst-filled drama, tense, dark and foreboding. It wins awards. Women’s fiction brings happiness and commercial fiction makes money.
When I write romance, I feel like Barbara Cartland, the grande dame of the genre. She, in her flowing gowns, perfectly coiffed hair and make-up, lounging on her settee with her fluffy lap dog. I get to experience another world. It’s the same when I transform into “Nailah,” my beaded and bangled, sensuous, exotic belly dancer alter ego.
I want my readers to escape and transform while they read just as I watch my students change when they dance. Through novels and dance, women are taught female empowerment, independence and how sharing one’s life with another is a choice and not a requirement.
When people asked what I did, I used to cringe in response. I now hold my head up high and smile with confidence and raised self-esteem. I’m a romance writer and Middle Eastern dancer. I’m proud of who I am and what I do.
One of my favorite aphorisms is, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
It’s not too late to transform.