Category Archives: Conversation

New Directions

A long time ago, on a hilltop far, far away, I started writing category Romance. With two pre-schoolers to run herd on, I fed my appetite for reading with short, satisfying Romances I could gulp down during nap time. So when stuck with said pre-schoolers inside for a week during a blizzard, I began to scribble down one of the stories in my head in a notebook. It was intended to save my sanity, and became a career and a passion.

Writing Harlequin-style Romances was a natural choice as I gobbled them during this time period. I’d grown up reading everything–everyone in my house read everything– but at this particular turn of my road, category Romances comprised the bulk of my reading.

My career roots in Romance spread over the next decade or two. One of the appeals to me was this was a genre that could, and did, include everything. You could, especially when the genre and the market evolved, add elements of mystery, suspense, paranormal, horror, comedy, fantasy. As long as the story contained a core romantic relationship, tied things up with a happy ending, you could rock on.

I continued to write category even as I expanded into writing mainstream novels, and produced 100 books for Silhouette before I turned off that road. With Bantam, then Putnam (which became Penguin-Putnam which became Penguin Random House), and now St. Martin’s Press I wrote and continue to write Romantic Suspense, I wrote trilogies–straight relationship or with elements of fantasy and paranormal. I began the In Death series as JD Robb.

The In Death series certainly took me onto another lane of the highway. I thought of these as relationship mysteries/police procedurals with continuing characters set in the near future–which gave them a science fiction light touch.

Mostly they were and are fun and interesting stories for me to write, with core characters I adore and enjoy. That makes them tremendously satisfying creatively.

The Romantic Suspense novels I write drive down another lane on the highway. They’re not a part of a series, sometimes have more than one romantic relationship, generally have other non-romantic relationships–friendships, family–as writing about people is what I do. For these it may be a setting that flicks on the light bulb, or a character type, or a situation. For The Obsession, for instance, that flash was: What’s it like to be the child of a serial killer?

As I write without much of a structured plan, relying more on Let’s See What Happens next, I have to be very engaged in the story, very connected to the characters to see it all through. That first flick on has to pull me in.

The trilogies I do wind down another lane. For these everything’s broader and interconnected. The concept has to tell me, this needs more room, and has a theme or goal that can weave through three books. Whether straight relationship, like the Born In trilogy, or The Bride Quartet, or with those paranormal elements, like The Circle Trilogy or Three Sisters Island, the initial concept always included that central romance, and the romance highlighted in each book would be resolved in that particular book.

I conceived them as one big book in three distinct parts, each containing–whether it be mortal, wizard, business-woman or vampire–that elemental romantic relationship.

Writing on those different lanes of the highway has served to keep me fresh and creatively satisfied–and it seems to me gives readers a lot of choices in my work. Some like the Robb series, some don’t. Some like the more traditional relationship, some are eager for the more magickal, others prefer the suspense.

But when you offer a variety, the downside is those who prefer one gripe when you offer another. That’s just how it goes. If a writer discovers how to satisfy every reader every time, I really want to have a sit-down with him or her and learn the secret. But in the meantime, I have to pay attention to that flick of light and turn down the road where it shines for me.

And so, some time ago, that light flicked on a turn off the highway, a detour, an unexplored road. It’s a little risky to take that turn, see where it takes you. But it’s also exciting. And challenging.

The flash of this light didn’t beam on the Romance of my roots, or how my own work has evolved around it, and frankly, away from what the genre is today. It shined on something different, something I saw as more a Fantasy saga. Relationships, absolutely. Books and stories for me are all about the people in them, how they relate, or don’t. Touches of romance, sure, but at least in the opening book, the story can’t center on a central love story and hold for the rest.

I thought about it for quite awhile, played with it in my head, chewed on it, studied the concept from different angles. The light didn’t dim, so I turned off and followed it.

Year One — the first of this different sort of trilogy — begins a journey, for me as a writer, for the characters within, and hopefully for the reader who wants to take a chance with me. It begins with a global crisis, a pandemic that wipes away much of the population and opens a door to magicks. Black and white, courage and cowardice, the determination to survive and rebuild, the evolution of powers for good or ill. And the light again, that’s hope and love and bravery that shines through.

The process of structuring this story–and laying the groundwork for the two that will follow–presented a creative challenge, the need to take a leap, a lot of sweaty work, a larger cast of characters to develop and connect to, multiple relationships to weave, the logistics of world building. Because even when you’re basically destroying the world, you’re building another.

For the first time in too long to remember a book woke me up at night, or kept me up. What do I do about this, how will I resolve that, how does that even make any stupid sense? It wouldn’t leave me alone, so I knew it had me, however it turned out. I had to follow that light and see where it took me.

Writing it proved hard and bumpy and frustrating and tremendous fun. Finishing it was, for me, monumental. The relief that my editor didn’t say WTF when she read it, beyond enormous. It matters, a lot, to be satisfied with a finished manuscript. It matters, a whole giant bunch of a lot, when an editor a writer knows and trusts, whose purpose is to publish, package, market a book and help it be the best it can be, gives the work two thumbs up.

I already know the following two books that will comprise this trilogy will be hard and bumpy and frustrating and fun. But I’m on the road now, and I’m enjoying the scenery.

Normally, I wouldn’t have a lot to say to readers about a book that won’t be out for a year, or a trilogy that’s only just begun on my end. In this case, since it’s different, since it’s not Romance or built on the framework of the genre, and is a turn off onto a new road rather than a different lane, I thought it fair to let those who follow my work know something else is coming.

I understand some might think: But this isn’t what I want from her! That’s okay, don’t worry. The In Death series will continue. The Suspense novels with that core love story (or stories) will continue to pull me in. But you’ve got to follow the light, go where ideas pull you. And hope that readers take the journey with you.


The Register — 11/11/16

Only a few things to report this Veteran’s Day.

First, thank you to our veterans.  As I posted on Facebook this morning, some of the most wonderful, poignant and gratifying emails are from members of the military and their families thanking Nora for the difference her books make in getting through the strains of

Second, despite the fact we’re all so weary of the voting process in the US, here’s something you can endorse:


The Obsession and Brotherhood In Death made it into the semi-final round of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2016.  The Obsession is in the Romance category while Brotherhood in Death is in Mystery/Thriller.  Click the category name for your chance to vote. Voting is open until Sunday.

Nora’s at the spa right now, but will be back in time for Girls Night Out at Turn the Page Bookstore on Thursday, November 17 from 6-9 pm.  I’ve copied/pasted the info from the Facebook page since it’s not on the TTP website:

It’s a fun evening of champagne, refreshments, treats, door prizes, and lots of mingling with authors, artists, and girls galore. Special guests Lorrie Schoettler of Stony Ridge Ridge Farm and Jeanne Brumbaugh will provide farm goodies and healing energy work. Also meet Joyce Taber, creator of the Nora Roberts’ jewelry collection.

Rub elbows with some of our favorite authors who will meet fans and sign books: Anna Bennett, Mary Burton, Lisa Dyson, HelenKay Dimon, Kimberly Kincaid,  and Erika Robuck.

TTP received permission to sell 50 copies of ISLAND OF GLASS at this event (limit one per attendee)! This is pretty exciting for us since the actual release date isn’t until Dec. 6.

Then be sure to wander around town and stop in the many participating businesses, including our lovely neighboring shop Gifts Inn BoonsBoro. Visit all of the participating businesses with your punch sheet and you’ll have a chance to win a free night’s stay at Inn BoonsBoro and other prizes.

There is no charge for this event, but books signed at Turn the Page must be purchased here.  Call TTP at 301-432-4588 for more details.

Finally, I posted some quotes on Facebook this week.  Enjoy!

lean-and-mean you no-matter


The Register – 11/4/16

For the rest of the year, I plan to compile a weekly round up of social media goings on, photos that appeal to me and tidbits of  info that just don’t fit into other posts.  So, not a Cranky Publicist post (like the one I’ve drafted in my head about how can you be an In Death fan if you misspell Roarke???)  but a neater way to keep you all filled in on what’s new and what’s not.

First up:  the Inn BoonsBoro package featuring an Evening with Nora sold out within hours.  I’m pretty sure if it goes smoothly, there will be another one in the future.  Stay tuned.

Next, St. Martin’s continues to be super excited about their first book with Nora/JD — Echoes in Death.  They will release small bits — one liners really — over the weeks to come to whet appetites even more.  Here’s the first one. echoes-whim-1

(BTW, Heroes & Heartbreakers has some excellent features about and by authors, reviews, reveals and other fun reader-y things. This morning starts with a discussion about Nora Roberts or Nora Ephron — have to love a good Nora, right?)

Continuing on the St. Martin’s Press theme (they are more excited than anyone about working with Nora!):  they have an ongoing sweepstakes tied into Echoes in Death.  The last two prizes are up for grabs soon — the last one is an Eve style leather coat!  Details and rules* are here.

They also created an amazing pop-art poster for Echoes in Death and will giveaway to readers in the US and Canada (ex. Quebec)** who upload their pre-order receipts before midnight, Feb. 6, 2017. All details are listed here.

And, because excitement this big can’t be contained, they’ve revealed the cover for September 2017’s Secrets in Death.9781250123152_fc

I’ll have more information about it next week. Pre-order links are coming on line, but it’s still a little too early for some.  Will list all the pre-order links next week.  Promise!

Third:  Love Between the Covers is now available on Netflix and will be out on dvd on December 6 — same date as Island of Glass.  I posted about the documentary here.

Finally, at Saturday’s signing two readers (names escape me right now) told me all about one of their phones that took photos by saying  “Cheese!” “Shoot” or “Capture!”  It was a Samsung 7 and I have a 6.  Nora will attest that I pouted about not having that amazing capability — which just made us laugh.

Back at the Fortress of Solitude that night, I googled voice triggered photos and found out that I could make my Samsung 6 do it.  And it did!  Here’s the evidence.

Nora, Sarah and Kat enjoying my thrill of snapping a photo by saying “Cheese!”

Then we set BW’s Samsung up as well.  So happy faces all around, except for Nora’s pout that her iPhone didn’t take photos by talking to it.

Still she smiled for the photo.

OK, that’s week one of The Register.

Comments, questions, things you’ve found on your own?  Share in the comments.


* While we love our worldwide readers and hate they have to miss out on the fun, there are varying rules and regulations regarding contests and sweepstakes in countries outside the US and Canada making it problematic and extremely difficult to create global contests.

**  Canadians in Quebec can’t enter due to their own tight rules on sweepstakes.  All other Canadians must answer a math question to make it a test of skill rather than chance.

Apprentice in Death teasers

We’re a week out from the September 6 release date, so I thought I’d share some teasers.  As always, these are not spoilers that reveal major plot points, but some nuggets to look out for as you race through the book.

Apprentice in Death cover

If you need a refresher, you can read the prologue here and the first chapter here.

I’ll update for at least four days this week, maybe five, maybe not.

Monday, August 29:
In a busy Chapter 2 we have:
– A little joke that goes wide of the mark
– Office designs that may or may not suck
– Some major e-geekiness from Roarke, plus he gets to act out a fantasy

Tuesday, August 30
– Some decorating decisions are made.
– Much geek joy results from Roarke’s chapter 2 work, Peabody describes it best.
– Someone gets a ride in the DLE and wants one when they are available.

Wednesday, August 31
– There’s a quiet Eve & Roarke moment amid the chaos of the case in Chapter 8 that offers a little glimpse of a younger Eve.
– Marriage proposals can happen anywhere/anytime.  And don’t involve characters we know.

Thursday, September 1
– It seems Nadine may like rock ‘n roll.
– Roarke feels torn by connections
– Mira misinterprets Eve’s term for an energy boost shake.  To Eve’s embarrassment.

Friday, September 2
– Roarke’s Christmas gift pays off
– Birthday party, Mavis style.

Thanks for playing along.  Curious to see what you all think when you see the teasers in context.  Because honestly?  Most of the guesses are way off.  But that only makes it more fun.  Back on Tuesday to open the discussion thread.





The way to Nora’s heart

It’s always a pleasure (for Nora and me) when a baby comes to a signing.  We’re veteran child herders so we know that waiting in line with a tired or hungry baby is not always fun for the parent (or grandparent or aunt or uncle or friend) in charge of the baby.  But it’s a welcome respite for us.

Many times I’ll see the baby back in line and get a chance for a cuddle.  Then, of course, I simply HAVE to show off for Nora who gives me the stink-eye for getting there first.

But I’ll admit Nora’s a baby whisperer and even the crankiest little one calms down when Nana Nora holds him or her.  (Though some of them are actually eyeing her jewelry to get something shiny in their fist — or mouth.  They are fast and strong and rarely give up without a complaint.)

We ran into two little beauties a couple weeks back.  Taylor came with her mom, her aunt, her grandma and great grandma to the Fall into the Story brunch.  It was a busy day, but I did snap a couple photos of the four generations with their cameras, and one — a little blurry — with mine.

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Fortunately, our good pal Maureen McGowan — a TTP regular and a wonderful photographer — took a few of Nora with the baby for me.

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Then there was the adorable Isabelle who brought her mom Katie to the Literacy signing on July 13.  Mom waited on the huge line for book and a photo but Miss Isabelle had an agenda of her own.  She acquiesced when Nora took her in her arms — for all of 10 seconds. Then she let us all know she was not best pleased and she wanted to be with her mom — NOW!

Happy baby, happy Nora.
Mightily annoyed baby, very amused Nora. (And mom Katie)

Fortunately Mom knew what Isabelle really wanted and the next time we looked over she was having a bottle.

We also get to meet some very smart and patient older kids who hang at the signings with their family, let me take their photos and usually walk out with a book (or two) of their own.

It’s always a huge pleasure to know that reading families seed the next generation as early as they can.  I think it would be great fun to share those new readers with seasoned vets here on the blog.  If you have any photos of your kids or grandkids with Nora, send them to me at  Any if you have any anecdotes about their reading habits, please let me know.  I hope to share some more photos in the coming weeks.




For the past several weeks, I’ve been house hunting–publishing houses, that is. While publishing’s a business, a house is still a home, and moving is stressful, complicated–and for a creature of routine like myself–just fraught.
Exciting, too, because once you work through the fraught, there are new possibilities, a fresh page, a new start.
There were changes in the house I worked with, lived in, was part of for more than twenty years, and with those changes I no longer felt at home there. Home, for me, is the center, the core, personally and professionally, so I need to feel comfortable and in place. I need to fit and feel connected.
So it was time to pack up, move on, and take memories of those twenty-plus years of good work with good people with me to somewhere new.
But where?
I’m fortunate to have had choices, to be able look at the landscape, the architecture, the personality and foundations of what was available to me. Each had its own distinct appeal and advantages, and since I don’t move lightly, all had to be carefully considered–with the invaluable and level-headed guidance of my agent. Amy Berkower of Writers’ House has been my agent since 1980. Not only don’t I make changes lightly, but I know when I have the best and I hold onto it. She knows and understands me, values for me what keeps me content, keeps me happy and creative, is not only my agent but my very good friend.
In the end, though we both determined I could do good work and be satisfied settling into other houses, one could be a real home, a place of contentment and creativity, one that suited my wants and needs at this time in my life and career.
For those reasons and many others, I’m unpacking my bags in MacMillan–St. Martin’s Press. Their landscape, architecture and personality all fit so well I already feel at home. I already know some of the family, and that’s a path to contentment. I’m looking forward to meeting and making connections to the rest. Best of all, I can now concentrate on the work I’ll do for them, and for you. I like to think, within this new house I’ll create some rooms readers will enjoy visiting, spending some time in.
They’ll begin publishing me next year (it takes time to write those books, create those rooms), and I’m looking forward to what my new family and I will do together.  (Note from Laura: there is still work to be done arranging the 2017 schedule.  While I know readers would love to continue with a schedule that’s familiar, there are bound to be tweaks up ahead.  We’ll share as we know what’s what.)
Penguin Random House will publish The Obsession this April, Bay Of Sighs in June, Apprentice In Death in September and Island Of Glass in December, as scheduled.  I’m grateful to everyone I worked with there–and to those who continue to work on my books for 2016, and my backlist.
Happily, with the move made, I could spend my Saturday with Kayla in the kitchen without the distractions of what should I do, where should I go eking into the day.
She wanted to learn how to make my red sauce–and she and Logan voted for fudge. My girl learns well, and learns fast. She’s learning the names of herbs and spices–and that no sauce is complete without a good dose of wine.
Once the red sauce is simmering, it’s fudge time. I don’t have my mother’s recipe, sadly, but I found one on-line that uses Marshmallow Cream–we called it fluff. And when I pulled that out of the cabinet, her eyes lit. Fluff! And the two of us had a little taste from the jar. I was ten years old again. She mixed, she stirred, stirred, stirred until the fluff, the sugar, the evaporated milk–a little salt, if I remember right–were all combined and smooth and boiling. And that’s a LOT of stirring. Add the chocolate, a dash of vanilla. Stir, stir. Pour into a foil-lined dish, and into the fridge it goes. Which leaves the spoon and pot to be licked and scraped–just like I did as a girl in my mother’s kitchen.
It’s not quite my mother’s fudge–a little sweeter, I think–but it’s awesome.
The kid also ate a bowl of soup, one of my baker brother’s sourdough English muffins (christened by Laura as J’muffins for my brother Jim). She helped me pick out Easter presents for her younger sibs, helped me sign four tubs of books. Then learned how to make another of her favorite things. Garlic bread.
At the end of the day she took home a container of red sauce–just add pasta!–a plate of pretty amazing fudge and a bag of garlic bread. I suspect her family ate as well and happily as BW and I.
I think of my professional (and personal, because my work and my house are) change. It happened relatively quickly. I look at my granddaughter, stirring, chopping, creating meals, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me instead of boosted up in my arms. That’s a gradual change that seemed to take five minutes.
And find myself, a creature of routine, not only okay with the changes, but delighted by them.

Price Points, Discounts, Sales!

Laura generated a Facebook post asking readers to pick either Three Fates or The Collector for a discussion. As often happens in the comment section some readers complained about the cost of books–why can’t I make them cheaper, or asked me to have a sale, do some discounting.
Is this aggravating to me? Yes, it is.
First, the post clearly asked for readers to vote for one of two books for a discussion. Second, while I appreciate a bargain as much as anybody, I find requests or demands or complaints re book pricing addressed to me, the writer, frustrating. Third, and perhaps most frustrating (over and above the fact I’ve addressed this countless times already) because I write the books. I do not publish them. I do not sell them. I do not set the price point. I do not decide when or if to discount or have a sale.
I sit here, in my office, at my keyboard, and I write. Period.
But then it occurred to me there may be readers who are simply confused, and some confusion may spring from the fact that many authors self-publish. When someone self-publishes, they are, basically, in charge of all. They set the price of the work, discount as they deem appropriate. They often give the work away for free, at least for a limited time, to generate interest.
If a reader’s surfing the web, they might often encounter an author announcing a sale, a discount, a give-away–and just assume it works that way for all.
I don’t self publish. I have no desire to be in charge of all. This is my choice. I want to sit here, in my office, at my keyboard, and write. Period.
Therefore I have no say–absolutely no say whatsoever, in the cover price the publisher puts on my work. I don’t want any say. I have no say when or if Amazon runs a sale, or when and if my publisher discounts my books in e-form. I have no say what B&N sells my books for, or Sam’s Club, or your local indie bookseller. I can’t tell them what to do, what to charge.
I can write the book.
I have no more control over this than I do when my books come out in another country. I can’t tell my Spanish publisher, for instance, when to release one of my books, or what price point to set.
While it’s weirdly flattering to have some people imagine I run all this from my office chair–or maybe zip around having meetings with all kinds of publishing, bookselling, distributing, marketing people, I just don’t.
To my knowledge no one who doesn’t self-pub has any control over price points or sales.
Let me add another pitch for libraries. They are the treasure house of books. Support your local library. They’re free! You can walk into that treasure house and choose a book, take it home, read it, enjoy it, then take it back so someone else can do the same. You can watch for your local library’s book sales, and buy books at incredible prices.
If you want to own a particular book before that library sale, try used bookstores, try flea markets, yard sales. If you prefer e-books, watch for sales at the venues that offer them. There are many, many ways to own a book.

Asking me to make them cheaper, to offer discounts, isn’t one of them.

(added 2/13/16)
A little math for those readers who believe e-books should be cheap or even free.
The industry standard royalty on e-books is 25%.
So if an e-book’s cost was slashed to, let’s say $5. (Because math’s easier with 5s). The author would make $1.25 on that sale. The industry standard for an agent’s fee is 15%, so 8.3 cents goes to the agent, leaving the author with $1.16.6.
This doesn’t factor in any expenses said author might have laid out for promotion or the other business that revolves around the writing. The publisher would have $3.75 of that sale to pay for formatting, proofing, marketing, promotion (if any), distribution and all the other factors that go into it. They’d probably break even, maybe even eke out a small profit.
Publishing paper, audio and e forms start on the same road–with the content from the author, from the editing of that content, the scheduling, the generating of cover. Then the road splits off. One avenue for paper, one for audio, one for e. All those forms require work, a sales and marketing department, managing editors, proofers, distributors, book reps and on and on. All of them require that.

Publishing is a business. Writing is work. Reading should be a joy. But the joy isn’t free, and can’t be valued so cheaply that the creators of the joy can’t make profit or a decent living.