I suppose there are people who haven’t heard of Nora Roberts or her alter-ego, J.D. Robb. It always surprises me when people don’t like the things I like. It stems from a flawed belief that all too many of us hold: that we are the same as everyone else.
Differences aside, their lack of exposure to Nora makes me sad. She is my all-time favourite author. Not a week goes by that one of her books isn’t in my re-read rotation. Reading Nora Roberts takes me out of myself and makes me happy.
For the uninitiated, Ms. Roberts has more than two-hundred and twenty books in print. She is also very productive, a quality I appreciate in favoured author. She publishes four or five times a year: two J.D. Robb mysteries, one or two stand-alone books, and part of a trilogy. Even if you don’t reread books, you don’t have to go too long without a Nora fix. This is a very good thing.
Friends ask me what kind of books she writes? “Books”, I reply but they always want more. What category, what style? What are the stories about?
I find it difficult to pigeon-hole her novels. The Eve Dallas books are easier. J.D. Robb writes about a “murder cop” in near-future New York which is a somewhat dystopian place. They’re fantastically absorbing, often violent, and usually heart-wrenching. One could place them in the mystery section of the library without complaint. The rest though, resist easy categorization.
“Stories” is the best I can come up with though book sales lists call them “popular fiction”, or so I believe. They have mystery and action and adventure. Sometimes they’re rooted in the mundane world, sometimes they’re fantastical. They have elements of romance but they’re not only romance. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with a good romance even if it remains a genre looked down upon by many. The books, therefore, are many things but because we live in a world that prefers pigeon-holing, categorized they must be.
Her characters are well-written, rich and multidimensional; not only the main characters but the supporting ones as well. You want to read about them. You want to follow them as their lives unfold. You hate it when the books end – you want her to write more, to keep ongoing.
Nora (if I can call her that) is one of the few authors I consistently purchase in hardcover. She also commands a large chunk of real estate in my library. I have every book written, even the serial romances that she started with. I will never, ever part with any of it.
She is, after all, part of the reason I’m still here.
My bulimia was completely out of control by my second year of university. I was throwing up multiple times nearly every day. I was going broke trying to pay for it. I was cutting myself. I thought about suicide all the time.
Food is available pretty much everywhere. This is a handy thing for bulimics because it allows us to spread out our purchases geographically. You want to, in order to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Even though I spread my purchases around, I still got noticed at the smaller stores I frequented on campus. They’d joke about how I could consume so much junk food and stay slim. They’d joke about my diet Pepsi consumption. I hated it but endured because the need for food was greater.
I’d also frequent the drug store up the street from my residence. They had a decent array of junk food and prepackaged sandwiches, perfect for my eating disorder. They had laxatives and water pills, necessary tools of the trade. They also had books.
I’d encountered Nora a few years earlier with the publication of her first mass-market novel, Hot Ice. I loved her instantly, I think. She took me out of myself, which was a place I desperately needed to be. Books have always done that for me; the sicker I get, the more I rely on them to help me escape.
The drug store had one of those rotating bookstands and the name of one of the authors caught my eye. Nora Roberts. Seeing it punched through the pre-binge frenzy. Suddenly, there was something I wanted more.
Encountering the book was the luckiest of chances. This is pre-serious internet days. You didn’t follow authors or have access to their publication lists online. Staying on top of release schedules was work. I learned some basic facts that aided my obsessional book collecting early on – new releases come out on Tuesdays.
The book called to me loudly. It promised something, a relief, an escape. I grabbed it, paid for my purchases, and raced home, backpack bulging and shopping bags slapping against my legs. In a made-for-television movie, I would skip the bingeing and purging and go straight to the book. This is not what happened. I cracked the book after I was done though and it carried me through the evening without my usual suicidal thoughts and cutting behaviour.
Once I reached the end, I discovered something almost better than the book proper. Printed on the back cover was a list of coming-soon releases and there in black and white was Nora Roberts’ name.
You have to have something to live for. When you’re deep in the grip of your neuroses, when you’re stuck down in the pit, you need something. It doesn’t matter what. In Nora, at that moment in time, I found mine. Looking forward to an upcoming book was something to live for. I read the blurb and hungered for the story. I counted the days and haunted the book rack at the pharmacy for a week before it was due, hoping it would be out early. I even skipped classes to devour it when it finally came in.
Books by Nora have been with me my whole adult life. No matter where I live or where I travel, they or at least some of them have gone with me. I even took my preferred titles with me to treatment.
After I devoured the book that partially saved me, I took a look at the previously published list on the inside cover. There were a whole bunch of Nora Roberts books I’d never seen. Thus began my stalking of bookstores, thrift stores, and even hated garage sales and the development and completion of my collection.
Even now, when things are dark and hard for me, rereading Nora Roberts or J.D. Robb is something I can manage. Something that gets me through just one more day. And that’s what everyone needs, isn’t it? A reason to keep going.
At any rate, her 50th J.D. Robb book, Golden in Death is slated for release shortly. It seemed an auspicious time to join the hoards offering up homage.
Do you have a favourite author? What things do you hold close that help you feel safe?