The Romance Reader

by Cathy Sova

Welcome to our New Faces area, where you can meet debut romance authors from all of the sub-genres. This time we’re visiting with Shirley Jump, whose first book is The Virgin’s Proposal from Silhouette Romance.

When rebel Matt Webster decided to go back to his home town and make his peace with his family and his past, he never expected to fall in love with a turquoise-eyed woman in a banana suit who begged him to pretend to be her fiancé to show up the guy who’d dumped her. But that’s exactly what happened.

Shirley, welcome to TRR! Tell us about yourself.

I am originally from Massachusetts and have my degree in English. I started out as a reporter for the daily paper in my town, and still write non-fiction articles for magazines and newspapers. I moved to the Midwest a few years ago and love it here! I’m married and have two young children, which makes romance in real life a challenge some days!

Are you coming to romance writing from another job?

I started out as a newspaper reporter and loved that for many years. After I got married, I opted to become a freelance writer, working for a variety of magazines and newspapers, and doing some marketing copy. I have always wanted to write romance, however, and about 10 years ago started my first one. I do still write the other stuff I enjoy doing different types of writing and probably will for a few more years.

What led you to write romance?

I found my first romance in the closet of my cousin’s room and read it by flashlight that night. I was absolutely hooked! By the time the weekend was over, I’d read half of her stack. She sent me home with bags of them and I read voraciously that entire summer. I got hooked on category romances a few years later and that led to my love of the shorter books, and eventually to my wanting to write one of my own.

Tell us about your road to publication.

My road was long and bumpy! I wrote 10 books in eight years and amassed a large stack of rejection letters! I had two friends who helped me by critiquing one in MA and one here where I live. They were a godsend because they really helped me fine-tune the books. In May of 2001, I sent the book in to Silhouette to a senior editor who had requested it. She left the company a month later, but luckily passed my book on to another senior. That editor wrote me a revision letter, which I received a week to the day after I’d vowed to quit writing (I was so frustrated by that point). I made the revisions she requested and that December, sold the book!

What kind of research was involved for your first book?

Not a lot. I wrote about what I knew I had spent a summer working in a flower shop and knew about that business. I didn’t know anything about motorcycles and did have to research Matt’s Harley.

Tell us about your debut book.

Successful rebel Matt Webster returned to Mercy, Indiana to make peace with his past and his family. But, he’d never thought that to appear “respectable,” he’d become the pretend fiancé of a banana costume-wearing storeowner! Yet how could he refuse spunky Katie Dole, the woman under the costume, when she kissed him so sweetlyand so thoroughlyin the spaghetti aisle of the supermarket?

Her blue-green gaze implored him to play the role of lover to show up her ex-fiancé. But remembering the kisses they shared were supposed to be pretend became more difficult, when all Matt wanted to do was make love to the appealing Katie! Was the virgin’s proposal turning into something…real?

Who are your influences as a writer?

Oh, there are so many! I admire Suzanne Brockmann’s career (and her writing) and her commitment to quality work. I admire writers like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Jayne Ann Krentz, Tina St. John, Suzanne Simmons. Those who can make me laugh and cry are my favorites.

What does your family think of having a romance author in their midst?

My daughter, who is 9, is completely embarrassed by the whole thing. The local paper did a huge story on me and her teacher hung it up on the wall outside the classroom. She came home and said, “I can’t believe she did that! Now everyone knows your my mother!” It was hilarious. My son is 4 and doesn’t care how I spend my day, long as he gets lunch on time. My husband is becoming one of my biggest promoters and has been very supportive since I sold my book.

Tell us about plans for future books.

All the quirky characters from The Virgin’s Proposal return in the sequel, due out in December 2003 (title is pending). Mercy’s “Survive and Drive” contest pits Mark Dole against the sassy girl next door in a competition to win an RV. She doesn’t play fair…and he doesn’t play games.

That will be followed by Luke’s story in 2004 and Nate’s story after that.

How can readers get in touch with you?

Through my website: There’s also an excerpt on there, links for writers and photos of me at different events.

Shirley, thanks for joining us and best of luck! Readers, we hope to soon have a review of The Virgin’s Proposal in our Category section. February 10, 2003

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