While other authors might bristle at being called a “beach read,” Jane Porter, MFA ’94, takes it as a compliment.
“I love being called a vacation read,” said Porter. “I don’t mind being the feel-good author.”
After all, Porter reasons, women often have enough stress in their lives without reading dark, tragic novels. Sometimes, she said, a lighter, uplifting read is exactly what they need. Porter has written 25 Harlequin romance novels as well as several straight fiction novels aimed at women, including the recently released Odd Mom Out.
She had been writing for years before beginning USF’s MFA in Writing program, but had never been published—she credits the program with providing her with the push she needed to make that leap. Not only did the program teach her about different writing genres, but it also honed her skills in such critical areas as character development, plot, and pacing. Porter also learned the critical role audience plays in any type of writing.
“It opened my whole mind that you’re not just sitting in your attic by yourself creating stories,” she said. “You have to be writing these for someone else. You have to have something to say that’s relatable.”
Porter soon found that women related to her romance novels, with their mythic, larger-than-life characters such as Greek tycoons and Italian vintners, and eventually sold her first book to Harlequin. She has since become one of the publisher’s regular writers.
“With the romance novels, something I didn’t understand initially is that the woman is empowered,” Porter said. “She is the hero. She is empowered to find the right person, but she has to work for it, too. It’s a choice.”
The success of her romance novels also empowered Porter to write straight fiction. They may not have the same “all tied up with bows” endings as her romance novels, but Porter said the novels still provide readers with a sense of hope, love, and the overall goodness of the world. That’s precisely the message she hopes to convey to readers—that anything is possible and that women of all ages deserve to pursue their dreams and to be happy.
“If I can say to girls, whether they’re 12 years old or 60 years old, that ‘You matter,’ then I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” said Porter.