After one gulp from a spiked drink, a woman turns into a superbeing who uses her eyes to shoot fireballs and her breath to blow-dry her friend’s hair from 50 paces. Gena Showalter imagines such scenes in flashes, much like a movie trailer. The Oklahoma City woman has turned that hearty imagination into a gig as a New York Times best-selling romance novelist. She didn’t know what else to do. She was 23, a three-time college dropout who was heartbroken to discover that no one wanted to pay her to do what she most loved: reading romance novels. So, she did the next best thing. She began writing romance books. "I’d been an avid romance reader for years, devouring as many of them as I could get my hands on. That’s probably why, when I sat down to write that first book, I felt like an expert,” she said. Her first book, "The Stone Prince,” was published in 2004. "Little did I know the work that would be involved — setting a realistic stage and then filling it with seemingly living, breathing people. But I learned. Oh, yes, I learned. "Thinking back to my first few attempts often leaves me curled in a ball and crying for my mommy.” Now, the world of heaving bosoms, bad boys and happily-ever-afters belongs to Showalter. Here’s an excerpt from "The Darkest Kiss,” one of the Lords of the Underworld series: "She stopped and motioned for him to join her with a crook of her finger. He stood in front of her a moment later, as if he’d been pulled by an invisible chain, unable to resist. "Up close, he was six feet six of muscle and danger. Pure temptation. "Her lips edged into a slow smile. ‘We meet at last, Flowers.’” Showalter’s is a perfect fantasy world filled with lovely characters whose tragic flaws are modeled after her own. "As much as I hate to admit this — and believe me, I’m crying inside – I’m not perfect, so why should my characters be?” She said she tries to make her characters as realistic as possible. So, they won’t always be happy, and they won’t always make the right decisions. Showalter said that sometimes the ramifications of their actions are what make a book exciting. That exciting fantasy world belongs to about 51 million readers who buy romance fiction each year, spending more than $1 billion on the novels. The genre commands the largest share of the consumer-book market, according to the Romance Writers of America. Showalter has written six books that have made The New York Times best-seller list: "The Nymph King,” "The Darkest Night,” "The Darkest Kiss,” "The Darkest Pleasure” and "Heart of the Dragon.” While writing her rough drafts, Showalter writes a chapter a day five days a week. Some days, it goes well, and she can write a chapter in two hours. But other days, it may take 14 hours or so. Weekends are reserved for revisions and copy edits for her other novels. Two of her books, "Mysteria” and "Red Handed,” have been optioned to become movies, though neither has made it to the production stage yet. "Seeing my books come to life on the big screen is a dream of mine,” she said. With Valentine’s Day approaching, Showalter was in her element and recalled one character who received a particularly heartfelt gift. The heroine of "The Darkest Night” dies for her man. The cursed hero is stabbed every night, only to awaken the next morning knowing he has to die again. One night, she takes the blows instead, finally breaking his death-curse. "Of course, I later bring her back to life. I just couldn’t help myself,” Showalter said. "Even dead people need a happily-ever-after.”
VIDEOGo to NewsOK.com to watch video of romance novelists Gena Showalter and Jill Monroe.