Story of a... Romance Novelist

A Rollins College librarian by day, Dorothy Mays, 47, transforms into an award-winning writer at night.

“Five years, five manuscripts, and 155 rejections. It was the sixth manuscript that hit.’’ That became Mays’ first novel, The Lady of Bolton Hill, published in 2011. She recently received the Best Inspirational Romance award from Romance Writers of America for her third novel, Against the Tide.

A reference librarian at Rollins College, Mays writes under the pseudonym Elizabeth Camden. She takes a year to complete each work, spending a few nights each week and one day each weekend at her writer’s desk crafting her plots and characters from 19th-century America.

“I focus on heroines who are intelligent women who want to make something happen. They’re women who fight for what they want and get it. And it’s not always the guy; sometimes they are fighting to make their dreams come true. There is something very inspiring about that.”

Set in Boston of the 1890s, Against the Tide centers on Lydia Pallas, who is fluent in seven languages and captures the attention of Alex Banebridge, a mysterious government spy. “I wanted to write a romantic suspense story that hinges on the heroine’s intelligence to help dig her out of some dicey situations. I also wanted her intellect to be the basis of the hero’s attraction to her.”

“I don’t have sex scenes at all. There are a lot of people who think that romance novels are porn for women, and I think that is deeply offensive to romance writers. My writing is inspirational; it’s wholesome. No one would feel embarrassed reading it or having their teenage daughter or grandmother read it.”

According to the Romance Writers of America’s Romance Book Consumer survey, sales of romance novels have held steady at about $1.4 billion in the U.S. every year since 2008. Mays says that is because genre fiction is recession-proof. “In hard times people like uplifting stories. People love identifying with underdogs and seeing them win in the end. That’s a winning formula.”

“I like my job as a librarian. I get to wallow in knowledge every day. And I think I am a better writer because I work on a college campus. The environment is articulate, dynamic and engaging. If I were a full-time writer I would be robbed of my source.”

Mays also teaches a genre fiction course at Rollins focused on romance, mystery, science fiction and Western literature. “So much of what students get for assigned reading is dense and dreary. I want inspiring, uplifting and page-turning. College students do very little reading for pleasure, and I think that’s a shame.”

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