The Enterprise, Wednesday, April 16, 1997
by Darla Atlas, Your Week Editor
In the juvenile mind of Patricia Simpson, Barbie wasn’t made to simply smile prettily, dress up and go for rides in her convertible.
No, Simpson’s Barbie was always getting herself into sticky situations, even ending up in the hospital.
“Other kids always liked to play with me, because I’d make up stories for Barbie,” said Simpson, who now lives in Brier. “My Barbie had all this trauma.”
Seems a promising beginning for Simpson’s present career as a romance writer. After all, those flowery pictures on the covers–called “clinch covers” in the industry–represent some variation of Barbie in the throes of passion with a studly variation of Ken.
Simpson is one of several local novelists who have found their niche in romance writing, the largest-selling genre in the world. But the field is then divided into specific categories. Simpson’s specialty is called “contemporary paranormal.”
“I like to make one the main characters otherworldly,” she said, explaining that her heroes range from computer holograms to ancient warriors raised from the dead. While she would prefer the heroes of her books to always resemble Pierce Brosnan, the cover artists have other ideas, she said.
“I’m always giving them photos (of her image of the hero), but they always come out looking like dancers,” she said.
Simpson’s first book was published in 1990, two years after she started mailing out her manuscripts. Since that time, nine additional novels have hit the stands. Her newest creation, “Jade,” is scheduled to be published in July.
Simpson, who works part-time as a graphic designer at the University of Washington, has two teen-age girls. (“You can find them at the mall,” she said wryly.) Simpson started pursuing a career as a romance novelist at the same time her marriage was ending.
“The first book I wrote was when Ghost came out,” she recalled. “I was at work one day, thinking about how I love my Macintosh computer and how I wish I could relate to the men in my life as well as I do to my Macintosh. Then I came up with a story about a Scottish ghost coming out of the computer and appearing to the heroine. I always wanted that to happen.”
When she finally received that fateful call from Harper–the publishing company which has printed most of her books–Simpson wasn’t in the best of moods.
“I was in the shower with my dog, giving her a bath,” Simpson said. “I was cranky. When the phone rang, I told my daughter to tell whoever it was I’d call them back. It was New York.”
She took the call and was thrilled by the good news, but was so nervous she couldn’t write anything down, Simpson recalled.
Soon afterward, she hired an agent, and was on her way. Today, Simpson writes two books a year, most of which are set in the Pacific Northwest. The typical pay for a “midlist” author, she said, can range from $5000 to $20,000 per book.
While Simpson enjoys seeing her books on bookshelves in the area, she said the real fun is getting hold of a copy published in other countries. At the back of one of her books translated into Chinese, the “biography” was, well, fictional.
“It said my father was a sailor and my mother was a waitress,” Simpson said. “They said I lived all alone in a fantasy world, which is how I came up with my story ideas.”
The range of scandalous sex scenes is also wide. In some novels, called “sweet romances,” the details of the love affair stop at hand holding and the occasional smooch. On the other end of the spectrum are those that describe a raging passion in full detail.
Simpson’s novels, she admits, are on the racy side.
“You have to forget about your grandmother reading the book,” she said.
© 2003 Patricia Simpson
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