‘Female’ Romance Author of 22 Books Actually 89-year-old War Vet named Bill
Over the years, one of the tenets for new writers has been ‘write romance novels — they sell’. I always thought this was a slightly dodgy proposition for men, but hey, who am I to argue? I even went so far as to buy one of those ‘How to Write a Romance Novel’ kits, but nothing ever came of it.
So meet Bill Spence: he’s 89 years old, a war hero from Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, in England, and the author of 22 romance novels (his latest, In the Silence of the Snow, comes out shortly). When he approached a publisher for his books, he was told they wouldn’t sell unless it looked like he was a woman, so Jessica Blair was born.
He said: 'You do not say no to publishers. I was just very glad I had found someone who wanted to print my books, and it didn't bother me at all that I'd been given a female name.'
While some of the press at the time knew he’d written westerns before, it seems that his true identity has only just come out. His late wife, Joan, although supportive, thought it was funny.
This isn’t his first rodeo: after his time in the Royal Air Force, he wrote a series of successful westerns between 1960 and 1993, publishing 36 in total. After writing a non-fiction book on whaling in the 80s, he decided to write a novel on the same subject and his romance novel career was born.
His story brings to mind one of the characters in Margaret Atwood’s book Lady Oracle (well worth a read), about a woman whose mentor in romance novels is a Polish Count who makes a reasonable living out of writing the books.
Ladies, does it matter to you if the romance novel you are reading was written by a man?
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