Chic Spotlight: Romance Novelist Toni Blake

Chic Spotlight: Romance Novelist Toni Blake

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Cincy Chic: Was a romance novelist a career aspiration for you all along?
Toni Blake:
No. I've always wanted to be a novelist, but originally had aspiration leaning more toward "the Great American novel." Only I slowly figured out that I didn't really know what that was. Then, one day in 1995, a friend handed me a few Jennifer Crusie romance novels and said, "This is what you should be writing." She was right. I was surprised by how smart, funny and sexy they were and I knew immediately that this was what I should be doing. I never looked back.

Cincy Chic: How do you get inspired to write these novels?
For me, writing is like breathing. I'm unhappy if I'm not writing and my head is filled with stories that are all dying to come out. My main goal when I start a book is to touch women's emotions, entertain them and also to encourage them to embrace their sensuality.

Cincy Chic: Were you a part of any groups that helped you hone your skills?
Yes, I've been a member of the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America since 1996, which is a chapter of a national organization, the Romance Writers of America. When I was first starting out, I learned a lot from them, not only about craft but about the market and the romance industry in general.

Cincy Chic: Romance novels are all about "girl meets boy, the plot thickens with adversity, the couple overcomes the adversity together and then lives happily ever after." Did that happen for you in real life?
No. I met my husband through a friend of a friend and we got engaged two months later and have been living happily ever after for almost eighteen years now. Marriage comes with plenty of adversity at times, certainly, but fiction calls for more drama up front. Fiction just isn't real life, nor is it really meant to be.

Cincy Chic: Is it tough to hold a relationship with a man that doesn't look like Fabio and sweep you off your feet on a bed of roses everyday when you make a career out of writing about men that do?
Well, personally, I was never a Fabio fan. Most romance writers are kind of embarrassed by the image Fabio gave our industry, to tell you the truth.

But more to the point of your question, no. Again, fiction and real life are worlds apart. Romance heroes, for the most part, are simply not real guys. They are often an image of what women wish guy were, with flaws added in to make them seem real. So I'm perfectly happy with my real life guy.

And the heroes in my books aren't really the "sweep you off your feet" type, anyway. Usually they're gruff but still very sexy guys who have endured a difficult past, and it takes the love of the heroine to help "heal" them.

Cincy Chic: What's the most romantic thing any one has ever done for you?
That honor would belong to my husband and though he's done many romantic things over the years, I would say that the most romantic thing he's done is caring for me when I'm sick. I know that doesn't sound romantic in a hearts and flowers kind of way; but when it comes down to it, if a guy will take care of you when you're sick as a dog, that's true love.

For a more traditionally romantic answer: I suffered a long-term illness a couple of years ago. I was very ill for about six months and couldn't leave the house for awhile. When I could get out again, he bought me a little blue convertible to make getting out even more fun, and I adore it with all my heart.

Cincy Chic: How many romance novels have you written thus far?
Twelve. I'm currently writing my 13th.

Cincy Chic: One just came out. What's it about?
Tempt Me Tonight is the story of a city girl who returns to her hometown to help her parents with some business issues, but she runs into the guy who broke her heart when they were young. The book is very much about redemption and forgiveness, and it's also about being whisked back to the emotions of first love. My books are all very steamy, as well, so there's plenty of sexy stuff, too.

Oh, and Tempt Me Tonight was also excerpted in the June issue of Cosmo, which was a real thrill for me! Readers can learn more about the book and read an excerpt by visiting my website at

Cincy Chic: Why do you think romance novels are so popular?
They show, over and over again, that it's possible to overcome adversity and find your happy ending. At the end of every romance novel is a happily-ever-after and that's very satisfying to readers. These books are much more about the journey than the conclusion. Romance novels have the ability to whisk women away from the stress and troubles of their everyday lives and take them someplace new. Some romances are funny, some are sexy, some are highly emotional – and some have all of those qualities and more – so there's something for every taste in the world of romance.

Cincy Chic: Any aspirations to write in other genres?
I might like to branch out within romance to other sub-genres eventually. I would love to write some historical romance (mine are contemporary) and possibly some more mainstream women's fiction. But I suspect I will probably always write stories for women, about women and they will always contain romantic elements simply because I'm a romantic at heart.

Cincy Chic: What's it feel like to see your name in print?
Well, it's pretty wonderful. I sold my first book almost ten years ago, so it's not a new thing for me anymore, and I will admit that some of the initial excitement can wear off over time. But it's still wonderfully gratifying to know I've followed my dreams and I have my name on a dozen books so far to prove it. And seeing my name in Cosmo was a new and big thrill, too.

Cincy Chic: What's the best thing about it and the most challenging part of being a romance novelist?
The best thing? There are actually lots of best things, which range from being able to work in my pajamas to hearing from readers who loved my books and seem profoundly moved by them.

The most challenging, I would say, is the uncertainty of the business. It's very competitive and you never know what's going to happen from day to day. A challenge that I love, though, is writing a book that will still be compelling and keep readers turning pages even though they know it's going to end with a happily-ever-after.