Sep 02
Left to right, Meet Me in Manhattan real-life couple, Erika Fredell and Ted Skala, and author Judith Arnold

Left to right, Meet Me in Manhattan real-life couple, Erika Fredell and Ted Skala, and author Judith Arnold

According to the Nielsen ratings, 15 million watched The Bachelor propose and 11.5 million people watched The Bachelorette get proposed to. According to the Romance Writers of America, over 70 million Americans read romance novels and 29 million Americans read romance novels regularly. So, pairing a real-life love story with a successful romance author seems like it should create a kind of romance entertainment that has huge audience popularity. The True Vows series of “reality-based romance” novels that is being launched this Fall was born out of this line of reasoning.

One of the first books in this new sub-genre of reality-based romance novels was created when an editor spotted a story in the wedding section of the New York Times. She matched the true love story of that New York couple, Erika Fredell and Ted Skala, with the popular romance author Judith Arnold, and the result was “Meet Me In Manhattan,” a true love story written in the style of a classic romance novel.

“Meet Me In Manhattan,” is Judith Arnold’s 87th published romance novel. Arnold is not only well-acquainted with the romance genre, she is also a fictional writer with an inside view of the publishing industry. Here is what Judith Arnold (a/k/a Barbara Keiler) had to say about the birth of reality-based romance novels, the romance genre, and the relevance of reading books in a world of electronic entertainment.

QUESTION: What was your initial reaction when you were approached about writing a “reality-based” romance novel?

ANSWER: My first reaction was: Can I do this? Can I write a romance based on actual people? My second reaction was: Sure, I can do this! It sounded like a lot of fun, and I thought—wrongly, as it turned out—that writing a book based on the experiences of a real couple would be easy. It was a lot of fun, but quite a challenge, too.

QUESTION: What is the biggest difference between writing a romance novel based on a real story and writing one that is completely fictional?

ANSWER: When you’re writing a romance based on a real story, you’ve got to deal with those pesky little things called facts. With Meet Me In Manhattan, I did resort to fictional techniques, inventing characters and scenes and rearranging incidents and conversations to make the story work. Real life doesn’t always follow a dramatic arc. It doesn’t always have turning points, sparkling dialogue, all those fictional devices novelists use to make their story hold the reader’s interest. Fortunately, Ted and Erika, the couple at the center of my book, are smart, interesting, appealing people, and the story of how they wound up together is wonderfully emotional and satisfying. I fictionalized some elements, but I tried whenever possible to stick to the facts of their story.

I guess the biggest difference is that when you’re writing fiction, you invent whatever you need to make the story succeed. When you’re writing fiction based on reality, you invent whatever you need to make the story succeed, but you try to do it as little as possible.

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QUESTION: When, how and why did you first start writing romance novels?

ANSWER: I’ve been a writer all my life. In college my focus switched from fiction to drama, and I went on to get a master’s degree in creative writing with an emphasis on drama. My plays were produced at regional theaters around the nation. But during the ten years I worked as a playwright, I still wrote fiction.

Eventually I burned out on theater and decided to return to my first love: novel writing. I wrote several serious and depressing literary novels, but no one wanted to publish them. So I decided to research romance fiction to see if I could write that. I read four romance novels and loved them.

I loved that they were about women—strong women who struggled and strove and wound up having it all. I also loved that they were about people who figured out ways to overcome conflict. Romance novels were about peace, love, human connection—values that really matter to me. So I decided to try writing them. Less than a year after I started reading romance novels, I’d sold my first romance novel.

QUESTION: How did you come up with the pen name “Judith Arnold?”

ANSWER: Judith and Arnold are my parents’ names.

QUESTION: In the age of internet transparency, people are aware that Judith Arnold is a pen name. Why do you continue to write with it? Have you or do you think you’ll ever write a book using your real name?

ANSWER: I continue to write as Judith Arnold because, after so many years and so many books, that’s the name readers recognize and look for. Also, I like to continue honoring my parents by putting their names on my book covers. I write projects that aren’t romance novels under my own name. But romance readers know Judith Arnold.

QUESTION: These days people have less time to read books, and a seemingly shorter attention span. Do you think books in general and romance novels in particular are becoming obsolete?

ANSWER: People need stories. They hungered for stories before books existed, and they hunger for stories today. Narrative stories help us to make sense of the world. They educate, enlighten and entertain us. I can’t imagine stories ever becoming obsolete.

That’s not to say that the medium through which we receive those stories can’t or won’t change. Some people satisfy their yearning for stories by watching TV or movies. Others prefer their stories in words, as books, whether they read them or listen to audio versions.

I don’t think we’ll ever see a time when people don’t want romance stories. Stories about people overcoming challenges, resolving conflicts and achieving a happy, love-filled ending satisfy a deep desire within readers. I’ve donated my books to battered women’s shelters and heard that even those residents—women who have had the worst possible experiences in their marriages and romantic partnerships—still want to read about true love, about people opening their hearts and learning to trust and rely on one another.

Books are a medium, and I believe some people will always enjoy receiving their stories in that medium. Paper books may eventually become obsolete, replaced by e-readers, but I think many people prefer to receive their stories in word form rather than in a visual medium like film or video. It’s true that books have to compete with other entertainment media for people’s time, but I don’t think they’ll ever be obsolete.

QUESTION: If you didn’t write romance novels for a living, what would you like to do?

ANSWER: Be a rock star.

QUESTION: In your 27-year career, how has the fictional romance genre evolved?

ANSWER: Twenty-seven years ago, vampire romances didn’t exist! Seriously, tastes change. Subgenres come and go. Before True Vows, nobody had ever published Reality Based Romances ™.

When I first started selling, publishers were a bit more open-minded. The economy was booming, and publishers were willing to take chances on a wider variety of stories. Now, I think the publishers are a little more cautious. They want every book to be a sure thing; they aren’t as willing to let authors experiment. They are more risk averse, and the result is that there’s less variety in the books being published.

QUESTION: “Meet Me In Manhattan” is your 87th novel. After writing and publishing so many romance novels, is it difficult coming up with new and fresh ideas?

ANSWER: I’m not sure it’s difficult to come up with new and fresh ideas, but I think the subjects that interest me and the themes I want to explore through my writing have changed. I still love writing romances, but I’m also interested in writing about the challenges and opportunities women face at different stages of their lives. Whether or not I’m writing romances, though, I’m always writing about characters and their relationships. To me, connecting with other people is the essence of life. I never have any trouble coming up with new ideas for stories featuring characters who learn about who they are through their relationships with others.

QUESTION: Are your fictional characters influenced by people that you know or are they completely fabricated?

ANSWER: My husband is convinced that every romance hero I’ve ever written was modeled after him! My characters are fabricated, but everything I write arises from my life, my observations, my interactions with the world. I may not consciously model a character after someone I know, but I’m sure there’s a subconscious influence. I take bits and pieces from my encounters with people and those bits and pieces somehow wind up in my characters.

QUESTION: Which of the characters in your novels do you think is most like you?

ANSWER: All my heroines, of course! My heroines are smart, determined, willing to work hard and eager to do the right thing. They have senses of humor. They are definitely not perfect. They aren’t necessarily model-pretty. But they’re sensible and spirited and generous. I’d like to think I am, too.

QUESTION: Are you planning on writing any more reality-based romances in the future?

ANSWER: If HCI Books asks me to write more books for True Vows, I’d love to.

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May 07

Your mother and/or grandmother may be having sex right now.

Add that to the Santa-Claus-Easter-Bunny-Tooth-Fairy list of Busted Myths and Profound Disappointments. And if your mother or grandmother is not having sex right now, she may be… most people want to finish that sentence with “gardening,” “petting the cat,” or “watching the Food Network.” But the truth of the matter is, if your mother and/or grandmother is not having sex right now, she may be fantasizing about it, grooming for it, reading about it, or talking about it in either the virtual or real world (or both).

A University of Chicago study recently published in the Journal of Gerontology revealed that 84% of men and 62% of women between the age of 57 and 64 are sexually active. That’s your mother and father. In addition, 38% of men and 17% of women between the ages of 75 to 85 are still having sex. That’s your grandmother and grandfather, and maybe even your great-grandparents who are still “doing it.”

This gives new meaning to the phrase, “Happy” Mothers Day.

The sexual activity of mothers and grandmothers isn’t the Mother’s Day image that most adult children are conjuring up as they shop for the perfect gift to express gratitude to the sainted matriarchal figures in their lives. But maybe it should be. According to an AARP Sexuality Study, seniors who are sexually active have less stress, less depression, better health, and a more positive outlook. If grown up children can support that kind of lifestyle for their aging parents, why wouldn’t they?

“Most teenagers and young adults think they invented sex. They find it inconceivable to imagine that their parents, or anyone significantly older, are ‘doing it,’” says Dr. Doree Lynn (a/k/a Dr. Dorree), a Washington, D.C. psychologist and author of the book, “Sex for Grownups: The Truths, Lies and Must-Tries for Great Sex After 50.”

“Women at every age can and do masturbate regularly, have sexual fantasies, and enjoy sex,” Dr. Doree says. “At every age, your body, though changed, is still sensual, interesting, sexy, and a great playground to explore. Whether we want to think about it or not, our mothers and grandmothers are having much different “playground” experiences than they did when we were young.

Dr. Doree knows for certain that women over the age of 50 are playing on a different kind of “playground.” because she works with moms and grandmas, and dads and grandpas all the time in her practice. “Some people over 50 do give up sex entirely, but most do not,” Dr. Doree says in her book. “While sex in the second half of life does change over the years, it never dies.”

For most people over the age of 50, the question is not whether they should be having sex or not, the question is how to keep their sex parts working and how to make their sexual activities the best they can possibly be.

The most frequently question that Dr. Doree gets asked about sex after the age of 50 are…

>> Click here to see Dr. Doree’s questions and answers about “Sex After 50.” >>

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    Feb 18

    In his press conference statement, Tiger Woods extended many apologies, but never answered the one question that the worldwide public wants to know. “Why?”

    The revelations about Tiger Woods’ serial cheating was a devastating disappointment to the fans of the golf superstar, and Tiger’s first public appearance probably disappointed quite a few people too. When Tiger emerged for his first public appearance since both his car and his sports superhero image crashed on Thanksgiving weekend, 2009 he did so in a very controlled environment, and in a very censored and calculated way. The worldwide public has been waiting for Tiger to come out of hiding, but what Tiger is really hiding probably wasn’t revealed in his ten-minute statement.

    Disillusioned Tiger fans just want to know “Why?” Beyond the obligatory apologies, though, Tiger did not answer that “why” question to the satisfaction of onlookers because he may not know the answer himself.

    Just as Tiger had to deceive his wife and his sexual partners in order to successfully orchestrate his serial infidelity, he also had to deceive himself, according to a new book, “The Tiger Woods Syndrome.” In hiding the truth from so many people, it would be quite understandable that Tiger, somewhere along the way, lost touch with the truth about himself as well.

    Tiger Woods seems to be a classic example of a “mirage man,” according to the first published book relating to his multiple sexual affairs. “The mirage man leaves his true self to conform to his mate with little regret. He becomes committed to living a lie, and he rationalizes his behavior as the necessary cost of gaining sweet affection,” says the authors of “The Tiger Woods Syndrome.” If this is actually what happened with Tiger, then it is doubtful that years of living a lie are suddenly going to transform into a rigorously honest disclosure to the international press.

    In the absence of a self-aware explanation from Tiger that rings truthful, the dissatisfied public will continue to speculate and the press will continue to stalk him. Reportedly, the stalkarazzi followed Tiger all the way to Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services in Hattiesburg, Mississippi where it was speculated that he was undergoing treatment for sexual addiction. Since the tradition of addiction recovery is based on anonymity, however, Tiger rightfully should feel no obligation to discuss that with anyone. At his press conference he eluded to treatment and therapy, but did not disclose the nature of either.

    If Tiger has identified himself to be a sex addict, though, he is one of an estimated 16 million Americans who are as well. Despite its emerging prominence in the field of addiction treatment, sex addiction is still not formally recognized by the medical system in the U.S. In the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) released in February, 2010, gambling and binge-eating are recognized as “official” addictive disorders, but sex addiction is not.

    According to the authors of “The Tiger Woods Syndrome,” whether or not Tiger Woods is a sex addict, and whether or not his alleged sex addiction treatment was part of a plan to repair his professional image is not really the important issue. What is important is that “Tiger aptly exemplifies the behaviors, motivations, and destructive patterns of many American men,” the book says.

    “Like Tiger Woods, many American men seek superficial values, hide their true feelings, and conform to win their dream girls. Commercials, television shows, movies, and even music drum into men’s brains that conformity and deception are part of the dating and mating scene,” according to authors Dr. J. R. Bruns and Dr. R. A. Richards II.

    Continuing the lies and deception after marriage is also seemingly sanctified when successful high profile men like Bill Clinton, David Letterman, Michael Jordan, John Edwards, and Rudy Guiliani publicly revealed multiple infidelities, and seemingly suffered no consequences. While men and women around the world are busy questioning whether Elin Nordegren should divorce Tiger Woods and why the wives of serial cheaters stick around, the real question should be why so many marriages in America are a sham in the first place.

    The divorce rate in the U.S. has been at an epidemic level for years, at 50% for first marriages, 67% for second marriages, and 74% for third marriages, according to the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology. The authors of “The Tiger Woods Syndrome” believe that the root cause of the American marriage crisis is “the artificial way men and women relate to one another as they try to find a common life together.”

    “Artificial intimacy actually involves both a physical attraction to each other and a type of approval seeking,” according to Bruns and Richards. “This involves a submersion of the man’s true self so he can easily conform to the woman’s tastes and thus heighten the sense of commonality between them.” This fabricated commonality is used by both the man and the woman as justification for the tremendous sexual attraction between them.

    So, according to “The Tiger Woods Syndrome,” there is a growing tendency for both men and women to come together based on sexual attraction, hide their true selves in order to win the prize of the “perfect” marriage partner, and then continue the lies about their false identity as they look outside of the marriage for more artificial intimacy.

    This seems to be the paradigm that the Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren marriage crisis has revealed to the world. And it is the universal truth found in this marriage deception and serial cheating story that has struck a troubling chord with men and women who are living a lie in their own relationships, and are looking for Tiger and Elin for easy answers and a tidy conclusion.

    Millions of people wanted Tiger Woods to say just the right words in his staged press conference so that he could be plausibly forgiven and regain his superhero status. But it is in the best interest of couples everywhere that he left the “Why?” question unanswered, forcing everyone to redirect that question to their own broken marriages and deceptive relationship patterns instead. It doesn’t matter why Tiger Woods was hiding out in his double life as much as it matters why there are millions of other Americans who are consciously, or unconsciously, participating in marriage deception and double lives themselves.

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