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.
5 free chapters of “Meet Me In Manhattan”