"Somewhere in the world, time no doubt whistled by on taut and widespread wings, but here in the English countryside it plodded slowly, painfully, as if it trod the rutted road that stretched across the moors on blistered feet."

This is the first sentence of THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, a book like no other before it, and a book that launched the careers of many many writers. It also launched mine as an editor, though I did not know it at the time. I have such long history with Kathleen Woodiwiss; longer than she ever really understood. I remember reading THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, a book that I stole off my mother's shelf when I was 12, I was hooked as a romance fan for life. Like many of you, I awaited every new publication. I remember buying Shanna in gloriously colored trade paperback, which gleamed out of the first "dump" I ever saw. Mostly I remember reading and rereading these books all through my somewhat rocky high school years, trapped in my small town. Kathleen made me believe that there was a bigger world out there, a world filled with dreams and romance. Her books even introduced me to Richmond, VA, the place I went to college.

I read and reread all those books, then when I entered college, I gave all those beloved books away. I was now "grown up" and didn't need them. But soon I missed my books and quickly replaced them . Time sped by, and I was looking for a job after college. I applied to AVON, because that was the publisher I loved. A failed typing test kept me from my dream job for several years. But after spending time at Crown, Bantam Loveswept and Berkley, finally Avon finally came calling for me. How could I refuse?

When I became Kathleen's editor, I excitedly boarded a plane and visited her in Louisiana. By then, she was living in a plantation house; the first I'd ever seen with gleaming stainless appliances and a beautiful guest house. At the time, she was still a romantic, and she wistfully spoke of wanting to host weddings there. We went out to dinner, then watched old black and white movies deep into the night. She had a special love for REBECCA. What I remember most from that visit is how modest she was about her success. She had no copies of her books on the shelves, no bestseller lists posted. She didn't even have a large beautiful office in her house. But she lived graciously, and as we talked, I felt as if my lifed had come full circle.

A couple of years later, I persuaded her to come to RWA, and the response was overwhelming. She attended an awards luncheon (she had won a Waldenbooks Award), and when she went up to accept, the audience was overwhelmed. She received a standing ovation as a tribute , and the line for autographs was incredibly long, even though there were no books to be signed. At the Avon Dinner that night, those who had a chance to speak to her were giddy with excitement, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips later told me: "I was able to tell her that I wouldn't have had a career without her. I'm so glad I did."

Lately, even as Kathleen suffered with her illness, the excitement in our office over the possibility of a new book was palpable. We had already created all new covers for those early special books; the books we all adored. How can she be gone ?


Today as I was looked through the oldest files in the drawer, I found so many wonderful artifacts: pictures of a younger Kathleen, a woman who was so beautiful she was a model in Japan, photographs of her hugging her children, and little snippets of the humble beginnings of what was to become a major career: I found the return address label and the $1.50 postage she enclosed with THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER, just in case it didn't suit the editors at Avon. Luckily, the editors at the time knew they were looking at something amazing. The time has "whistled by" for Kathleen far too quickly , but I will never ever forget her. Nor will I ever forget how she shaped my life and my career.

8 Comments:

Blogger Chantal said:

Oh, my. What a wonderful post.
I have not read any of her work, but I will look for her books now.

What a nice tribute post.

10:12 PM  

Blogger Donald Douglas said:

I read the Woodiwiss obituary this morning. Nice commemoration of her life and work.

Have a great weekend!

4:57 PM  

Blogger Aim said:

I have to admit that not many romance novels grace my bookshelf, but "The Wolf and the Dove" is my favorite and will always have a place there. Kathleen was a talented writer and I think her contributions to the genre will be sorely missed.

1:59 PM  

Blogger Ellen said:

Your post is a lovely tribute to one of my heroes. Kathleen's gorgeous prose and memorable characters transported readers to another world and inspired many a future writer. She will definitely be missed.

10:54 AM  

Anonymous Keeton Romance Books said:

I didnt read er books till now but after your wonderful post on her i will definetly opt for reading her best books.

1:53 PM  

Blogger Lady Skye Fyre said:

The Wolf and The Dove was the first romance I ever read. There was no turning back after that point. Thank you for a nice eulogy.

9:46 PM  

Blogger Carol Burge said:

What a lovely tribute.

I, too, started out reading her books (the 70's). I've been hooked ever since.

She will be sorely missed.

12:37 AM  

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