Love story at heart

By Nicky Pellegrino

Nalini Singh and Archangel's Kiss and Angel's Blood. Photo / Supplied
Nalini Singh and Archangel's Kiss and Angel's Blood. Photo / Supplied

It's entirely possible that Nalini Singh is both New Zealand's biggest and least known literary superstar. Her books have made several appearances on the New York Times best-seller list and yet, until this month, haven't been widely available in this country, aside from the odd copy in speciality bookshops such as Auckland's Chapter.

Singh writes paranormal romances, books where girl meets boy and falls in love - only girl is likely to be an intrepid vampire hunter and boy a dangerously beautiful archangel. A page-turning blend of fantasy, action and sex, her stories have won her a legion of dedicated fans all over the world, especially in the US and Germany.

And now, at last, Singh is thrilled to be able to go into mainstream bookstores in her hometown Auckland and see two of her novels - Angel's Blood and Archangel's Kiss (Gollanz, $27.99 each) on the shelves alongside work by other New Zealand authors.

"It's been nice being low key and doing my own thing," admits the author, who lives and works in Mt Roskill.

"But friends and family quite often ask where they can find my books and now I can tell them to go into any bookshop. Other than that I don't think there'll be a huge change for me ... I'll still be writing away all day."

Singh was 10 when her family moved to Auckland from Fiji and even as a little girl she loved playing with words and writing. As a teenager, she started to write science fiction, often reading her work aloud to her mother.

"Then in my late teens I started to read romances," recalls Singh.

"One of my aunts was into them and gave me a few. I just inhaled them. I thought they were wonderful."

So the summer she was 18, between high school and university, Singh decided to write a romance and send it to a publisher in the hope it was good enough to be accepted.

"It was rejected obviously," she says, "but I'm still really proud that I wrote a whole novel. I remember feeling a bit crushed when I was knocked back but by then I had the bug and had already started writing my next romance."

Singh hasn't counted exactly how many manuscripts were rejected along the way but she knows there were many.

"I kept going because I loved it so much. I couldn't imagine not doing it. After getting a rejection I'd be depressed for a few days but then the urge to write would reassert itself."

By day she worked at a variety of jobs, from lawyer to librarian, English teacher, bank temp and candy factory worker, writing her stories obsessively in her spare time.

"I don't regret writing any of those books because I was learning and finding my voice but I'm not going to let them see the light of day," she says now.

It started one morning when the phone rang during breakfast. Singh realised it was a New York number.

"I couldn't pick it up, my mum had to answer it," she recalls.

On the line was US publisher Silhouette, which liked the last manuscript she'd sent and wanted to buy it.

"That was really amazing," Singh recalls.

"Nothing can describe the feeling of knowing that you did it, that someone wants your book."

Since 2003 she's written prolifically, eventually developing the paranormal side of her romances.

The first two titles released here are from her Guild Hunter series but Singh has also produced six straight romances, seven books in her Psy-Changeling series and three novellas.

Even when her characters have superpowers, each book is at heart a love story.

"The emotional resonance is the same," explains Singh.

"When I write a series I'm following the same couple over several books and exploring their relationship, which is fun. Love stories don't end when people fall in love, that's just the beginning."

She believes the mistake a lot of people make is assuming romances can be written to a formula.

"That would be really boring. What we're reading for is the emotional journey of each particular character and no person's love story is the same. I always start with the characters, not the plot or the particular paranormal world, it's the people that are important."

It takes her about four months to write a book and she sets herself the target of 3000 words a day, putting in long hours at her keyboard. Perhaps that's why, despite romance writing being her craft, Singh remains resolutely single.

"Everyone always brings that up," she laughs.

"It's as though I don't have the credentials. But I work too much, I do a lot of travelling and I just haven't settled down."

She certainly doesn't subscribe to the theory that the high-key world of the romance novel makes real life love seem dull in comparison.

"Every kind of genre fiction is about escape," she points out.

"And if people want to escape into a different world for a few hours there's nothing wrong with that. We all know what reality is when we step out of the book."

Singh adds that lots of her fans are happily married. She knows this because of the online connections she's made via her website and Facebook page.

Singh hopes that now her Guild Hunter series is easily available here more emails and messages will be coming from a growing band of Kiwi fans.

"I'm interested to see how the books do in New Zealand ... obviously I want them to do well because this is home."

- Herald on Sunday

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