Whanganui romance writer Janet Elizabeth Henderson has three of her latest titles up for international awards after the first two books of her "Red Zone" series were nominated for Best Sci Fi & Futuristic at The Prism Awards (Romance Writers of America).
Henderson's novel "Can't Stop the Feeling" has also been nominated for Contemporary Romance Book of the Year at the Ruby Awards (Romance Writers of Australia).
Henderson said that there were five "really big" romance writing awards and The Prism was one of them.
"That one shocked the freaking life out of me, because I've only written two futuristic/sci fi kind of romance books and they've both been nominated," she said.
"Sometimes I enter for the bling, because the awards themselves are pretty impressive, but it's also to keep my name out there.
"I got sent a gigantic, battered, copper plaque thing after I won the Daphne [du Maurier] Award and it must have cost a fortune to ship it over to me from America."
Henderson started writing novels full-time in 2012, beginning in the crime genre before moving to romance.
"I had a crime novel sitting with my agent and then my youngest daughter was born with quite a severe illness and she was in pain for the first two or three years of her life.
"She only slept for 20 or 40 minutes at a time and I spent most nights awake with her.
"I didn't want to read anything heavy, so I veered off into romantic comedies and eventually ran out of things to read, so, as you do, I decided to write one of my own."
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Henderson said she self published three books at the end of 2012 which "just shot off", and since then her novels had sold more than 350,000 copies worldwide.
"I've got some standalone books where the characters and settings are only in that book and nowhere else, and then I've got series, and they way I do them is the setting and group of people stay the same, but each book has a different romance.
"For example, The 'Red Zone' books are about a group of army rangers who are hit by an experimental weapon and instead of dying they wake up 100 years in the future, genetically changed.
"Those are my core group of characters, and there is an over-arching plot about whether they are going to be found out, are they going to be used for experiments, and how they will fit into this new world.
"That goes over all the books, but in each one I focus on a character and their love interest, so it's half high-tech/sci fi, and half relationship."
People tended to think romance was "really fluffy", Henderson said, but there was also "a lot of heavy-hitting issues" in the books, which required a large amount of research beforehand.
"The romance genre gets slated because people say it's formulaic, but it's not at all.
"You're guaranteed a happy ending for the romance, but the rest of the book doesn't need to have a happy ending.
"Crime has a formula, science fiction has a formula, but they don't get the same hard time that romance seems to.
"My science fiction romance for instance, if I just called it science fiction and slapped another cover on it, no one would give a damn that it has romance as a subplot, and I'd probably get a lot more respect for it.
Henderson said she had a "core reader base" of around 10,000 to 15,000, and a group of even more dedicated fans who were part of an interactive Facebook group with her.
"I know a lot of them by name and they tell me about their lives; they're really lovely people.
"Romance writers are pack animals as well, and we get together and support each other.
"These women all lift each other up and share ideas, which it's really amazing.
"You don't see that in any other genre of writing, none."
After taking a few months off, Henderson said she would start the third book in her 'Red Zone' series.
"A hell of a lot of work goes into it, and I just wore myself out in the last couple of years.
"My readers will give me a hard time about what they want, but I need to see what mood I'm in."