Linda Hurtado has worked as a television news reporter and anchor in Fort Myers, Orlando and, for the last 20 years, in Tampa. Her second romantic thriller, Cuba Undercover, was published under her pen name, Linda Bond, and inspired by her real-life love story.
Tamara Lush is an award-winning journalist with the Associated Press who has also written for the Tampa Bay Times, the Village Voice, People magazine and USA Today. Her first novel, Hot Shade, is a romantic suspense story about a young Florida reporter.
Hurtado and Lush will appear together on a panel to discuss their books at the Times Festival of Reading. We asked them about the relationship between their day jobs and their romance novels.
Colette Bancroft, Times book editor
You're both journalists, and your books have protagonists who are journalists as well. Did any of your reporting skills translate into romance writing?
Bond: First, the craft of writing was important. Many news managers helped me improve my skills. One of my favorites, Dave Ciliberti, taught me how to focus my TV stories. He would make me sum up all of my reports in three words: dog saves veteran, hurricane destroys school, drug saves patient. The point being, in TV news, you need to get right to the heart of the story.
Being a reporter gives me a front seat to history. While this is not a skill, it is a crucial element in my success. Cuba Undercover was conceived after an assignment for ABC Action News in Cuba. I covered Pope John Paul II's trip to Cuba in 1998. I had access to a world most Americans didn't, and I wanted to write about the differences most American couldn't see. And, I wanted to write about how two people who seemed like sworn enemies could fall in love. I wouldn't have had access to that without my visa, and my invitation to enter as a journalist.
Lush: Probably the biggest skills that translated into romance writing were focus and patience.
In reporting, journalists are always waiting for something. A return phone call. A court hearing. For documents and public records to arrive in the mail or the in-box. Publishing also requires a tremendous amount of waiting. Querying agents and editors takes a long time. As a journalist who is used to dealing with daily, if not hourly, deadlines, the slow pace of publishing is surprising.
The other thing that's helped me as a romance writer is the focus I've developed as a journalist. I started in print journalism when I was 22, so I've spent exactly half my life as a reporter. On many of those days, I've written something, whether it's a 100-word brief or a 1,500-word article. When I began my novel, I vowed to write 1,000 words a day. After a while, 1,000 words adds up to an entire book. I now have a focused routine: I come home from my job at the Associated Press, cook dinner, color a little (I'm totally into the therapeutic coloring craze) and then I sit down to write my 1,000 words.
Is journalism really a romantic profession?
Bond: This question made me laugh. The short answer is both yes and no.
First, let me say what is not romantic: The daily grind of being a street reporter, while exciting and exhilarating, is also exhausting. Add Florida heat that melts your makeup and harasses your hair — not ideal if you want the handsome firefighter, who just rescued the child from the burning house, to stop, lock eyes with you and instantly realize you're the love of his life.
Being a reporter is not always glamorous, but the idea that you have the power to help solve a mystery, right a wrong, save a life or provoke powerful change is, in my humble opinion, romantic indeed. I'm still in love with my day job after more than 20 years.
And, I did meet my husband on assignment. I interviewed Jorge during my first trip to Cuba. His family was returning for the first time in 30 years. I put my heart into their story, literally.
Lush: It's funny you ask that, because I was chatting with a Harlequin editor at the Romance Writers of America conference this summer and she said exactly that: "Newspapers are so romantic."
Newsrooms are filled with all kinds of drama and conflict, and both of those are essential for a good romance novel. Journalists are also curious, which makes them easy protagonists for a novel — questions can be asked and answered, details uncovered, truths told. There's romance in truth-telling.
I also think journalists make for great characters in romance novels because at their core, journalists are idealists and romantics. Believe it or not, most of us journalists want the happy-ever-after ending. We don't want to see people die or go down in flames in scandal. We're reporters because we want a better world, and what could be more romantic than a hero or heroine who wants that?