Dorchester's new mass market imprint, Shomi, is meant to snare a new generation of romance readers. Relative newcomer Liz Maverick leads the mission with her “action romance” Wired, a clever, high-adrenaline mashup of sci-fi, cyberpunk and contemporary romance.
I hear you started a group for your cohort of young romance writers. What's that about?
Marianne Mancusi and I adopted the name Rebels of Romance to describe a new generation of writers in the romance genre, trying to attract new, younger readers who may never even have tried reading a romance before. We want to let them know that there are romance novels out there that are relevant to their tastes, to their lives. We're different—our voices are edgy, individual, our plots and characters break the rules more often than not.
How did you get into mass market romance novels?
I was attracted to the size of the market and I'm a sucker for happy endings. My first book was set in a futuristic Australian penal colony ruled by opiate-using aristocrats who thought they were living in the English Regency. My most recent book featured a half-machine hero and an ex-junkie heroine. It's not easy to find a publishing house that not only will let you write that stuff but welcomes it.
What are your influences in the romance and cyberpunk genres?
My influences in writing do not come from reading. I am an extremely visual person, and it's the look and feel of something that drives my creativity—perhaps a function of being Generation X. The movie that has had the most impact on my writing is probably Blade Runner. A lot of genre writers write books that satisfy, for themselves, what they find missing in their reading. Science-fiction action movies tend to be high on the visuals I love and low on the character development and relationships that really satisfy me. I write books that bring the character and relationship stuff up to the level of the visuals.
Did you find it difficult to create a convincing female protagonist in the male-dominated “techie” subculture?
Not at all—I was a female protagonist in the male-dominated “techie” subculture. I worked at Netscape for several years, and then again when it had been completely assimilated by AOL. So my experience is pretty hands-on.
What do you see for the future of the genre?
Publishers recognize that they need to attract new readers. I think the genre will continue to reach out to readers of mysteries, thrillers and science fiction with great romantic hybrids. In general, romance novels are going to get even faster in pace and fresher in content.