There have been several well-known authors that have come from the Peoria area – genres ranging from science fiction to poetry.
One local woman is putting herself on the map by taking a different approach…romance.
“The myths out there about us aren’t so mythological. They are actually true,” said Brenda Rothert. “We do work in our pajamas. We tend to be a little bit introverted. Overall, nothing is universally true, but yet we kinda all understand each other.”
Brenda Rothert didn’t start her career as an author in the romance genre. She actually wrote for the Peoria Journal Star, did freelance work and even an archaeological magazine before finding her passion.
“The best thing about writing about love and romance is we can create triumph and joy in the lives of people who have faced adversity and overcome it. That is very emotionally satisfying for me.”
Rothert may be a full time author, but that’s not her only job. She’s a single mother of three boys. And Rothert says she’s very open about what she writes.
“My boys know that I am an author and they are proud of what I do. I told my son he was more than welcome to read it when he turned 18 and he said no thanks, which I thought was pretty funny.”
Rothert has sold more than 300,000 books within the last five years, even having her novels translated in German. However, she is the first to admit she was afraid to take the first step.
“I started writing books kind of on the down low. It’s one of those things where you are feeling very vulnerable and you don’t want to tell the world that you are writing a book because what if you can’t finish it. What if you do finish it and it’s terrible, or what if people buy it and they hate it? So, I wrote my entire book in secret while I worked on another job.”
Rothert’s characters range anywhere from hockey players to military men, but they aren’t just made-up people.
“I base characters on people I know in real life. Not heavily, but sometimes they will say things. Especially my hockey players in my hockey romance. I’ve shadowed hockey teams and have picked up on a lot of things that they say and their mannerisms.”
Readers are drawn into the novels by relating to the characters. And Rothert says they have helped readers overcome their own struggles in life.
“The challenge of being a full-time productive author is creating fresh characters and stories. You know you don’t want to feel like you are turning out the same book with different names and places. I try to base the stories of my characters on real challenges and real people – things that people would go through in life.”
Even though Rothert has been writing professionally for nearly a decade, she still faces struggles and finds confidence in other authors.
“I think anytime you are putting yourself out there as a writer, no matter what you are writing there is going to be vulnerability. Last summer I got to see Stephen King do and Q&A up in Naperville and I loved that he said even at his level that he still experiences shame when he has bad reviews come in.”
Rothert says she is her biggest self-critic.
“At every book at about 40,000 words, without fail I feel like it’s terrible and I probably should just delete it and start another book. I don’t know what it is mentally at that point in the book that I just kind of crash every time. And once I push past 45,000 words, I realize it’s not that bad after all, and I go ahead and finish it.”
To Rothert, romance is defined a little different for everyone. But, staying through difficult times falls on common ground among her readers.
“You think it’s hearts and flowers. You think it’s the man who takes you out for this amazing dinner and tells you all these wonderful things. In truth, real romance is in actions – in things people actually do. It’s showing up every day and being there for you and supporting you.”
Rothert is not ashamed for writing romance and wants readers to understand it’s not all about sex.
“I’m very proud of what I do and I’m very proud of all the colleagues that I have in this profession. When I encounter people who say things like is it 50 Shades, I tell them that I am so proud to be colleagues with Erika James. I think what she did was so phenomenal for all woman and people, to open that door for all women to say if you want to write it – go ahead and write it.”
With all of the negativity in the world, love is something Rothert feels can break down walls.
“I love writing romance because I feel like love is universal to all people. I think it crosses language barriers and cultural barriers. I think all people have this desire to love and be loved. That’s why I really enjoy writing about it, because I feel like it’s something that every human can identify with.”