By G. Robert Frazier
I didn’t discover Karen Robards until she’d written her fifty-second book.
Well, why would I? She writes historical romance novels. Not exactly my thing. I like my novels more hard-boiled: crime, mystery, suspense, action-thriller, that sort of thing. Horror and sci-fi are also favorites.
But with book No. 52, The Ultimatum, Robards muscled in on my book reading radar. (Of course, her recent appearance at Parnassus Books in Nashville also helped draw my attention.)
The Ultimatum is Robards’ first foray into the realm of the action-thriller novel and features her feistiest, and perhaps sexiest, heroine to date, Bianca St. Ives. Part con artist, part savvy businesswoman, Bianca is all-action. The first hundred pages find Bianca in a bit of a bind: first as a $2 million heist goes horribly awry and, second, as she must use her cunning and expert fighting skills to escape capture. Unfortunately, her father, Richard St. Ives, isn’t as fortunate and is killed in an explosion.
With her father’s loss weighing heavy on her, Bianca tries to put her life back together and keep her security consultant business afloat. But when the U.S. government comes calling, claiming that her father is still alive, she is thrust back into the thick of things as bait to lure him out of hiding. With her life on the line, Bianca discovers a secret conspiracy involving genetically enhanced super soldiers and the truth about who she really is in an action-packed finale in the mountains of Austria.
“If you’ve ever wondered where the equivalent of Jack Reacher was for women, the answer is, in this page-turning global crime novel,” Robards said in a tweet about the book.
As Robards writes late in the novel, “It’s all fun and games until the Glocks come out.”
Persistence Pays Off
After 52 novels, it seems Robards is doing something right.
“You have to stick with it. It’s a really hard profession,” she says. “I’ve written 52 books; they’re all two-book contracts, so you have no job security beyond that. It’s a very solitary profession. It’s kind of draining. The last month of a book is misery, but it’s a good kind of misery. It hurts so good.”
Robards initially went to law school. She didn’t even think about writing books until her professor assigned the class to write “something publishable.”
“I didn’t know what was publishable,” she admits. “So, I went to the bookstore and historical romance was really, really hot. I bought a bunch of those books, went home and read them. They were great. I thought, I can do this. I sat down and wrote fifty pages of what I called The Pirate’s Woman. It had lots of action, lots of dialogue, and lots of sex.”
The rest of the class all wanted to write the Great American Novel.
“They had themes and symbolism, but I was good with what I wrote. Until the professor said we’re going to read what you wrote aloud. If I had known I was going to have to read it, I would never have written it.”
When Robards finished reading and looked up, she thought she had really wowed them.
“And then they laughed and laughed. My professor got up and said, ‘Karen, you’re a really a good writer, but we’ve got to do something about your choice of reading material.’”
Robards was naturally demoralized.
“I was embarrassed, my feelings were hurt. I was angry,” she says. “On the other hand, I thought what I had written was good. It wasn’t great literature, but it was a good entertaining fifty pages. I just thought, no, I’m not going to let them limit me in that way. I wanted that more than anything.”
Robards dropped out of law school, took a job in an orthodontist’s office, and wrote on a legal pad during her lunch hour while squirreled away in the rest room. The rest, as they say, is history as her book eventually sold and a new writing career was born.
The most important lesson she’s learned along the way is to have the commitment to write every day.
“Writing is a marathon, not a sprint,” she says. “I can’t have a bad day. You always have to be the very best you can be. You have to be able to concentrate and write that book and make it as good as all the other books, no matter what’s going on around you.”
Even when her son had cancer, Robards recalled how she had her notebook in hand.
The Ultimatum was recently named one of BookList’s Top Ten Romance Novels for 2017. But don’t let that fool you: this “romance” novel packs plenty of punch for any action fan.
“I’ve written 52 books and Bianca is one of my favorite heroines. I really, really like her and I enjoyed the process of writing her,” Robards says, adding that another adventure with Bianca is already in the works.
- Facebook: @AuthorKarenRobards
- Twitter: @TheKarenRobards