To romance enthusiasts, Jacqueline Diamond, Jacqueline Jade and Jacqueline Topaz are the creators of fast-thinking heroines who always end up with Mr. Right.
But while her characters may find themselves swept away to France or caught up in the glitz of Hollywood, the life of a successful romance writer consists of hard work, not glamour, says Jackie Hyman, 37, of La Habra, who is behind those glittering noms de plume. Hyman calls herself "a serious working woman" and considers her audience just as seriously.
"I have a lot of respect for women who read romances," she said. "I think they're a lot smarter than they're given credit for. Critics sometimes criticize them saying that women who read romances will have unrealistic expectations in their relationships. My thought is, 'How stupid do they think women are?' Men who read suspense novels aren't accused of thinking that the KGB is after them."
This diligence in her writing and readers has resulted in 12 published romances in the past four years, the Romance Writers of America's 1985 Bronze Medallion Award for best Regency novel and nomination for this year's Golden Medallion for best contemporary short romance novel.
"I'm very business-oriented about my writing, and I think most successful writers are," Hyman said. "When you sell your first book or two you have these wonderful dreams. You're going to make all this money, and everything's going to be just wonderful. Then you get to the hard realities of advances, royalties and rights. It's hard to keep your head in the clouds."
Hyman originally decided to use a pen name because she felt her real name didn't sound "romantic enough. So I started off using Jacqueline Diamond--Diamond is my middle name."
However, Hyman said she didn't plan on having to change her name several times to satisfy romance publishers who wanted "an exclusive name. I decided that if I stick with precious stones at least people might guess that it's the same writer. So now I'm Jacqueline Jade, too. I hope that will be it."
Former AP Writer
A former editor and staff writer in the Associated Press Los Angeles bureau, Hyman still free-lances for AP. It was in 1981, while she was still a staff writer there, that she first dipped a toe in the romance genre.
"I used to dislike romances because they were so macho and prejudiced," she said. "Then I saw 'Pride and Prejudice' on Masterpiece Theatre and really enjoyed it. I wished there had been a whole line of books by Jane Austen to read."
Then she discovered a line of novels called Regencies based on Austen's writing style and set in Regency, England, Hyman said. Proceeding to read more than 100 of them, she soon discovered that she "wasn't finishing a lot of them because they weren't very good. So I said the fatal words, 'I can do better than this' and sat down and wrote one."
She wrote her first Regency novel, "Lady in Disguise," in two weeks. "Then I wrote the second one ('Song for a Lady') in three weeks," she said, "but I have not done that since."
Although Hyman sold her first two novels within a year to Walker & Co. in New York, she points out that romance writing is a time-consuming profession. "Yes, I did write some books in a couple of weeks but that's unusual," she said. "It probably takes me about two months total time to write a book, but it's not like you can churn out a book every two months and get $5,000 for it."
A member of the Orange County chapter of Romance Writers of America, Hyman has been a finalist for the past two years in the organization's national romance writer competition. Last year, in the Regency novel category, she received the Bronze Medallion for "The Forgetful Lady," published in 1984 by Walker & Co.
This year, "Swept Away," published in 1985 in the Second Chance at Romance paperback series from the Berkley Publishing Group, was one of six finalists for the Golden Medallion in the best contemporary short romance category. Although not the winner, Hyman received a certificate of recognition last weekend at the annual Romance Writers of America convention in Minneapolis.
"Swept Away" contains what Hyman calls one of her trademarks--unusual situations. "Having dusted Tom Clinton's penthouse, 'cleaning woman' Paula Ward is donning a slinky gown in his lavish bathroom when the devastating millionaire unexpectedly arrives home, catching her half-clad," the book back teases.
"I find 'Swept Away' very funny," Hyman said. "Everybody loves the idea of having a cleaning lady be the heroine."
Hyman's Regency novel, "A Lady of Letters," originally published by Walker & Co., was released in paperback last month by Warner Books and her Second Chance at Romance novel, "Golden Girl," was released in May as well. She also is presently revising two other romance novels for publication.