At age 29, Evelyn Brown of Placentia was your average mother of two with a degree in math and a job as chief financial officer of a family-owned business in Anaheim, which sold steam fittings and equipment to such big businesses as Southern California Edison Co. and the Navy.
That's all behind her now. At age 30, she is a romance novelist, and she is the first to admit that her one published novel, "Our Love," reads a little differently than most:
"Well, I know, we had just met and didn't even know each other's names, but, somehow, I knew at that early time, you were the woman for me."
"What are you getting at, cowboy?"
"Marry me. Stop driving me nuts and marry me." His lips caught hers, heightening the passion of the moment. "I love you, ( your name here ). I want you to be with me always."
"And I love you, ( his name here )."
Yes, with Brown's "Our Love," you can do more than just escape with a romance novel. You can escape into one. For $35 hard cover or $20 soft cover, your own 100-page copy of "Our Love" will be delivered to you with you as one romantic lead and anyone you want as the other. When the tall, masterful hero pulls her roughly, almost violently, to him, he can be boyfriend, husband or fantasy lover, and he'll be pulling you.
The idea came like distant thunder piercing a sensuous Caribbean sunset early this year after Brown had attended a women's conference on how to start a small business. The family steam fittings business had been sold, and Brown was looking for something she could do at home while raising her children, ages 6 and 2.
One lecturer had said the ideal business is the combination of two things you really love. What did Brown really love? Computers and romance novels. She had even tried to write a romance two years earlier, but it had never gotten past the outline stage.
"Is there any way you can personalize one?" her husband, Marlon, asked casually. Brown said her mind clicked so hard you could almost hear it. Yes, you could personalize them with her second love, the computer. "I literally leaped out of bed," she said.
She bought a home computer and began writing in earnest. She had done no real writing since school, but her years of cuddling up with a good romance had taught her the rules. "They were my escape from the kids, from a 50-hour week, from nights alone because my husband was working," she said.
"I have a degree in math," Brown said. "I don't want to say that I dissected it, but I sat down, laid out a very simple plot and decided I would have 10 chapters with three scenes each and transitions."
And she decided to make it "very tame." "Originally, I wanted to sell it through the mail, and I didn't want to get any trouble from the postal authorities."
The plot and characters would be familiar to all romance readers.
He, masterful and handsome in his own way, has everything a man could want, but he is vaguely dissatisfied and frustrated. Odd that he cannot see what we can after the first few paragraphs: He has yet to taste true, deep love.
She, a fledgling news reporter, has been given her first big assignment: investigating our hero's alleged bribery in a land deal. Odd that she cannot see what we can after the first few paragraphs: He could never have really done such a thing.
They meet. There is friction. Still, they fall in love. There is a crisis. It resolves. Their love is renewed and triumphs.
Brown said that to make the main characters universal, the story implies that they are young without stating it and does not describe them. Though it is a romance convention to have the heroine looking upward toward a tall man, Brown tiptoed around this point. "Where she looks up at him, she is sitting or lying or leaning against something, so he doesn't necessarily have to be tall."
With this story written into Brown's computer waiting for the names to be filled in, Brown advertised as Swan Publishing Co. in one issue of a national tabloid and got 30 orders, she said. Another single ad in the Cal State Fullerton student newspaper brought 15 more orders. In about two months, she has sold 50 books.
The response is encouraging enough to warrant buying a computer printer that will take less than the two hours hers needs to print out one personalized book.
"I've gotten some surprises," Brown said. "Lots of men are ordering the book for their wives. A friend of mine wanted to send one to an old boyfriend and reignite the spark. Another friend wanted to be in it with Tom Selleck. I don't even know if that's legal."