WHEN are you going to write a proper book?
This is an all-too-familiar question for Rachael Johns.
Librarians, bookshop assistants and acquaintances have been posing the query since her first romance novel published in 2011.
“You see them roll their eyes and they’ll make a little joke like: ‘Is what you’re writing like 50 Shades of Grey?’” Johns said.
“Often people who make a comment like that haven’t read any romance or women’s fiction.
“They often think the romance genre is just romance but no book is just one thing – crime isn’t just crime.
“Romance readers would get bored very quickly if there was no variety in romance.”
The Perth mum of three and international bestseller has produced 22 books in six years.
The last three have steered away from rural romance and veered into commercial women’s fiction, focusing on relationships other than romantic.
Johns wasn’t pressured to change direction, however, she simply had new ideas and a willing publisher.
She began writing at 17 after “accidentally” dumping her boyfriend in high school.
“I wasn’t big into writing and reading at school – I was more boy obsessed. I was madly in love with my childhood sweetheart – like we all think we are at 17 – and then I accidently dumped him at the end of Year 12,” Johns said.
“He said something I didn’t like and I said: ‘I don’t think this is working out’ and he said: ‘Yeah, I think you’re right.’
“I had instant regret and was absolutely heartbroken and for some strange reason, in the summer holidays between Year 12 and starting uni, I began writing this book. I guess it was a form of therapy.”
Johns wrote 80,000 words of “absolute rubbish” about the relationship.
“I realised that accidently dumping someone is not a very exciting way to end a book so I gave him a horrific disease and killed him off,” she said.
“So writing started as therapy and I realised I really enjoyed it.
“That book has never seen the light of day and never will.”
What: Perth Festival Writers Week
When and where: February 19-25 across Perth – Johns speaks on February 21 at Strange Company bar, Fremantle and February 25 at Banquet Hall, UWA