By THERESA HEGEL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
For some, they are a guilty pleasure, stashed under the bed or tucked away on bookshelves hidden by the classics.
For others, they are a well-deserved and much-needed escape from the drudgery of everyday life, first-class tickets to a passionate, exotic getaway for as little as $5.99.
For a few, they are sugar-coated pulp, as mushy as breakfast cereal left too long in the milk.
For Nina Pykare, 68, they are a lucrative livelihood. The Bazetta Township woman has published 56 novels in the genre. Mother of five and grandmother of nine, Pykare earned a doctorate in 18th-century English literature from Kent State University when she was 42. Four years later, she published her first novel.
"I've always wanted to be a writer," Pykare said during a recent interview at her home.
While her children were growing up, Pykare wrote short stories for Sunday school papers. She has published more than 300 short stories.
A novel idea
However, after starting college, she decided to use her skills to craft a novel. At the time, Pykare remembered, she knew nothing about writing novels.
Her first attempt was a historical novel that featured Celts and was set in first-century England. Since there were very few novels about that era, Pykare said she thought she had an edge on the market, but when her manuscript was rejected, she discovered the market didn't exist.
Undeterred, Pykare said she consulted an agent who was based in New York City and had a reputation for honesty. The agent suggested she try her hand at romance. So, after reading a bagful of romances for research, Pykare completed a second manuscript.
Unfortunately, the agent "neglected to tell me they weren't buying doctor romances anymore," Pykare said.
Third time's a charm
Pykare's third effort was a modern romance novel set in Burma. "Love's Promise" was published in 1979, and Pykare's career as a novelist was born.
In the ensuing years, Pykare wrote historical and contemporary romances for publishers such as Silhouette and Rapture. She also has written novels for the Christian publisher Heartsong Presents.
Her favorite era is Regency England, a period at the turn of the 19th century. She called it a "politer time" and likes it because "it was still a romantic period. It had horses and fancy dresses." Pykare said she particularly enjoys portraying Regency theater.
The writing process
Pykare said she uses many strategies to generate her plot lines and claimed that "each story starts out differently."
"Sometimes I start out with a situation. When I do Regencies, I think of an occupation for the heroine," she said.
Of course, Pykare noted, employment was rather limited for women of that era. Some popular career choices for her heroines have been governess, companion, actress and seamstress.
She recently started a series of Regency mysteries set in 1815. The heroine, actress-turned-detective Kate Ketterling, "is always finding dead bodies." Pykare has written two books in the series: "Death Comes for Desdemona" and "Death Rides a Pink Horse."
"The third one is in my head," she said.
Pykare said she can write anywhere.
"I used to write in bed before I went to sleep, but when I woke up a couple of times with the pencil in my hand, I figured it wasn't a good time," she said.
These days, Pykare said she usually writes in a cozy, old armchair, with a blanket draped across its back. Books are stacked at her feet, and a laptop is perched on her knees.
For Pykare, dialogue is easiest to write: "I have these people in my head. They talk to me."
The middle of a novel is the most challenging part to write, but Pykare said she develops a plot summary before starting a novel, which keeps her from getting bogged down in the middle. If it is "properly plotted out ahead of time, six weeks is enough" time to finish a book, she said.
Pykare's advice to aspiring authors is "just keep writing" and "don't give up."
"To be a writer, you have to be sensitive, but you also must have a thick skin because when the rejections come, you can't let them get to you," she said.
"I had some rejection letters that I couldn't make sense of. I wrote a book one time where the heroine was tall and shy and didn't have many dates in high school.
"The editor wrote back that she was tall and had had lots of dates. I didn't see what that had to do with the story, but you don't argue with the editor, so I just sold the book to someone else," said Pykare.
Nina Pykare is living proof that perseverance pays off.