I’m happy to feature Soul Mate author Mandi Benet’s writing journey and her new release, To Rome with Love.
I’ve always been in love with words. The power they have when strung together has always shocked and delighted me, particularly considering they are mere static symbols on a page. And they never seem to lose their edge. At least not for me.
I grew up in England, and loved reading from an early age. Not because there wasn’t anything else to do, but because that is practically the only thing I wanted to do. Sure, I also wanted to wear trousers, makeup and stockings, smoke cigarettes while lying flat on my back in a field of buttercups, and kiss a boy—all prohibited at the draconian boarding school I attended. Which is why I did every last one of them. But books were my secret addiction, an addiction for which I’ve found there is zero cure.
Admiring other writers’ words and stories, however, didn’t prompt me to think that I myself could become a writer, or that I would be any good at it if I did. Without really meaning to, I published my first short story in a local magazine when I was twelve, and still I never considered writing as a life’s work. After high school graduation, I went to law school at a university in England. I’d thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but one term of contracts and torts quickly disabused me of that notion. My sister, who had just moved to the States, suggested I try journalism school there. I applied and loved it, and after I got my degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, I moved out to California and started my journalism career, writing for a wide variety of publications including the Los Angeles Times, W magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Town & Country magazine and Travel & Leisure magazine. I covered everything from the Democratic Convention to the Oscars, and interviewed everyone from Sophia Loren to Hillary Clinton. It was the perfect mixture of learning and doing.
When I left my newspaper job I decided I wanted to start writing fiction—a kind of writing that is as far from journalism as you can imagine. I wrote a couple of literary novels which went nowhere fast and then a women’s fiction novel, The Blasphemy Box, which several big New York agents requested to read. They passed, sending me the requisite number of rejections most writers experience.
Looking for a professional organization to join, I discovered the Romance Writers of America’s San Francisco branch. I had never considered writing romance but the more I learned about that sector of the market the more vibrant a genre I saw it was. A friend looked at me quizzically when I told her what I planned to do. “If you’re going to write romance novels,” she said dryly, “you might want to read one.”
I did, and, frankly, I was surprised. Who thought the cowboy on the cover of that first book I read: a sculpted, shirtless, Stetson-wearing guy with a panty-melting smile, would be so smart and sexy and funny and witty and— hot?
Hmm . . .
So I read more romance novels, many of them erotic romance, which I hadn’t known existed but am so grateful to have found. I discovered that while there was a lot of schlock out there, many romance novels were interesting and intriguing with good plots, fine writing, smart characterization and moving stories. And kept my interest.
I wrote—and rewrote— my first romance novel, and started sending it out. I got a publisher and To Rome With Love, Book 1 of the Love in the City series, debuted on February 10. I hope you enjoy it.
When Gaby Conte’s Italian husband abandons her for a young Peruvian waitress at a restaurant they co-own in San Francisco, Gaby seeks refuge in Rome with her best friend Maria. There, she swears off romance for a long while and Italian men forever.
Then, she meets Silvio, who belongs to an old, aristocratic Roman family and lives in a palace alongside the best private art collection in Rome. Silvio, who is the cousin of Maria’s husband, is going through his own divorce. He’s gorgeous, of course, which Gaby doesn’t tell him. And arrogant and condescending, which she does. The last thing Gaby needs is more Italian trouble, but the attraction is instant and powerful, and against the backdrop of one of the world’s most romantic cities, both try—and fail—to resist the chemistry between them as they figure out, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker, that lips that taste of tears are the best for kissing. Gaby and Silvio, however, have made a rule never to make the mistake of trusting in love again. Will they realize some rules must be broken?
Where to find Mandi…