Red Sage SECRETS !

In August of 1994, one of my critique partners came back from Romance Writers of America’s national conference in New York with something just for me. A new publishing company named Red Sage was starting up, and Judith had picked up a copy of their submission guidelines.

Although unpublished at the time, I’d already earned a reputation among my friends and colleagues in the San Francisco Area Chapter of RWA for writing hot. I loved the structure of the romance novel. I loved the heroism of the characters. I even loved the sensuality of a lot of the books I read, but in that area I wanted more. I wanted to write standard romance stories, but I wanted to use a level of sensuality that was closer to erotica. Red Sage was the publisher I was looking for.

By the end of the year, I’d sold my first story to Red Sage – The Spinner’s Dream. It came out in December of 1995 in Volume One of Secrets. I had no idea what to expect from there – publishing is an incredibly difficult business to succeed in. I figured that I had my small advance, and a story I loved had been published in a quality book with three other great stories. I was happy with my modest success.

This December – six years after the release of Volume One of Secrets – Alexandria Kendall is about to release Volume Seven. I’ve published with her again (Volume Six) and watched her success in awe. Alexandria is far too modest to tout her own incredible accomplishments, so when I asked her to write something about the creation of Red Sage Publishing, she told me about her own search for romances that suited her taste for sensuality. If nothing else is clear, it’s safe to say that Alexandria found a real need and filled it.

From Alexandria Kendall

“One holiday season in the late 80’s I decided to read a romance. Life had been difficult recently, and I decided to read something light. My best friend had always read them, but I wouldn’t. I’d been a Literature major in college and just did not have the time or the mind for reading such light fare."

“Well, I saw this delightful half-naked Indian on a Johanna Lindsay cover (I didn’t even know who she was, I just liked the Indian.), so I took the book home and didn’t put it down until it was finished. Called my friend and told her how great it was and how I loved this author. She asked me who it was, and she said I had picked up one of her favorites. She had more of her books did I want to read them. I said yes! I read all of Lindsay'’ and then started to go to the bookstore where I met Maryann, who was the manager. She said if I liked Johanna Lindsay, I would love Bertrice Small. I read The Kadin and then read everything else Small wrote."

“Maryann noticed I loved all the authors she did, the hot ones, and over the next couple of years she went on to sell me about 2000 to 3000, three hundred page novels. I read all the old romances from the 70’s and 80’s and the new ones as well. I just read and read until I needed glasses! Went out and got the glasses and kept reading."

“Then I decided I wanted to be a writer. I joined RWA and started going to the conventions. I knew I loved all the top writers, and they seemed to write the hotter books. I would hear authors saying how they wanted to write really hot love scenes and how the publisher wouldn’t let them. The publishers were actively censoring authors’ sexual content at the time. I had noticed the earlier books were hotter than the newer ones. Now I knew why."

“It seemed to me that the publishers felt that American women did not like to read stories which depicted the sensuality of the couple. I knew I did. I knew my friends did. I thought that if the established publishers weren’t going to let romance authors write what they wanted sexually, I would. I did not want women to have someone else determine what they could and could not read about sensuality and romance."

“Red Sage means Passionate Wisdom. Well, I now had a name for the company, and I have always wanted Red Sage to be the elite publishing house in the industry – not to publish books just to publish something, but to publish the absolute best in women’s sensual or erotic romance. These are not easy stories to write. They are probably the most difficult kind of romance to write. The authors who sell to Red Sage are the best in the romance business. I have always felt this way, and the readers tell me they feel this way as well. They know the author’s story will be of the highest quality and they are one of the elite authors in the publishing business."

“Volume 7 of the Secrets Collection is coming out this December. The authors are the stars of the Collection. That’s why the books are titled in Volumes and don’t have individual names. The authors’ stories and their talent should shine, not the new title of the Red Sage book.”

Postscript:

As I was growing up and going through college, I shared Alexandria’s feelings that I wasn’t supposed to like “those” books. (I was allowed to love Jane Eyre and The Taming of the Shrew, of course.) Unfortunately, I didn’t have a best friend who read romance. But one day when I was feeling lonely, I decided I didn’t care what anyone thought about those books – there were stories out there about love and sex, and I was going to get myself one. I believe this was in about 1971.

With my luck, I stumbled into the wrong bookstore. It didn’t have what I was looking for, and I ended up with a book that had sex in it – sort of. But it wasn’t the least romantic, and I gave up my quest. It wasn’t until 1990 that I finally started reading romances, after I started writing them.

The moral of this story is that if you want to read sensual love stories but think you’re not allowed to like “those” books, get a romance and read it, anyway. If you have a friend who’s lonely and under stress but she insists that Comp. Lit. majors don’t read that trash, give her a romance, anyway. Probably she’ll sneak a peak after you’ve gone home, and she’ll be glad she did.

P.P.S. Red Sage stories may be demanding to write, but they’re also more fun than anything else. Don’t tell Alexandria I said so, okay?

Alice Chambers

http://home.pacbell.net/halice

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