Meet 2012 Golden Heart Finalist Deborah Wright

Today we welcome Deborah Wright, 2012 Golden Heart Finalist in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category for her book THE LAZARUS GAMBIT.

As a third grader, Deborah enraptured her classmates with installments from her first novel, Teddy Bear Invasion From Outer Space, but it wasn’t until 2002 (after a long, writing-free flirtation with computer science) that she decided on a whim to do NaNoWriMo, and found herself joyously writing 100,000 words that month. The writing bug was back! Today, Deborah is writing full time in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where she’s a member of the local chapter of RWA. 

THE LAZARUS GAMBIT is a steampunk romance set in New Amsterdam, an alternate version of Manhattan were ley lines and aether exist. It features a heroine whose aetheric abilities are on the fritz, a secret society of aether-users, a mysterious death, and a pragmatic cop who doesn’t believe in magic.

You can learn more about Deborah at  her website, and contact her via Facebook at

Follow her on Twitter at (or @DeborahBWright) And you can read about her experience doing world-building for her book here.

Take it away, Deborah!


Hello, My Name is Deborah Wright and I Am A Romance Writer!

First, thank you, Rubies, for having me today! It truly is an honor. I have to admit, though, it feels a bit surreal. You see, I found your blog last year when I searched for information on how to write a synopsis. I used your articles to help me put together a clear synopsis for my Golden Heart entry — and now, here I am! I think I’m still in shock.

I have a confession to make. For the longest time, I didn’t know I was a Romance writer.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good romance as much as the next reader, but my first reading loves were SciFi/Fantasy and Mystery. I grew up sneaking the books from my older brothers’ bookshelves to read, and let me tell you, there was nary a romance in sight! There were, however, an abundance of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Tolkien, Christie, and Sayers. So I naturally assumed, when I daydreamed about writing for publication, that those were the genres I’d write in. And, hey, I did dabble there for a long time, starting numerous implausible murder mysteries and the obligatory wretched fantasy quest stories, only to discard each and every one of them within a few pages (and trust me, we’re all glad I did!).

Attempting to write those aborted stories taught me something important, something which surprised me. Each of them had a common element: I always planned a romance–an it-all-ends-happily-ever-after romance–as a major sub-plot. It took awhile for it to sink in, but once I realized what I was doing, I never looked back. Eventually, I did some research online, looking for help with story structure and the craft of writing, and that’s how I found RWA and my local Mid-Willamette Valley chapter. I was thrilled to learn that the Romance genre is as broad and encompassing as it is. And that there are other people out there who also want to write and read the kind of stories I’m interested in.

For example, my Golden Heart finaling book, THE LAZARUS GAMBIT, is Steampunk. It’s set in New Amsterdam, an alternate version of Manhattan, and has elements of fantasy and mystery. And, of course, there’s the romance between the heroine and the hero. Could THE LAZARUS GAMBIT have been written without the romance? Perhaps by someone else, but not me! In my story the romance is inextricably entwined with the other elements of the plot, and I believe the story would be the poorer without it.

I’ll never say never, but I can’t see myself writing a book that doesn’t have a romance of some sort. After all, life is more than just a series of things that happen to people. I think the most interesting bits of a story are those which show us the characters’ reactions and feelings — and what could be more revealing than the emotional changes which occur during the course of a romance?

I have to shake my head when I think what I might have missed if I hadn’t shifted my perception of myself. Now, when people ask what genre of books I write, I proudly say, “I’m a Romance writer.” Really. Who’da thunk it?

What about you? Was Romance your first reading love, or is it a newly acquired taste? And do you have a favorite sub-genre?

37 responses to “Meet 2012 Golden Heart Finalist Deborah Wright”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Deborah! I’m so glad you’ve come out of the closet as a romance writer!

    And I also love the idea of a heroine whose “aetheric abilities are on the fritz.” I can already tell you’ve got a terrific voice.

    As for your question, I’m not sure when I discovered romance. My babysitter when I was little used to read the old-fashioned Signet Regencies, but I never looked at anything but the covers.

    I guess my first love in elementary school was Sci Fi / Fantasy (Ursula Le Guin, Christopher White). I discovered romance late in college, I think. I have no idea where I got the first one, or why I read it. Mary Balogh was an early favorite for me, and is still someone I always love to read.

    • Thank you so much for having me, Elisa! It really is a thrill being here.

      Ursula Le Guin is amazing, isn’t she? I remember reading Lathe of Heaven and just being blown away. I’ve never read Mary Balogh–I’ll have to check out her books. It’s always nice to hear about a new (to me) author!

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Mary Balogh writes wonderful, wonderful Regencies–very elegant and very emotional. Definitely check her out if you like books set in that period.

  2. Welcome, Deborah. How cool to think the Rubies had a small part in your ascension to GH finalist! We love hearing from folks we’ve helped no matter how miniscule our contribution.

    My first loves were biographies. Discovered them in fourth grade along with Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames. Ran through the school library and the public library reading about Louisa May Alcott, Ben Franklin, George Washington, Elizabeth I, etc., (or more appropriately, ad nauseum) and then I discovered Victoria Holt (I volunteered at the library. Talk about feeding an addiction!) Soon after came Phyllis Whitney & Mary Stewart. Oh, and the fainting, stammering, clueless heroines of Barbara Cartland (Hey, I was in twelve. Whaddaya want? *G*)

    Whitney and Holt fed my love of history, Stewart started me on the road to “a touch of magic” and Dame Barbara gave me the HEA my fairytale-loving self craves. Thus, I write historical fiction with a touch of magic. Oh, and Sci-fi romance, too. Grew up with James Tiberius Kirk and gang. It’s a sickness, I tell you, and I hope they never find the cure.

    Ah, heck, I might as well admit it, I love to read, but historical, fantasy (Anne McCaffrey owns her own shelf), and Sci-fi are still the mainstays.

    • AJ Larrieu says:

      Anne McCaffrey was my gateway drug to SciFi. She’s got her own shelf at my place, too!

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Gateway drug….LOL. And it’s kind of amazing to read those again as an adult and realize they follow a romance-plot arc. (As a kid, I was really just focused on the dragons.)

    • Hi Gwynlyn. It’s very good to be here!

      Holt, Whitney, and Stewart were the “big 3” of gothics, weren’t they? I am a huge Mary Stewart fan. And I love that you write “historical fiction with a touch of magic” — that sounds right up my alley!

      Ms. McCaffrey has her own very full shelf on my bookshelves, too. There is no cure — and if there was one, I wouldn’t want it!

    • So, are you ladies familiar with her writing outside of Pern? I loved her Damia series. Youngest had a friend who swore McCaffrey wrote only Pern. Stole my books to prove differently. Took a while, but I got them back. 😛

  3. Hi Deborah. Steampunk, yay! I’d buy your book from the title only. I love steampunk, but cannot fathom writing it. I fell in love with romance through some of the same authors as Gwynlyn: Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. Those were my mother’s books. I couldn’t put them down. I’d go to bed on school nights with a flashlight and hide under the covers. I know Mom had to put a stop to it, but I could hear in her voice how she knew the hold those authors had on me.

    • Hi Kathleen. Thanks for stopping by!

      I, too, read Stewart, Holt, and Whitney, though my favorite, by far, was Mary Stewart. I still have the original paperbacks of her books. They’re tattered and, in some cases, falling apart, but I can’t bear to part with them. The Ivy Tree, Nine Coaches Waiting, This Rough Magic, Airs Above the Ground…*sigh* Good memories!

  4. June Love says:

    Welcome to the Ruby blog, Deborah. And, congratulations on being a GH finalist! I can’t remember not ever reading, but even while reading the Trixie Belden books, I’d envision a romance between Trixie and Jim. When I was allowed to choose my own books, I went straight to romance. As I aged, I branched out to other genres, but eventually returned to my first love. I write contemporary, but have explored most every sub-genre.
    Best of luck to you!

  5. Kat Cantrell says:

    Hi Deborah! I’m with Kathleen – I love the title and can’t wait to read your book.

    I’m exactly the opposite of you. I always wanted to write romance and it never occurred to me you weren’t supposed to read Piers Anthony, John Chrisopher and Jude Deveraux, then imagine it all mashed together. 🙂 My big suprise came in how much I enjoy writing the stripped down version of romance for Harlequin. It’s very different. But I love all the subgenres!

    Great post!

    • Hi Kat. Thanks for stopping by! The first time I read Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor, I think I was in shock. Mashup, indeed! LOL

      I’m always impressed by authors who write category. I don’t think of it as “stripped down” at all — you really have to be able to get to the heart of a story and focus on that. It’s a talent I don’t have (I’m too wordy!), but I very much admire.

  6. Terri Osburn says:

    Congratulations, Deborah! I love reading about your journey to get here. I was Romance from the get-go. Well, there was some Encyclopedia Brown and I do love a mystery, but I’ve never tried to write one. No one read in my household growing up so I’m still not where how I got my hands on a Romance. I’m just happy I did.

    I do love Historicals, but write strictly contemporary. Might be from my first love. All those Harlequin teen books I devoured in middle school. Ah, the angst. I love me some angst!

    • Hi Terri. Thanks for stopping by! Encyclopedia Brown, one of my favorites! I always thought he was so clever when I was a kid. 🙂

      Ah, angst — what pre-teen/teen doesn’t love angst? I feel like I missed out by not finding those Harlequin teen books. LOL

  7. Hi Deborah! Your journey to writing has echoes of my own–through a career in computer systems. 🙂 I can’t say Romance was my first literary love. That would be Nancy Drew. But not very long after I read my way through all the Nancy Drew books, I started sneaking my mother’s romance novels. I went through a long phase of historicals when I was in high school. Now my tastes run more toward Contemporary Single Title, Romantic Suspense, and any Mainstream or Mystery novel with a romance tucked inside.

    Congratulations! I can’t wait to meet you in Anaheim!!

    • Hi Susan! Good to hear from a fellow techie. Geek power, baby! 🙂

      I love a good Romantic Suspense, and Mystery with a romance is still a favorite, too. I tend towards the cozies these days, like Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand series, or Cleo Coyle’s Coffee House Mysteries.

      Can’t wait for Anaheim!

  8. robena grant says:

    Hi, Deborah. Congratulations again on being a GH finalist. I’m always amazed at the world building in urban fantasy, steampunk, and Sci-Fi. Love your title.

    Romance fiction wasn’t my first love, I preferred the adventure and mystery stories my older brother read. And the classics my mother read. But when it came to trying to write a novel I knew I had to have a HEA and so I began to research romance. I love contemporary romance and romantic suspense.

    • Hi Robena! Thanks for stopping by!

      You know, part of what I love about today’s Romance genre is that there really is something for just about everybody. And even within the sub-genres, like contemporary and romantic suspense, there’s such a wide range of stories and settings. Great for readers and writers, both.

  9. AJ Larrieu says:

    Deborah, your book sounds fantastic. I can’t wait to read it!

    It took me two books to figure out I was writing romance. No one in my family read them, so I didn’t really know the genre. As I was figuring out the publishing process and researching agents for my first book, I came across RWA and realized–Surprise! I’d written a paranormal romance! It’s much better now that I know what I’m doing. 😉

    • Thanks AJ. Glad you could stop by!

      I know that feeling of surprise. 🙂 There’s something rather comforting about knowing you’re not alone, isn’t there?

  10. Welcome, Deborah!

    Much like you, I started out reading another genre…ghost stories and mysteries, mainly. I devoured the Nancy Drew carousel at our local library one summer.

    I discovered romance at a garage sale (hmmm…that sounds like the plot of a book. LOL). I was about 14, and bought a bunch of paperbacks for a very low price. I doubt my mother knew what they were or she’d never have let me. But I was hooked from then on…

    I write Romantic Suspense, so at some point the two genres blended. 🙂

    • Hi Anne Marie! Thanks for having me!

      Ghost stories and mysteries go hand-in-hand, don’t they? Throw a romance into the pot and stir it all together and…oooh, I’d read that! 🙂

      I think blending genres is one of the things romance writers do very well.

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  12. Tammy Baumann says:

    Hi Deborah,

    Nice post! I started out reading Nancy Drew, and then The Lord of the Rings etc. but I discovered romance while babysitting.

    The lady across the street was divorced with two kids and liked to go out a lot. She read these STEAMY romances I wasn’t allowed to read, and had a new one every time I went. (Looking back they really weren’t that steamy, I was just 14 and thought they were.)

    The kids were young and went to bed early, and she stayed out really late, so I could get through half a book or more each time. Really, the money I made was just a bonus! ;0)

    Looking forward to meeting you in Anaheim!

    • Thanks Tammy! Love that you discovered romance novels through babysitting. I would have felt like you — the money would be a bonus. And now, just to have those hours of uninterrupted reading time would be heaven! 🙂

  13. Meggan McQuaid says:

    Nicely done, Deb! It’s great knowing your back groud as a reader and writer.

    I followed nearly the same path you did, without the mystery (unless you count Nancy Drew?). I read fantasy, fantasy, fantasy, and some sci-fi, too. I didn’t realize until a few years ago that I was ALWAYS looking for the romance in every story I read. Then a friend gave me a Georgette Heyer novel called The Grand Sophy, and I finally found what I’d been missing.

    Mary Balogh is great, too, btw…hope you enjoy her stuff.

    • Hi Meggan! Glad you stopped by!

      Georgette Heyer was a wonderful writer, wasn’t she? The first novel I read by her was A Blunt Instrument — a contemporary thriller — that my brother had on his bookshelf. Silly me, I thought she was strictly a mystery writer like Christie and Sayers. It wasn’t until several years later that I found her Regency novels, and I still love, Frederica, the first of them I read.

  14. Kay Hudson says:

    All this talk of books from the past is driving me mad–why don’t I have time to READ anymore? So many new books to read, so many old ones I want to revisit. Deborah, it’s good to see you here, and good to hear your multi-genre background. I’ve probably been reading SF longer than anything else, and I came to genre romance only about fifteen years ago, but like so many of you I’ve always prefered books with some romance in them — and when I started out trying to write SF, the romance sub-plots kept popping up. There’s definitely something for everyone in the romance world!

    • Hi Kay!

      I had to laugh when you said all this talk of books from the past was driving you mad — I feel exactly the same way. I used to devour books, reading four or more in a week, before I started concentrating on writing seriously. Now I’m lucky if I read a couple of dozen a year. I stare longingly at the stacks of unread books I’m accumulating and wonder when I’ll ever get to them all!

  15. Jan Nash says:

    Hi Deborah, congrats on your GH Final. I enjoyed reading about you writing journey and can’t wait to meet you in Anaheim!

  16. Elise Hayes says:

    Hi Deborah!

    I discovered romance way back in Junior High. Some of my sister’s friends in high school had an English teacher who was weeding out her bookshelves and who gave a big box of Harlequin Presents and other category romances to those girls. Those girls shared with me. We all fell in love with the genre and wanted more, more, more!!

    Oddly enough, I’ve had the reverse journey from yours: I’ve discovered in the past two years or so that I may not actually be writing romance (ok, I am for the current manuscript, but it’s taken enormous, conscious effort and has confirmed for me that I more naturally tend to write fast-paced action, with romance as a sub-plot). Funny, huh?

    But, like you, I can’t envision ever writing a story without a significant romance subplot. Romances remain my favorite reading genre.

    Favorite sub-categories: historical, paranomral, contemporary, and I’ve recently discovered steampunk!

    Congrats on your GH final and best of luck at Nationals!

  17. Hee! I’m always amazed how many people don’t realize they actually READ romance. They’re all very “I don’t read THOSE books.” And yet so much of their mystery/sci-fi/crime novels HAVE relationships at their core. In some way or another, it’s a romance.

    Congrats on your final!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE steampunk!! Cannot wait to get my hands on your book!!

  18. Deborah, it’s always been romance for me. Even back when I was playing with my Barbie and Ken dolls. Congratulations on being a finalist. I hope to meet you in Anaheim.

  19. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks so much for being with us, Deborah!

    See you in Anaheim!


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