Award-winning romance writer researches the genre

Published 18 September 2008

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The author of an award-winning romance novel just published in Australia is writing a PhD thesis at the University of New England.

As Darkness Falls, by Bronwyn Parry, won a “Golden Heart” in the annual Romance Writers of America competition for unpublished manuscripts last year, and was quickly sought by the leading international publisher Hachette Livre.

“Bronwyn Parry” is the pen-name of Bronwyn Clarke (pictured here), who has lived in the Armidale region of NSW for the past 20 years and is a former employee and current research student at UNE.

“The past 14 months has been a pretty exciting time,” she said at the local launch of As Darkness Falls in Armidale earlier this month.

She said the amount of publicity surrounding the success of As Darkness Falls in the “Golden Heart” competition had been “amazing”, and had led to her being approached by Hachette. “It was a strange experience to have a publisher contact me to see if I would take them on,” she added.

As Darkness Falls is a romantic suspense novel in which two detectives search for a child abducted from a town on the edge of the outback. “While the town and its characters are purely fictional, the setting is inspired by the landscape of the Pilliga region,” the author said. “I love regional and outback Australia, and exploring the combination of the emotion of a romance and the intensity of a suspense plot with the drama of the Australian landscape.”

A reviewer of As Darkness Falls has remarked on its “powerful portrait of a small community slowly destroying itself”.

Ms Clarke, who has an Honours degree in English and History from UNE, spoke about the romance genre of fiction during the book launch at Dymocks Booksellers Armidale. “Romance is a genre that confirms values,” she said. “It’s about emotion – and a journey towards intimacy. It affirms the centrality of love in our lives.”

For her PhD, she is researching online “communities” of romance readers and writers, and their perspectives on the genre. She explained that these online “communities” varied widely in their focus: from enthusiasm for a particular author to academic explorations of the genre. “Today’s romance writing ranges from purely entertaining fiction to deeper, more complex novels looking at serious issues,” she said. “And the readership is evolving along with the genre.”

Bronwyn Parry’s next novel – the second in a loosely-linked trilogy – will be published by Hachette Australia in 2009.