Kathleen E. Woodiwiss has always indulged her flair for the romantic. As a child, she devoured fairy tales. When she was just 16 years old, she met and fell in love with her future husband, 21-year-old Air Force Second Lieutenant Ross Woodiwiss, at a sock hop. They eloped a year later, and he often helped her work out the plots to her bestselling novels.
But fame and fortune didn't come as easily. On writing her first romance novel, Woodiwiss told People magazine in 1983, "It was something I was embarrassed to admit. Writing a novel seemed farfetched." Lucky for her readers, Woodiwiss persisted, with encouragement from friends and family. Even though her groundbreaking first novel, The Flame and the Flower, was ignored by eight publishers, it was eventually picked up by Avon Books and quickly became a bestseller.
The Flame and the Flower is credited with being the first historical romance novel, a subgenre that now accounts for a huge percentage of all paperback romances. Released in 1972, it opened a world of passionate fantasies and paved the way for subsequent romance writers to indulge in longer plots, historical fiction, controversial characters, and steamy scenes of sexual tension. Bestselling romance novelist Julia Quinn pays tribute to Woodiwiss, telling Avon Books in 1998, "Woodiwiss made women want to read. She gave them an alternative to Westerns and hard-boiled police procedurals. When I was growing up, I saw my mother and grandmother reading and enjoying romances, and when I was old enough to read them myself, I felt as if I had been admitted into a special sisterhood of reading women."
The Flame and the Flower is the first of five books in the Birmingham series, which tells the story of Captain Brandon Birmingham, a lusty, seafaring thrill-seeker, and his descendants. The other four books in the series are: Three Weddings and a Kiss, Married at Midnight, The Elusive Flame, and A Season Beyond a Kiss. On the 25th anniversary of The Flame and the Flower, its highly anticipated sequel, The Elusive Flame was released, much to the delight of millions of fans.
Woodiwiss has successfully released 13 books over the course of 30 years. In an interview with Germany's Bertelsmann Club, she attributes the long breaks between books to raising a family, marital problems, and medical issues. Through her ups and downs, she has always focused on creating escapist, hopelessly romantic worlds for her readers. There is no "message," just the entertaining page-turners her fans know and love.
After three years of waiting, readers finally got their Woodiwiss fix again in March 2003, when she introduced her most recent novel, The Reluctant Suitor. The story involves a heroine who is at first shattered but grows confident (while the hero rebels, then acquiesces) in a heart-clutching journey of unrequited love and stifling pride -- it's classic Woodiwiss, and fans are already buzzing that this is one of her best. Although Woodiwiss names Shanna as one of her favorite female protagonists, regarding sequels she says, "I love starting off from scratch with new plots and new characters."
Good to Know
Back to Top
Taking inspiration from her favorite fairy tale, "Beauty and the Beast," Woodiwiss penned A Rose in Winter, the bestselling story of a fair maiden who is promised to a horribly disfigured, misunderstood recluse. There's a happy ending, of course.
Long before she was a bestselling novelist, Woodiwiss worked as a fashion model. Beauty and brains -- just like many of her strong-willed leading ladies.
Back to Top