What are our books really about? Is there one central theme common to the books you write, or to the books you enjoy reading?

This has been on my mind ever since I and some other romance writers were interviewed for a local news bureau’s story on St. Valentine’s Day. Note that we were all St. Valentine Day losers–there was a distinct lack of caviar, chocolate, champagne or heart-shaped hot-tubs in our lives, and the reporter adopted that arch “I’m only writing about romances” tone we’re all so tired of hearing. Her first question to me–and she didn’t include this in the interview–I thought was the most interesting one. She asked me, in a rather patronizing tone, whether romances were “only about people falling in love and getting married, and about families.”

And I asked her what other sorts of stories there were. I believe that’s what all stories are about, when it comes down to it. Even in Beowulf the monster has a mother. If you’re interested in the whole storytelling-myth-archetypes topic, check out Christopher Vogler’s The Hero’s Journey, or, if you’re feeling really brave, you can tackle Joseph Campbell whose whole area of scholarship was on the subject.

If I had to give a quick definition of what I write about (naturally I have this suspicion that I’m writing about the same people all the time and/or I’m writing about myself, both of which are to a certain extent true), I’d respond that I like to write about people discovering their true identity.

How about you? Do you find common themes in the books you write or the books you find memorable reads?