Sunfire Romance: Adventures for Girls (guest Candice Ransom)
Sunfire, a historical romance series for young adults, debuted in 1982 with two books by Candice Ransom. 40 years later, Candice pulls back the curtain on her process and how Scholastic editor Ann Reit shaped the series, which was many young readers’ first taste of romance packaged in a girl’s adventure story.
Sunfire, a historical romance series for young adults, debuted in 1982 with two books by Candice Ransom. 40 years later, Candice pulls back the curtain on her process and how Scholastic editor Ann Reit shaped the series, which was many young readers’ first taste of romance packaged in a girl’s adventure story.
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Guest: Candice Ransom
Andrea Martucci: hello, and welcome to Shelf Love a podcast and community that explores romantic love stories in fiction across media, time and cultures.
I'm your host, Andrea Martucci. And on this episode, I am thrilled to have Candice Ransom joining me. Candice has been an author for 40 years and has written 171 books for children and young adults. Relevant to today's conversation, she's the author of six Sunfire historical teen romances, and the first two of the series and helped shape the series with Scholastic editor Ann Reit. Candice, thank you so much for being here with me today.
Candice Ransom: Thank you for having me. It's my pleasure.
Andrea Martucci: Candice, when did you realize that you wanted to be a writer and did you always know that you wanted to write for children?
Candice Ransom: I started writing when I was seven and it was out of boredom because I grew up in the country and there weren't that many books in our school library. There were almost none in my home. So when I ran out of things to read, I started writing my own stories basically. I was a kid writer.
I kept it a secret. Because my grades suffered, teachers would write home and say, Candice is reading library books, Candice is writing stories, Candice is daydreaming, all these terrible things. But I kept on writing and I decided when I was maybe 10 or 11, that I would be a writer, but I wasn't sure what kind.
So it wasn't until I was 15, a sophomore in high school, and all the other students, all the other girls were reading older books. And I was still reading books for children. And that year, my high school English teacher assigned us to do book reviews and we could do anything we wanted.
We had like 10 or something like that to do over the year and turn them in. Well, I did mine on all children's books.
And when I turned them in, she called me up to her desk and I thought, this is it. You're going back to second grade because clearly you can't read anything any more adult. She said, do you know what? You're going to be a children's book writer.
And it was an enormous relief because it didn't know it was a job. I still thought all writers were dead and it was something for me to work towards. So that was the start. And I actually started reading children's books as a writer would read. I was writing on my own, nothing got published, but I started at 15.
Andrea Martucci: Wow. And so did you go to school or get any training as a writer after that?
Candice Ransom: No.
I came up through the ranks. I didn't go to college until I was 50. I don't recommend that. But I just started doing it. I learned by reading and that is really, even though I teach in an MFA program, and I've taught in two of them, I still think qthe best way to learn is by taking books apart yourself. How did they do this? There were very few sources back in 1970, when I graduated from high school. There was two magazines, The Writer and Writer's Digest, and Writer's Digest was actually really tiny. It was a digest like Reader's Digest. There were no courses, there was Iowa writers workshop, but that was like going to the moon.
There were no books, there wasn't anything. So I had to learn that way.
Andrea Martucci: And so [00:03:00] what were you doing at the time that you first met Ann Reit. Or made yourself known to her? What was going on in your life and how did you discover her?
Candice Ransom: I had spent those interim years from 1970 until I got married in 1979 as a secretary. And I was desperate to get out of that. I was an excellent secretary, but surly, and I knew what I wanted to do. I just couldn't get there. So I found an ad in Writer's Digest that said Scholastic was looking for Wildfire romances. Write three chapters and a synopsis and send it to Ann.
So I thought, okay, I'll do that. I read a couple of them and I didn't really like them. I wasn't the romancey type. I was more interested in other things like mysteries or something, history. So I wrote a very poor three chapters and a synopsis, my heart wasn't in it, sent it to her.
She called me on the phone and I almost fell over because I didn't know editors did this, she said I don't like this one, but I'm starting a new imprint called Windswept. And it will combine romance with mystery, like Phyllis A. Whitney and Victoria Holt wrote. Those books I had read, and she said, do you think you could do one of those?
And I, I made it sound like I was wading through old mystery manuscripts to get to the phone. Oh yes, I can do that. So I did the same thing. I sent three chapters and an outline, and then I waited and I was like a wilted flower. I remember lying on the sofa and I was thinking this is just, it's over for me. It's over.
It took her maybe six weeks to get back to me. She called again. And she said, I'm taking it. And it was my first book sale. I was so thrilled and so excited So I partied for two weeks and then I realized that December 1st I had to turn this book in, this was September of 1982 and I had to write it. So I did, I turned it in and very few changes that I recall. The way I work is that I always use research. I'm not good at making things up. So I had a real place, a real carousel, real history that goes with this place in a modern, contemporary, romantic suspense book. So she called me in somewhere in the spring of 1982.
And she said, we are you thinking about starting a historical romance series that will be big enough to cross over into the adult series, into adult romances. They will be next to each other in Walden Books.
And she said, are you interested? and I said, um, sure, because nothing much had happened. Nobody was beating the door down for my second book, which I hadn't written. So I agreed to do it. She said, it's going to be 400 pages, it has to be historically accurate, and the first book will be called Amanda. We will always use girls name, and I want it set on the girl going from Boston to the Oregon trail.
I knew nothing about any of that, nothing, but, first of all, I was still staggering over the 400 [00:06:00] pages. That was my first introduction to her. I was doing the launch titles. She said, I want you to do the first two, because I know you can do research.
She'd seen one book by me, with just a little tiny bit of research and she had more faith in me than I did. And then she said, we don't quite know what we're going to call it yet, but it will have a name that will link to Wildfire and Windswept. Something that sounded romantic. And she said, do you have any suggestions?
And I thought about it for a weekend. And I went back to her and I said, how about Lamplighter? Do you know the historical background? She said, I don't think so. And then I realized it sounded too religious or not young enough. So they came up with, Sunfire and I thought well, okay.
So I started writing Amanda piecemeal. I had to do my research first, and this was 1982. There was no internet or anything like that, but I was in Fairfax County and I had access to excellent libraries and I knew how to research. It's something that I've always been interested in. For the book, Amanda, I have a letter here dated July 14th, 1982. Do you want to hear some of this letter?
Andrea Martucci: I would love to. Yes.
Candice Ransom: Okay. Because these are rare artifacts because they Ann didn't write me anymore. She would call me on the phone and we would do edits that way. It was nerve wracking.
She says, "Dear Candice, first of all, I love Amanda. And I think you are on the right track. Just a few comments and thoughts."
She also edited whatever I had sent on the manuscript and sent it back to me. I don't know how much I sent to her, but I, I think the girl was just barely on the trail.
She says, "I think you need to build up a little more the spoiled, petulant, uncooperative Amanda, so that the contrast will be more apparent when she begins to change and finally does change.
Also a little more of her anger at her father. On page five, I would leave out the descriptions of the Indians at this point. You want to keep the story moving along here, save this bit of interesting information for later on when the reader is a little more in the story."
See all this was new to me because all I had written was the one Windswept book that was, 35,000 words or whatever, and I needed all the guidance I could get.
So I was grateful for this. Another thing she told me was that I was using terms that were too esoteric for "our girls," as she called them, the audience. And then I would do the other thing, and the opposite thing, like she said, don't make things too modern.
So she helped me shape the story, not too technical, but not too modern either. And find that happy medium. She just made a few more comments. As far as I could tell, I'd only maybe sent her 30 some pages and she says, "otherwise, outside of the comments I've made directly on the pages you sent me, it is fine. You have the feeling of the whole thing and the flavor. And I thank you. Keep going and send me more when you have more. It's going to be a great book."
She was such a lovely editor.
Andrea Martucci: Those sound like very helpful kind edits.
Candice Ransom: We [00:09:00] don't get this anymore
Andrea Martucci: Yes.
Very patient. Encouraging
Candice Ransom: So my next letter came on August the 13th, and I had changed up to what she had talked about, in the first part and kept going.
So she says, "I've read the new material you've sent me and I know we are going to have a great book. The writing is very good. I have written comments in the margin on many of the pages and also attach notes to many pages."
I got a very thorough editorial journey with this first book.
"The main thing you have to remember is to keep the characters alive and developing throughout. I sometimes felt that you were more involved in getting everything historically and socially accurate, and were forgetting your flesh and blood people. That is to be understood since you have worked so hard on your research, you probably have that upper most in your mind." This is a common pitfall for anybody writing historical things.
And then she says, "I think my notes on the manuscript will help you keep the characters alive. The primary thing is to keep Amanda vital. This is primarily a girl's adventure romance, so the girls and the romance have to be gripping." So that was in August.
In September. Just very minor comments. I got a very short letter of that same year. October 12th. I got another short letter. "It's really going along beautifully." I'm still not finished. 400 pages takes you a long time on a manual electric typewriter. "More relationship problems with Serena and Ben." These are characters, I can't even remember.
okay. This is the last note I have from her, and it is relevant to what we were talking about earlier with the schools, these books, going into the schools. It's dated December 1, 1982. "I have written on many pages. Some are clipped." I think I've turned the book in by now, the whole thing.
"Also as you will see, in my notes, the Indian thing has to be handled with more thought given to the Indian side, as our books go to schools so we have to be accurate and impartial. You're doing great."
Ann Reit from the beginning was always on the side of women, gender, African-Americans, Native Americans, Jewish people. She was very, very politically correct before anyone was, I think. So she would call me down on things and I wouldn't do it intentionally, but she would just say, this has to be because these go in the clubs.
Andrea Martucci: So I read Amanda and Susannah. Serena is like the rival in Amanda, and then Garnett in Susannah is the spoiled neighbor. And one thing I thought was really interesting about those characters, they were really annoying and nasty at times, or like perceived to be, but then by the end of the novels, they had been rehabilitated or they had reached we're not maybe going to be best friends, but like we're okay with each other.
[00:12:00] And they, prevented that binary of good girl, bad girl, like friend foe.
Candice Ransom: Yes. The only instructions that I had for Amanda, and that went on through all of the series, that there would be two boys to choose from. One would be right for her, and one would not, but not necessarily be bad, just not the right one. And that there would be some kind of a rival girl in the picture. And I don't remember specifically, but I think she probably did tell me that things had to be copacetic at the end all the way around. And that's more satisfying for the ten-year-olds who are reading my books, I think.
And also the older girls.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. a lot of the critics of quote unquote, formulaic writing all these critics are like, oh, it's a formula. And it's these very flat gender roles stereotypical blah, blah, blah. And then when I see what you did in these books and what I know from romance novels that have the exact same criticisms levied at them, is I'm like, there's actually a lot more nuance than that and these books really unpack that.
Candice Ransom: All through these letters in Amanda, the relationships "don't get so historical. Don't get so technical. Think more about the relationship between your characters, how they're going to change." And all this was hard for me because it it was such a long book and, I could do it in a shorter one but there was a lot of plot and I'm not a good plotter.
The only good thing about writing historical romances is that your plot is pretty much built in
Andrea Martucci: You know, what's going happen.
Candice Ransom: They're on the trip. they have to do these things,
We went back and forth over who picked what subject. She wanted Amanda. She wanted Kathleen, which is the Irish girl in the potato famine, and she wanted Emily in the worst way. And Emily was the one I was just the coldest on, but that has become one of them extremely popular book. And I think it was about a girl wanted to be a nurse in New York City. Whatever.
I came up with Susannah, the second book. I said, it needs to be the Civil War. I needed to home ground because I did my research on site. I went to those places and, did actual research in the towns and historical societies and things like that. So the research was very involved and it made it a better book, I think.
I suggested Sabrina because that was when we switched from the long ones to the shorter ones and I wanted to do the revolutionary war, but I picked a part that is not well known. That was the one thing I wanted to try to achieve in some of these books. Was, civil war in Virginia was, very well known. The revolutionary war everybody thinks of the Northeast and I picked something different and it would suit that shorter length better, and I picked Nicole. And she, she really liked that. She chose the name, but I chose the historical subject.
Andrea Martucci: The Titanic. You have to do the Titanic.
Candice Ransom: I had to do the Titanic.
This book was started in 1986 and the minute that I got the okay to do it, Robert Ballard discovers the [00:15:00] Titanic wreck. What I wound up doing to get all of that information was I wrote to the Titanic Historical Society and I obtained deck plans, ship plans, menus. They sent me a ton of stuff. So when I mentioned in the book that someone is down on such and such deck, they were.
Andrea Martucci: Wow.
Candice Ransom: So I knew exactly where everybody was at all times, not all 1500 passengers, but where my people were.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah.
What's so interesting is the story that you have taking place on the Titanic, this of course predates Titanic, the movie by James Cameron, and you have a wealthy 16 year old who's used to living in luxury and her two love interests are a rich Englishman and Karl a handsome immigrant.
Which, obviously you did it first, but mirrors the dynamic.
Candice Ransom: It's not just a mirror. We believe that James Cameron's daughter read my book.
Andrea Martucci: (gasps) Oh my gosh. Really?
Candice Ransom: Yes. And suggested that
Andrea Martucci: And I assume you didn't get any royalties this.
Candice Ransom: No in those days I didn't have anything. I think I had all the movie rights, but we couldn't prove it. And he wasn't about to include some little romance writer stuck in Centerville, Virginia in his big, huge, epic plans. But I believe that was the genesis of it.
Andrea Martucci: Oh, my goodness. Where did you get the information?
Candice Ransom: I saw it in the Parade Magazine that he was starting this movie venture. And I think that was mentioned in there. I'm not sure that his daughter had suggested it. And I thought, I wonder how old his daughter is, because once I saw that I didn't even see it at the movie theater. But once I saw the plot line, I thought this was awfully familiar.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah.
Candice Ransom: I think I just did that.
I mean, you could come up with all kinds of stories on the Titanic.
Andrea Martucci: yeah, no, that is uncanny,
Candice Ransom: Yeah.
Very strong coincidence.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Oh my gosh. What a story? When you're talking about going into these historical time periods it sounds like Ann Reit is really encouraging you to present this nuanced and politically self-aware story in these historical places.
And also you have an interest in telling aspects of the larger story that we know that are maybe less covered.
When you were thinking about the two love interests in all of these books at the time, what were the considerations that you had in mind for the right kind of guy and then not right kind of guy who, again, he didn't have to be a bad guy. He just wasn't right for her.
It seems like the right guy is somebody who is going to respect the independence of the heroine and encourage her to move outside of traditional gender roles for women.
And also the ideal guy seemed to be somebody, generally in the series who was a hard worker, who's forging his own [00:18:00] path and bucking tradition and he's going to work hard for a new life and they're going to build something new, which the retrospect part is like, it feels very like Reagan, and I'm curious if in the moment writing these, like how much you felt the outside culture influencing these ideas?
Candice Ransom: I will tell you that when I was writing these books, I was so deeply into them, I didn't know anything about the outside world. Ann was guiding me. Ann Reit helped shape some of this. I was writing checks dated 1864. That's how deep I was into this book
And in truth, I figured out when I was 10 years old, I was born in the wrong end of the century. And I was going to have a struggle the rest of my life. I always felt like the past was where I belonged. The modern world did not intrude on me yet.
Andrea Martucci: And you said earlier that Ann Reit called the readers, "our girls," and, the interviews I was reading again in these alarmist articles, fretting over the children, won't somebody think of the children, Ann Reit has these incredible quotes where she's just pushing back on these people in the most clear, persuasive ways.
Like "I respect these girls. I respect that while it may seem stereotypical to you as adults, that young girls may have this experience, that this is meaningful for them and I want to validate them in their experience." Can you say more about kind of her perspective and how she influenced you and your perspective about the readers and their concerns and what you wanted to do for them through your books?
Candice Ransom: Ann Reit was a brilliant editor who did not get the credit that she deserved until much later. She came up with all of these ideas, of these different kinds of romance books for young girls.
And she was a feminist, strong feminist and minorities. She was very much into that, even though most of the writers were not, she saw ahead more, I think, than most other editors.
And she signed her letters as the editor of the book clubs. My early letters, she's senior editor, teenage book club, and she understood that audience better than anybody in that company.
She protected her writers And she protected her readers. She respected and protected them and I miss her to this day. She was my first editor and she was wonderful.
Andrea Martucci: At the time you met her this was like 1982 ish. You
Candice Ransom: Yeah, I would, I deliver my manuscripts in person.
Andrea Martucci: Oh really?
Candice Ransom: Yes. I've never been to New York and we took the train, which from Centerville was quite a trip. So we would get up at three in the morning and take this day trip to New York. My hair was long. I wore a red ribbon in my hair like Alice in Wonderland. I was 30 years old, [00:21:00] And I looked much younger. I walked in and met her and she says, Oh my goodness. You're so young and I felt just like a child, but she was so sweet and kind, and she said, well, let's go to lunch. And she took me to a restaurant. I had my first truffle. I didn't even know what it was. But she took me under her wing and she didn't everyone.
Andrea Martucci: Um,
Candice Ransom: They didn't all get the kind of treatments and the protection than I did. And I don't know why she did that with me. Maybe because I made an effort to go and deliver the manuscripts in person and to see a little of New York, which I did with her a few times.
Andrea Martucci: And how old was she at the time
Candice Ransom: oh Lord. She would never tell her. Never. I remember once she told me. But she colored her hair. And she said, I'm an editor of young adult books and I need to keep my hair colored so that it wouldn't look elderly or whatever. She had gorgeous facial structure. I never could guess her age. I know she was older than me.
But she had such beautiful bone structure that she was ageless and very very attractive. and very New York.
Andrea Martucci: So she passed away in 2008?
Had she been in publishing for a while by the time you met her?
Candice Ransom: She started in publishing in the fifties, so I'm not sure whether she was at McMillan in 1959 and then we went to Scholastic or whether she was at Scholastic in 1959
Andrea Martucci: okay.
Candice Ransom: had gone to McMillan before.
Andrea Martucci: Had she always been in young adults, had she come by this sort of understanding of the audience through great experience?
Candice Ransom: I think she was always in educational publishing. McMillan was an educational publisher too. I think that's where she got her start. And then Scholastic just moved into the book clubs. And in my day, the Scholastic book clubs were all reprints,
but then they started doing original publishing because they wanted that bookstore. By then we have B Dalton and Walden Books and kids had money and they had malls and they would go to the mall, spend a $1.95 on a book.
Andrea Martucci: The economy of book buying, that was a big change at the time.
Candice Ransom: It was huge.
Andrea Martucci: Because prior to this adults would control book buying. They were librarians or parents or so, are we maybe seeing the will of the audience come up much more at this point because they can actually go into the bookstore and choose?
Candice Ransom: That was it. That was the key to what she was trying to do. It had already been started by I guess it was Avon, whoever published Sweet Valley High, but Scholastic also had the clubs. They have that club advantage. So that kids who weren't living near a mall and, could go on Saturdays or whatever, could get these books too. So they have the best of both worlds. And so did we as writers.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And so that's when you had mall bookstore signings, right?
Candice Ransom: Yes, I did.
Andrea Martucci: I'd love [00:24:00] to hear you set the scene of one of these, because you were a B Dalton best-selling author. You're on their best seller list.
Candice Ransom: I was on it almost every month. This is I'll hold this up to you. This was when they launched the Sunfires. They came up with the two titles at the same time and this is the first chapter printed and put at the desks of all booksellers, independent and B Dalton and all those.
And I remember going to Winchester with my husband and we went into an independent store and these were on the counter, and I said, I wrote that book. And the person looked at me like, yes, sure right. And I thought to myself, well, it wasn't War and Peace. Why couldn't I have written that book?
I told that to my editor. She thought it was funny. You can't see this very well either, but this is in the Walden bookstores, they put up a cutout thing and girls could come in to have their book signed. Buy them, had them signed and then put their head in the Susannah cover of the book.
Andrea Martucci: that's amazing. So I'll describe it for the audio listeners. it looks like a Polaroid
Candice Ransom: It is, it's a Polaroid picture. the bookseller would take.
Yeah, it's like a blow up of the cover and her hair is there, but there's a hole in the middle of where her face would be. So the girls could be there.
Andrea Martucci: Oh, that's amazing.
Candice Ransom: Seventeen had a full page ad.
Andrea Martucci: and what's it say? "Be my special girl Susannah?" Is that the quote at the top of that one?
Candice Ransom: Yes. "Be my special girl, Susannah, wait for me. Discover a new frontier in historical romance. Strong handsome Evan asks Susannah to wait for him as he and the Confederate army went off to fight for the south. But as time passed, the blue coats surrounded the family's Shanendoah valley plantation. Suzannah dared do what no proper Virginia girl would do. After all, she had so much to fight for her own life, her family, and most of all, the secret new love born in the flames of war." It sounds so ridiculous now, this was hot stuff in those days
Andrea Martucci: Yeah.
Candice Ransom: I was thrilled, thrilled with all of it because it just, it pushed me to a new level in doing these.
Andrea Martucci: You'd go to these mall bookstore signings and like how many people would come to get their books signed?
Candice Ransom: Oh lord. I remember having as many as a 100 or 150.
They would be outside the store, particularly with the launches. I also remember that people would look me up and girls would come to my house. I don't know how they did it. They looked me up in the phone book or something, but I have girls knock on my door and it was so strange.
I had a ton of fan mail. I spent every Saturday doing fan mail cause I answered every one. And then eventually I broke away from the Sunfire series. It continued without me. I did six. I did four of the big ones as we called them, and then two more of the shorter ones. And then I did other things for Ann Reit that were in the young adult category.
We did a series called Crystal [00:27:00] Falls . We did the eighth grade series. She asked me about other ones, like, there were other romance series and I just said, no, I think I want to stay with writing more general books. I wanted to actually move down to middle grade. So I just worked my way backwards, but my audience was that age anyway, from one of the letters that I got to the kids were like all fifth and sixth graders. They weren't so many teenagers.
Andrea Martucci: You know, with that age group, why do you think Sunfires were so popular? What was like the gist of these letters that you got? What did the audience at the time, what was appealing to them?
Candice Ransom: I don't have any of those letters anymore. I wish I'd kept some. Most of them told me where they got the book from whether it was at a store or whether it was a book club selection. And I think most of my letters came from book club selection girls, which tells me that they weren't on top of malls or didn't necessarily have the transportation to go to buy books or the money even.
But they could save up their money for the book club. They were very gushing. They were very sweet letters. They told me about themselves and what their hobbies were and some of them wanted to be writers too. And could I give them any tips or something like that? They were just sweet letters. Not very long.
Once in awhile, I get an, a correspondence. I remember getting in a correspondence with two girls in Australia because the books were in the UK and Australia too, I think for a while. But for the most part, they would talk about their sisters or if they had best friend that was, or a bad friend or something like that.
So they talked a little about their personal relationships to me.
Andrea Martucci: And the structure of this series, you explained earlier it's going to be a girl's name and there's this love triangle and it takes place in the historical period. So this is how series work, right? There's some sort of structure for the series and then individual authors go off and write a story within the confines of this.
This is a different kind of career as a writer than one I'm probably more familiar with where writers are coming up with ideas for standalones and pitching them.
Were these paid as like a standard fee for writing one of these books? Or did you get royalties like,
Candice Ransom: I got royalties
Andrea Martucci: oh, you did.
Candice Ransom: Yes. We got standard prices, but Ann gave me a raise every time. Each time I would get more money. And the royalties were very good considering these were cheap paperbacks. but the book clubs is where you make your money truly, rather than trade. Although I think it was probably half and half. Then when I went on and did other books, other romances, I did some for First Love at Silhouette. They did not sell as well because they didn't have the book club add on to help boost sales. So it was dependent entirely on bookstores. I think that was the only one I also did romances for. But you don't get a ton of money and it's just as well because the books are cheap and they take forever to add up.
It was great money for me. I just started out [00:30:00] and this kind of way of starting in like house created series, imprints they call them, was good for me because I wasn't doing well at writing this book on my own and then sending it out to publishers and getting rejected and have a mail truck run over the manuscript coming back, that happened to me once.
So I was glad for any way in, and I always thought that however I've managed in my career over these 40 years, I've always taken a different way. Instead of going in through the front door and having my book selected and then going into libraries and all that, I'm going through a window. And that was fine. I'm still going in through windows.
Andrea Martucci: So I guess in the retrospect, looking back 40 years later, the world has changed, you have changed, you've had like a whole career, 171 books. Is there anything that now from 2022 that you're looking back at Sunfire and you're like, oh, I would do that differently now.
Or are you like, Nope, they're perfect.
Candice Ransom: I will tell you in looking back over all these materials and the letters and all this stuff, and my memories, it was so much fun. It was hard work, but it was fun in those days. It just was. I loved the field. I loved the publishing houses. I loved every bit of it. And I stayed in love with it until the last 20 years. And right at the moment, I am not in love with it at all.
I'm still writing because that's who I am, but politics has entered the industry of children's books in a way that has made me sad. change is always good, but my husband used to tell me, cause he had worked in a different industry, he said, you have the cleanest business?
And I said, yes, it is. It's fun. Everybody's in it for the same reason. We love what we do. We want the best for our readers. That is our common goal. Always. I don't sense that so much anymore. I sense too many agendas, too many other agendas. And I think that some of the readers are getting lost and we have a hard enough time getting them to read as it is in this generation, because they don't value books the way they did in the eighties. And even then they were talking about well they watch too much television. Little did they know what was coming.
Andrea Martucci: when you say politics, are you talking about the sort of relationship politics within the publishing industry? Or do you mean like politics as in national politics?
Candice Ransom: I feel that this industry is being driven by political agendas and not so much by storytelling. I'm a storyteller. And I'm always going to be a storyteller and that's what I do. And I feel Like I'm struggling with restrictions upon me that are being handed down from the children's book industry and probably all industries at this point.
I miss my happy time as a writer,
I grew as a writer [00:33:00] and I'm still trying to grow, even though I'm almost 70 years old. I still have more to say, I have more to learn. I have a lot more to learn and I'm doing it, but I'm going my own way.
Andrea Martucci: Candice, it has been a pleasure to speak with you. It is so valuable to hear from you as a writer of this series. And also because you're able to tell these stories about what was going on at the time with Ann Reit, who unfortunately is no longer with us.
And really to help us understand the context in which these books were written and the decisions that were made and how popular they were. And just to remember how different the world was then in terms of how do you get books? What are the alternatives that you have at the time?
And we have such an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choice now. And, it does feel like Sunfire was a very early historical romance series. I have not yet found other historical romance series for young adults prior to this point.
Maybe they exist if somebody knows, let me know. And apparently your book is the inspiration for Titanic, which was a huge cultural moment. Allegedly.
Candice Ransom: We don't know that for sure.
It just seems like a coincidence. The timing's kind of odd. but who knows?
Andrea Martucci: Yeah, Yeah. So I appreciate so much that you took the time to speak with me and share your experience with all of Shelf Love's listeners.
Candice Ransom: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It was my pleasure.
Andrea Martucci: This episode was part of a short series that I'm doing on teen romance. You can hear a quick overview of the evolution of romance stories in series for young adults in episode 121. Coming up next. Now that we've got some context for what was going on in the 1980s, and Sunfire behind the scenes, I'm going to dig into a text. Shelf Lovely. Jess is back to discuss the Sunfire romance from her youth that shares her name. Jessica. Given that we now know the target age for this series was like 10, will it hold up as a romance for two adult women? That is the question we will ask.
Then I'll jettison forward about 20 years to explore the Avon True Romance series of teen historical romances with Funmi. We read and discussed Beverly Jenkins' contributions to that series. Belle and the Beau and Josephine and the Soldier.
Following that Dr. Amanda Allen, who studies young adult romance going back to its early days as junior novels in the 1940s will share her insights into how and why romances for young adults have evolved over the decades.
And I will say that now that I've recorded some of these conversations, I'm already starting to see some themes emerge.
For example, it's impossible to get away from the fact that adults are mediators and gatekeepers of teens' relationship to romance in books. When teens have to get explicit or tacit approval to get access to these books, that's going to impact consumption. And that also impacts either directly or indirectly how the books are produced.
While adult romance readers frequently [00:36:00] express that others' ideas about romance books may be contemptful and they're aware of that at the end of the day, these consumers can directly purchase what they want and have greater control over how they spend their leisure time. The only real impediment is how much they care about what other people think usually. So that's one thing in particular to pay attention to in these conversations going forward.
Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. And I'd love to hear your takeaways from these conversations on young adult romance, either on social media, where you can find me at Shelf Love pod on Twitter or at Shelf Love Podcast on Instagram. Or you can always email me at Andrea. At Shelf Love Podcast dot com.
Thank you so much for spending time with me today. If you enjoyed today's episode, please subscribe, rate, or review on your favorite podcast app or tell a friend. Check out ShelfLovePodcast.Com for transcripts and other resources.
If you want to join the conversation about the topics that we discuss on Shelf Love, I'd encourage you to check out Shelf Love's Patreon at Patreon.com/ShelfLove. Thank you to Shelf Love's $20 a month supporters: Gail, Copper Dog Books, Frederick Smith, and John Jacobson.
See your name listed as a Patreon supporter on the Shelf Love website if you join at any level. That's Patreon.com/ShelfLove. That's all for today. Thanks so much. Bye.
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