by Rebecca Moreland
Teri Wilson is a romance writer who lives and works in San Antonio. She has had several novels published by Harlequin and has recently had her internationally-acclaimed novel Unleashing Mr. Darcy made into a Hallmark movie. Most days, she can be found writing at Bird Bakery, a small, upscale cafe with a bright, bustling atmosphere and amazing cupcakes. February eighteenth, the day we met there for our interview, just happened to be the anniversary of the day Wilson met Elizabeth Chambers, the founder of the bakery. “My goal was to make 100 new desserts from scratch,” Wilson explained. She was able to help Chambers get started, and the serendipitous meeting wound up providing her with a perfect working space. “I just started writing with all the noise and the ambiance,” says Wilson. “It reminds me of Paris.”
Though famous as a romance writer, her career has some very dark origins. “Most of my writing is kind of fluffy and upbeat,” says Wilson, “but the first thing I remember writing was a short story called ‘The Balloon,’ and it was a horror story!” My surprise must have been obvious, because Wilson laughed when she saw my face. Even when she started writing more romantic stories, Wilson says she “didn’t know [she] was writing romance.”
In fact, Wilson had a penchant for animal stories. “I was an only child, and I grew up reading all the time,” she reminisces, thinking back to one such story with the whimsical title “Bonbons and Truffles and Sweet Puppy Kisses.” Her editor loved the story and hated the title but, as Wilson put it, told her, “You’re writing romance. You’re not writing animal stories.” Since then, she has developed a uniquely charming style which tends to incorporate animals while focusing on the human dynamics.
This is how her hit novel Unleashing Mr. Darcy came about. Bliss, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel owned by the main character, is inspired by Wilson’s own lovable lapdog she calls “basically my dog equivalent of me.” In fact, Wilson first got the idea for her novel at a dog show. The long-time Jane Austen fan says she “just started imagining” as she watched the dogs in the ring with their handlers and the judges. What if Pride and Prejudice had taken place not in aristocratic England at the turn of the nineteenth century, but at a dog show?
Aside from the obvious Jane Austen influence, Wilson gets a lot of inspiration from fellow romance writers Nora Roberts and Kristen Higgins, as well as “chick lit” author Emily Giffin. A typical day in Wilson’s life starts with a cup of coffee and a little TV to wake up her mind, after which she heads to Bird Bakery to start writing.
“I stay at Bird until I write at least 1,000 words,” says Wilson. “If I’m not getting writing done, I feel guilty.”
On the subject of creating her characters, Wilson admits that “there’s a lot of me in every heroine.” Like many writers, she will use “snippets of conversations that have actually happened” and other seemingly minor details from her everyday experiences to bring her characters – and their romances – to life.
As a romance writer, Wilson gets plenty of questions about love and relationships. When I asked her how she would define love as a concept, Wilson had this to say: “In a romance novel, it [the novel] ends at the very beginning.” But as far as lasting, long-term love, there are two components, according to Wilson. “There’s the connection, that intangible quality,” says Wilson, and then “you have commitment; a lot of love is a choice.”
Some might connect Harlequin, Wilson’s publisher, with a rather steamy type of romance novel, but Wilson’s works focus very much on the emotional and spiritual connection of two people rather than the physical. Says Wilson, “I enjoy meeting new people and telling them I write for Harlequin . . . I love their reactions.” She explained that she only feels offended when someone assumes that what she’s doing is hurting young girls or is somehow anti-feminist. The romance novel, Wilson says, is “a multi-billion dollar industry . . . by women, for women.” What could be more feminist than that?
Teri Wilson is a romance novelist for Harlequin Books and contributing writer at HelloGiggles. One of her most recent Love Inspired books, Alaskan Homecoming, is the ballerina romance she always dreamed of writing. She’s also the author of Unleashing Mr. Darcy, now a Hallmark Channel Movie. Wilson loves books, travel, animals and dancing every day. Visit www.teriwilson.net to learn more about her.