About Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, the youngest of five children. After a school career that included some time in Catholic school and the disciplines of nuns, she married young and settled in Keedysville, Maryland.

She worked briefly as a legal secretary. “I could type fast but couldn’t spell, I was the worst legal secretary ever,” she says now. After her sons were born she stayed home and tried every craft that came along. A blizzard in February 1979 forced her hand to try another creative outlet. She was snowed in with a three and six year old with no kindergarten respite in sight and a dwindling supply of chocolate.

Born into a family of readers, Nora had never known a time that she wasn’t reading or making up stories. During the now-famous blizzard, she pulled out a pencil and notebook and began to write down one of those stories. It was there that a career was born. Several manuscripts and rejections later, her first book, Irish Thoroughbred, was published by Silhouette in 1981.

Nora met her second husband, Bruce Wilder, when she hired him to build bookshelves. They were married in July 1985. Since that time, they’ve expanded their home, travelled the world and opened a bookstore together.

Through the years, Nora has always been surrounded by men. Not only was she the youngest in her family, but she was also the only girl. She has raised two sons. Having spent her life surrounded by men, Nora Roberts has a fairly good view of the workings of the male mind, which is a constant delight to her readers. It was, she’s been quoted as saying, a choice between figuring men out or running away screaming.

Nora is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and a recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award – renamed in 2008 as the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

Nora Roberts - Image Copyright John Marle, All Rights Reserved

Up Close and Personal

Nora on Writing:

Before she started writing, Nora Roberts was a woman in search of a creative outlet. Staying at home with her two small sons, she was the ultimate earth mother, gardening, canning fruits and vegetables, making her son’s clothes, stitching and knitting. “I macraméd two hammocks,” she admits now. “I needed help.”

That help came in the form of a blizzard in February 1979, which left her stranded at home for a week. In an age without four-wheel drive vehicles, getting down the hillside from where she lived was impossible. Morning nursery was cancelled for a week. It was the endless games of Candy Land and a severe lack of chocolate that drove her to look for a little entertainment that was not child-related. She took out a notebook and started to write down one of the stories she’d made up in her head.

As the story took shape on paper, the idea took shape in Nora’s mind that “this is IT. This is the thing I am meant to do.” The sun came out and the snow melted. The crafts were shelved and a career was born. She decided to write the story as a category romance, since she’d recently started reading Harlequin romances. At the time, Harlequin was the only publisher of category romances and their pool of writers was mainly British. The manuscripts she submitted were summarily rejected.

In 1980, Nora heard that a new publisher – Silhouette – was looking for authors who would put an American spin on Harlequin’s framework. In the summer of that year, Silhouette bought Nora’s first book. Irish Thoroughbred was published in 1981. Now that her sons are grown, Nora looks back at that February blizzard as a blessing in disguise. “I started writing as a way to save my sanity,” she says, “and I fell into a job that I love.”

At Home with Nora:

For the past 30 years, home for Nora Roberts has been on the top of a hill in western Maryland. When she arrived there with her children, she knew she’d found the perfect home. “I realized I was home,” she explains. “Sometimes you just recognize it.” Over the years her career has taken her all over the world, but she always returns to that hilltop to renew her spirit and create her magical stories.

While there have been many changes to the house, the heart of it is a home that has seen a family grow. The framed photos of Nora, her husband Bruce and her sons, Jason and Dan, which are placed everywhere, chart the years. Early in her career Nora wrote in notebooks and then on a portable typewriter in a corner of her kitchen so she could keep an eye on her two small sons. After her career started taking off, she hired a local carpenter to build some shelves in her bedroom. In the manner of all good stories, the carpenter, Bruce Wilder, later married Nora. “He came and just never left,” she jokes.

Little did either of them know that the home projects had only just started. Bruce built Nora’s third floor office and a tower closet off the bedroom. Later a pool house was attached to the first floor, the kitchen was built out and a library was added on for the perfect nook in which to curl up and read a book. To bring their lives full circle, Nora recently realized the only thing left to add was some more bookshelves.

When she’s not writing, Nora tends to her gardens. She ruthlessly weeds, plants, and mulches, and enlists her family to help out. Her constant battles with marauding deer have made it into her books and entertained her fans over the years. There’s an herb garden off the kitchen, a hillside of tiger lilies and hundreds of annuals throughout the property, giving Nora ample opportunity to still play in the dirt.

Indulgence in Death
J.D. Robb