Arts and Entertainment

Charmed, I'm sure

Sheila Rabe’s “A Prince of a Guy” is her departure from the romance genre. - Photo courtesy of Bill Ross
Sheila Rabe’s “A Prince of a Guy” is her departure from the romance genre.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Bill Ross

‘A Prince of a Guy,” is not Sheila Rabe’s first book, but the novel Rabe signs at the Eagle Harbor Books’ Bookfest booth springboards this author from the romance genre.

For years, Rabe wrote romances. Able to turn out a book every six months, she published 13 in paperback.

“I was, as the Beatles’ song goes, a ‘paperback writer,’” Rabe says. “I was writing the ‘great American potboiler.’ My work was sort of a marriage of ‘Erma Bombek meets Jane Austen.’”

Rabe fell into writing, she says, when an author friend took her by the hand, giving her writing advice, and leading her to both agent and publisher.

Her first book appeared in 1989.

Getting help and advice wasn’t unusual, Rabe says, in the supportive world of romance fiction.

“Romance writers all help each other,” Rabe says. “Maybe because they are women, they believe in spreading the wealth.”

Rabe learned her craft over time, but while she loved the business and promotion end of writing, research was not Rabe’s favorite pursuit.

“Research is not an easy thing,” she says, “although I know some people just adore it.”

An inaccuracy that affected a major plot point was missed by Rabe’s copy editor and by most readers.

Unfortunately, the one person who did notice happened to be a reviewer who gleefully seized on the gaff.

“I did get it wrong,” Rabe says. “It’s like – oh, well. I was getting dizzy banging

my head on the wall with the research, anyway.

Rabe began to consider breaking away from the romance genre.

“A Prince of a Guy” is a contemporary novel in a Bainbridge setting, but Rabe says she was careful not draw on friends or family for her cast of characters.

“My protagonist is a psychologist and she is a little bit obnoxious,” Rabe says. “She’s sort of a ‘Dr. Laura’ character who thinks she knows it all. It was quite satisfying to give her a comeuppance, but if I had it to do over, I might have softened her a bit.”

Island readers may enjoy the familiar geography and recognize eateries and other Bainbridge businesses.

Rabe even staged a literary food fight at San Carlos Restaurant – with owner Lee Jorgenson’s permission.

Bainbridge is such a logical resource for Rabe, whose family has lived on the island since 1949, that one might wonder why it took more than 13 books for her to land here.

Rabe’s family were “summer people” who vacationed on Bainbridge. They moved over permanently from Seattle, building what she calls “a poor man’s Kennedy compound.”

Rabe enjoys the family contact – and, in fact, admits to being the most social writer she knows.

“I am one of the few authors I know who says, ‘Oh, goody, a book signing,’” Rabe said.

Rabe’s active social life may take precedence over writing, at times, but while her schedule is variable, her method is systematic; Rabe hammers out detailed summaries before tackling the book proper.

“I find it’s easier to do a lot of pre-work,” she says. “It’s better for me to take my creative journey in 15 pages than get lost in 300. I don’t want any surprises.”

“I create a world that is in my control.”

* * * * *

Sheila Rabe signs “A Prince of a Guy” at Eagle Harbor Books’ booth at Bookfest Oct. 22. Call 842-5332 for information.

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