Grandma is full of exotic, steamy romance novels

January 05, 1994|By Ramsey Campbell | Ramsey Campbell,Orlando Sentinel

Connie Mason leads a double life.

To neighbors and friends, Ms. Mason, a 63-year-old Lake County, Fla., grandmother, is best known for her prowess at duplicate bridge and line dancing.

For millions of strangers, Ms. Mason is their passport to exotic worlds filled with passion, adventure and romance.

As a top writer for Leisure Books, with 21 novels to her credit, she is one of the queens of supermarket romance. Check out these titles: "Tender Fury," "My Lady Vixen," "Desert Ecstasy," "Tempt the Devil," "Caress and Conquer," "Promised Splendor," "Ice & Rapture," "Wild Land, Wild Love," and "Bold Land, Bold Love."

The love scenes are hot, the romance torrid.

"I write what I would want to read," Ms. Mason said during an interview at her mobile home. "And I have a fertile imagination."

Ms. Mason has eight grandkids and is pleasant and outgoing.

But underneath her everyday life, passion runs deep.

Although not in the same category as a Danielle Steel or a Johanna Lindsey, Ms. Mason has carved a respectable niche among the ranks of historical romance writers.

In 1990, Ms. Mason won the "Storyteller of the Year" Award from Romantic Times, a New York monthly magazine that offers news and reviews for romance fans.

"Connie is in the upper echelon of romance writers; she's got a strong following, and she's very consistent," said Carol Stacy, the magazine's publisher.

Ms. Mason now commands $40,000 to $50,000 per title from her publisher, Leisure Books. She has about 2 million books in print, with some in their second or third edition.

"It sure beats Army pay," said her husband, Jerry, who spent 27 years in the service before the couple retired to Clermont in 1979.

Ceneta Williams, senior buyer of romance books for the Waldenbooks bookstore chain, said Ms. Mason's last book, "Ice & Rapture," made it onto their best-seller list for romances.

Until 10 years ago, when her first novel, "Tender Fury," appeared, Ms. Mason was simply a homemaker who liked to read romance novels. She wrote that book on a whim.

Set in the War of 1812, it was rejected by several publishers before she finally was offered a contract by Leisure.

Ms. Mason lived in Europe and Asia while her husband was in the service. That experience has helped her in writing about exotic backgrounds and locations.

She has been churning out at least two titles a year for the past decade, and she has never suffered from writer's block.

"I know what I like and what my readers expect," she said.

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