Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts, 2007
Born Eleanor Marie Robertson
(1950-10-10) October 10, 1950
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
Pen name Nora Roberts
J.D. Robb
Jill March
Sarah Hardesty
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Period 1981–present
Genre Romance, fantasy, suspense
Spouse Ronald Aufdem-Brinke (1968–1983, divorced)
Bruce Wilder (1985–present)
Children 2

Nora Roberts (born Eleanor Marie Robertson on October 10, 1950) is an American bestselling author of more than 209 romance novels.[1] She writes as J. D. Robb for the in Death series, and has also written under the pseudonyms Jill March and for publications in the U.K. as Sarah Hardesty.

Nora Roberts was the first author to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. As of 2011, her novels had spent a combined 861 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list, including 176 weeks in the number-one spot.

Life and career

Personal life

Early years

Robertson was born on October 10, 1950 in Silver Spring, Maryland, the youngest of five children.[2] She is of Irish descent as both of her parents have Irish ancestors, and has described herself as "an Irishwoman through and through".[3] Her family were avid readers, so books were always important in her life.[4] Although she had always made up stories in her head, Roberts did not write as a child, other than essays for school. She does claim to have "told lies. Really good ones — some of which my mother still believes."[5] She attended a Catholic school and credits the nuns with instilling in her a sense of discipline.[5] During her second year in high school, Roberts transferred to a local public school, Montgomery Blair High School,[6] where she met her first husband, Ronald Aufdem-Brinke. They married, against her parents' wishes, in 1968, as soon as she had graduated from high school.[7][8]

The newly married couple settled in Keedysville, Maryland. Roberts' husband worked at his father's sheet-metal business before joining her parents in their lighting company. She gave birth to two sons, Dan and Jason. Roberts became a homemaker and would later refer to this time period as her "Earth Mother" years. Roberts spent much of her time doing crafts, including ceramics and sewing her children's clothes.[7] Their marriage ended in divorce[9] in 1983.


Roberts met her second husband, Bruce Wilder, a carpenter, when she hired him to build her bookshelves. They were married in July 1985. Her husband owns and operates a bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland called Turn the Page Books.[10] He also works as an adult content photographer and videographer.[11]

The Wilders also owned the nearby historic Boone Hotel, which was undergoing renovations when it was destroyed by a fire in February 2008. It opened as the Inn Boonsboro in 2009; the suites were inspired by and named for romantic couples from books.[12]

Roberts once stated: "You're going to be unemployed if you really think you just have to sit around and wait for the muse to land on your shoulder."[13] She concentrates on one novel at a time,[14] writing eight hours a day, every day, even while on vacation.[8] Rather than begin with an outline or plot summary, Roberts instead envisions a key incident, character, or setting.[13] She then writes a short first draft that has the basic elements of a story. After finishing the first draft, Roberts goes back to the beginning of the novel. The second draft usually sees the addition of details, the "texture and color" of the work, as well as a more in-depth study of the characters. She then does a final pass to polish the novel before sending it to her agent, Amy Berkower.[15]

She often writes trilogies, finishing the three books in a row so that she can remain with the same characters. When possible, she does the same with the "In Death" books, writing three in a row before returning to contemporary romances.[16] Her trilogies are all released in paperback, as Roberts believes the wait for hardcover editions is too long for the reader.[4]

Roberts does much of her research over the Internet, as she has an aversion to flying.[8]

She is an ardent baseball fan, having been honored by the local minor league baseball team Hagerstown Suns several times.[17]

Writing career


She began to write during a blizzard in February 1979 while housebound with her two small boys. Roberts states that with three feet of snow, a dwindling supply of chocolate, and no morning kindergarten she had little else to do.[18][19] While writing down her ideas for the first time, she fell in love with the writing process, and quickly produced six manuscripts.[20] She submitted her manuscripts to Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance novels, but was repeatedly rejected. Roberts says,

"I got the standard rejection for the first couple of tries, then my favorite rejection of all time. I received my manuscript back with a nice little note which said that my work showed promise, and the story had been very entertaining and well done. But that they already had their American writer. That would have been Janet Dailey."[21]


Nora Roberts

In 1980, a new publisher, Silhouette books, formed to take advantage of the pool of manuscripts from the many American writers that Harlequin had snubbed.[22] Roberts found a home at Silhouette, where her first novel, Irish Thoroughbred, was published in 1981. She used the pseudonym Nora Roberts, a shortened form of her birth name Eleanor Marie Robertson, because she assumed that all romance authors had pen names.[7]

Between 1982 and 1984, Roberts wrote 23 novels for Silhouette.[7] They were published under various Silhouette imprints: Silhouette Sensation, Silhouette Special Edition and Silhouette Desire, as well as Silhouette Intrigue, and MIRA's reissue program. In 1985, Playing the Odds, the first novel in the MacGregor family series, was published. The book was an immediate bestseller.[7]

In 1987, she began writing single title books for Bantam. Five years later she moved to Putnam to write single title hard covers as well as original paperbacks.[23] She reached the hardcover bestseller lists with her fourth hardcover release, 1996's Montana Sky. Roberts has continued to release single-title novels in paperback. She still occasionally writes shorter category romances. Her attachment to the shorter category books stems from her years as a young mother of two boys without much time to read, as she "[remembers] exactly what it felt like to want to read and not have time to read 200,000 words."[8]

Roberts and her career were featured in Pamela Regis' A Natural History of the Romance Novel. Regis calls Roberts "a master of the romance novel form, because she "has a keen ear for dialogue, constructs deft scenes, maintains a page-turning pace, and provides compelling characterization."[21] Publishers Weekly once talked about her "wry humor and the use of different narrators, two devices that were once rarities" in the romance novel genre.[8]

J.D. Robb

Roberts had long wanted to write romantic suspense novels in the vein of Mary Stewart, but, at the urging of her agent, she concentrated on classic contemporary romance novels while she built a following of readers.[8] After moving to Putnam in 1992, the publishing company quickly realized that they were unable to keep up with Roberts's prolific output. They suggested that she adopt a second pseudonym so that they would be able to publish more of her work each year.[16]

Her agent, Amy Berkover, convinced the publishers to allow Roberts to write romantic suspense novels under the new name.[8] Her first romantic suspense novel was published in 1995 under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. The initials "J.D." were taken from her sons, Jason and Dan, while "Robb" is a shortened form of Roberts. She first decided to use the pseudonym D.J. MacGregor, but right before publication, she discovered that this pseudonym was used by another author.[18]

As J.D. Robb, Roberts has published a series of futuristic science fiction police procedurals. These books, all part of the "In Death" series, feature NYPSD Detective Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke and are set in a mid-21st century New York City. Despite the emphasis on solving a crime in each of the books, the overall theme of the series is the development of the relationship between Eve and Roarke.[16] When the "In Death" series began, neither Roberts nor her publisher acknowledged that she was in fact the author. They hoped to allow the series to stand on its own merits and build its own following.[24]

After publishing 18 novels in the "In Death" series, Putnam published the nineteenth, Divided in Death first in hardcover. The book became Roberts' first bestselling novel of 2004.[25]

As of September 2014, Roberts has published 39 books books in the "In Death" series[26] with more scheduled.[27]

Other pseudonyms

She wrote a story for a magazine titled "Melodies of Love" under the pseudonym Jill March.[18]

Roberts has also been known as Sarah Hardesty. When the "Born In" series was released in Britain it carried that name instead of Nora Roberts. She has since changed publishers.[18]


Roberts is remarkably prolific—in 1996 she passed the hundred-novel mark with Montana Sky and in 2012 she doubled that with The Witness. In both 1999 and 2000, four of the five novels that USA Today listed as the best-selling romance novels of the year were written by Roberts. Her first appearance on the New York Times Bestseller List came in 1991,[14] and between 1991 and 2001, she had 68 New York Times Bestsellers, counting hardbacks and paperbacks. The New York Times did not review any of those novels.[28] In 2001, Roberts had 10 best-selling mass-market paperbacks, according to Publishers Weekly, not counting those books written under the J.D. Robb name. In September 2001, for the first time Roberts took the numbers 1 and 2 spots on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list, as her romance Time and Again was number one, and her J.D. Robb release Seduction in Death was number two.[29]

Since 1999, every one of Roberts's novels has been a New York Times bestseller, and 124 of her novels have ranked on the Times bestseller list, including twenty-nine that debuted in the number-one spot. As of January 24, 2013, Roberts's novels had spent a combined 948 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, including 148 weeks in the number-one spot. As of January 9, 2009, 400 million copies of her books are in print, including 12 million copies sold in 2005 alone. Her novels have been published in 35 countries.[30]

A founding member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), Roberts was the first inductee in the organization's Hall of Fame.[8] In 1997 she was awarded the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, which in 2008 was renamed the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.[31] As of 2012, she has won an unprecedented 21 of the RWA's RITA Awards, the highest honor given in the romance genre.[32]

Two of Roberts' novels, Sanctuary and Magic Moments, had previously been made into TV movies. In 2007, Lifetime Television adapted four Nora Roberts novels into TV movies: Angels Fall starring Heather Locklear, Montana Sky starring Ashley Williams, Blue Smoke starring Alicia Witt, and Carolina Moon starring Claire Forlani. This was the first time that Lifetime had adapted multiple works by the same author.[33] Four more films were released on four consecutive Saturdays in March and April 2009. The 2009 collection included Northern Lights starring LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian, Midnight Bayou starring Jerry O'Connell, High Noon starring Emilie de Ravin, and Tribute starring Brittany Murphy.

Time named Roberts one of their 100 Most Influential People in 2007, saying she "has inspected, dissected, deconstructed, explored, explained and extolled the passions of the human heart."[34] Roberts was one of only two authors on the list, the other being David Mitchell.[34]

Victim of plagiarism

In 1997, another best-selling romance writer, Janet Dailey, admitted to repeatedly plagiarizing Roberts' work. The practice came to light after a reader read Roberts' Sweet Revenge and Dailey's Notorious back-to-back; she noticed several similarities and posted the comparable passages on the Internet. Calling the plagiarism "mind-boggling," Roberts sued Dailey.[8] Dailey acknowledged the plagiarism and attributed it to a psychological disorder. She admitted that both Aspen Gold and Notorious lifted heavily from Roberts' work. Both of those novels were pulled from print after Dailey's admission.[35][36] In April 1998, Dailey settled the case. Roberts donated the settlement to various literary causes including the Literacy Volunteers of America (now ProLiteracy).[8][37][38][39]

Roberts joined the chorus strongly criticizing fellow romance writer Cassie Edwards, who had lifted many passages from much older sources (many in the public domain), without giving credit, forcing Edwards out of the business.[40][41]


Roberts has been included repeatedly on the Giving Back Fund's annual lists of the most philanthropic celebrities,[42][43] with the bulk of her donations going to the Nora Roberts Foundation. The foundation financially supports organizations that promote literacy and the arts, assist children and engage in humanitarian efforts. The Foundation also endowed the Nora Roberts Center for American Romance at McDaniel College, which supports academic scholarship on the American romance novel, with special emphasis on the literary qualities and significance of the romance.[44] Roberts has made other charitable efforts such as auctioning her jewelry.[45]



Many of Roberts' novels have been, or will be, reissued. To avoid confusion, all of Roberts' new releases include a logo that is a circle with the initials "NR" inside, indicating that the book has never been published before.[46]

Screen adaptations

Lifetime Movie Channel

Several of Roberts' books, have been adapted into made-for-TV movies and aired on Lifetime.

The 2007 Collection featured:

The 2009 Collection featured:[47]

Peter Guber's Mandalay TV and Stephanie Germain Prods., produced the eight adaptations.


As Nora Roberts

Golden Medallion awards

Golden Medallion awards were awarded by the Romance Writers of America.[48]

RITA Awards

RITA Awards are awarded by the Romance Writers of America.[48]

  1. Night Shift: 1992 RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense
  2. Divine Evil: 1993 RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense
  3. Nightshade: 1994 RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense
  4. Private Scandals: 1994 RITA Award for Best Contemporary Single Title
  5. Hidden Riches: 1995 RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense
  6. Born in Ice: 1996 RITA Award for Best Contemporary Single Title
  7. Born in Ice: 1996 RITA Award for Best Romance of 1995
  8. Carolina Moon: 2001 RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense
  9. Three Fates: 2003 RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense
  10. Remember When – Part 1: 2004 RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense
  11. Birthright: 2004 RITA Award for Best Contemporary Single Title
  12. Tribute: 2009 RITA Award Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements[49]
Quill awards

Quill awards are awarded by the Quills Foundation.[50]

As J.D. Robb



  1. Clark, Blanche (November 30, 2010), "'The $60 million woman'", Herald Sun, retrieved December 6, 2010
  2. Vernon, Cheril (July 22, 2007), "'Queen of Romance' still going strong", Palestine Herald-Press, retrieved August 8, 2007
  3. Irish Times May 12, 2007
  4. 1 2 Weiner, Debbie (March 10, 2000). "Author Nora Roberts". BookReporter. Retrieved August 9, 2007.
  5. 1 2 House, Jeanny (October 1998). "Author Nora Roberts October 1998". BookReporter. Retrieved August 9, 2007.
  6. "Senior picture from Blair High School 1968 Silverlogue Yearbook". Retrieved 2013-03-17.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Kloberdanz, Kristin (March–April 2002). "Don't Write Off Romance: Thought You Could Dismiss It? Think Again: Meet Nora Roberts, the Queen of the Genre, Who Reigns over a Changed Landscape". Book Magazine. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Quinn, Judy (February 23, 1998), "Nora Roberts: A Celebration of Emotions", Publishers Weekly, archived from the original on February 8, 2008, retrieved December 25, 2006
  9. Bellafante, Ginia, (August 23, 2006) A Romance Novelist’s Heroines Prefer Love Over Money, New York Times, retrieved 2014-11-26.
  10. "Turn the Page Bookstore". Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  11. "Bruce Wilder Photograph".
  12. La Gorce, Tammy (April 29, 2010). "Maryland's Civil War Country Seeks a Softer Side". The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  13. 1 2 Nuckols, Ben (August 22, 2006), "Nora Roberts, 9-to-5 storyteller: Her writing output and sales are huge, her work is routine", The Record (Bergen County, New Jersey), p. F07
  14. 1 2 Nuckols, Ben (August 7, 2006). "For Romance Titan Roberts, Writing Novels is a 9-to-5 Job". WTOP News. Retrieved August 9, 2007.
  15. Gold, Laurie; Linda Mowery (September 22, 1997). "Nora Roberts on her MacGregor Series". All About Romance. Retrieved August 9, 2007.
  16. 1 2 3 Schendel, Jennifer (November 15, 2001). "The Appeal of the Romance Series". All About Romance. Retrieved August 9, 2007.
  17. "Suns release 2007 promotional schedule". 2 April 2007. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  18. 1 2 3 4 Frequently Asked Questions and Answers from Nora Roberts, archived from the original on 2012-02-18, retrieved August 4, 2007
  19. "Author Nora Roberts". Nora Roberts. Archived from the original on July 14, 2007. Retrieved August 4, 2007.
  20. Elley, Karen Trotter (2002). "Nora Roberts deals with destiny in Three Fates". Book Page. Retrieved August 9, 2007.
  21. 1 2 Regis, pages 183–184
  22. Regis, p 159
  23. Nora Roberts on writing, archived from the original on July 14, 2007, retrieved August 6, 2007
  24. Wehr, Isolde (April 2000). "Interview with Nora Roberts". Die Buecherecke Romantische. Archived from the original on July 5, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2007.
  25. Maryles, Daisy (February 9, 2004), "Nora's Newbies", Publishers Weekly, archived from the original on September 29, 2009, retrieved August 9, 2007
  26. "Complete Booklist – Nora Roberts/JD Robb titles". External link in |website= (help);
  27. "Chonological list of In Death Series". Check date values in: |access-date= (help); External link in |website=, |publisher= (help);
  28. Regis, p 184.
  29. Maryles, Daisy (September 10, 2001), "Roberts Scores with Mass Turnover", Publishers Weekly, archived from the original on September 28, 2009, retrieved August 9, 2007
  30. "Did You Know?". Nora Roberts Official Website. March 21, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  31. "RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award". Romance Writers of America. 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  32. "RITA Awards: Past Winners". Romance Writers of America. 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  33. Andriani, Lynn (January 29, 2007), "Romance Blossoms Between Nora Roberts and Lifetime", Publishers Weekly, archived from the original on September 29, 2009, retrieved August 9, 2007
  34. 1 2 Holt, Karen (May 14, 2007), "Roberts, Mitchell Make Time's List", Publishers Weekly, archived from the original on September 28, 2009, retrieved August 9, 2007
  35. Wilson, Jeff (July 30, 1997), "Romance novelist Janet Dailey apologizes for plagiarism", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  36. Standora, Leo (August 27, 1997), "Romance Writer Janet Dailey Sued", New York Daily News, retrieved November 18, 2008
  37. "All About Romance: A 2001 Update in the Janet Dailey/Nora Roberts Plagiarism Case". Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  38. "All About Romance: A 2001 Update in the Janet Dailey/Nora Roberts Plagiarism Case". Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  39. "Plagiarism paid for", The Victoria Advocate, April 17, 1998, retrieved November 18, 2008
  40. Tan, Candy; Wendell, Sarah (January 11, 2008). "A centralized document for the Cassie Edwards situation". Smart Bitches. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  41. Lundin, Leigh (May 11, 2008). "The Case of the Purloined Prose". Scandal Sheets. Criminal Brief. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  42. "The 30 Most Generous Celebrities". Forbes. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  43. Gray, Mark (2013-01-14). "Oprah Winfrey, Nora Roberts, Meryl Streep Lead Celebrity Charity List". Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  44. "The Nora Roberts Center for American Romance | McDaniel College". Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  45. "Interview: Nora Roberts talks about her passions -". 2011-10-21. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  46. Memmott, Carol (July 12, 2005), "Prolific Nora Roberts publishes 159th novel", USAToday, p. 04D.
  47. Archived March 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  48. 1 2 Romance Writers of America: National Contests and Awards, retrieved November 15, 2007
  49. 1 2 RITA Awards: Past Winners, retrieved November 25, 2012
  50. The Quill Awards, retrieved November 23, 2007
  51. J.D. Robb in Fantastic Fiction's, retrieved September 26, 2007


  • Little, Denise and Laura Hayden, The Official Nora Roberts Companion, Berkley Books, 2003, ISBN 0-425-18344-0.
  • Lennard, John, 'Of Pseudonyms and Sentiment: Nora Roberts, J. D. Robb, and the Imperative Mood', in Of Modern Dragons and other essays on Genre Fiction (Tirril: Humanities-Ebooks, 2007), pp. 56–86. ISBN 978-1-84760-038-7
  • Regis, Pamela (2003), A Natural History of the Romance Novel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 183–184, ISBN 0-8122-3303-4 
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