I chatted to South Africa’s first RITA nominee, Romy Summer about her short listed book, Not a Fairytale. She also indulged me, and answered some other questions about being a writer.
1. When did you realise that you are romance writer?
I wrote my first ‘practice’ novel many years ago after doing a writing cousre, and showed it to my
first critique partner, Mandy Verbaan. She was a loud and proud romance reader who told me I “had
a voice for Romance”. So I went off to the second hand book store and bought a pile of romance
novels to find out what she meant – and I promptly fell in love with the genre!
2. Do you recall the first story you ever wrote?
The same story I mentioned above, that ‘practice novel’, was more women’s fiction than romance. It
featured the interwoven stories of two very different women whose lives only crossed at the very
end. My writing at that stage was awful. I had no concept of character development or rising action
or conflict – but there’s still a gem of an idea in that story which I might one day explore!
The biggest achievement of that first story though was actually seeing it through to the end. Until
that moment I’d been a serial starter. I’d learned to play piano and guitar (can’t play a note of
either!), done tap dancing, ballet, figure skating, calligraphy, and a host of other hobbies I no longer
even remember – but writing was the first thing that I saw through to the end. And ten years later
I’m still obsessed with it!
3. Who was your favourite romance author while growing up?
I didn’t really read romances growing up (at least I didn’t think I did!) but I loved Georgette Heyer,
Mary Stewart – and of course the Sweet Valley High series!
4. You chair the Romance Writers Organisation of SA, how did that come about?
Mandy and I first tossed the idea of a romance writers group around over a Mugg & Bean breakfast.
When we started writing, it felt like we were the only two people in the whole country writing
Romance. Slowly we began to reach out to other writers, and along the way we experienced a fair
amount of disdain from writers in other genres. Having experienced first hand the generous support
of romance writers online and in other countries, we decided that South African romance writers
needed a safe place to hang out together, and so ROSA was born.
We started as an online Yahoo group with only a handful of members, then slowly more and more
romance writers came forward and joined, and now we’re a registered non-profit organisation
which the literary community is starting to take seriously. Because of course, Romance writers rock!
5. Describe the moment you heard you were nominated for the RITA.
The announcements were due to be made on a Friday, so I assumed shortlisted authors would be
notified on the Thursday. My kids were on school holidays and I’d taken the week off work to spend
time with them, so I spent that Thursday busy fetching and carrying kids. It stopped me from
obsessing over my inbox, and by the time I remembered what day it was I figured the silence meant I
hadn’t shortlisted. I shrugged it off and life carried on.
They next day we were all enjoying a lazy day at home, binge-watching Miss Fisher’s Murder
Mysteries, when I realised I hadn’t even looked at my cell phone in several hours. What if someone
from work had tried to contact me?
I had one missed call. From the States. I don’t know anyone in the States, at least no one who would
call me early on a Friday morning US time. I listened to the voice message already guessing what it
might be. It was Damon Suede, one of the RWA board members, calling me with the good news. I
was able to dance around the room, take it all in, then tell the kids to keep quiet so I could return
I remember pacing the front garden with the cell phone glued to my ear, managing to hold a very
rational, calm conversation with Damon while inside I was still screaming and dancing.
It was quite possibly one of the best days of my life so far!
6. Where did you get the idea of creating a character like Nina? And what do you love most
Nina was a very minor secondary character in my previous book To Catch a Star. Her hero, Dominic,
was also in the same book, but unlike Nina he wasn’t shy and retiring. He kept trying to write himself
a bigger part. So I realised of course he needed to get his own book.
But who would be a fitting heroine for a man who had every woman fall at his feet?
Then I realised that Nina, the voluptuous actress who hadn’t fallen for either Dom or his best friend
Christian (the hero of To Catch a Star) might be the one woman who would make him really work
for her heart.
What I love most about Nina is that she’s still just a normal girl behind the celebrity facade. She still
worries about what her Gran will think, finds high heels uncomfortable, and isn’t overly fond of
exercise. It’s this down-to- earth quality that makes Dom sit up and notice her. While he may have
been attracted to her looks at the beginning, it’s her willingness to get dirty and sweaty in order to
complete the challenge he sets her, which impresses him most.
7. What’s your favourite line / lines in the book?
I have quite a few moments in Not a Fairy Tale that make me smile, but perhaps my favourite is this
8. Do you dream of fame?
Who doesn’t?! Actually, as much as I enjoy recognition for my writing, I’m in this for the money! If I
had to choose between fame and fortune, I’d definitely choose fortune.
9. Just tell me, did you have Alec Baldwin in mind when you wrote the character of Paul?
Not at all. In fact, the actor I had in mind is probably Hollywood’s most confirmed bachelor:
Leonardo di Caprio. He even has Paul’s house in the Hollywood Hills and his hybrid car! (Though I’m
sure Mr di Caprio is much nicer in person than Paul)
10. The setting of the book is LA. As a South African writer, why did you choose a setting that
It just seemed the right place to set this. She’s a Hollywood actress, he’s a Hollywood stuntman.
Where else would they live between movies? I could have changed the setting, but then it wouldn’t
have been the same story.
I feel bad that I haven’t yet set any of my books in South Africa, but I don’t seem to have any say in
the matter. The stories tell me where they’re set, rather than the other way around.
11. Much of the story circles around both Nina and Dom feeling unworthy of each other,
which is highly relatable to a reader (I think), did you purposefully choose this as a theme?
If so, Why?
I don’t think I purposefully chose that theme, though since it seems to recur in all my stories maybe
that says more about me than about my characters?
The one thing I wanted to get across in Not a Fairy Tale is that beauty is an illusion. Nina is a
successful, beautiful actress (I modeled her on Mila Kunis) yet she still battles with weight issues,
still feels inferior to others around her. It is 100% true that even the gorgeous models and actresses
we see in magazines and on TV can’t live up to the images that are presented of them!
I want women, especially younger women, to know that they are just as beautiful as the celebrities
they idolise. We’d all look gorgeous if we had a team of stylists and airbrushers turning us into
unrealistic versions of ourselves!
12. Nina and Dom get their happily ever after and they come full circle, what does HEA mean
to you? (Is it marriage? Is it a baby?)
For me, the HEA is finding a partner who will support you, and who will help you be the truest and
best version of yourself. That doesn’t always involve an exchange of rings, and for many people that
doesn’t include babies. It’s having a partner who loves you with all your flaws, and who has your
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Not a Fairytale, it was the prefect lazy weekend love story.
It was lovely getting to know you better, Romy!