Real Talk: 10 Questions With Romance Novelist (and Grandma) Nan Reinhardt

Romance novelist Nan Reinhardt shares why she writes “grown-up love stories,” and why sensuality isn't just for young people.
A photo of three book covers

A photo of Nan and her grandson giving a kiss on the cheek
Nan Reinhardt and her grandson

Nan Reinhardt is a devoted grandmother, and also a bestselling author of romantic fiction. A freelance copyeditor by day, Nan says that she can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing. She wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten and is still writing, but now from the self-described viewpoint of a “wiser, slightly rumpled woman in her prime.”

An Indy local, Nan lives with her husband of 48 years, and they split their time between a house in the city and a cottage on a lake. We asked Nan to give us the scoop about her career as a romance novelist, as well as her insights into love and sensuality as we age—and her answers are definitely worth reading.

What inspired you to write your first romance novel?
A photo of romance novelist Nan Reinhardt
Nan Reinhardt

The first one when I was ten was inspired by my older sister and Herman’s Hermits, but I assume you’re asking about the first one I wrote as an adult. I’ve been writing all my life, but the first story I tried to sell was “Once More From the Top”—a story about a symphony conductor and a photographer and a secret baby, except the baby in the story was a fifteen-year-old piano prodigy. The story and the characters had been in my head for ages.

I love going to the symphony and I love classical music and I love Lake Michigan and the area in Michigan—around Traverse City—where I set the story. Interlochen Music Camp has always fascinated me, too—all those elements just sort of came together in this story. Unfortunately, my agent at the time couldn’t sell the book—every editor she sent it to said, “Great story! Love this writer’s voice, but we can’t sell old characters or a fifteen-year-old kid.” My characters are in their 40s … so old? Hmmm … That has changed some, and I’m so glad. When I finally published “Once More From the Top” as an indie as the first book in my seasoned romance series, “The Women of Willow Bay,” it got great reviews and romance readers loved it, particularly over-40 readers. It was the book that put me on the “USA Today bestseller list.

On the main page of your website, you describe your novels as “grown-up love stories, because we’re never too old for a little romance…” What drives you to write characters that are more advanced in age and experience?

Frankly, I write older characters because that’s what I know. I can’t write twenty-somethings. It’s been too long since I was there, so my characters come from my own life experience. Even my “River’s Edge” characters, who are in their thirties, are more mature simply because I’m not enough into pop culture to write younger. I enjoy writing characters who meet on a level playing field of life experience and knowledge—so all the coming-of-age stuff is behind them and doesn’t clutter up their stories. Also, I believe with all my heart that romance doesn’t end when your boobs start to sag or wrinkles show up around your eyes.  Love never ages, and people fall in love no matter whether they’re teenagers or septuagenarians.

How do you come up with the sensual scenarios for your novels?

Well, I have been and am well loved by a kind, generous, sensual man, you know? I reach for those feelings when I write my love scenes—I pull those emotions and reactions from my own life experience. As I write love scenes, whether steamy or sweet, I want to be inside the characters’ heads more than focusing on their bodies, because that’s where real sensuality is—in your brain. Start there and the rest just happens naturally.

“I believe with all my heart that romance doesn’t end when your boobs start to sag or wrinkles show up around your eyes.”
Has the role that sex and sensuality play in your writing changed at all as you have matured? If so, how?
A photo of romance novelist Nan sitting at a computer
Romance novelist Nan Reinhardt

It has, yes. My “Women of Willow Bay” novels, which were the first ones I published, were steamier than the ones I write now for Tule Publishing. The bedroom door was open in all four of those seasoned romance novels.

Now, although I think I maintain the sensual vibe in my stories, I don’t write sex. You might figure out that my characters have done the deed, but you’re not going to be there, and frankly, I find that so much easier. Writing sex scenes got to be … I don’t want to say boring, but you know … there’s just so many ways you can describe the act, and I don’t write graphic language or sex in my love scenes, so that limited me even more. When Tule first asked me to write a series for them, I asked if I could write sweet, sensual romance, and they said, “Sure, just be consistent from book to book because it will become what your readers expect.” So far, it’s working out well. In “River’s Edge,” you might guess my hero and heroine are having sex, but you gotta figure that out on your own. I’m not going to describe it to you.

How do people usually react when they find out what you do for a living?

You really should ask my husband that question. He gets a lot of those nudge, nudge, wink, wink kinds of reactions when people, other men especially, find out I’m a romance author. I usually get wide eyes and raised brows, but most people are impressed that I’ve written novels at all—aware that it takes a lot of work and energy and creativity to write a book—let alone a dozen or so. Every so often, I get the “ooohhh, like 50 Shades” reaction, when I tell someone I’m a romance novelist, which used to really annoy me. Now, I just smile and say, “No, more like the Hallmark Channel.”

Do your fans ask you lots of personal questions about intimacy, or share their own intimate stories with you?

Interestingly, no, I don’t get asked personal questions about intimacy or frankly get told anything about my readers’ intimate lives. I get lots of questions about where I get my ideas, and I don’t think they’re asking about love scenes specifically, although maybe I’m missing that particular nuance. Mostly, I think people are curious about how the characters and stories come to me, and I have to explain that there are these people in my head who are pretty much waiting in line to have their stories told. Then the what-if comes along: What if this woman meets this man and this man discovers that … well, you get the picture. Eventually, their what-if becomes a story. It’s always been that way ever since I was a kid. My mom graciously never made me give up my imaginary playmates, she just told me to write about them. So I did … and I still do.

Do you consider yourself a sensual/sexy woman personally?

Speaking of interesting questions … if you had asked me that when I was in my forties, I would have been embarrassed and tongue-tied. I hadn’t discovered sensual Nan yet—it took turning fifty, a trip to Paris, buckling down to finishing a whole novel, and maybe even going through the hormonal changes that happen as we women age for me to find that element inside myself.

Yes, I am a sensual woman—the older I get the more I discover how much I love the touch of soft fabric against my skin, the scent of delicious food, the taste of rich wine, or the sweet smell of lilies of the valley. I relish the warmth of the sun or the way it feels to slide through the lake when I swim, or the wind in my hair when I’m out on the boat with Husband. To feel his hand on the small of my back guiding me through a doorway or the touch of his beard when he kisses me still sends a shiver through me just like it did on our first date.

But aging has made me appreciate all those things so much more than I did when I was younger. Is it a time thing? I don’t know, but I know that intimacy—all kinds—becomes more, not less important, as I get older. Does that make me sexy? I guess you’d have to ask Husband about that, but when I’m with him, I feel sexy; and even if I’m just in my flannel jammie pants with the bunnies on them and a hoodie, I think sexy is what he sees.

What is your favorite thing that you’ve ever written so far, and why?

A photo of Nan's book "The Valentine Wager"You mean besides the story with my sister and the guy from Herman’s Hermits? I always love the book I’m currently writing, but I think that’s probably true of most writers. The book of my heart is unquestionably “Once More from the Top because it was the first.

The book that just got released, “The Valentine Wager, was simply pure fun to write, and I really love the one that’s going to come out in October—“The Fireman’s Christmas Wish—because it has a lot of my story in it. It was cathartic to write about three brothers being abandoned by their father as my sibs and I were. I truly love all the “River’s Edge” books, though, creating this town and peopling it has been the best fun ever! I’m so excited that Tule is letting me stay in Nan’s world and write stories there, and that readers are having fun with me in that little town, too. It warms my heart.

How long does it take for you to write one of your novels, and how many have you written so far?

Generally, it takes anywhere from four to six months to write a book, although I’ve done it in less time and in more. My first novel was published in 2012, and since then I’ve written 12 more and I’m currently in revisions on book number 13, which is the first book in my third “River’s Edge” series, “The Weaver Sisters.” “The Women of Willow Bay” came out 2015 through 2017 and “The Four Irish Brothers Winery” series began in 2018 with “A Small Town Christmas, and book four, “The Baby Contract,” released in 2020. This year in 2022, The “Lange Brothers” series releases with “The Valentine Wager” out on February 1, “Falling for the Doctorout June 7, and “The Fireman’s Christmas Wishout October 18. The “Weaver Sisters” books will begin releasing in 2023.

Do you have any advice for someone that wants to start writing romance novels?

Read. Read. Read. Absorb narrative in every possible way—books, television, film—and learn the genre. Watch how romance stories unfold—there is always subtext, always nuance—watch for it. A good romance is not just boy-meets-girl. Learn about conflict, transitions, and how to do dialogue and create a setting. If you’re writing romance and you don’t believe in a happily-ever-after, your readers won’t be fooled. These books come from the heart, they truly do. Read! Google romance writers you love and see what they have to say about writing, and read! Take a creative writing course at a local college, find a good copy editor before you submit a manuscript, and read!

What can we expect from you in the future?

Well, as long as Tule Publishing and my readers want more stories from “River’s Edge,” that’s where I’ll be—writing about that little town on the Ohio River. I hope to have more book signings around Central Indiana this year, so follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or stop by my website to get news about new books coming out or where I’ll be signing books next. I love to meet readers, so stay in touch, okay?

Stephanie Groves is the Executive Editor of Indy Maven, and she has rewritten her first attempt at a fiction novel more times than she can count.

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