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Chance, Megan 1959-

CHANCE, Megan 1959-

PERSONAL: Born December 31, 1959, in Columbus, OH; daughter of C. William (an education consultant) and Anita (a registered nurse) Chance; married; children: two. Education: Western Washington University, B.A., 1983. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Cooking, reading, history.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Marcy Posner, Marcy Posner Literary Agency, 85 John St., New York, NY 10038. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Romance novelist. Television news photographer, Seattle, WA, 1983-86; special events coordinator, Seattle, WA, 1987-89; commercial studio manager, 1988-95; full-time fiction writer, 1995—.

MEMBER: Romance Writers of America.

AWARDS, HONORS: Named Speech Graduate of the Year, Western Washington University, 1983; Reviewer's Choice Award for Best First Historical Novel, Romantic Times, 1993, and RITA Award for excellence in Romantic Fiction, 1994, both for A Candle in the Dark; Reviewer's Choice Certificate of Excellence for Historical Novel, Romantic Times, 1994, for After the Frost, and 1995, for The Portrait; Reviewer's Choice nomination for Best Victorian Romance, Romantic Times, 1996, for A Heart Divided; Emerald City Keeper Award for Best Historical Romance, 1997, for Fall from Grace; Reviewer's Choice nomination for Best Innovative Romance, Romantic Times, 1997, for The Way Home; Career Achievement nomination in Innovative Romance, Romantic Times, 1997.

WRITINGS:

A Candle in the Dark, Dell (New York, NY), 1993. After the Frost, Dell (New York, NY), 1994.

The Portrait, Dell (New York, NY), 1995.

A Heart Divided, Dell (New York, NY), 1996.

Fall from Grace, HarperMonogram (New York, NY), 1997.

The Way Home, HarperPaperbacks (New York, NY), 1997.

The Gentleman Caller, Harper (New York, NY), 1998.

A Season in Eden, Harper (New York, NY), 1999.

Susannah Morrow, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2002.

An Inconvenient Wife, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Romance novelist Megan Chance has won praise for her willingness to challenge the often rigid conventions of the genre with unusual twists on character stereotypes and on standard plot lines. According to critics and reviewers, her ability to write convincingly about the inner lives and complex relationships of her characters emerged clearly in her first book, A Candle in the Dark, which won the 1992-93 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best First Historical Novel.

After the Frost, Chance's second novel, tells the story of Belle Sault, who returns to the rural Ohio community of her upbringing from exile in New York. She is in search of her daughter, Sarah, whose illegitimate conception forced Belle to flee years earlier. Belle rediscovers her roots while negotiating new relationships with her reputation-conscious mother and her stepbrother Rand, Sarah's father.

The Portrait features a pair of unlikely romance protagonists. Imogene Carter is an awkward, passive, and not especially striking woman haunted by a sense of inferiority to her dead sister. A flamboyant personality and talented artist, Jonas Whitaker suffers severely from bipolar affective disorder in an age with little understanding of the condition (the nineteenth century). Jonas reluctantly takes Imogene as a student, and despite early friction in their relationship, each finds in the other someone capable of recognizing and encouraging the inner qualities others overlook.

Chance explores the conflicting claims of love and revenge in A Heart Divided. Pinkerton agent Conor Roarke finds himself in a sod house in Beaver Creek, Colorado, with Sarilyn Travers, an Irish immigrant with whom he had an affair some years earlier while investigating the Molly Maguires. Sari's brother, Michael, murdered Conor's adoptive father in retribution, and Conor hopes to use Sari to bring him to justice. Meanwhile, Sari struggles with her attraction to a man who manipulated her and whose prior activities led to the death of her husband. The characters are torn between their feelings for each other and their perceived duties to others.

Fall from Grace brings to life another atypical hero-and-heroine duo. Raised from the age of twelve by her parents' murderers, the outlaw Sharpe gang, Lily Tremaine takes vengeance a dozen years later by betraying the Sharpes and taking flight. When her husband, Texas (another member of the gang), tracks her down, Lily tries to kill him, at which point Texas determines to hand her over to his father, Hank, the gang's leader. On the way to Lily's doom they stop in with Texas's half-sister, Josie, whose hopelessly romantic notions about the outlaw life give her great faith in and admiration for the pair. This in turn instills a sense of responsibility in Lily and Texas, and, although they never fully leave behind their lawbreaking ways, they begin to envision a new life together.

Chance again uses the nineteenth-century West as a backdrop in her sixth novel, The Way Home. Eliza Beaudry yearns to escape the sharecropping life of her parents. Rather than marry a local man of her father's choice, she becomes pregnant by a gambler passing through town. Cole Wallace has the good looks and devil-may-care attitude of the classic romance hero but is not interested in marrying Eliza, and when her father forces the issue, Cole volunteers his shy, outcast brother, Aaron, in his place. Though socially clumsy and a stutterer, Aaron is also caring and thoughtful, and his poet's soul at last wins Eliza over.

After successes with The Gentleman Caller and A Season in Eden, Chance's 2002 effort, Susannah Morrow, is more of a straight historical novel than a romance. The title character is only one of three narrators, and the story is set during the Salem witch trials of the late seventeenth century. Susannah Morrow arrives in Salem from England to see her sister, Judith, who is married to a Puritan. Judith already has a teenaged daughter, Charity, when she dies giving birth to another daughter. Susannah's attempts to help her sister's survivors are met with suspicion in a town completely opposed to her freethinking ways, and she is eventually caught up in the madness of the witch trials. Elsa Gaztambide, reviewing the novel for Booklist, concluded that "Chance is superb at bringing to life a gray world dominated by the Bible and rooted in the seeds of fear."

Chance once told CA:" My primary motivation in writing is the need to exorcise my own demons. I tend to write for myself—in the process, the reader rarely, if ever, enters my consciousness. I write to try to understand the world around me. Writing is my own personal therapy, if you will.

"My early influences were great romantic suspense and historical romance writers: Mary Stewart, Anya Seton, Susan Howatch, and Norah Lofts, as well as fantasy authors J. R. R. Tolkien and Anne McCaffrey, and historical novelists Taylor Caldwell and Leon Uris. Gothics, especially historical gothic romances, were probably the books that most made me want to be a writer. In college my greatest influences were the romantic poets: Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, and especially Robert Browning. Later, Walt Whitman and Theodore Roethke. Poetry has been, and continues to be, a major influence on my writing. Though I have written poetry, the more interesting challenge for me is in applying its lessons to storytelling in prose.

"My writing process begins with an idea. It could be something I heard on the radio or television, or something I read. A dream, a feeling, a snippet on artist's colonies in the nineteenth century, an interesting characterization. For every book, it's different. I usually make a note of it, and then let the idea settle in while I'm working on something else. By the time the idea has a hold on me, it's usually evolved into something more solid. Usually, it suggests a time and place for itself. At this point, with the most nebulous hold possible on character and motivation, I begin researching the setting.

"Research for me is very intensive, and hugely enjoyable. I'll research for several months, and during this process, the rest of the story begins to suggest itself to me. Without the research, I would have no idea where to go or what to say. When the research is finished, the story finally has bones. Then it's just a matter of filling in the blanks: Who is the character? Where does he come from? What does he want? The theme of the book begins to come clear, as does the structure and the technique I want to use to tell the story. I'll work on an outline, and by the time I sit down to write, I have a pretty good idea where the book is going to go, if not always how I'll get there. I like to leave characters a little vague and let them tell their own stories as the book progresses. The writing of a book, from start to finish, usually takes me about a year. I rewrite and edit constantly and ruthlessly.

"At the beginning of my writing career I'd written six unpublished manuscripts, and though I was getting 'good' rejections, I'd come to a crisis point where I had to ask myself: If I never published, would I keep on writing? The answer was yes. I'd written stories my entire life; I couldn't stop if I tried. The answer was extraordinarily freeing. Finally, I could write the book I really wanted to read. I wrote about characters I was told I 'couldn't' write about. That book was A Candle in the Dark, my first published romance.

"I write historical novels because I love history, but also because my vision of the world fits so well within an historical setting. People had the same problems they do today, but the social perception of those problems was crude and unsympathetic. There were few cures. There were no twelve-step programs or lithium. There was no therapy. You either dealt with your problems and went on, or you died. The adaptability of the human spirit is such an incredible thing, and historical novels allow me to really explore that in a way that is personally satisfying and life-affirming.

"Both A Candle in the Dark and The Portrait were written along this theme. Both books explore inner demons—of an alcoholic and an artist with bipolar illness, respectively. Both end with the characters learning to adapt and go on. With Fall from Grace, I especially wanted to deal with the reality of the outlaw West. The era is so romanticized, and I wanted to explore the real human emotions and motivations of a person who was, essentially, a sociopath. At some point in our lives, we all must come face to face with who we are and what we've become. What happens if those things include murder and robbery? That was the motivation behind Fall from Grace. Essentially, I write about flawed people who are forced to take responsibility for the choices they have made in their lives. If there was a central theme to my work, I imagine that would be it."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Affaire de Coeur, October, 1995.

Booklist, August, 2002, Elsa Gaztambide, review of Susannah Morrow, p. 1917.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Susannah Morrow, p. 1158.

Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Kim Rutter, review of Susannah Morrow, p. 88.

Publishers Weekly, September 5, 1994, p. 107; June 3, 1996, p. 81; September 2, 2002, review of Susannah Morrow, p. 53.

Romantic Times, September, 1993, p. 42; October, 1995; February, 1997.

ONLINE

Official Megan Chance Web site,http://www.meganchance.com/ (October 28, 2003).

Romance Reader Web site,http://www.theromancereader.com/ (October 21, 2003), reviews of Susannah Morrow, A Season in Eden, Fall from Grace, The Gentleman Caller, and The Way Home.

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