Seidel, Kathleen G. 1951-

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Seidel, Kathleen G. 1951-

(Kathleen Gilles Seidel)

PERSONAL:

Born October 20, 1951, in Lawrence, KS; daughter of Paul W. (a professor of chemistry) and Helen M. (a pediatrician) Gilles; married Larry R. Seidel (a management consultant), April 14, 1973; children: two. Education: University of Chicago, A.B., 1973; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1975, Ph.D., 1978. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Unitarian-Universalist.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Arlington, VA. Agent—Adele Leone Agency, 26 Nantucket Pl., Scarsdale, NY 10583.

CAREER:

Writer and educator. Northern Virginia Community College, Manassas, lecturer in English, 1977-82; full-time writer, 1982—.

MEMBER:

Modern Language Association of America, Romance Writers of America, Washington Romance Writers (chairman, 1983-85).

WRITINGS:

ROMANCE NOVELS

The Same Last Name, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1983.

A Risk Worth Taking, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1983.

Mirrors and Mistakes, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.

After All These Years, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.

When Love Isn't Enough, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1984.

Don't Forget to Smile, Worldwide (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1986.

Maybe This Time, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1990.

More Than You Dreamed, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1991.

Please Remember This, Avon (New York, NY), 2002.

A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Kathleen G. Seidel began writing romance novels for Harlequin in the 1980s, when the publisher sought American writers for a series of novels in contemporary American settings. Commenting on Seidel's impressive academic background, a Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers contributor noted: "As a specialist in the British novel, she brings to her novels an ability to adapt formal literary structures to traditional romance conventions, such as the marriage-of-convenience plot. More than many of her contemporaries, whose work is frequently loose and episodic, Seidel structures plots built on complex models of development."

The American settings of Seidel's novels play an important role in the plots and in the characters' development. In Don't Forget to Smile the heroine opens a bar in a logging town in rural Oregon to try to escape her past as a beauty contestant in the South. The Same Last Name features a successful lawyer in New York who is better understood in the context of his Virginia childhood. This novel is also an example of Seidel's ongoing portrayal of conflicted urban professionals whose careers demand family sacrifices, a choice that clashes with their traditional backgrounds.

The characters in Seidel's novels are open and honest with one another without being verbose. Seidel prefers a spare narrative style to the highly descriptive and dramatic styles of many romance writers. Conflicts generally arise from profound differences in characters' values or personalities rather than from accidents or misunderstandings. Commenting on Seidel's divergence from most conventional romance novel styles, the Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers contributor wrote that she is "one of several talented romance writers who emerged in the early 1980s to redefine the traditional formula."

Seidel once told CA: "When people find out that I have a Ph.D. in the theory of the novel, they ask, ‘Why aren't you writing the Great American Novel?’ ‘I tried that,’ I answer, ‘but no one would read it.’

"In 1981, when I was engaged in the delightful chore of trying to sell my first novel, I realized that, as much as I wanted to be published, it was even more important to me to be read, and thirteen-dollar first novels do not get all that many readers.

"If you have something to say, you need to go where people are listening, and the ‘brand name’ category romance lines are where the readers are. My first book, as one of the launch titles for Harlequin's ‘American Romance’ line, had a press run of three hundred thousand.

"Perhaps the prevailing theme in my work is the notion that happiness is very often a choice. Some people make choices that nearly guarantee unhappiness. One of my heroines so wants people to like her that she is unable to act in her own interest; she must do what she thinks others want her to. In another book, the hero, a Vietnam veteran, thinks of himself as a failure and therefore structures situations so that he is certain to fail.

"What interests me is how such people change, and my plots usually show people going from making a set of choices that make them unhappy to making a set of choices that will make them happy. It is their success at doing this that makes my books compatible with the romance market.

"While it is true that there is a fair amount of mediocrity in the romance market, some of us writing for Harlequin today take our writing very seriously. We are writing books that we are proud of. We are well paid, our books have excellent distribution, and we have interested, loyal readers. Being ignored by the literary establishment is a small price to pay for that."

In her novel A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity, the author goes beyond the romance genre in a story about women taking on the boorish behavior of their teenage daughters. Lydia Meadows, an ex-lawyer now raising her daughter Erin, is shocked when her popular daughter's fall from grace in the social clique leads to her own fall from grace with the mothers of Erin's friends. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author "catalogues the trials of upper-middle-class family life," adding that it "will appeal primarily to the sort of people it aims to (gently) critique." Joy St. John, writing in the Library Journal, commented that the author writes a novel "that bridges the difficult transition from childhood to young adulthood." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the novel "fun and well-told, with a personable and familiar narrator."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.

PERIODICALS

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2005, review of A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity, p. 1254.

Library Journal, January 1, 2006, Joy St. John, review of A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity, p. 102.

Publishers Weekly, November 14, 2005, review of A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity, p. 41.