Woodiwiss, Kathleen E. 1939–2007

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Woodiwiss, Kathleen E. 1939–2007

(Kathleen Erin Hogg, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Kathleen Erin Woodiwiss)


See index for CA sketch: Born June 3, 1939, in Alexandria, LA; died of cancer, July 6, 2007, near Princeton, MN. Romance novelist. Woodiwiss was a homemaker and "stay-at-home mom" in the 1960s and 1970s. She had no training to become a novelist, but she knew what she wanted to read and couldn't find what she wanted at the local bookstore, so she wrote it herself. Her first novel did not fit the profile of a typical romance novel, and Woodiwiss had a hard time finding a publisher. When The Flame and the Flower finally saw the light of day in 1972, it flew off the shelves onto the best-seller lists, and its author never looked back. Woodiwiss crafted her fiction with all the ingredients of typical romance fare, but she "super-sized" it in every way. For that achievement she has been called the reinventor of the modern romance novel. Unlike most romance novels of the early 1970s, Woodiwiss's novels are long, usually 500 to 600 pages in length. Like other romance writers, she set her tales in exotic places or against historical backgrounds, in which her heroines had to face difficulties of gothic proportions: lost fortunes, lost babies, lost chastity, forced marriage, heartless encounters. These are typical dilemmas, but in Woodiwiss's hands, all were a backdrop to the central drama, which, for the first time in the genre, was the romance itself. Her heroines were characteristically beautiful, soft, and helpless, at least at the beginning; her heroes were larger than life: handsome, strong and strong-willed, charismatic, and ultimately irresistible. The love story never remained in the background for long—it was the story, rendered in such descriptive detail that some critics dubbed the author a master of erotic historical fiction, a distinction that Woodiwiss herself always countered with an indignant denial. In truth, however, Woodiwiss's heroines rarely retained their chastity for long, and their undoing was often against their will. For this and other reasons, champions of women's causes have not routinely embraced her work. Serious critics of literature have, for the most part, either ignored Woodiwiss or denounced her, but some of her harshest detractors have also acknowledged that they enjoyed her stories nonetheless. All of her books achieved best-seller status, sold in the millions, and remained in print or were reprinted long after their original debuts. Woodiwiss received a lifetime achievement award from the Romance Writers of America in 1988. She wrote more than a dozen novels, several of which were also recorded as audio books. The titles include Shanna (1977), Forever in Your Embrace (1992), A Season beyond a Kiss (2000), and Everlasting, published posthumously in 2007.



Chicago Tribune, July 13, 2007, sec. 2, p. 12.

Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2007, p. B9.

New York Times, July 12, 2007, p. C13.

Washington Post, July 14, 2007, p. B6.