In Search of a Hero: Thelma & Louise Hit the Road in a Green Minivan

by Catherine Mann & Joanne Rock

Some people look forward to professional affirmation when they sell their first book. Others dream of the day they’ll see their name on a bookstore shelf. For Catherine Mann and Joanne Rock— long time critique partners and mothers to a combined seven children between them— the magical “I’m an author” moment fully hit home when they set out on their first official author road trip&

Day One – The Interstate

Can’t peel out of the driveway fast enough. Gummy bears and juice boxes are a thing of the past for a blissful four days. Starbucks, here we come!

Thus began a critique partner road trip spanning three states, two conferences, and endless brainstorming. Halleluiah! With umpteen upcoming books between us, as well as two online serials and a Christmas anthology to plot out, we’d better get busy.

Day Two – New Jersey

No great ideas yet.

Have consumed massive amounts of Jelly Bellies and gallons of Starbucks coffee to no creative avail. Instead of enjoying the ride along with us, our Muses have opted to hitchhike.

Fortunately, we participated in a highly successful book signing at the New Jersey Romance Writers conference with sixty other authors. Spotted many goddesses of the romance genre from across the room—Nora Roberts, Suzanne Brockmann, Teresa Medeiros.

“We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” our Muses whimper from the road side with thumbs jutting out.

Day Three – Philly

And we don’t mean cream cheese.

The City of Brotherly Love welcomes us for a bookseller’s tradeshow and we drag our stubborn Muses to the Hard Rock Café for a final attempt at culinary bribery. Plates full of nachos don’t seem to be helping, but then a cerulean-eyed waiter with a backwards baseball cap winks and the Muses sit up straighter. Aha!

“Perfect!” croons Joanne’s sultry Blaze Muse. “He can sneak champagne to my heroine while they explore the sensual wonders of making love in a supply closet.”

“Angst!” insists Catherine’s pensive Intimate Moments Muse as she stabs another bite of taco pizza. “I must have more angst! He’s not really a Starbucks waiter, but an FBI agent working undercover to protect a high-power female politician from a sniper. How could he think of sneaking champagne to anyone at a time like this?”

We grab a doggy bag and dash back to our keyboards at the mercy of Muses on a Mission.

Day Four – Hero-Laden Highway

The final hours of the tradeshow introduces us to boatloads of wonderful librarians and booksellers. We gain new appreciation for these romance supporters out in the trenches. As we sit in a Cracker Barrel on the way out of town, we have a heart to heart with those fickle Muses and explain how important it is that we don’t let these folks down.

Back on the highway, the minivan now overflows with fictitious heroes, past and future, until testosterone all but oozes from the hubcaps. Earlier story hunks come along for the ride, Joanne’s snowboarder hero having strapped his board to the roof. A do-rag from Catherine’s military flight surgeon hero waves in the wind tied to the antennae.

New heroes jockey for attention from the backseats. A military guy peers over the top of his aviator sunglasses with a wink, and it’s hard to see the road over the backward ball caps crowding the vehicle. We ignore the masculine pleas to detour around Giants Stadium as we head home, restless with new creativity.

  • Cost of Starbucks and other food bribes for recalcitrant Muses – a delicious $230.
  • Cost of impetuous shopping sprees and room services – Shhh! We’ll never tell!
  • Cost of critique partner brainstorming – priceless.

Critique partners Catherine Mann and Joanne Rock enjoy analyzing every facet of the romance business as part of their continuing effort to write off astronomical long distance phone bills.