Roberts’s productivity is remarkable, even in an era of instant mass-market paperbacks and e-books. By the end of this year, Roberts will have published 203 novels, some of them futuristic police procedurals written under the pen name J.D. Robb. That’s more original novels than James Patterson (93) and Danielle Steel (84) combined — and 199 more than Marilynne Robinson, whose first novel also came out in 1981.
Roberts, whose prodigious output is matched by her ability to sell her work — 176 of her books have been on the New York Times bestseller list — attributes her efficiency to her time at St. Michael’s school in Silver Spring.
“I was educated by the nuns,” says Roberts, who grew up near downtown Silver Spring. “Guilt and discipline — combine those and you’ll be pretty productive.”
What the nuns might say about the content of her books is another matter. Two hundred novels is a lot of hot and heavy. How many kisses? “Oh probably thousands,” Roberts says. “But there are probably less orgasms than kisses. Maybe the dead bodies and the orgasms are about on par — I’m not sure.”
Her new book is no exception. A romantic suspense novel, it combines Roberts’s hallmark mix of sass and sex. The heroine is Elizabeth Fitch a.k.a. Abigail Lowery, a ferociously uptight computer security expert who is slowly seduced by Brooks Gleason, the sheriff of the small Ozarks town where she has settled in an effort to hide from the Russian mob.
“I’m very strong for my build, and have exceptional endurance,” she warns Gleason. “You’re the sexiest thing, in the strangest ways,” he replies. He then “peeled her shirt up and away.”
Roberts considers herself a feminist and says that her books show women that “you can have this incredible guy — if you work for it. You don’t sit by the window and wait for Prince Charming. You open the window and get what you need, and then you ride off into the sunset. You make a partnership.”
Roberts scoffs at spineless heroines, including Anna Karenina, whom she doesn’t find compelling. “Weak, passive people don’t make good characters,” she says. She is equally brutal about needy men: “If a man wants someone to take care of him, he should get a dog as a companion and live with his mother.”