By Melinda Baird, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dexter’s Rhonda James lives to find beauty in brokenness. It is precisely that drive that launched her out of a longtime job as church administrator and into her true passion – writing contemporary romance books.
Since shedding her former role in the summer of 2014, James hasn’t looked back. In one year’s time, the 47 year-old wife and mother has self-published five books and has become an Amazon best-selling romance author.
The theme of her work is passionate male characters with tough exteriors but soft, tender interiors; strong female characters typically from broken families; a healthy dose of angst and—always, James said – a happy ending.
“Love always prevails in the end, because that is how it is supposed to be,” James said.
James penned her first romance novel as a fifteen year-old, but hid it away from all but her best friend. That was the same year she witnessed her parents’ divorce—a traumatic life event that ultimately pushed James’ gift for writing safely below the surface for three decades.
It was turning 45 that stirred James’ innate creativity. The stirrings turned volcanic and, after 13 years of keeping the financial books for a local church, James could no longer hide her passion for writing highly relational and often steamy love stories. She left the largely disapproving work environment and picked up where she left off thirty years prior.
“It was cathartic. I came alive again,” James said.
For James, it was a return to the fifteen year-old that was free to fantasize, explore and idealize. Writing also became an opportunity to give voice to the imperfect, unpolished, raw and wounded side of herself—through both male and female characters.
“We all experience these things, but who is brave enough to speak it? Giving voice to the seemingly ugly or dirty made me not afraid of it anymore,” James said.
Supported by her husband of 23 years and their two older children, James spends many of her days at the kitchen table, headphones on (often blasting Lifehouse or Daughtry), immersed in the lives of her characters. (The male characters, she admits, are typically young, dark-haired, tattooed and pierced.) James becomes so engrossed in her stories that she likens the completion of a book to giving birth, including the very real “post-partum depression” that can follow.
“My characters speak to me daily. They live in my head, and I allow it. It’s an escape, but a healthy escape,” James said.
James is particularly fond of her stand-alone book “Alaska or Bust.” Last August, she literally pushed aside another book she was working on, overcome by the need to allow a new story to come forth. Based on the chance meeting of two strangers who’d both suffered profound loss, Alaska or Bust “is my heart in a book,” James said. It was completed in three months and continues to receive rave reviews on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads.
James’ repertoire includes her first published work “Across the Miles” (an Amazon new bestseller for a month) and sequel “Miles Apart,” as well as “My Only Regret” and sequel “Twisted Fate.” Albeit steamy, her books are not erotica, she said. James prefers to invoke the reader’s imagination during sex scenes.
“Sex definitely sells, but I’m probably not going to succumb to the bottom line,” James said.
Meanwhile, James will continue to mirror her beloved protagonist in “Alaska or Bust,” who becomes mesmerized watching a glassblower take small glass shards and turn them into something exquisitely beautiful. She’ll continue to mend broken lives through stories, and in some mysterious way, her own and that of her readers.
“I love brokenness. I came from it. I thrived in it,” said a sparkling James, looking remarkably whole.
James’ books can be purchased from amazon.com, rhondajames.org, and in the near future Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.