A former island literature professor brings a new perspective to romance novels
Writing erotic romance novels wasn’t part of Dale Taylor’s retirement plan.
“Everything in my being said this is not for me,” said Taylor, a retired Galveston College literature professor. “After I retired, I had more time to think about it. When you are retired, you can do what you want to do.”
About the time “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James dominated bestseller lists after it was published in 2012, Taylor began wondering whether she could ever write something like that. She hadn’t read the book, but she couldn’t escape the pop culture wave the novel rode.
The idea of writing a steamy romance tempted her, but Taylor thought about writing other stories more befitting of a woman with a doctoral degree in English literature.
Then she wandered through a Barnes & Noble book store a few years ago and discovered “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon. It was a romance with time travel, men in kilts and sex scenes. But the best part for Taylor was learning that Gabaldon was a scientist with a doctoral degree in quantitative behavioral ecology, she said.
“I admire her quite a bit,” Taylor said.
Taylor, who lives in Galveston, began writing some short stories in the romance genre and published her first book in 2014.
Her stories centered around young women trying to find their way sexually, Taylor said.
“I drew on my experience in literary analysis to paint in the grays,” she said. “What about those middle areas we don’t want to touch because they’re not easy to define?”
Women’s sexual lives are a fundamental part of their lives, Taylor said. Including that reality in her books is essential, she said.
“To write it out of our lives is silly,” she said.
Taylor’s latest book under the pen name Ela Bell is “Archi: Mysterious Embrace.” Set in San Antonio, it’s the first in a planned series about the slightly supernatural Briant family.
“Their talents aren’t perfect, and they aren’t all powerful,” Taylor said. “There are limits to what they can do.”
Archi, who can see the future, meets a woman with powers of her own while they are investigating a human trafficking ring.
Her heroes have flaws and her villains aren’t one-dimensional.
Her challenge as a romance writer is how to challenge the genre and make the reader think, and her characters assist in that effort, she said.
“These are people of color,” Taylor said. “In the canons of literature, minority people are different, and different people are murdered.”
But in her writing, she can play with that convention and change the outcomes as well as the premises.
“Imagination can’t come close to real-life experience,” Taylor said. “I start with a concept. My concepts inspire me. That’s what drives me to write the piece.”
Taylor makes a scratch outline, then researches to make a detailed outline. But she doesn’t always stick to the outline.
“Sometimes, characters take their own way,” Taylor said. “In my mind, it’s wrong not to let that happen. I let the characters drive the story.”
Before Taylor became a college professor, she was a journalist for 10 years. With her background as a reporter, she crafts stories that get to the point.
“I don’t tease my readers,” she said. “I tell my readers what the story is about.”
Taylor writes in the study of her Galveston home and also in her San Antonio cottage.
“When you are inspired to write, you write whenever you can,” Taylor said. “Wherever I am, nothing is going to distract me from that. If I am in the mood for writing, I’m engaged. When I’m writing, these creative hormones get going.”