By Trevor Suffield
Feb. 5, 2009
While she was growing up in Aberdeen, Scotland, Mary George's father would not allow books to be displayed in his house.
With the release of her 25th book, The Runaway McBride, local author George has now written enough books to fill a bookcase.
My father had boxes of books hidden away in closets because we didn't display books in a working class home, said George, who lives in River Heights with her husband, Forbes.
Writing as Elizabeth Thornton, her mother's maiden name, the internationally acclaimed George has sold over two million of her historical-romance books worldwide.
George emigrated to Winnipeg in 1969 with her husband and three sons, after working as a teacher and starting a nursery school in Scotland.
They moved to find a dry climate that was better suited to her husband's asthma which Winnipeg has provided, she says.
Once in Winnipeg, George worked as a teacher at Westview Elementary School in Transcona for seven years.
Her favorite job was when she worked as a lay minister at a Presbyterian Church for ten years. As well, she completed an honors thesis on Women in Euripides at the University of Winnipeg.
But it wasn't until she read her first romance novel that she thought she could be a writer as well.
In 1986 she wrote her first book, Bluestocking Bride, and had it published the following year.
I sold my first little book for a $1,000 advance and I made 2% royalties. I didn't know about editors, agents, anything, said the grandmother of five.
Her best sales come from the U.S., because of the population and the publishing industry there, she says.
But novels of this ilk are not without their critics.
Cindy Donatelli, associate professor of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Manitoba, teaches a course called Soap Operas, Harlequins and Talk Shows, which examines gender-specific forms of entertainment that have been identified with women.
I think the value in studying it, is it shows in a way the kind of script that is still traditionally written for so many women, says Donatelli.
She also believes that popular culture forms have a lot to say about the way our society is really conducted.
If you bring it into the classroom, then there's the opportunity to read against the grain, that is to analyze exactly how the medium is constructing and sending the message.
But does that get rid of all the pleasure in it? I don't think so, said Donatelli.
George has no problem with doubters of the genre. She thinks the characters she creates all learn something and grow as women.
I like taking female characters that are not sure of themselves at the beginning of the book, but by the end they are damn sure and know where they're going, said George.
It takes on average ten months to complete a book, which might take a bit longer because she writes all of her novels out longhand - because she never learned how to type.
Instead, she gets her husband, who is a writer as well, to do the typing for her. That also includes typing out blogs and responses on her website.
George, who won't reveal her age, says she can't see herself ever giving up writing.
I may not be writing the same thing, or take a year break and come up with murder mystery's or suspense, said George.
In June, her next release, The Scot And I, will be released.
The launch for The Runaway Mcbride is being held at the Grant Park McNally Robinson on Feb. 19 at 8 p.m.
For more information visit www.elizabeththornton.com.