Saturday, July 07, 2007

Sills, Woodiwiss -- Such Sweet Sorrow

The loss of folks we admire touches us in different ways, but often it's difficult not to wax sycophantic when expressing sadness over the death of celebrities or artists we've never met. At least it is for me.

Two women I greatly admire passed away this week, and I want to pay a little tribute.

Beverly Sills -- Bubbles, as she was called -- inspired me and about a zillion others, not only with her flawless coluratura voice and dramatic artistry, but also with her resilience and determination. She met and conquered great challenges in her personal life. And she became artistic director of New York City Opera at time when women were still working hard to be taken seriously as movers/shakers in the music world. Incidentally, she pretty much began the trend of bringing opera (back to) the masses when she instituted "supertitles" above the stage during operatic productions that let folks read English translations of the arias, etc. Very gutsy, and a great boon to getting more folks turned on to classical music.

Kathleen Woodiwiss (shown here with son, Heath) was a similarly artistically bold woman. She wrote meaty historicals which were brave in that they spoke to women's fantasies during an era in which HEAs, heroes serving up Alpha-sized emotional justice, and women who dreamed of hot guys partnering with them to make their lives happier was viewed as anathema to the Second Wave. Many years later, Feminists and scholars who eschewed the themes and occurrences in Woodiwiss' novels are re-thinking their earlier beliefs -- finding her novels liberated women by supporting their right to choose what turned them on, what they found romantic and emotionally satisfying.

Woodiwiss influenced a new wave of romance readers and writers, and I believe we owe her props for paving the way for what we today call romance fiction.

Are you feeling Woodiwiss' loss as greatly as I am? What have her books meant to you? Have you lost another heroine or hero of yours recently you'd like to remember here?
Encore! This was sent to me by Bella Marilyn (Playground Monitor) from an Inet thread, posted by Kathleen's son, Heath:

"Hello. I am very sorry to inform you all of the death of my mother Kathleen. She took the death of my brother a bit harder than we thought and the cancer came back with a vengeance. She passed away Friday morning at 0630 in Princeton, MN. I just want to thank you all for all of your support and being such great fans. My Mom was amazed at all of the people that supported her. Her final book is done, but not finished. We will be trying to polish it up for her... We all want this to be her greatest book ever. Thank you again for all of your support.


Portia Da Costa said...

I remember reading and thoroughly enjoying the works of Kathleen Woodiwiss many years ago when I used to be a librarian. They were much sought after in the public library system, and it was one of our perks that we were able to get first shot at reading her new titles.

I think she was one of the first authors to turn me on to romantic reading, and I'm sad to hear of her passing.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to Ms. Woodiwiss' family, friends and many, many fans. Her books were the first romances I ever read, the ones that made me fall in love with the genre and first planted the dream of someday writing romance novels myself. Her books were an escape, a dream, an inspiration. The Wolf and The Dove remains one of my husband's favorite reads, as well.

She will be missed.

Anonymous said...

The Flame and The Flower was the first romance I read. I was 17 years old and it was my introduction to romance. Many of Kathleen Woodiwiss' books remain on my keeper shelf. I am saddened by the loss. She was an icon and will be forever missed.

E. M. Selinger said...

Thanks for passing along the news, Michelle. I've read and taught The Flame and the Flower several times, and whenever I do I'm struck by how much better the book is than you'd ever know from most academic accounts of it. (I'm also struck by how unfair and inaccurate it is to lump The Flame and the Flower into the same category as Sweet Savage Love, a radically different book in tone and style.)

I'm off to the library later today. Which should be my second Woodiwiss? Any suggestions?

ev said...

After starting with Harlequins as a teen, hers were the first books I read. How sad to loose her and her many untold stories.

I would suggest The Wolf and The Dove e.m.

I still have all of my copies too. Now I will be sure not to lose them.

Di R said...

I am so sad, to hear of her passing. She was the first author I ever glommed (it took a week to earn enough allowance to buy another of her novels).

e.m.-I would second ev's rec. of The Wolf and the Dove and add Shanna.


Vivi Anna said...

Although I've never read her books, I'm saddened by the news of her passing. She will be missed greatly by her fans, and family, and my heart goes out to them all.

Monica Burns said...

I read Woodiwiss under the school lunch table to avoid its confiscation. I also remember me and my friends scrounging for the sex scenes. They were, in our eyes, most illuminating.

And Bubbles!! OMIGOD, I hadn't heard that Michelle. I so feel her passing right now. I used to listen to her all the time at my Grandmother's house. Hot sultry, summer afternoons with Sills' voice echoing out of Grandma's non A/C house into the side yard where I sat with my back against a tree in the shade. A soft breeze tickling my face in the same way Bubbles' voice brushed against my soul. That's a precious memory for me. Sat at the Met sponsored by Texaco.

A sad week indeed. Mon

Kimberly Kaye Terry said...

I was really sad to hear about Beverly Sills. I have ALWAYS admired not only her incredible voice, but what a dynamic woman she was. I believe she had two children who were disabled, and she was an advocate for a great many causes. I am also sad to hear about Kathleen Woodiwiss. She was one of my favorite historical romance authors, back in the day.

Last month, I lost a dear friend, and fellow author Katherine D. Jones. Kat wrote for Kensington. She was one of the most genuinely sweet women I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. She had this totally infectious giggle, particularly when I'd suggest she add a bit of naughty to her romances. I would call her, just to hear her laugh. I miss her a lot.

Cinthia Hamer said...

I'm glad you chose to blog about the passing of Beverly Sills and Kathleen Woodiwiss today.

I was particularly saddened to hear of Kathleen's passing.

When I was 17, I "borrowed" a copy of Shanna from my mom. My love affair with romance had begun. She never got that book back, btw, and I've since worn out 5 or 6 more copies.

I'd wanted to be an author since I was a small child, but after reading Shanna, I knew THIS was the kind of book I wanted to write.

Anonymous said...

To quote Shakespeare, "A great light has gone out."

All of our romances are built on her foundations. She was an icon, certainly, and for me, personally, my all-time favorite author.

I am so saddened. Her books carried me through a tough childhood - read until the pages fell from their bindings. Her books meant everything to me.

The day I received my coverflats for my first novel, I saw the back blurb that compared it to her masterful The Flame and The Flower. I sat down, and with the cover in my hands, I wept.

I'd always hoped to meet her so I could tell her that.

It seems incredibly maudlin and indulgent to be so upset over the loss of someone who I'd never known, but since I read the news this morning, it's all I can think of.

Anyway, thanks for posting this and allowing us a place to talk about KEW's passing. I, for one, am feeling her loss.

Stacy~ said...

I remember Beverly Sills from t.v. when I was just a youngster - she was on the Muppet Show quite a few times, as well as Johnny Carson. I recall her as being a rather vibrant person, and I'm sorry to hear of her death.

Hanging head. I've never read any of Woodiwiss, but her enormous impact of the romance industry cannot be denied or ignored. She opened up a lot of doors, and set a new standard. We have her to thank for many of the wonderful romances we've read over the years. She will not be forgotten....

Kati said...

I'm so sad to hear about this. Part of me thought Kathleen was a timeless as her books. Truly, a GIANT in the industry has passed. What a sad, sad thing.

The first Woodiwiss I read was A Rose in Winter. I adored it, and it remains a favorite of mine. The second was Ashes in the Wind. Both feature Big Mis's and Deceptions galore. Both were the rocks upon which much of romance was written.

What a sad, sad day.

amy kennedy said...

Although I had read gothics, I consider The Flame and The Flower to be the first Romance I ever read. What a huge loss, but how wonderful she brightened our days with beautifully written love stories--and I know I learned more history from her than in any class.
I am sorry for her famly's loss. Just the other week I bought another copy of The Flame and The Flower, just in case.

I wish I could have heard and seen Beverly Sills in person.

Kimberly, I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend and fellow author Katherine--hope you can remember her laughter and be happy.

Keira Soleore said...

Kathleen Woodiwiss was the reason romance is the industry it is today. I cannot imagine her not being here anymore. It was a sad, sad day when I read Heath's message about her. I hope he is wildly successful in publishing this last book of hers. Her reputation and her tens of thousands of fans demand that it be so.

Diana Castilleja said...

Her passing has been a sad moment this week. I have many of her books, and have enjoyed too many to name.

She will be a missed voice.

Playground Monitor said...

Despite passing the info on to Michelle, I've never read Woodiwiss either. I probably should.

I was saddened to read about Beverly Sills too. She was a great singer and a great lady.

We also lost Joel Siegel, the film critic, this week as well as Boots Randolph of "Yakkety Sax" fame.

Don Herbert AKA Mr. Wizard died last month. He made science fun for kids of my era.

Charles Nelson Reilly died back in May. Gosh was he funny! I used to watch "The Match Game" just to hear his snappy comebacks.

And lastly, my mom lost her very best friend to liver cancer last week. She'd only been diagnosed about 6 weeks before. I know it's been rough on mom because this lady was one of the first folks she met when she moved after retirement and they often traveled together.

May God bless all these families.



Keira Soleore said...

Kimberly, so sorry to hear about the loss of your dear friend and fellow writer. Hope the memory of her laugh sustains you through this difficult period.

Marilyn, how impossibly difficult it must be for your mother to have a dear friend pass out of her laugh so suddenly. I hope the photographs and memories of their trips together helps her heal.

Julie in Ohio said...

Mornin', Bellas!!!

I haven't read Woodiwiss but as someone pointed out, you can't say you read romance and not know the name.

Marilyn-- I'm sorry to hear about your mother's friend.

I hadn't heard about Joel Seigel's or Charles Nelson Reilly's passing.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families and friends.

flip said...

I will never forget reading The Flower and The Flame. At age 14, I was already an ardent romance reader, but this book blew me away.It was unlike any romance that I had ever read. It had SEX....a subject about which I had a huge amount of curiosity. I am a lifelong feminist and Woodiwis never offended me. My mother in law's favorite book is The Wolf and The Dove. Her copy of it is so battered.

I am deeply sadden by the death of a wonderful writer who did change romance fiction.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I used to love her books when I was first reading romance. The Flame and the Flower was one of my favorites. In high school, I used to read her novels during class with my huge book bag on top of my desk so that no one could tell I was reading. Her novels were lush, sweeping romances. I still remember the scene in The Flame and the Flower when Heather is about to give birth and she wants to change her nightrail and it had to be blue because she was having a boy, and Brandon couldn't believe it. Oh, and he taught her how to purr during sex which I still haven't figured out.

Rach said...

Mornin' Bellas! I'm back from the mountains and the long days of no internet.

That said, I had NO idea Kathleen Woodiwiss had died (I knew Ms. Sills had from the local news). How sad. How terribly terribly sad.

I too read The Flame and the Flower in high school. It was the first "big" romance I ever read, having only read my Granny's stash of 1970's Harlequins. I remember the sex was such a HUGE surprise. The HQ's had the big lead up and was the next morning. I learned so much from her :o).

Marilyn I'm so sorry about your mom's friend. My goodness it's been a tough summer this year.

catslady said...

She wrote the first romances that I ever read and it was a long time before I enjoyed others half as much. I had just heard she may have been writing more historicals - so sad.

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Her books reminded me the best moments in my childhood. I really enjoy reading her books also cuz them all leave an interesting message.