Thursday, August 29, 2013

Romance Novelist Shirlee Busbee: A Quick Summary of a Romantic LIfe

Christal Cooper – 1,763 Words
Facebook @ Christal Ann Rice Cooper



Shirlee Elaine Busbee, born in San Jose, California in August 9, 1941, was the eldest of five children of a naval officer.  Her childhood was happy and could be summed up in the form of her first memory:  her mother, grandmother, and aunt placing the three year old on the kitchen table and singing You Are My Sunshine.
Busbee loved to read and her school library consisted of the Trixi Belldon books, the Thomac C Hinkle horse books; but the turning point of her reading career came at the age of twelve, when she read her mother’s novel Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor.

“It was in its day the most scandalous.  I remember my mom and her friends gossiping and laughing about it.  They made a movie about it and when the movie came out that generated more gossip and giggles.”
Two years later, still living in California, she took her first stab at writing a short story called Pale Gold Is The Stallion.
“It was from the stallion’s point of view.  The teacher wanted me to read it out loud to the class because it impressed her.  I did and everyone liked it.”


In 1957, the family moved to a military base in Kentri, Morocco, where her father was stationed.  Busbee, who graduated from high school there, described the base as a small USA.”   That all changed when an American film crew urged the American high school students to go to the city of Rabat in order to see King Mohammed V Of Morocco in all his splendor.

“It was a real spectacle because it’s the white horse pulling the red carriage and the big red umbrella held over his head as he comes down.”
When the Moroccans saw their King they did their traditional chant.  Busbee became friends with members of the Moroccan community, which was a Muslim community with a strong French influence.  
  “We had a fatima, which was a maid, and most of the Moroccan women were called fatimas because their name was Fatima.  My favorite was a young woman named Zora.  I cried the day we had to say goodbye to her.  I have a djellaba (the Morocco traditional dress).  Zora gave it to me the morning we were leaving.”


She returned to California with her family and attended Burbank Business College of Santa Rosa and got a job as draftsmen in Solano County.  While she spent her days working, her grandmother and her husband Howard’s grandmother concocted a plan to get their grandchildren to meet and fall in love.  
“My grandmother knew Howard when he was a little boy.  He wanted to grow up and marry Gram.  Finally they managed to get the two of us together.  I met him at my grandmother’s house.  We got married 18 months later.”

She was a happy wife deeply in love, but her love of books never changed.  She read voraciously and constantly that her husband’s ten siblings would tease her by saying they thought that a book grew out of the end of her hand. 

Busbee continues to be a fast and voracious reader, carries at least six books in her purse, “You never know when you’re going to be somewhere and get bored,” and reads 12 to 15 good-sized books a month.


The thought of writing did not come into Busbee’s mind until she met fellow author and dear friend Rosemary Rogers.  Both women worked for Solano County and their offices were down the hall from each other.  They developed a friendship when they learned they both were lovers of books.  Soon they began to compare notes of writers they liked and didn’t like and would shop for books at used bookstores and flea markets.  Then one day, Rogers went to Busbee’s office to give her the good news:  she had sold her first book.

            “I was just astonished.  She never said anything about writing.”
            Her interest in actually writing her own book came a bout one day when Rosie

mentioned to Busbee:  I got them on the damn mountain and I don’t know how to get

them off.”

I looked at her as if she had grown ten heads.  What do you mean you don’t know how to get them off?  You’re the writer.  You know everything.   She said, “No, I don’t.  I know where it’s going to take place, the characters, and how it’s going to end, but I don’t know how to get them off the damn mountain.” 
            Then Busbee had one more comment for Rosemary Rogers:  “I said, ‘You know, I think I can do that.’  She turned and looked at me and said, “Do it!”


And she did.  But before she could do the actual writing she had to do research to determine in what era and aspect of history the historical romance would be in. 
“My favorite era is from 1790 to 1816 because there was so much going on in that period:  The French Revolution, The War of 1812, Barbary Coast Pirates, the Louisiana Purchase, the Regency, and the Comanche.”
Once Busbee determined the era her novel would take place she wrote four handwritten pages.  And then she stopped.  Finally, after 18 months passed, she knew it was now or never. 
            She began to handwrite her novel onto a yellow tablet, and very quickly Jason appeared.   She continued to write and then rented an electric typewriter and had about two hundred pages in manuscript form.
Rosemary literally ripped it out of my hand and sent it to her editor, Nancy Coffee, at Avon Books.  And Nancy bought it.” 
The novel at that point was focused on Jason and christened the title Beau Savage, but that all changed when royalty-born and gypsy-bred Catherine appeared. 
Gypsy Lady takes place between 1790 to 1804 in England and Louisiana during the Louisiana Purchase.
Eighteen months later, Gypsy Lady made it to the New York Times Bestseller List.


Busbee normally does two to three months of intense research before she begins to right the next novel. .
            “I have all of these research books around with slips of paper in them with pages marked.  I knew Gypsy Lady was going to be focused on the Louisiana Purchase.  When I was researching the Louisiana Purchase there was a reference in one book to a mysterious person that carried the offer from England to the Americans.  ‘Jason, you’re job is here. You are the mysterious stranger, my friend.’  I always try to incorporate real events.” 

            I write daily two to three hours and then I’ll take a break and go back for another two to three hours.  I’m not counting in the time when I have to stop and look up some historical fact; when I sit and think and plot; and when I’m laying in bed awake all night because I’ve got some problem.  When I get into the book halfway I start working forewords and backwards.  By the time I get done with the book I have 100 to 150 pages to put into final form.  I’m so focused on the final that usually it takes about two weeks of 10 to 12 hour days of just reading, correcting, and thinking.”


Thus far Busbee has written 24 novels with over nine million books in print and seven New York Times Bestsellers.  Her novels have been published in France, Bulgaria, China, Germany, Holland, Israel, and Russia.  She is the recipient of two Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards, Affaire de Coeur’s Silver, and Bronze Pen Award, and a member of the Affaire de Coeur Hall of Fame.  

After 24 heroes, Jason from Gypsy Lady still remains Busbee’s favorite hero, next to her husband that is.  “Each hero comes with different histories and eras, and there is a little bit of Howard in all of them.”
Busbee described her husband as having a strong moral compass; a strong person; not afraid to hide his emotions; willing to go to romance conferences; and a very romantic fellow.  Busbee likes to tell the story of her husband’s heroism. 
“We had gotten our camp trailer set up and then we took a run up to this place called Big Rock.  When we come back down I notice two heads inside the trailer drop down.  We’re realizing that we’re being broken into.  And the scary part was we knew there was a 22 in the trailer.  Howard steps on the gas, slams on the break and says, ‘Get me the 38!’  I flipped over that consul, threw that gun in his hands just like Ma Barker.  He is out of that car and he is out there like Clint Eastwood and they come out of the trailer and he says, ‘Down on the ground!’  At one point they tell him, ‘We don’t have to stay here.  You’re not going to shoot us.’  Howard looked at them and said, ‘There’s going to be two bodies on the ground and when the sheriff gets here I don’t care if they are dead or alive.’  That’s the kind of person he is.  I wouldn’t be a writer today if my husband did not practically carry me around on a satin pillow.  He has always put my writing first.” 
The couple lives in a ranch style home in the foothills of Northern California, where, instead of having children, they have Mini schnauzers, Standard Schnauzers, and prizewinning American Shetland ponies.

 “We don’t have children on purpose.  When we first got married we were going to wait a few years, and as time goes on we looked at each other said, ‘We’ll just try to be everybody’s favorite aunt and uncle.’”


Throughout the day, Busbee will be in her small office, consisting of three full bookcases, two filing cabinets, two desks, and another desk with a hutch in it.  The office is connected to the library via a sliding glass door.  Her main view is via a high window where she can see the walnut tree facing the east in their backyard.  Even though she doesn’t have much of a physical view, having an internal view is more important; and with this view she continues to write books. 

She’s completed the third book in the Ballinger Series and is half way through the fourth book of the Ballinger Series.  She plans on writing a novel that takes place during the Bloody Sevens, which occurred in July of 1777.

            Visit Busbee’s website at or her agent, Irene Goodman Agency at

Louisiana Series:

Becomes Her Series 

Ballenger Family Series 

Single Novels 

Photos 1, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, and 15.
Shirlee Busbee.  Copyright by Shirlee Busbee.

Photo 2.  
Forever Amber jacket cover.

Photo 3.
King Mohammed V of Morocco in the United States in 1957.  Public Domain.

Photo 4.
Red djellaba.  Author Josep Renalis.  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. 

Photo 5.
Howard and Shirlee Busbee.  Copyright by Shirlee Busbee.

Photo 7.
Rosemary Rogers.  Copyright Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law. 

Photo 9.
Gypsy Lady jacket cover

Photos 10. and 14.
Shirlee Busbee in her office.  Copyright by Shirlee Busbee.


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  2. Hi Shirlee,

    I am Buddhi from Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Panadura. Exactly from where Mrs. Rosemary Rogers was born. At the time of typing this also I can see her house from my window. Still our road is named under her fathers name Cyril Janz.

    I hope she may live to hear that her fathers creations are still alive, sometimes she may love to see them too. I can share some pictures.

    If you could please pass me a way of contacting her.

    Please see the map link below you can witness her family home/etc there.


    Her Fathers School:,79.9133635,3a,41.5y,11.73h,84.32t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sWLLTNqGqjMKV48n25UtnqQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    Name of the road :,79.9075315,3a,15y,188.92h,85.89t/data=!3m9!1e1!3m7!1syyrM5WmC29Ne3oPHuD3kxw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!9m2!1b1!2i23

    Her fathers statue:,79.9058297,3a,15y,256.9h,86.68t/data=!3m9!1e1!3m7!1sGR0wjKG6sU6bnpaGzjDRUQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!9m2!1b1!2i23