Joanne Levy, Sassoon Yehuda Sephardi Synagogue’s president, believes to be a writer you have to be a reader.
“I have read and loved all the Mills and Boon romance books,” she said. Her alter ego Joanne Dannon is currently rated as a USA Today best-selling author having sold over 30 titles.
In 2005 Levy had a corporate job, a husband who travelled and two young boys. “I think I was insane because that was when I decided to write romance novels.”
One of her best decisions was to join Romance Writers of Australia. “That opened everything up for me,” she said. “I spent a lot of time learning, and investing in myself so I could go to conferences and make friends.” It took nine years of writing until she felt she was ready to publish.
During her writing journey, she often encountered the belief that anyone can write a romantic novel because it is formulaic. Levy maintains the only formula is that the two protagonists have to end up together at the close of the book.
“If a couple is not together at the end, then it’s not a romance. For example, in Titanic, Jack died, so it’s not a romantic story,” she said. Levy writes strict romance and what’s important is on the first page.
“The reader has to turn around and think there’s no way these two people are going to end up together,” she explains. “They will read the book, with curiosity, to see how the author shapes them into a couple. And that’s why authors who accomplish that ending are the most successful.”
Levy’s biggest readership market is the US and UK, however most of the characters in her books are Australian.
“I have a good diversity of characters including Asian women, women of colour, Jewish and Christian romance.”
Previously, Levy has written six books a year, but she has not written one in two years. “It’s not just the writing time when you’re self-published, you also have to organise and liaise with the graphic artist who creates the cover, write newsletters for your readership and assist with developing the marketing.”
When Levy was appointed president of Sassoon Yehuda in 2019 she focused all her energies and business acumen into the role.
“I have barely been able to think about books but one of my goals for 2024 is to be able to write at least one romance novel,” she said with a big smile.