You are such a prolific writer. How do you keep coming up with fresh ideas? —Carole Ramsay, Morris Plains NJ
Ideas are infinite—writers are hardwired to think that way. We keep it fresh by using new people, mixing character types and putting them in a different setting. It's always the first book all over again, but one idea can be told a thousand different ways. There are 88 keys on the piano, but you can make an infinite amount of music from those keys.
Why should people read romance novels? —Mahtot Teka, Addis Ababa
They are a celebration of relations, finding love, overcoming obstacles and making commitments. I think that is something very worthy of respect. They're not just about naked pirates, although what's wrong with a naked pirate now and again?
How do you react to critics who say romance novels are trashy? —Rachel Malaguit, Manila
I think it is narrow-minded for anyone to say this entire genre is trash or fluff. In every genre you'll find trash. Not every romance [novel] published is wonderful—it would be very naive for me to say so. Some may edge over to trashy, but it really is in the eye of the individual reader.
Are you a romantic? —Laurie Crane, Baltimore
It depends on your definition.I don't think I am a traditional romantic who thinks about candlelight dinners and wonders if my husband is going to bring me flowers, though I'm delighted if he does. I'm more practical-minded. I find it incredibly romantic that my husband does the dishes.
Many of your books are set in beautiful, descriptive settings, like Ireland. Do you always visit these places before writing? —Komal Mehta, Mumbai
Sometimes. I always go in my head. With the Internet you can go anywhere and research anything. When I started writing, I had a 3- and a 6-year-old, and it was a little difficult [to say], "Sorry, kids, got to go! Here are the SpaghettiOs. [Put them] in the microwave, and you'll be fine."
Are your female heroines based on you or someone you know? —Julie Lavoie, Montreal
They're certainly not based on me—that would be boring. I'm not nearly as adventurous, brave or unselfish as any of my female leads. I don't know anyone that interesting either. My job is to make them up.
You write romantic suspense novels under the pen name J.D. Robb. Why? Do you get a secret thrill out of it? —Clint Hues, Quinton, VA
It's marketing. I write very quickly, and publishers can't publish just me—they want other authors too. So I agreed to try it if I could do something different. These books are edgier and much different from what I do under my own name, so putting it under a pseudonym helps brand it for the reader.
Children rarely read for fun. How can we encourage interest in recreational reading? —Tricia Munson, Highland Heights, OH
It's up to the parents to not only allow but encourage reading fun books. People tend to push books that are good for you, like broccoli instead of ice cream. But if you let them read Spider-Man—I sure did—they are going to move on to Ray Bradbury and Stephen King.
Why aren't there more successful male romance novelists? —J.R. Repich, Miami
They're emotion-based books, so perhaps they appeal more to women—although a lot of men will read them if they're sitting at home on the coffee table. It goes back to reading what you enjoy, and women enjoy romance as a genre more than men do.
Is it true you are a bad speller? —Andy Chu, Washington
I'm terrible! [Laughs.] I'm better than when I started, but thank God for spell-check!
Did you ever receive negative feedback from editors before your career took off? —Claudia Nelson, Hydesville, CA
I can't say negative, but I certainly had plenty of rejections. It is very rare that you sell the first book right away.
Do you ever get sick of writing and want to try something else? —Ian Kachemov, Highland, MD
I have no idea what I would do if I wasn't a writer. It is the best job in the world. I never get sick of it. I think you can get tired—I know I do—of the business around the writing, but not of the actual process of sitting down at the keyboard and working. If you don't love it, I don't know why you would do it, because it is very hard work. It is also solitary work—your butt is in the chair for many hours a day. But, for me, that is exactly what I want to be doing.
What is your best advice to people who are trying to become novelists? —Dan Munoz, St. Louis, Miss.
Do your homework. If you are lacking in any of the nuts and bolts skills, structure, punctuation or grammar—study up. Also, write what you read. You can't write well what you don't read for pleasure. If it doesn't entertain you it's not going to entertain anyone else. Join Romance Writers of America. And don't say, 'I'm going to write when I find the time'—that's the most irritating thing I ever hear. Nobody finds time, you have to make it.
TIME's interview with the author continues on Time.com.