We’re highlighting the career of author Janelle Taylor, who shot to stardom in 1981 with her Native American romance Savage Ecstasy with Zebra books.
Janelle Taylor, A Zebra Leading Lady of Love
Although Janelle Taylor has written books for multiple publishers, she will always hold a special place in the early years of Kensington’s Zebra imprint. Along with authors like Sonya T. Pelton, Sylvie F. Sommerfield, and Rosanne Bittner, she helped to form the pantheon of Zebra’s “Leading Ladies of Love.”
Authors had the liberty to write whatever they wanted within specific guidelines. Taylor’s passionate love stories appealed to readers across the country.
Where the Avon ladies could rely on taut, crisp editing, the Zebra authors had little oversight. Zebra president Roberta Grossman and Kensington CEO Walter Zacharius chose to focus on dazzling covers instead.
Indeed, a surefire sign that Taylor was one of the genre’s superstars was her covers—only the best artists designed covers for her books. Walter Popp famously did the artwork for her first few books.
Artists like Elaine Gignilliat, the ubiquitous Pino, and Janelle’s friend Elaine Duillo would also paint many gorgeous covers for Taylor.
Janelle Taylor wrote over 50 books. She has 60 million copies in print.
Taylor is best known for her Gray Eagle series and Lakota, Moondust, and Lakota Skies novels. Her books have been translated into 50 different languages.
Life Before Romance
Janelle Diane Williams was born June 28, 1944, in Athens, Georgia. She graduated from Athens High School in 1962. Taylor spent the next three years as an orthodontic nurse in Athens. In 1965, she married Michael Taylor.
They had two daughters, Angela and Alisha, as the happy results of their marriage.
From 1969 through 1972, Taylor worked as an orthodontic nurse. Over the next few years, she worked on furthering her education. In 1980 she enrolled at Augusta State University. She never expected that her career would be a writer.
The Queen of Ecstasy and ‘Dust
After hearing some wisdom from author Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Janelle Taylor decided to write a romance novel. She started her book in 1977 and worked on it for years. Zebra’s editors loved her manuscript and signed her to a contract.
Because the book would be so long, it had to be split into two parts. The Native American romance Savage Ecstasy was published in 1981. Defiant Ecstasy, the sequel, soon followed. Ultimately, they proved to be great successes. Both sold millions of copies. As a result, Janelle quit college to focus on writing full-time.
The hefty romances told the tale of a white frontierswoman named Alisha Sinclair and her Native American warrior lover, Gray Eagle. Not only were they bestsellers, but they would be the first in a series of nine novels. The saga of Alisha, Gray Eagle, and their progeny were enormous hits.
Many other romances followed for Zebra, such as Love Me With Fury, Golden Torment, and Destiny’s Temptress.
Two years later, she published Moondust and Madness with Bantam books. The story was a fantasy romance about an alien who comes to Earth to spirit away the heroine to his galaxy.
This book was a revolutionary romance in a time when paranormal themes and romance rarely mixed. Taylor would write three more space romances to complete the series.
Taylor would write for other publishers as well. In 1984 she would make a brief foray into category romance with her Harlequin American Romance Valley of Fire.
Other fantasy and Native American romances followed, as well as contemporaries. In the 21st century, Taylor also ventured into romantic suspense.
Where is She Now?
She lives in Georgia with her husband. Taylor keeps busy with her husband hiking, riding bikes, and watching their grandchildren play sports. Taylor lives in the country on seventy-nine acres of woods and pasture with a lake and a catfish pond.
She used to write her novels in their Spanish cottage that overlooks a five-acre lake, a working water mill, a gazebo, and a covered bridge.
You may have seen her on the QVC network. Taylor is active in charity work, especially involving diabetes. And as she has been doing for over forty years, she writes.
To get more pictures of covers and in-depth information, please visit our Janelle Taylor author page.
Have you read romances by Janelle Taylor? If so, what are your favorites books by Taylor?
As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.