TRAVERSE CITY — When Tanya Anne Crosby was in the process of publishing her first romance novel, "Angel of Fire," it was sent back to her five times.
Each time the publisher wanted her to spice it up.
She did, and when it finally came out in print she was hailed as the new Queen of Lust.
"I thought, 'Oh my God, I went too far," said Crosby, a Leelanau County resident.
It's not that Crosby has a problem with spice — she is, after all, a romance novelist. But she doesn't like gratuitous sex and violence in her books. Her characters also typically do not have multiple partners.
"For me it's more about two emotionally-flawed characters coming together and healing," she said. "We're long past the days of bodice-rippers. They are long gone."
Her fans obviously like her style, as she has made the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists more than once.
Crosby was 27 when she sold that first book. Since then she's written more than 30 books and has more than 3 million books in print in eight languages.
Most are historical romances and historical fantasies, though she has also published two romantic suspense novels, with her first, "Speak No Evil," landing on the USA Today Best-Selling Books list. But thrillers are not her favorites.
"While I do like writing heavy topics, I don't like immersing myself in books about serial killers and really dark themes," she said.
She also founded her own publishing company, Oliver-Heber Books, about five years ago that gives her control over the content of her books, as well as the editorial process and book covers.
Crosby was born in Spain and didn't speak a word of English until she was 5 years old. A military "brat," she moved to the United States with her Spanish mother and American father when she was 12.
As a child she loved history and wanted to be an archaeologist or an anthropologist. She changed her mind when she read a novel by bestselling author Judith McNaught, but she incorporates her passion for history into her books.
Crosby began writing women's fiction about four years ago and has two novels under her belt with another, "Everyday Lies," coming out in March. The genre is where she has found her strongest voice and where she would eventually like to put all of her energy, she said.
"I try to sneak contemporary issues into my historical fiction, but it doesn't always fit," she said.
Crosby's women's fiction has tackled emotional abuse, sexual harassment, alcoholism and more. Her characters are not based on real people, but when she talks about what they've been through, she could be talking about a sister or a best friend.
"They become real," she said.
At the age of 34, having written 16 books, Crosby wanted to do something different. She moved to Dallas, where she took a job as editorial director at a company that published a stable of five magazines. She later took a marketing job with Match.com, the dating website.
"Writing had become a chore," she said. "I wasn't sure if I would write again. But at the end of that I decided it was time to get back to my writing roots."
She found that even after a 10-year lapse her fans were waiting for a new book.
Crosby has been married for 12 years to Scott Thomas Straley, a musician, songwriter and writer who is currently working on his first book. They moved to Traverse City in 2011, later moving to Leelanau.
The fact that she's a romance author was definitely part of her allure, she said.
Crosby lives a pretty low-key life and says she would rather let people get to know her before she tells them what she does for a living.
"I get a certain reaction from people who find out what I do," she said.
Crosby has some advice for those who think they may have a book in them — just start writing. When she herself was young and busy starting a family she knew she wanted to write, but kept putting it off.
"I finally decided writing was like having a baby. If I waited for the right time I would never do it."
Crosby said there are great opportunities for writers now in self-publishing, especially with websites like Amazon that can put a book up for sale. Though there are some really terrible self-published books out there, she believes that cream rises to the top.
"If you put your book in front of the reader they are going to make you or break you," she said. "You can make a career for yourself if readers love it."