BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP by Catherine Lanigan, Kate James, Rula Sinara & Special Guest Editor Paula Eykelhof!

Kate James, Rula Sinara & Catherine Lanigan at RWA Nationals 2017. The photo may be fuzzy but our memories aren't! :)

Gather around, friends! We're wrapping up January with a 'discussion' on the importance of friendship, including how it impacts our personal lives, the lives of characters in our books, studies on how it increases our lifespan and more! But the part you won't want to miss is the heartfelt, thought-provoking post by our special guest, Paula Eykelhof. Some of you may have had the honor of knowing her when she was an Executive Editor at Harlequin Books and we're super excited to have her here today! We're also looking forward to hearing your experiences and thoughts on friendship in the comments.
CATHERINE:

Though I tend to be a person who expresses gratitude daily, there’s something about the December/January season that exudes appreciation for all our past blessings in this life. For me, friends are everything. I have come to realize that I have always planned my weekends, vacations, trips and phone call visits around friends. I’m not one to go off to the wilds of Australia by myself or to just sight-see without meeting up with an old friend or enjoying the experience with my friends.

I have also always looked at my group of friends as divinely sent to me, whether I met them in grade school, college or in the workplace. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I speak of my angels who guide me as my friends as well. When I became a Heartwarming Author, I never dreamed I would be showered with new friends who have come to mean as much to me as family. Maybe even more so.

For years I have said that the group of authors who write for Heartwarming are a different breed of writer. In 40 years of being published, I’ve never met a more giving, generous, caring and empathetic group of writers. Truly, this was not the case all those years ago. In Heartwarming, whether we all are gifted with the time away from our day jobs…always difficult for me… and the money to attend RWA or other conferences, the experience is an explosion of hugs and sharing, giving freely with advice and lessons learned to others and a true wish to see each other succeed. When I see the smiling faces of my fellow authors at RWA, I literally feel a glow in my heart.

Rula and I have shared a blog now for almost five years. Kate and I worked on several release campaigns together and really “worked” social media together…one night till midnight. We’ve been through trials, injuries to Rula’s kids, my husband’s illness and death, hopes for the future of the line to finally get into retail establishments---of any kind; the disappointment and sadness of losing favorite editors due to a corporate merger and through it all, we’ve bonded together with solid gold ties. My heart swells when I talk to Kate on the phone or get one of Rula’s always lengthy emails when I’m at work and don’t even have time to run to the bathroom, much less respond.

We’ve learned from each other, shared knowledge and technical skills…both Kate and Rula know so much more than me, by the way. Spending time together has been the highlight of our years. This past Christmas, Kate flew to Indiana to spend the holiday in my hometown. What fun we had and we became closer than most sisters can be.

We have been “there” for each other in just about every up and down, twist and punch in the gut situation that life can throw at us. What’s so great is that we tell each other just about everything. Fears and joys. Goals. Wishes. Insights. Points of view. We appreciate each other and savor that as a rarity in life. We are more than lucky, we are blessed.

My prayer for the future is that Rula can join us in New York this summer.

And though this blog is about the three of us, as we move closer to summer and that NYC visit, I’m already envisioning Amy out there on the dance floor, Cari’s happy smiles, Carol’s sparkling eyes, Anna joking about their sightseeing and side trips, and Mel running from table to table hugging everyone.

Friendship is the JOY of life. It is what makes life worth living. My cup overfloweth.


KATE:

There is a song I like with a line in it that you can’t make new old friends. When I hear the lyrics, I often feel melancholy because I don’t have any truly “old” friends. When I was growing up, I spent over eight years living abroad because of my parents’ work. It was fantastic experiencing different cultures, learning languages and it made me much more independent, which has helped me excel in my career. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the experience, but there is a downside. As we moved so frequently, I didn’t have the opportunity to establish those school-year friendships that so many people are fortunate to have.

Back in Canada, my educational and career choices put me in highly male-dominated environments and, resultantly, most of my closest friends have tended to be male…then along came Heartwarming!

Catherine referred to how truly giving, generous, caring and empathetic Heartwarming authors are. I agree wholeheartedly and would like to add “fun!” From the time I signed my first contract with Harlequin five years ago, I was overwhelmed and incredibly grateful for the support encouragement and, in some cases, genuine close friendship the authors and Harlequin staff offered. Heartwarming authors are an incredibly talented, generous and caring group. More than the warm, professional relationships I am truly grateful for, the special connection I have made with some of the authors—Catherine and Rula among them—as well as my extraordinary editor Paula Eykelhof, I truly treasure. Regardless of where our paths might take us, I have full confidence that our friendships will endure and, in my opinion, they are as meaningful as any “old friend” relationship could possibly be. Catherine, Rula, Paula and all the other remarkable ladies I have had the great pleasure getting to know, you have a truly special place in my heart and I thank you for your friendship!
RULA:

I can’t imagine a life without friendship. It’s an integral part of joy…the foundation of a long-lasting marriage or relationship…a positive energy source that helps fuel our confidence, self-worth and the will to survive life’s hurdles. Friendship, in many ways, is the fountain of youth. Several studies over the past few years have shown that solid friendships help us live longer. For example, studies done by Stanford (2013) and UCLA (2002) confirm that part of the reason having close girlfriends helps to reduce our stress levels is that it stimulates the release of the ‘nurturing’ hormone, oxytocin. In 2017, the results of a Harvard study on over 300,000 people indicated that a lack of close social connections increased mortality by 50%! And the same year, Newsweek put out an article titled “Your friends, not family, will help you live longer: Study.” Those a just a few of the articles that a simple Google search pulled up!

In my opinion, one of the things that makes deep friendships so priceless is that they’re a choice. We’re not born into a true friendship—although, by all means, a sibling or other relative can turn out to be a person’s best friend. A best friend is someone whose path is life was meant to cross with yours. It’s a soul connection. They lift you when you’re down, inspire you simply by being themselves and they appreciate and value you even when you’re seemingly at your worst. You don’t have to worry about looking bad or not behaving or performing at your best around a true friend because they know what your soul is made of. They know where your heart is. They know what you’re capable of. They have faith in you…especially when you begin to lose faith in yourself. Friendship is selfless and generous. Instead of getting jealous, friends are truly happy for your joy and successes.

I’ve been blessed with very dear friends in my life, both in my writing and non-writing worlds. Some I’ve known for years, but others not as long. Time doesn’t really matter when that special connection is made. Good friends just seem to ‘click’ into place and, even when time separates you, when you reconnect it’s as though no time has passed at all.

Now, speaking of girlfriends helping you live longer, I’m so lucky to have connected with so many dear friends through Harlequin. From my times as an unpublished author on the forums where I first ‘met’ my dear friend Jeannie Watt, to my first sale and introduction to the incredible Heartwarming group, friendship and guidance have helped me endure. Meeting my blog buddy Catherine was kismet and her words of encouragement always lift me. Then Kate joined the group and getting to know her over the past few years has been a true blessing. I appreciate the friendship and support I’ve gotten from everyone here, including Mel, Anna, Roz and more names than I can list (seriously, you know who you are). Whether a compliment, hand-holding, words of wisdom or a ‘we’ve got your back’ at times when I really needed it, you all made a difference.

Friendship is such an important part of life, even our story characters have close friends. Their journeys wouldn’t be as rich and realistic if it weren’t for those ‘close friend characters’. Whether it’s the guy ‘buddies’ or the girlfriends or that underlying friendship connection between the hero and heroine (because it’s a solid foundation for true love and an HEA), friendship is important to every Harlequin Heartwarming romance…and its authors.
AND last but far from least, our Special Guest...

PAULA EYKELHOF:

Thoughts on Friendship

Friends, and the fact of friendship, have always been an important part of my life. With some friends I go way back; others are more recent.

Friendship is something I think about, have always thought about--and never more than in the past 5 years.

My husband of over 40 years, Jim, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in early 2014. He died almost 2 ½ years later—which is now 2 ½ years ago. Our own strong bond, and that with our daughter, was critical to our ability to cope (insofar as one can). But the other major factor was our friendships. I can’t possibly overstate the importance of the emotional support, the frequent phone calls and visits, the practical support. It all made such a difference.

So now I’m on my own. But I’m not. Because of my friends. At times, it’s hard to escape the still-unfamiliar loneliness and depression... Being with or talking with friends is a way out. And, of course, with my family and especially our daughter, Emma. It’s a chance to feel understood, cared about—a way out of grief or sadness or loneliness and back to who we really are. Or feel we’re meant to be.

Perhaps because, as I said, I’m so conscious these days of the value and meaning of friendship, I’ve noticed a number of reports recently about the isolation and resulting loneliness and depression too often suffered by people living by themselves, particularly older people (I won’t define “older”!). It’s considered a public health risk in many places because of the dangers to emotional and physical health. In fact, in a very interesting book called Brain Rules for Aging Well by John Medina (thank you, Sheila!), the very first chapter discusses the role of friendship in maintaining physical, mental and emotional health and stability.

There are, of course, different kinds of friendship—with different levels of intensity, different kinds of expectations and routines. There are friends with whom we have a lot in common; those are friendships that offer comfort and familiarity. Then there are friends with whom we don’t share many opinions and interests, which can be exciting and even intriguing. But I think most friendships include aspects of both.

Often I can’t resist looking up the etymology of a given word. Friend is from the Old English “freond”—one attached to another by feelings of personal regard and preference. I love that. Attached.

Friends don’t have to be our age or have a similar background or be the same sex. We don’t have to have everything in common in order to develop, to feel, an attachment.

Ultimately, friendship is about receiving support and giving it, and about sharing serious moments and moments of joy. (Not to mention laughter!) Mutuality, in other words. Sounds rather like a definition of love, doesn’t it?

Another important thing about friendship is that friends lead to friends. One example--Carl, a long-time friend of ours (Jim’s and mine), introduced me to Kate James. Kate and I developed both a successful professional relationship and an important personal one.

And I’ve become friends with Catherine and Loree, meeting them through Kate. I could give you many examples of this kind of process (in reverse, as well!) and I’m sure we’ve all experienced it. It’s a sequence of sorts, leading from friend to friend.

Also, during my many years of working for Harlequin Books (now part of HarperCollins) on both romance and single title fiction, I became—and have remained—friends with a number of colleagues and authors. Even a few people I met at conferences and didn’t actually work with… I value all of these relationships deeply.

Speaking of romance fiction—and indeed, just about all fiction—friendship so often plays an integral role in the story and it contributes significantly to characterization, whether it’s the romance heroine’s best friend, the detective hero’s partner (to name just two obvious ones). Friendships also add to the story’s realism…and the reader’s enjoyment.

“With a Little Help from My Friends,” as the Beatles song puts it (or make that our friends), we can do and be and feel so much more.
Paula Eykelhof worked at Harlequin Books (now a division of HarperCollins) for more than 30 years. She retired two years ago as an Executive Editor. She was responsible for several imprints (including the series Superromance, American, Everlasting), and contributed to major single-title programs MIRA and HQN. Paula has edited a number of New York Times bestsellers. She is currently freelancing as an editor and involved with various projects. 

You can also find out more about Catherine, Kate and Rula at:


Tour and International Giveaway going on now at PRISM BOOK TOURS!
Amazon
Do you have a close friend who has been there for you through thick and thin? Or do you have a favorite friendship between two characters in a book (share the title/author/characters)?

Comments

  1. I love your post today. Just yesterday I received a note about the loss of a longtime friend who had moved away to be nearer family. Having grown up in a small town where many of us were friends from infancy, I still relish hearing from many of them. I seem to be the one in the group that moved around the country, but with each move I was fortunate to collect more good friends. And the writing groups I've met along the way are invaluable to keeping me from the depression Paula mentions. Life truly hands you lemons and with good friends you are able to make lemonade. My career isn't quite as long as Catherine's, but I have always said that those of us lucky enough to write for Harlequin/Toronto were welcomed into a second family. I still feel that way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Roz, so sorry to hear about the recent loss of your friend. I'm sending you love and hugs. And so true...lemonade it that much sweeter when friends help you make it ;).

      Delete
    2. Roz, you are one of the dearest hearts I've ever met. I don't know what's going on this January, but I just had news of the fifth death of a friend since New Year's. Those "shifts" in my universe where they used to fill voids that now gape at me, will eventually be filled by new friends, I trust in God to bring to me. It's so hard to lose those we love and I believe, that the authors who come to write for Heartwarming have the biggest hearts out there. It shows in our writing. It shows in our respect for each other and the goosebumps I have all over my body in writing this. Sorry...I do get emotional thinking of all of you. I hope to see you in New York! And get a really big hug!

      Delete
    3. Roz, I am also sorry to learn of the loss of your friend, but privileged to consider you a friend, too.

      Delete
  2. A novel idea, ladies, and a wonderful post! I’ve felt the love and welcoming from the Heartwarming group right from the beginning and look forward to meeting some of you at RWA this summer...fingers crossed. I have a dear, longtime friend who lives far enough away that we rarely meet in person. But when we do, suddenly we’re those 14 year old girls all over again. And she was the person who got me reading romance novels one fun summer! All the best to all of you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That friend of yours deserves a rose for encouraging you to write! I love, love your books and I truly hope that you get to New York and bring her with you. What a delight to share her and yourself with us.

      Delete
    2. That's so cool that this friend was the one who got you reading romance! What are friends for? ;) And yes, when there has been a time gap, yet it feels like no time has passed when you meet again, that's the sign of a true connection :).

      Delete
    3. Janice, it would be terrific to meet you in person at this year's RWA conference!

      Delete
  3. Ladies, What a lovely post. There are tears in my coffee. Mostly happy ones. I'm a small town girl and have managed to hang onto a ton of friends from my childhood and school days. My best friend was my next door neighbor growing up. We've been friends since we were "babies" and I literally can't remember life without her. But I've also gained so many other valuable friendships along the way, including my author friends. There's something so special and comforting about people who understand what you're going through! (For me, this is especially true where writing is concerned.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carol, dear, you are such a treasure. I so look forward to seeing you at RWA. I have a very close friend from high school. She lives in California and we talk every week! It's like not a day has passed. Few people understand the real "ME" like she does. I have another friend in Houston from 40 years ago. Talk about being through "it all" with someone. We are bonded like Siamese twins and we talk on the phone at least twice a week. I can't imagine life without ALL my friends. See you when it's not 30 below zero here in Indiana!

      Delete
    2. Carol, it's soooo special to have a close friend who has known you since babyhood! Having someone around (other than family) who knows you inside-out, through all the growing pains and growing up, is priceless. It's a special kind of 'chosen' sisterhood. You're right in that having a friend that 'gets you'...like fellow writers...is so helpful in enduring tough times. Now...in reference to your coffee...knowing you, your tears only added more sweetness instead of saltiness ;).

      Delete
    3. Carol, you are fortunate to have such wonderful, close friends; however, having gotten to know you through Heartwarming and having met you a couple of times in person, I can also say they are very fortunate to have you as a friend!

      Delete
  4. What a wonderful post. My favorite part of writing for Heartwarming has been working with and getting to know the other authors. It is indeed a special group and I'm so grateful to be part of it. So good to see you back, Kate, and to have to join us, Paula. Thanks to all of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liz, you are a delight. I adore your books, and love your posts even more. We still keep talking about getting together, but I've been in my writing cave since my husband died, to tell the truth. I just came out yesterday. Paula and Loree can attest to this as well as Kate and Rula.... it's been a blizzard of pages coming out of the printer. That said, this year we have to make this happen. BUT not till we warm up. It's still 30 below zero mean temperatre here. My pipes to the washing machine just froze. They were fine yesterday. The power is still on. I went to the wood pile yesterday, and yes, in less than one minute, I felt my lungs freeze and I'll tell you, it's a STABBING pain. I'm staying in today and burn the wood I brought in.

      Delete
    2. Liz, so true. The Heartwarming group is an amazing 'tribe' of warm-hearted, sympathetic, supportive, generous and genuine individuals. I'm blessed to be a part of it.

      Delete
    3. Heartwarming authors truly are such a wonderful, giving group! I have to admit, I've missed the interactions while I took a bit of a hiatus. Thank you for the welcome back!

      Delete
  5. Thanks so much for talking about friendship. I recall talking with friends about the conclusions of the studies and about women and friendship and we had to chuckle. We all know our friendships enrich our lives in ways even writers barely have words to describe. And it hurts to lose friends, old or newer. I had to miss last year's RWA National, but I'll be lucky enough to meet many of you in NY. I love this blog and I remarked to a friend that becoming a Heartwarming author and being in the company of all of you us one of great privileges of my life. It's great to hear from you, too, Paula. I look forward to seeing you again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Virginia, I had to miss Nationals last year, too. I really missed getting to see all of my 'writing world' friends in person. Friendships do indeed enrich our lives.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, was back to the writing cave again. Virginia! I truly hope to see you in New York. I'm always thrilled to see our editors and author friends, which are more than that these days. For instance, I've known Dianne for twenty-four years now. I think we should share champagne on our 25th. Don't you?

      Delete
    3. I look forward to hopefully meeting you in NYC, Virginia!

      Delete
  6. A lovely post. I avoided Facebook for a long time, but when I finally took the plunge, one of the exciting side effects was reconnecting with old friends. I was lucky enough to have a best friend from the age of 2 months when we shared a crib in the church nursery. She's still amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Crib friends! Oh my goodness, that's so sweet, Beth. Children are so open-hearted that, I think, the bonds that form that young are extra special.

      Delete
    2. How wonderful that you reconnected with your childhood friend, Beth! I've heard numerous similar stories. I'm glad you liked to post; I'd like to give a special shoutout to Rula who did the "heavy lifting!"

      Delete
  7. Wonderful post, ladies. I’ve had one of my friends since I was five. Lost another very suddenly about a year ago and still can’t believe she’s gone. Now, after my move west, I’m making new friends to add to the old (relative term). Friends are the best—and Heartwarming friends are beyond special!! Hugs to you all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hugs back at ya, Leigh! Sorry for your loss last year. The wonderful thing about friends...old and new...is that they can help us through times of loss. Finding a new friend is one of the best gifts in life.

      Delete
    2. Hi, Leigh, I'm so sorry for your loss. Truly. But I'm so happy you are making new friends. One of my new friends---from this later part of my life, though that is now 15 years of friendship called last night to see if I was alive! It's up to 20 below zero and the washing machine pipe is running free!

      Delete
    3. I, too, am sorry to learn of your loss, Leigh. Hugs back to you!

      Delete
  8. What a wonderful post. You all inspire me, and I'm honored to call you my friends. Especially Paula. You hold a special place in my heart. I owe my entire Harlequin writing career to you. Thanks for this lovely reminder of the power of friendship.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cathy, isn't Paula the greatest? We were honored to have her participate with us. I wish I was in Toronto (where it's actually warmer) and she, Kate and I could all have dinner, wine...laugh and hug. I could use that!

      Delete
    2. Cathy, we're so glad you and other Harlequin authors joined out Heartwarming family when lines closed! You've all enriched our group. And we're so honored Paula joined in on our post. Although I haven't met her in person (I hope to someday), I've heard so many wonderful things about her. I've been blessed to have wonderful editors at Heartwarming since I first joined the family and I include them all when I talk about how the Heartwarming group is such a warm and supportive circle.

      Delete
    3. We're glad you enjoyed the post, Cathy. Paula is also the person who brought me to Harlequin and I think she's truly "amazing!" [ Sorry, Paula, I couldn't resist! ;) ]

      Delete
  9. LOL, liked the photo! But loved the friendship kudos. I'm in awe of the way you connect :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...and I have loved getting to know you and connecting with you, Pamela! I hope to see you in NYC!

      Delete
    2. You have a warm heart, Pam! :)

      Delete
  10. What a wonderful post! I loved meeting Rula, Kate, Catherine and many other Heartwarming authors at RWA in Orlando, and I'm planning to be there in NYC this summer. I hope to dance with all of you! Special shout-out to Catherine for being a guide and mentor to me when I recently needed her wisdom as I encountered an unexpected professional opportunity! The beautiful thing about the world of writers is the "come on in, there's room for everyone" attitude. I love that and value each author I've met online and in person. Thanks to everyone!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was great to meet you too, Amie! I agree with everything you said and have had similar experiences. We really do embody a 'room for everyone' attitude :).

      Delete
  11. my friend Marsha has been there for me a lot

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you have a good friend! They're priceless :).

      Delete
  12. I deeply appreciate being included in this blog by Kate, Catherine and Rula! And I value all the kind, interesting and lovely comments throughout.
    As we’ve all said and as we continue to discover, so many of life’s pleasures involve friends. It’s about comfort, mutuality, truths, advice—and just plain fun. Another thing about friendship is that you can make friends anywhere. Through another friend, through working together and, in fact, in any and all circumstances. And while not all friendships are fated to last, a great many do. I realize this is a very general summary on the subject, but I can’t resist ending on something a fellow grade 7 student wrote in my autograph book (when we were, for some reason, all running around with them): “There are many kinds of ships, but the best kind is friendship.” I also can’t resist adding the obvious—that it helps you navigate through life…

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment