By Ann Witmer
Nora Roberts is a phenom.
She has written 195 full-length novels, some using her name and some the nom de plume J.D. Robb. Since 1999, every one of her novels has hit the New York Times bestseller list. Since her first bestseller in 1991, her books have spent a total of 879 weeks on that list, equivalent to 16.5 years.
The romance novelist has a fan club with a website that tells all about Roberts. There you learn that she is a Libra, fears sharks, has four dogs and sips Diet Pepsi as she hunches over her computer wearing sweats.
Sixteen years ago, Roberts’ husband, Bruce Wilder, opened a small bookstore called Turn the Page in Boonsboro, Md., a tiny town 15 miles south of Hagerstown near where the couple lives. (Boonsboro is the setting for her next trilogy, out Nov. 1.)
After the bookstore opened, Roberts opened two other businesses in Boonsboro, a gift shop and Inn BoonsBoro, an eight-room boutique hotel.
Fans often stay at the inn, according to bookstore manager Janeen Solberg, who, in early July was getting ready for one of Roberts’ book signings the next day.
Roberts does signings there five or six times a year, along with several other writers.
People from all over the world visit the bookstore, Solberg said. Some leave books to be signed, some buy an autographed copy on hand, and some look for foreign editions. Others buy earrings and lockets designed by Joyce Taber to match the jewelry worn by the characters in Roberts’ novels.
Disciplined, Roberts keeps her nose to the creative grindstone and, aside from signings, is rarely at the bookstore. But her friendly staff welcome visits from groups of 30 to 40. With advance notice, they’ll arrange a tour of the store and answer questions.
Next door, Gifts Inn BoonsBoro features regional and local artists’ creations from candles and pottery to scarves and glass.
A quirky wooden sink-cum-art called “Burl Sink With Red Oak Root,” made by local artist Hully Harleroad, is on sale for $4,500.
“It inspired Roberts,” said Cookie Vargason, the shop’s manager. “If you don’t believe it, flip to page 124 of her 2010 romantic suspense novel ‘The Search.’ Then you’ll know.”