Our Neighbor

Romance writer Carly Phillips pens steamy bestsellers in Purchase.



Sex and the ’Burbs:

Carly Phillips’s Novel Idea

 

Former lawyer Karen Drogin of Purchase juggles steamy prose with carpool schedules as bestselling romance writer Carly Phillips.

 

 

 

Scores of people will be reading Carly Phillips’s newest novel this month at the beach. Her husband of 18 years won’t be one of them.

 

Phil Drogin, a 42-year-old owner of a small supermarket chain, is a bit, how shall we put it, taken aback by the subject matter of his wife’s novels (24 thus far, with two million copies in print). “It was all sex,” he says about the one and only page of his wife’s books that he deigned to read. “I couldn’t believe she was writing it; that wasn’t the person I knew.”

 

The person he knows is named Karen Drogin (Carly Phillips is her pen name), the Purchase mother of their two children and a lawyer. Yes, a bunch of lawyers have turned to writing (Scott Turow, for example), but Drogin didn’t pick up her pen to write about criminal intrigue: her thing is love and sex.

 

To hear her tell it, Drogin owes her wildly successful second career to both her first—and only—job as an attorney and to the birth of a very fussy first baby.

 

Drogin, who graduated from Brandeis University in 1987 with a degree in politics and received her law degree from Boston University’s School of Law three years later. As a first-year associate lawyer with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, LLP (as it happens, Scott Turow has been a partner in this firm’s Chicago office for more than 20 years),

Drogin quickly became disenchanted with a career that sometimes involved sitting around for hours with nothing to do, and then getting rush projects at the end of the day that required working until the early hours of the morning. To occupy her downtime, Drogin read bestsellers and romance novels. “I’ve always been drawn to books with happy endings,” she says of her choices.

 

Eventually, she quit the law firm, gave birth, and continued to indulge her passion for reading, especially romance novels. “That first year, my daughter was colicky twenty-four hours a day, so I was always rocking and reading, reading and rocking. Once I started reading all these romantic fiction books, I decided I wanted to try and write one.”

 

She bought a “how to write a romance novel” book and read it from cover to cover, outlining what she learned in detail. “That,” she says, “was the lawyer in me.” Seven years, 10 rejected books, and another daughter later, she sold her first novel, Brazen, to Harlequin Temptations under the name Carly Phillips. Harlequin believed the name “Karen” too conservative and “Drogin” not memorable enough.

 

In 2002 her fortunes really improved—that’s when Kelly Ripa selected her book, The Bachelor, for the “Reading with Ripa Book Club” segment on ABC’s Live with Regis and Kelly show.

 

It happened not completely by chance. “I was watching the show one morning,” Drogin says. “Regis was telling Kelly that she should start an on-air book club. Kelly said that she’d want ‘smut and beach trash and romance books.’ So I asked my publicist to send her a copy of my book.” After Ripa’s endorsement, the book shot up to the No. 1 slot on both amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com and spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

 

Drogin, whose daughters are now 15 and 11, publishes as many as two books a year. 

Her newest book, Cross My Heart, was just released; the next, Sealed with a Kiss, is slated for the end of September. “I love what I am doing and want to keep doing more of the same,” she says. “The best part of my career? Making my own schedule, being home for the kids, and writing what I love to read.”

—Laurie Yarnell