A job as tough as finding Mr. Right

Kieran Kramer followed a long and winding road to find her calling as a romance novelist.

She decided to devote herself to fiction while raising a family after working for the Central Intelligence Agency. She taught English at Stall High School.

Along the way, Kramer, 48, a Summerville resident, struggled to find her writing voice as she paid her dues learning the craft. She tried serious literature but was met with rejection.

Eventually, she realized humor came naturally to her but it was missing from her work.

She hit on the idea of writing sexy romance novels.

“They’re hot. People are buying them off the shelves,” she thought.

But it took a long time to become successful as she struggled with elements such as plot structure, pacing and point of view.

Some 15 years ago, she penned her first romance story, “Madeira, My Dear,” but her effort was rejected. It included a talking dog.

Romance novels are big business with sales of $1.4 billion reported in 2011. The genre generates more dollars than religion and inspiration, mystery, science fiction and classic literary fiction, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Still, the writers of historical romance fiction are like the Rodney Dangerfields of the publishing world.

They can’t get respect from the literary intelligentsia.

Kramer said that is unfair. “It’s a genre that I’m proud to be a part of,” she said.

Her first four books, set in the early 1800s, have sold more than 100,000 copies combined for St. Martin’s Press. She churned them out in the past three years. Her fifth novel was released a few days ago.

“When Harry Met Molly,” her first manuscript sold to St. Martin’s, was written when her husband, Chuck Kramer, a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, was unexpectedly deployed to Afghanistan for a year.

Her female protagonists are intelligent, beautiful and not likely to sit around pining for a man. They are women of action who go after what they want. And there is a happy ending, she said.

“True love does exist,” she said.

Although St. Martin’s liked “When Harry Met Molly,” they told her to ramp up the sex scenes. This made Kramer uncomfortable, so she called her parents to let them know what she would be writing. Retired Air Force Col. Bob Wray and Roseanne Wray gave their daughter their blessing, she said.

Kramer was the sixth of seven kids growing up on Johns Island, playing in pluff mud, soaking up the sun and daydreaming. Her father was a military pilot with a big sense of humor and adventure. She attended the College of Charleston where she studied English and earned her teacher certification.

While she was in college, an ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution caught her eye.

“Want a life of adventure?”

She did, so she applied to the CIA.

Kramer found herself learning to do a lot of things that she had never envisioned as she underwent paramilitary operations training. She became an analyst and editor. Her classmates included Valerie Plame of “Plamegate.”

After two years of service, she realized that she was really not suited for life at the spy agency, a decision helped along by her decision to marry a Naval Academy graduate who had been a classmate at Bishop England High School.

“I’m really smart, but I’m kind of ditzy. I was like the Forrest Gump of the CIA,” she said.

It’s been a busy week for Kramer. Her new release, “Loving Lady Marcia,” arrived in stores Aug. 28. Normally, she would have been out at Target, Walmart and Barnes & Noble making sure the book was on the shelves. But another novel, “The Earl is Mine,” was due for completion in a few days. It is scheduled for release Feb. 26.

“So I have holed myself up in a room with a teakettle and supplies and am going to be immersed in getting Gregory and Pippa to their happy ending in the best way possible all day long,” she told her 2,399 Facebook fans.

Her career with St. Martin’s began with her collection known as “The Impossible Bachelor Series.” The four novels have whimsical titles, such as “Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right,” which is a play on the Stealers Wheel song “Stuck In the Middle With You.” Other offerings in the collection are “Cloudy With A Chance of Marriage,” “If You Give A Girl A Viscount” and “When Harry Met Molly.”

“Loving Lady Marcia” is the first book in her new “House of Brady Series.” Think “The Brady Bunch” TV show and historical romance set in the 19th century. Her ultimate goal is to become a writer of women’s fiction like Dorothea Benton Frank. She hopes to beat Frank to the punch with “Johns Island” and “Wadmalaw Island.”

Meanwhile, Kramer will be creating more historical romances with dukes and duchesses, earls and viscounts for her new six-book contract with St. Martin’s. Like her characters, she has found a happy ending.

“I certainly experienced a lot of rejection, but I never gave up,” she said.