By Rachel M. Anderson, Freelance Writer
(Cliffside Park, N.J.) - Read any good romance novels lately? If so, what was your favorite part of the book?
"If you are like most people, it was probably the moment you came to the realization that the two main characters were meant to be together," said Johnny Dragona, a romance novelist from Cliffside Park, New Jersey, who prides himself on developing realistic love stories.
Since his first romance, "Together Forever: The Trinity On Ararat," a story about a disabled couple whose love was solidified by a pending atomic war, was published in 2005, Dragona has turned into a prolific writer. About a dozen other romances have followed.
"I have always been creative and writing is a form of creativity. It's a way of expressing yourself," said Dragona. "You can put yourself into different characters. Bring fantasies to life. Basically, I get paid for my fantasies."
Some of his stories involve people who are exact opposites making a connection. Others, people who were meant to be together finally overcoming the obstacles in their way. There are also characters with disabilities and interracial couples like Johnny Rocco and Jennifer Wilson in "My Special Santa Claus," published in 2010, by ebook publisher ebooks for pleasure (www.ebooksforpleasure.com).
When the story begins, Johnny Rocco is introduced as a member of a New Jersey street gang with a reputation for being a tough guy. Yet a whole different side of him comes out when his friends drag him to a Christmas party at a hospital in Jersey City. He meets a sick little girl with measles, and despite being warned to stay away, dressed as Santa goes up to little Jennifer Wilson and tries to cheer her up. Years later, the two meet again as adults and their reunion develops into a beautiful love story with a happy ending.
"That book is a work of fiction, but its beginning is based on reality. I really did dress up as Santa when I was a teenager and spent time with a little girl with measles, despite being warned to stay away," said Dragona, who considers life experiences to be his greatest inspiration for stories.
Readers are treated to insight into the mind of this talented writer in one of his most recently published books, "Cindy's Apple Tree," a collection of love stories involving characters who like himself and his wife, Tulia, are blind. "I have a hereditary disease that robbed me of my eyesight when I was a young man. My wife just woke up one day and realized she had lost her sight," said Dragona, who started writing professionally back in 1980, when he was declared legally blind and could no longer work in construction.
Dragona says he has learned a lot over the years by seeing things he doesn't like and compensating for the industry's "faults" in his own writing. "I don't like it when stories have an unlikely ending; when authors give a lot of detail throughout the story, but then leave a lot of loose ends; or when they leave the impression that men are very insensitive and bash them. I try to make both my male and female characters strong; and I don't like stories that focus too much on sexual aspects. A romance is not about sex. It is about love," said Dragona.
When he first started writing romance novels, Dragona says he tried to avoid modeling his stories after books written by popular female authors, like Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele, and quickly came to a realization. "Just like female authors really don't understand men, I don't really understand women," he said chuckling.
Dragona's writing-style improved dramatically, he says, once he changed his approach and instead of trying to think like a man or a woman, instead put the focus on the characters. "You have to be a little bit of a schizophrenic, I guess, to change yourself into being each character. But once I was able to do that, the characters started looking better and better and that's when I decided I really enjoyed that genre," he said .
Dragona is currently hard at work on another romance novel, due to be released soon. You can find eight of his other books available for purchase right now through ebook publisher www.ebooksforpleasure.com.
# # #
About Johnny Dragona
Johnny Dragona has been writing romance stories since he was a teenager, but never expected it to become a full-time profession. That is until a hereditary disease robbed him of his eyesight and he had to leave the construction industry for safety reasons.
He credits his 7th grade English teacher for fostering his love of writing. "Mr. Rosenthal told stories so entrancingly that I actually stopped looking at the trees outside. One day he asked a few of us to write a play for the school. Five of us volunteered. But by the time the kids got to my house on the following Saturday, I had the play written," he said.
Since publishing his first book in the early 1990s, dozens more titles have followed. Dragona has also written numerous articles about disability. His work has been published in the following magazines: Disability Rag, Disabled USA, American Baby, Scholastic Scope, Children's Playmate, Lifeprints, Dialogue, Sharing and Tash.
Dragona lives with his wife, Tulia, in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. Both Johnny and Tulia are totally blind.