Saturday, 18 February 2012

A different type of heroine...

I've been doing my homework this week, reading up on some of the greatest names in romantic fiction. I found myself on Nora Roberts' site, and from there reading an article of an interview with her by Carole Cadwalladr of The Observer called Nora Roberts: The woman who rewrote the rules of romantic fiction.

Click to read the article
You can't argue with the fact that Nora is incredibly successful at what she does. I remember reading a few of her books when I was still nicking them out of my mother's bedside table, but I've not really been drawn back to them for some reason.

She is incredibly prolific, able to write a novel in 45 days and then just start on another! Can you imagine?

One thing that's been at the back of my mind and bothering me somewhat is what is said in the article about her heroines. They're all very ambitious women with high-powered jobs and somewhere on the spectrum of swash to buckle.

If I'm honest, if the heroine is engaging enough, I don't mind a story like that, but what I really like in a story is possibly someone a little bit more like me. Not a high-powered superwoman, but someone who may need physical rescue. Of course she has to be the emotional rescuer in the story, or she wouldn't be interesting at all.

Ironically, it was the so-called push-over type heroines that Nora was trying to get away from when she wrote her own first novels as she said the heroines just weren't 'feisty' enough.

Considering her popularity, this gives me pause. She wrote what she enjoyed reading, and she's sold millions of books. This means that women love to read about her type of heroine. But is my type of heroine actually of interest to anyone? Will they just think she's weak?

In Bronte sister terms, do I try to write my heroines as Catherine Earnshaw or Jane Eyre? I think I'm just going to have to follow my heart, and my gut.

But thanks to Nora and the others who have forged Romance into a multifaceted genre, perhaps there's room for everyone, even me?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Romance Cover of the Week

I can't resist. After all my digging around to find all the second-hand romance novels I remember from my youth, I just can't get over the cover art.

Times have changed, so just for fun I'd like to feature some of the best (in my own humble opinion of course!)  as well as some of the...well...wonderfully bulging, melodramatic, beefed-up, bodice-bursting covers of yester-year!

DISCLAIMER: I am making choices based purely on the cover art - yes, judging the book by the cover. I make no comment on the contents and in no way wish to cause insult or injury to any romance writer who happened to publish in print during the unfortunate years of the '80's and early '90's.

This week's theme: SCOTTISH ROMANCE

Oddly enough, both of these books published in 1993, but one has been savvy and created an updated cover for what looks like a re-released eBook version of the original book.

I really like the artwork and font choice for this one – I would be tempted to pick it up and have a read. Not in its 1993 cover though!

Slightly cringe-worthy…
And the winner is…Scottish Ecstasy!
Is it just me, or does he look a bit like Joey from ‘Friends’?

(if you can't see the pics properly, I do apologise - blogger and me are having slight differences of opinion today)

Monday, 13 February 2012

Valentine's Eve...and why we love Romance

So why romantic fiction? Perhaps we should be asking the buyers who spent $1.36 billion on romantic fiction books in 2011!

I'm definitely in search of understanding what makes readers tick and what they love so that I can incorporate this into my own writing. I remember what it felt like to find a book where the characters and the story really stuck with me and I relished every page, bought a copy of the book and reread it every few years just to enjoy it all over again. We're so diverse in our emotional and psychological backgrounds that it's obvious that we won't all like the same books, just as we don't all enjoy the same food tastes. But surely there are some common factors that appeal to most?

I am a reader too, and while it's been some time since I read romantic fiction avidly, getting back into it again has reminded me of what I loved about it before. Writing in the genre is even more exciting. You have some control over how the story goes, but once the characters are out of the box, they take over certain aspects and they drive how things unfold.

So what do I enjoy most about romantic fiction?

Falling in love.

If you haven't already done this in your life, then you get to live the fantasy of what it might feel like if it happened to you. Guess what, when you have fallen in love, it is so enjoyable that you want to re-live those emotions over and over again. Perhaps some readers need to hang onto the falling-in-love honeymoon period because their actual relationship has drifted into dullness. I can certainly empathize with this from previous relationships, and it's not a great place to be. But even when your relationship is alive and exciting, many years on, remembering what it felt like to fall in love is just like looking back at your wedding photos. It brings back all the excitement and reminds you of why you fell in love in the first place.

That's the only explanation I can think of for why I can never get enough of watching the end of You've Got Mail, or Sense & Sensibility for that matter...or Pride & Prejudice...or reading the last chapters of Jane Eyre...

Ignore all the anthropologists and biologists who go on about natural selection and pheromones and biological compatibility (though I'm sure there is truth in all those things as well). Falling in love is a strange, mysterious and wonderful thing. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

'Bodice Busters'...those were the days!

So here's the thing. I always told myself, whenever I flipped through my mother's romance novels (which I wasn't supposed to be reading, especially the bits that said 'thigh' or 'turgid', the latter being surprisingly common word in the genre), that I could write this stuff.'s not Jane Austen after all.

Of course back then, pretty much every romance novel sported Fabio on the cover. Yeeks. I never really did get the appeal...

Seriously, he's totally naked?!

It took me a while, but I'm finally doing it. Writing, that is (what were you thinking?). And more than that, I'm actually enjoying it. I have a whole story, but at this point it's not quite fleshed out enough to qualify as a standalone contemporary romance title. More work to be done!

But in the meantime, I've started a little project.

A rather wise man said the best way to learn how to write well, particularly for a specific genre, is to study that genre in great detail. Break it down, find out what makes it tick. Find out what makes the genre what it is. You're working with the expectations of readers who know what that genre usually offers. So that means meeting their expectations, and if at all possible - exceeding them!

So I'll start with one of my favourite romance authors, Karen Robards

I've been busy on Amazon buying up used copies for my 'analysis'. By the time I'm finished I expect I shall have enough of them to build, say, a small cabin. A nice DIY project for the summer perhaps.

But here are some of the criteria I'm going to try to collect for each book I read, so I can go back and compare and spot the trends. I'll share these on the blog and see what you think.

1. Chapter 1 Exposition - basically - what do we find out and how?
2. First meeting - when do they first clap eyes on each other?
3. Key kiss - Robert McKee's term for that point-of-no-return intimate moment
4. What’s to keep them apart?
5. What key turning points bring them together?
6. Which key turning points push/pull them apart?
7. When are they fully committed?
8. Sub-plots!
9. What is her major flaw and how does she overcome this?
10. Any other notes...

Let's see how it goes - I'd better get reading!