On Saturday I stopped by the Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane, WA, where the 2017 Historical Romance Retreat was being held. If you’re an historical romance person like I am, it’s paradise! The gorgeous setting, the costumes, the contagiously high enthusiasm levels, and books EVERYWHERE! I had fun chatting with a bunch of the attendees, and also I got to say hello to fellow Avon authors Cathy Maxwell, Julia Quinn, Vivienne Lorret, Eloisa James, Lenora Bell, and Jade Lee. (I scored some nifty swag, too; more about that later.) Here are a couple of photos from Cathy’s Facebook page.
For more of Cathy’s photos, click here.
More about the Historical Romance Retreat here.
Really enjoyed this recent post on Shondaland.com featuring the inimitable Julia Quinn. Here are some of my favorite bits.
SL: What do you think takes a romance novel from good to great?
JQ: There’s a joke romance writers like to make when we’re talking about our books. We’ll be talking about the plot, and then we’ll say in a confidential tone, “Okay, spoiler alert. They get together in the end.” This pretty much always gets a laugh, because if there is one thing we all know about romance novels, and indeed, if there is one thing that defines a romance novel, it’s the happy ending.
This isn’t to say, however, that romance novels are formulaic. Far from it. You open with two protagonists who meet (or re-meet) and you finish with a happy ending. How you get from point A to point B is wide open. But no matter how varied the plots may be, they all end in fundamentally the same place. Which is why I think that if you want to take a romance novel from good to great, it’s all about the characters.
If the reader doesn’t care about the characters, if she doesn’t have a hollow spot in the pit of her stomach when things look bleak, or she doesn’t feel a thrill as they tumble into love, the book will fall flat. A romance novel is all about the emotional journey, and a reader’s emotions must be engaged. I’m known for writing humorous books, and I’m often asked for advice on how to be funny. (Short answer: I have no idea. It’s just the way I’m wired.) I always caution writers not to forsake the emotion in the pursuit of humor. A funny book will make you laugh, but a funny book that grabs your heart at the same time will stay with you forever.
SL: What do you most hope people take away from your work?
JQ: I’ve said many times that I’m not going to change the world with my writing, but I can change someone’s afternoon. There is a time and a place for the Great American Novel, and there is a time and a place for clever, well-written entertainment. I love writing the latter, and I love reading it, too.
But lately I’ve been thinking that there is more to it than that. I often hear from readers who tell me that my books have shown them that they deserve better in their lives, that they deserve a partner who treats them well. And maybe that’s why my heroes aren’t typical bad boys. (Seriously, every time I try to write a bad boy hero he turns around and does something decent and nice.) I don’t want a guy who treats women like dirt, and I don’t want to write about guys who do that, either. Then it occurred to me — in some ways, portraying a healthy relationship in literature is the most revolutionary thing you can do.
SL: Going off of that, what makes a male character sexy in a romance novel?
JQ: There are really two parts to what makes a male character sexy. The first is focused just on him. There is the physical — he doesn’t need to be classically handsome, but he needs to be attractive to the heroine. He also needs, in my opinion, a stellar sense of humor and the ability to — at least some of the time — not take himself too seriously. But I also think that a vital component of his sexiness comes in how he sees the heroine. A guy simply cannot be sexy if he doesn’t respect women. If you want to be a hero in one of my books, you have to believe in the heroine and respect and cherish her strengths and abilities. It doesn’t mean he can’t get all protective and macho from time to time — I mean, who doesn’t love that? But ultimately, he’s got to think she’s the bomb, and not just because he likes the way she looks on his arm. And of course, it doesn’t hurt if he gets down on one knee and declares that she’s the missing piece to his soul.
To read the full interview, click here.
More about Julia Quinn here.
A new Little Women miniseries is in the works! Of course, once I heard this I had to find out who’s playing who. Here are the actresses playing Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, as well as Aunt March:
Mr. Laurence and Marmee! (And Aunt March again.)
Professor Bhaer (always a controversial casting question) . . .
. . . and Laurie!
I. CAN’T. WAIT.
I was lucky enough to score an advance reader’s copy of Joanna Shupe’s A Daring Arrangement, which releases next month. If you’re a Gilded Era fan, like me, you’ll love this beautifully written book!
More about Joanna here.
One of my favorite RARM features is the author recommendations — discovering new authors from other authors. And my top recs?
Want to read my full post? Click here.
That is, a little more from my Read a Romance Month contribution. Please enjoy. :)
I read my first Georgette Heyer novel when I was fourteen, and even though I understood very little of the period terminology, and in fact barely knew where Bath, England, was, I did manage to decode the erotic disjuncture between what the protagonists are saying, and how they’re actually feeling about each other — how underneath their witty and civilized conversations, and despite the elaborately codified manners of their time, a powerful, primal attraction is drawing them inexorably together. Talk about the sizzling power of romance! It caught me as a teenager — hook, line, and sinker — and, to my joy, has never let me go.
When I was dating the man who was later to become my husband, as February 14th approached — our first Valentine’s Day together — he asked me what I would like to have as a gift. Flowers, chocolates, jewelry . . . all floated through my mind as obvious possibilities.
But then I thought about what I really wanted. I said, “A bread machine.”
Did he say it was a silly idea, or boring, or an overly prosaic one? No, he went out and got me my very own Breadman. Which to me — then and now — is a powerfully romantic gesture. (By the way, we’re still happily married. And I still use my Breadman, too.)
That word is “yes.” To me it signifies hope, forward movement, possibility. So my ongoing goal is to say yes to change. To trying new things. To continue to learn and grow. And finally — yes to writing books which I hope others will enjoy and find meaningful.
The Book of Joy, which features the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu in conversation, is a powerfully inspiring treatise on finding balance and peace in a turbulent world. And I must also mention Sarah MacLean’s just-published Day of the Duchess: a beautifully written, powerful testament to the capacity to both change and wholeheartedly love.
Jane Austen has long been an influence and an inspiration to me as a reader, a student of history, and as a writer of historical romance. Set in an era during which women all too often had little real power, her books make a radical claim for a woman’s right to independent thought, for the importance of happiness, for the overriding value of love over cool pragmatism. These are compelling — and fun! — issues I like to explore in my own novels set during this time, and I’ve got Austen to thank for boldly leading the way over two hundred years ago.
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Want to read my full post, and learn more about all the nifty giveaways? Click here.
Something every book lover understands. :)
Tom Gauld’s playful speculation about Jane Austen’s creative process in writing Pride and Prejudice.