Archive for 'on writing'

Prologues: yes or no?

It’s Thursday, which means it’s official Getting To Know You Day on my Facebook page! Last week we jumped into the question of our favorite movies (which added quite a lot of titles to my to-watch list). Today we’re tackling a question readers and writers can feel very strongly about . . .Graphic: "Prologues - love them or skip them?" Via Lisa Berne

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Word of the day: Finesse

A delightful word, full of interesting connotations.Graphic: "Finesse" and its definition, via Merriam-Webster

I used it in You May Kiss the Bride, in the scene in which my protagonists meet for the first time. They are in the woods, and Livia has just paused, having unexpectedly come across a doe and a stag. Here comes Gabriel Penhallow: with little echoes from Jane Eyre and the ’95 version of Pride and Prejudice, when we get our first glimpse of Mr. Darcy, on horseback and clearly a very capable rider.

. . . there came the unmistakable sound of hoofbeats. The doe darted in one direction, the stag another, directly across the path where a rider had come and startling his immense black horse, which reared in alarm, deadly sharp hooves flying out, and was promptly reined in, in a display of strength and finesse that Livia watched with a kind of fascinated alarm.

This snippet appears in Chapter 2, but if you like, you can read all of Chapter 1 here.

Interested in ordering You May Kiss the Bride? Click here to see your various options in print, ebook, and audio.

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Introverts ‘live it up on the inside’

One of my favorite parts of the romance panel I moderated at the Get Lit festival last month was hearing the panelists — Asa Maria Bradley, Tamara Morgan, Katee Robert, and Rebecca Zanetti — describe where they each fall on the introspection/extroversion continuum. Writing tends to be an intensely solitary experience across long periods of time, so it makes sense that a writer has to at least be comfortable with introversion.

On the heels of this I was fascinated to read a recent “Advice Goddess” column in which Amy Alkon discusses the topic. She refutes the idea that introverts are somehow ‘less than’ their more outgoing counterparts.

“They’re not,” she says. “They’re differently functional. Brain imaging research by cognitive scientist Debra L. Johnson and her colleagues found that in introverts, sensory input from experience led to more blood flow in the brain (amounting to more stimulation). The path it took was longer and twistier than in extroverts and had a different destination: frontal areas we use for inward thinking like planning, remembering, and problem-solving. So, introverts live it up, too; they just do it on the inside.”

Alkon continues: “Extroverts’ brain scans revealed a more direct path for stimuli — with blood flowing straight to rear areas of the brain used for sensory processing, like listening and touching. They also have less overall blood flow — translating (in combination with a different neurochemical response) to a need for more social hoo-ha to be ‘fed.’”

More about the always-enlightening Amy Alkon here.

Amy Alkon, also known as the "Advice Goddess"

 

 

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Shop talk: Patty Blount on the three stories
Author Patty Blount recently commented on the craft of writing romance novels, and I found what she said to be so insightful, so perceptive, that I’m keen to share it:

 

Writing romance is among the most challenging genres because you’re actually writing three stories. His and Hers (or His and His, Hers and Hers, depending on your sub-genre). 

Two main characters. Two trajectories and two distinct story arcs.

The third story is their romance itself.

It really fries my tomatoes when industry critics dismiss romance as bodice-rippers and lady porn and so on because that fact is often missed. Every romance novel has three stories that don’t just intersect . . . they become enmeshed, melded, just as relationships do.

We start off with one character immersed in his world, his problems, his wounds. Then, we cut to the other character and get the same experience. What makes romance so unique and so powerful, in my opinion, is how we authors craft these two people so that the story isn’t simply “Person Meets Love Interest.”

It’s Person Struggling Through Life

Meets Another Person Struggling Through Life

and Learns How To Love This Person Despite/Because of Those Struggles

So That Their Ending Feels Like a Beginning

That’s the Third story . . . the love that develops between these two characters has to be real and be forever and that kind of love becomes its own story.

That’s not just good writing, it’s magic.

Photo: Patty BlountMore about Patty here.
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A writer’s brain

Hahaha, seems about right. Comic: "A Writer's Brain"

 

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My interview with RT Book Reviews

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by RT Book Reviews, in which I dish about You May Kiss the Bridemy writing inspirations, my favorite things to research, and more. Please enjoy. :)

Congratulations on your debut historical! Have you always been a fan of historical romance and the romance genre in general?
 
Thank you! Oh yes, I’ve loved romance novels for a long time. I can easily trace my path toward becoming a romance novelist back to when I was 14 and I read Georgette Heyer’s Lady of Quality, which my mom had gotten from her book club. I was hooked. I went on to become an English major and read voraciously in all kinds of genres, but historical romance has always held a special place in my heart.
 
Who are some authors who inspired your writing?
 
Along with Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen is also a big influence of mine. There’s so much to admire about her work, and as a writer I’m very inspired by how her heroines fight for personal happiness despite the heavy pressure of pragmatism — in an era during which most women had  few opportunities for independent choice. 
 
In Pride and Prejudice, for example, practically speaking Elizabeth Bennet really should accept Mr. Collins’ proposal for the sake of her family’s security, and as for Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price turning down Henry Crawford — how incredibly daring! So I too try to create strong female characters within the historically accurate context of their time. 
 
We love a rags-to-riches story, and Livia is in terrible need of a bit of luck. As an orphan sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle — who do not want her — Livia doesn’t have any beautiful gowns or a dowry to win over a husband. How does missing her mother, father and grandfather affect her relationships?
 
Livia sees herself as someone who’s fundamentally alone, and in a world that’s not particularly welcoming, either. This viewpoint is reinforced when she’s forcibly thrust into the Penhallow family, who initially don’t want her either … So it may seem that her luck has gone from bad to worse! 
 
It’s that very proximity, though, which permits love to blossom — love that will allow Livia to connect deeply with Gabriel Penhallow, and to finally feel that she’s a part of a family, living in a home where she truly belongs.
 
My favorite thing about Livia is her sense of humor — especially when she tricks Gabriel early in the novel! Is there anyone in your life who helped inspire Livia’s antics?
 
Yes! My friend Liz, a quick-witted actress and writer, can easily slip in and out of any persona, and she’s also blessed with a strong sense of self and a wickedly funny sense of humor. I could totally see her tricking Gabriel like that.
 
Gabriel Penhallow is very wealthy and very handsome, but he’s also nearly as stubborn as Livia! How on earth will these two find common ground?
 
Their common ground is actually their differences. I know this sounds paradoxical, but just as Mr. Darcy is intrigued by Elizabeth Bennet’s feisty personality (and fine eyes!), Gabriel Penhallow comes to realize that Livia’s strength, intelligence, and defiant spirit are precisely what he needs to shake him out of his aloof and arrogant mindset. Livia, for her part, finds in deep, steady Gabriel her rock … someone who loves and accepts her for exactly who she is.
 
Livia has good reason to fear horseback riding, but she’s urged to learn regardless. Do you have horseback riding experience?
 
I did a little bit of riding when I was a kid, but nothing that would ever put me in the category of “equestrienne.” I’ve always liked horses, though, and I certainly enjoy reading about them. In fact, I recently reread National Velvet (which I do every couple of years) and still have the same sense of awe and appreciation. Oh, that piebald! My horse hero!
 
Gabriel’s grandmother is the strict and commanding family matriarch, but she also has very sad moments. Where did you draw inspiration for her from?
 
Here again I thought about Jane Austen, and her indelible character Lady Catherine de Burgh in Pride and Prejudice. She’s a grande dame who seemingly has everything — and yet there’s also something a little empty, a little pitiful, about her. My Henrietta Penhallow is like that too; if you look hard enough, past and through her needle-sharp arrogance, you’ll see there’s a big hole in her heart. 
 
What’s your favorite thing to research when it comes to history?
 
Oh my goodness, everything. Food, fashion, manners, terminology, medicine, current events of the time, scientific breakthroughs, transportation, fads and trends, jokes and puns — I love it all. But if you were to insist that I pick one thing? The clothing. Gowns, petticoats, corsets, shoes, bonnets … Styles that are so exotic to us now, and to my mind incredibly sensual.
 
Do you have any advice for writers out there who may be struggling with their own first book?
 
Well, it’s not original, but it works for me. Keep going. Word by word, one after the other. It’s such a simple strategy and yet so profound. As E.L. Doctorow once famously remarked, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” So, yeah: Keep going.

 

Would you like to read this on the RT Book Reviews website? Click here.

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The gift you give yourself

I got some new writerly stuff. All very practical, and even though I bought these items myself, it still feels like I just got a really nice present.Photo: office suppliesOh, and if you happened to read my interview for Tasty Book Tours, you already know how I feel about Post-it Notes. :)

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Word of the day: Tatterdemalion

A fantastic word for an author of historical romance.

Graphic: "tatterdemalion" and its definition, via Merriam-Webster

I used it with pleasure in You May Kiss the Bride, in a scene in which my hero’s haughty, exacting grandmother is busy orchestrating my heroine Livia Stuart’s metamorphosis from a rustic country miss into an elegant diamond of the first water.

Still smarting from a recent encounter with my hero Gabriel, Livia thinks:

She could hardly wait to show herself off to Gabriel Penhallow, and flaunt her transformation in his face. . . . But for this pleasure she had to wait. Two, then three weeks went by, and still he absented himself from his grandmother’s home. Mrs. Penhallow grumbled about his undutiful attitude, then in the very next breath added that it was just as well, for she would, she announced, forbid his presence anyway, until Miss Stuart was no longer a half-savage, unlettered, ill-spoken, maladroit, freckled tatterdemalion.

“I’m not freckled, ma’am,” was all Livia could think to answer, and then promptly felt like a fool.

“Not freckled, you say? You are free to delude yourself, Miss Stuart, if you choose,” frostily replied Mrs. Penhallow. “The Penhallows never have freckles. Have Flye apply the Milk of Almonds twice today. Now! Suppose you have just been introduced to — let us say — the Duke of Egremont. How do you greet him?”

This snippet appears in Chapter 5, but you can read all of Chapter 1 here.

Would you like to order your copy of You May Kiss the Bride? Click here to see your various options in print, ebook, and audio, as well as the gift-with-purchase option offered through my local indie bookstore Auntie’s.

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On visual images for Livia & Gabriel

I’ve been asked if I had a visual impression of my protagonists while writing You May Kiss the Bride. I was pretty clear about Gabriel Penhallow. I was sure that he’s really good-looking, but not perfectly handsome. I had in mind somebody rather like the dashing singer Justin Currie:Photo: singer Justin Currie

As for Livia Stuart, I was less sure. I knew she would have a fiery personality, and because I had recently finished rereading Anne of Green Gables, I may have had an image like this in my head (at least in terms of hair color):

Photo: Anne of Green Gables

And here’s what the brilliant art department at Avon Books came up with:

Cover for YOU MAY KISS THE BRIDE by Lisa Berne (Avon/HarperCollins)

And I couldn’t be any happier. Aren’t my Gabriel and Livia a georgeous couple?

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Jane Austen, inspiration for romance authors

I had a blast writing this little think-piece for Bookish on how Jane Austen continues to inspire romance novelists everywhere. Please enjoy. Graphic: "How Jane Austen Continues to Inspire Romance Novelists," a think-piece for Bookish by Lisa Berne, author of You May Kiss the Bride (Avon Books)

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