Archive for 'on writing'

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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Word of the day: Sarcasm

An excellent word for a writer. It can be a lot of fun having one (or more) of your characters be sarcastic.

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

 

I used it in You May Kiss the Bride, when my hero, Gabriel Penhallow, is discussing travel plans with his strong-willed grandmother. Although on the surface they’re rather tetchy, there’s a quiet little subtext here which shows how they’ve moved beyond the cool formality which for many years has kept them all too detached from each other. My heroine, Livia, perceives this with joy.

Grandmama jumped again into the fray. “I suppose,” she said to Gabriel, “you wish to stay at the Swan.”

“As it’s the only other establishment in Wells where I’d even consider stabling the horses, yes.”

“The sheets are always damp.”

“And how would you know that? You’ve just said you exclusively patronize the Royal Hart.”

“It is the common report,” answered Grandmama coldly.

“Fine! You stay at the Royal Hart, and I’ll stay at the Swan.”

“Don’t be absurd.”

“It’s not absurd. It seems to me an eminently practical plan.”

“Need I remind you that we travel under your protection?” Grandmama smiled triumphantly, and it was to be seen that she had clinched the argument, for Gabriel glared but added:

“Don’t blame me when we all emerge from the Hart infested with fleas.”

“We shan’t,” she answered, with maddening serenity. “I won’t allow it. Dear me, you’re quite peevish today! Go and ride your horse until your temper cools. That’s what Richard always did. Not that he was ever as snappish as you are.”

“It grieves me to inform you that it’s raining today. Again.”

“Have you no other occupation? Surely you have something better to do than badger a helpless old woman.”

He visibly ground his teeth, his eyes flashing even more magnificently. “Yes,” he said with heavy sarcasm, “extremely helpless.”

There was, Livia mused, something vivifying about a good brangle. Grandmama had a nice healthy flush of color in her cheeks. And Gabriel looked so handsome that she wished she could go over and take hold of him in a brazen way and kiss him for a good long time.

This snippet appears in Chapter 12, but if you like, you can read all of Chapter 1 here.

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Romance panel at the Get Lit! festival

Will you be in the Spokane, WA, area next Saturday afternoon? If so, perhaps you might like to join me as I moderate a Get Lit! panel featuring fellow romance authors Asa Maria Bradley, Tamara Morgan, Katee Robert, and Rebecca Zanetti. We’ll be talking about what it’s like to write romance, how they go about it, their advice for aspiring authors, and more. Plus, I hear there’s going to be door prizes. :)

More info about the “What’s in a Kiss?” panel here.

 

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“Keep calm and brandish the quill”

My motto, as a witer of historical romance. :)Graphic: KEEP CALM AND BRANDISH THE QUILL

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