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.
I first met Sophie at the Romance Writers of America’s annual conference in 2016 — at the Avon Books party, to be precise. I’ll always remember her big smile, warm greeting, and how she pulled up on her phone the cover of her next historical romance, While the Duke Was Sleeping . . . and we ooh’ed and aah’ed over its gorgeousness. I invite you to feast your eyes!
Now the wonderful Sophie’s offering a giveaway of The Laird Takes a Bride on her Facebook page! Would you like to enter? Click here. And good luck!
I devoured Joanna Shupe’s enthralling A Daring Arrangement, and I want to share the love! Stop by my Facebook page for a chance to win this advance reader’s copy. And good luck!
I’m delighted to be featured on the blog of the wonderful Lenora Bell, with an interview and a giveaway celebrating the release of my latest book!
What was the favorite part of your research for the book?
My hero, Alasdair Penhallow, lives in an ancient castle — renovated to state-of-the-art elegance and comfort circa 1811, but still, it’s a castle. Très romantique! I spent quite a few happy hours on the web studying Scottish castles and estates.
Authors often have all kinds of influences and allusions in their stories. What about in The Laird Takes a Bride?
Yes, they’re definitely in there! Here are a few examples.
What’s the funniest/strangest thing a reader or a relative has said to you about your books or your writing career?
Romance writers everywhere know the look — a little sheepish, a little roguish — and the question that inevitably follows: “So, uh, did you do your own research for the, uh, racy parts?” I love the response Beverly Jenkins shared during a speech she gave at last year’s Romance Writers of America conference. When people ask this question, she told us, she’ll reply, with exquisite and tantalizing brevity: “Yes.” And we all cracked up laughing.
What’s up next for you? What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing the third book in the Penhallow Dynasty series, The Bride Takes a Groom, which releases next spring. It features Captain Hugo Penhallow, who appears toward the end of my first book, You May Kiss the Bride. He marries a childhood friend, Katherine Brooke, a brilliant and complicated heiress — and their marriage is quite complicated also!
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For more info about The Laird Takes a Bride, click here.
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.
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.
I recently had the pleasure of reading Megan Frampton’s wonderful historical romance My Fair Duchess. I love Megan’s writing style; her voice is so distinctive, and she imbues her story with clever wit and “you are there” vividness. Her protagonists, Genevieve and Archie, are such interesting and nuanced characters that it’s a joy to follow them along to their well-deserved happy-ever-after.
More about Megan here.