Skip to main content

On Romance Reading and Writing

I spent the week before Christmas on vacation in Providence, RI. Before hopping on that Amtrak train, I hit Barnes & Noble to stock up on a genre I'm further studying: romance novels.

It's a not-so-hidden secret that I'm a fan, and I've attempted to write one before, though half heartedly. This fall, I made major steps in that direction. I have 40-something pages of my first real shot at a novel almost done (the photo includes pages that are part of that manuscript), and I'll be submitting a sample from that book to a competition in January. I have a pen name picked out, too, but I don't know if I'll use it. More on that in another post.

While I've read romances and I'm a member of RWA, I've stuck to a few authors whose work I know I'll love, so for vacation, I went judging books by their covers, honing in on contemporary romance whose authors had hit the New York Times bestseller's list: Only His
by Susan Mallery and Coming Home
by Maria Stewart.

What I learned:

1. Both of these books are parts of larger series, and include more primary and sub characters that I'd ever seen in other types of fiction, even other types of romantic fiction. This makes sense from a sales point of view. If you get a reader hooked into the Fools Gold series or the Chesapeake Diaries, then they'll keep buying books in that series. So in my book, I've upgraded two of the minor characters to have slightly larger roles, and when I pitch this book to agents, I'll be marketing it as part of a series.

2. Geography is big. Both series are very tied to locations. The ties to that place is another factor in the book. I already had that (two guesses as to where the book is based haha), so I'm good there.

3. Willing suspension of disbelief. In Only His, the hero's company is building a casino. The mayor says that no one objected. Oh PLEASE. But it's not an important plot point because the book is focused on the people. The people!

4. This isn't quite what I want to write. I get the idea of multiple characters for series, but both books were a little bit too cluttered for me. I think Nora Roberts has handled this well - the heroine of the next book might be a prior book, but the hero rarely is. And the backstory of that minor character is only hinted at until she gets her whole book.

It's a good start, and a less than painful way to have conducted research while on vacation.

And if it sounds like I'm taking a very pragmatic, structured and studied entry into writing these kinds of books - well, I am. Why not!

So if you read romances, too, who are your favorites?


Chris said…
Errr uhmm...Debbie Macomber...(Runs and hides from embarrassment)
Elizabeth D said…
Jen, you should read Rachael Herron, Her third book just came out; you don't have to read them in order, but it's more fun that way. Also, Barbara Bretton.
Lady Danger said…
I am in LOVE with your blog.

Popular posts from this blog

Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can't ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it's SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants. Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn's Rokesbys Series , which are prequels to her enormously popular  Bridgerton Series  (and now a  Netflix show ). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England).  Here we meet Sybilla "Bille" Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs help to get down.  That help comes from George Rokesby. Their families are neighbors, and they've known each other

Book 26 of 52: The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown

I'm not going to write a long review of Tina Brown's The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil  for two reasons. First, it's been hashed to death already, as anything about the royals is, by people who are far more invested in this whole thing than I am. And second, I'm in the frantic "do I really need a jean jacket AND a windbreaker" level of packing before a long trip. I can say that I didn't mind listening to this nearly 18 hour audiobook while the rest of the world is on fire, although of course they are not insulated. We can pretend that the Royal Family lives in a bubble, but they are enormously influential; touched by the same issues of race, class and gender; and Queen Elizabeth II is one of most influential politicians of modern times — and she is a politician, no matter what anyone says. Her death will be a global, cultural moment. Same thing with the Pope, on both fronts. I listened to Brown's  The Diana Chro

Book 12 of 52: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an author and graphic novelist who grew up in Iran and, as a tween and teen, lived in the country through  the Iranian Revolution before her parents sent her to Europe for school, and for her safety.  As an adult, she wrote Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ,  a nonfiction graphic novel, originally in French. I read the English translation, which was published in 2003, three years after the original. It was a critical success, won a slew of awards, and became a movie . I haven't read the sequel, Persepolis 2 , but I hope to (you can also  buy them in a set . I found Persepolis  in a Little Free Library, or I'd have bought them combined).  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman's  Maus , which is about the author's father talking to him about the Holocaust,  Persepolis  is a memoir of trauma told through a mix of images and words that when combined, combust into powerful, beautiful and soul cracking art.  For example, Satrapi portrays the 1978 Cinema R