Sunday, November 05, 2006

For the LAST TIME....it's NOT a @#!$*&! FORMULA!!!

I love my job. LOVE IT. I love romance. And right now, I really really love Harlequin. But I'm getting a twitchy feeling these days from reader expectations and the non-believers.

We'll begin with the non-believers...like my grandmother...and lot's of other people in the world who, I agree with Maureen, believe that because romance is read primarily by women, written primarily by women, about issues paramount to women (family, love, children, self-respect, finding one's strength and keeping one's humor in the face of the daily shit that can beat us down, clothes, hair, gossip, chocolate, world peace, education, politics, war, violence and of course -- sex) it must be of less value than other books. Add some crappy covers over the years (DAMN YOU FABIO!!!) and some even crappier books and we romance writers might as well walk around with targets on our backs.

Because the books have a man and a woman and must end with some kind of commitment (A+B=C) the non-believers think it must be easy because after all...A+B=C...the formula it's right there! Well, let me tell you -- it's not easy to get two emotionally damaged, fragile, commit-phobes - believably at HEA in around 300 pages. Beliveable being the key word. That 'formula" is more like a dark, overgrown path in a jungle with lots of possible wrong turns. And poison ivy. And a bad flashlight that keeps shorting out. Oh, and there's a bear. A bear that is actully my critique group and a cliff that is my deadline and a cheerful woman with a gun that is my editor.

So - nope. Not easy. No formula. Bear. Gun. Woods. Bad flashlight.

Add to that scenario -- the incredibly avid romance reading audience. Who open every romance with expectations about what a hero should be and what a heroine can and can't do. Reviews are coming in for my latest book - His Best Friend's Baby and they are strangely lopsided. What I belived would be my problem - my hero and his brooding self-indulgence - is getting eaten up. People love my battered dark, suicidal hero. They HATE my misguided, earnest, heart of gold heroine who is ready to do anything for a little love and approval. We talk about rules and loving the books and tv shows that break those rules - but man, don't mess with the romance readers heroine. That's been my lesson this week.

On a far more fun note -- I spend WAY too much time thinking about Laura Kinsale's novels. If you haven't read these brilliant brilliant romances -- you need to. I love the Shadow and the Star and all this Daniel Craig talk (and the poster I saw today outside the movie theater - we saw The Queen) has made me decide that he would be a perfect Samuel. Him or Christian Bale.

7 comments:

Sinead M said...

Great, funny post. For the record, Maureen is smart, I believe that is absolutely the reason why romance is looked down on, more than any other genre out there.

It is really difficult to live up to reader expectations about what they want in a romance, and how they want the leads to behave.

Hero's get a thousand times more latitude than heroines.
Even our mutual heroine, Laura Kinsale has been critized for her heroines.

A lot of readers out there just seem to want, spunky, well meaning, generic heroines.

But generic gets boring so quickly, not just as a reader, but also as a writer.

For the record, I liked the heroine of this book.

Maureen McGowan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Maureen McGowan said...

Our critique group is the bear in the woods? I didn't realize we were that scary... Maybe a Koala? (koalas aren't really bears, are they...)

Yes, very few people (including me a few years ago) have any idea how hard it is to write a good romance. and even when you tell them it's hard, they don't believe it. romance novels are no more formula than any novel, certainly any genre fiction.

crime + detective protagonist = crime solved (mystery)

serial killer + potential victim + FBI agent = saved victim (thriller)

terrorist + scientist = world saved (scientific thriller)

other world + hero's quest to save something = world saved (fanstasy/sci fi)

When will people realize that a story idea doesn't equal a friggin novel???? and that's all the "formulas" are -- the story premise at its most basic.

I learned that writing a romance was too hard for me and gave up. :-) So now I'm writing: woman who needs to change + problem/catalyst = changed woman. (womens fiction)

And let people think what they think about your heroine in HIS BEST FRIEND'S BABY. She grows and changes during the course of the novel. I like that.

Anonymous said...

Oh wouldn't it be a blessing and a curse if ther WAS a formula? It would be so easy to get published without having to stresss over character names, professions, black moments, goals, motivations, conflicts, character growth, and back story. Just check for punctuation, grammar, and spelling, print, send, publish!

Of course as Maureen said we'd all get bored after book two.

I wonder what the formula for my current book is? Paaranormal + comed + erotic sex = ???

Kimber said...

I think readers are harder on heroines than heroes because they might dream about the hero but they ARE the heroine. They want the heroine to be how they picture their true self to be. Much higher (often unrealistic) expectations.

Look on the bright side. Readers are talking about your book!

Jordanne Ford said...

As long as the heroine's are skinnier than I am, I'm generally pretty good with that!
Molly, I went into my local (nearest) Coles with every intention of picking up your latest Super. Not only wasn't it there when it said it was supposed to have three copies, but the supplier had screwed up and instead of your three, there were none, and someone else's Super had six copies. I informed the clerk about this, and stressed how unfortunate it was, especially considering you were a local author (well, you are, kinda sorta) but they just said there was nothing they could do themselves to fix it. Phooey, I'll just go to Chapters and pick it up then.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Yeah - I think there's an interesting psychology at work here that I'm too dumb to figure out. Maureen though, she's like a mathmatician - you will now be required to ALWAYS figure out tips on Drunk Writer Talk nights.

Thanks for the kind words guys. I actually don't feel bad about my heroine or the reviews -- any review is good at this stage in my career - at least they are talking about me. And they haven't actually been all that bad. And what they don't like about Julia I did on purpose so...I guess it's working.

Thanks Jordanne for fighting the good fight for me. I hope you like the book!!!

We just got PVR!!!!!!

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