Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Slice of Life...

This conversation just happened between my husband and I:

Adam: Hey have you read Mick that Going to Bed Book?

Molly: Sure. (Sandra Boynton Going to Bed Board Book)

Adam: It doesn't make any sense!

Molly: (Relieved to finally be talking about this since it's been making me crazy for a year) I know!

Adam: They take a bath in one big tub (soap all over - scrub scrub scrub), brush their teeth, put on their pajamas and then go up to exercise!

Molly : They're going to get all sweaty before bed!

At that point we looked at each other, decided to skip dinner and go straight to the vodka that's been in our freezer for a million years. Drugs and booze are wasted on the youth.

It's been a good week here in romance writer land. Valentine's Day is like the promotional mother lode and this year I really hit the jackpot. I was a guest speaker at the Toronto Reference Library for the TPL's campaign with Harlequin Editor Brenda Chin. Who, as always, gives good tips for what is happening at Harlequin. All Steeple Hill lines are acquiring - especially the Steeple Hill Historical line. Also submission guidelines have changed -- be sure to check the new and improved website for all the new guidelines.

I gave a fun talk on what I've learned writing for Harlequin and I thought it a fitting blog post. So - here it is and Happy Belated Valentine's Day!

I’ve been writing for Harlequin for seven years. And I have wanted to write for Harlequin most of my life. And while the realities of a writer’s life - cold coffee, microwave popcorn and days upon days of questionable personal hygiene - are not particularly glamorous, they are highly fulfilling. Reading is easily one of my top five joys. It was one of my top three, but I’m a new mother so sleep has been climbing the charts. And being able to provide another person with the same comforting thrill that I have always appreciated lying back in my bed and opening a new book is truly a humbling experience. But, not always an easy one. Writing is not easy, no matter what you may believe and writing for the best selling genre is akin to walking a tight rope during an earthquake.

These are the four lessons I've learned writing for Harlequin:

1. You must have one eye on the news, a thumb near the pulse of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, the ever bleeding soul of an optimistic poet and the skin of a Komodo Dragon.
While Harlequin provides an outlet for readers of any kind of romantic fantasy, the readers of the novels I write are looking not just for that pure Calgon Take Me Away experience, but they want a story and characters truly grounded in modern times, dealing with and finding joy and suffering from all the things that we experience. War, death, parenthood, addiction, education, crime, friendships, family, love, loss and sex.

Those critics that scoff at the genre don’t understand what reading these books provide - it’s a way to suffer and commiserate and ache along with a character, but as there all too often isn’t in real life, you’re guaranteed a happy ending.

Now, the skin of a dragon comes in handy in surviving those places where entertainment and commerce mix. Namely in dealing with print runs, editors, agents and critics. Getting published once is not a golden ticket, it’s an invitation to try harder, to work faster, deal with rejection better and think outside the box.

2. Friends and family particularly your husband must have a sense of humor because they will at some point be in a book. Change the names to protect yourself at family dinners, but when Aunt Gladys talks about when she got her breast caught in the mammogram machine and the fire department had to come and get her out - take notes.

Everyone always asks me where do I get my ideas. And frankly, here’s the truth. I steal them. I steal them from the people I overhear on the streetcar, from the news, from my friends, family, fans, from real life and from my imagination. The world is a really fertile place if you’re looking for seeds.

3. Sex may sell - but it's not easy to write on deadline. I've got a year old baby - teething and tormenting the dog with a hockey stick his father thought would be a great idea. I've had about six hours of sleep and 30 cups of coffee - so my stomach hurts. I'm not sure when I showered last much less actually touched my husband and today? I've got to write a sex scene. So - you may ask - how do I actually write the sex scene? I wait until my husband comes home and pour myself a big glass of wine and remember what life was like when I was nineteen.

4. The High’s are High, the Low’s are low and the Ruts are DEEP -

Every writer I know is an introvert. I had to get seriously juiced up on coffee just to be able to stand here today because trust me - I would much rather be home in my sweatpants in front of the computer. If they made a zoo of professions - that would be the writer’s natural habitat. Hair a mess, sweat pants, four coffee cups and plates on top of stacks of books and papers on top of a desk that hasn’t seen daylight since it was set up. But getting out of that mindset is truly rewarding. Hemingway? Wrote in the morning and in the afternoon he went out to fill his well.
And perhaps drinking to excess and big game hunting isn’t your idea of well filling - but writer’s can’t work in a vacuum. If we’re writing about life - we’d better do a bit of living it.


Wylie Kinson said...

"the realities of a writer’s life - cold coffee, microwave popcorn and days upon days of questionable personal hygiene - are not particularly glamorous,..."

So why are we doing this again?? :)

As I sit here in my sweats, which I slept in btw, and contemplate which I'd rather do -- take a shower and go shopping or stay stinky and work on my WIP, I choose the WIP anyday!

Great post, Molly!

Maia said...

Great post, Molly. I loved what you said about writing for Harlequin: keeping your eye on the news, finger on the pulse of women's issues, etcetera. So evocatively written.

I'm here in my ten year old Gap sweat pants and a furzy wool sweater that I've been wearing every day since I bought it three months ago. It has yet to see the washing machine, but I'm too busy writing.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I use writing as an excuse for lots of things -- it's why I never get my hair cut when I should. It's why my house is a mess.

It's an all purpose excuse!!

Leah Braemel said...

"Hair a mess, sweat pants, four coffee cups and plates on top of stacks of books and papers on top of a desk that hasn’t seen daylight since it was set up."

You peeked! OMG the conspiracy theories are right -- you can see through my computer monitor and watch me when I don't realize it!

Thanks for a great chuckle today, Molly. Loved the story about the mammogram -- but don't tell my family I'm stealing their stories and writing about them. And as a mother of two boys -- 22 and 16 -- you will get sleep. Eventually. But even as your children get older, you'll lose it for other reasons. (Is my eldest home from his date yet? Did he remember his key? And what the h*ll was that in the laundry? A condom?!)

Christine said...

Ah Molly, you always make me laugh. I someday hope to get back into my sweatpants so I can write full time. :) But working in an office does help keep me in touch with the world around me. It's an interesting balance.

Sinead M said...

Great post, Molly and funny, and true. The one thing I've learned from Molly is that perservering, and getting better actually make a difference.
Sometimes I feel so much of this publishing thing is out of our control, but Molly kept writing, each book better than the last, and now, she is a Superromance star.. and the latest books, which haven't been released yet, are amazing.. completely amazing.

Amy Ruttan said...

Great post, my youngest is one. I almost died when I read hockey stick as I pictured my son running around with one! EEEK! I so understand what you're talking about.

You had me laughing, great informative entertaining post!

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