Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Are We Possessed?

Last Saturday I attended Beverly Barton’s book signing for her new novel "Don’t Cry." As a member of Heart of Dixie, I am proud of each and every one of our members when they have a book coming out - whether it’s their first or their seventieth. Other HOD members came and we sat at the coffee shop talking as Beverly greeted her fans and signed books.

I watched those women eagerly discussing plot lines and their latest story ideas , so animated, and I began wondering why we write romance. I mean, every one of them have other careers and training in different fields – what made them choose the difficult path of writing in such a highly competitive business? Family, husbands, illnesses, tragedies – all affect us, distracting our attention and yet, we all eagerly escape to our little writing warren and lose ourselves in our latest story ideas. WHY?

The general public has no idea how difficult it is to birth a story, to give it life and dimension, and then put it out there to be criticized (sometimes unfairly) in the hopes of being published. The perception that a romance writer is a lonely, single woman sitting in a cozy bungalow, surrounded by cats, spinning fantasy about how love should be is about as far from the truth as saying you’re healthy as a horse (Horses are about the sickest creatures on this earth – I wonder how they have survived evolutionary destruction – I digress…). Romance writers are educated, literate women with full lives, other jobs, and who possess an intelligence that is amazing. So why do they do this? Suffer and agonize over the slightest details…I have to know.

I kind of fell into the genre by accident. At one time (before I was bitten by the writing bug and had more time), I was a voracious reader. I loved reading romances, seeing the conflicts and how the writer resolved them. The more I read, the more ideas of how I would write such a novel kept invading my brain. So, one morning, I sat down and began writing. I kept writing, hiding what I was doing from my husband for fear of derision (and death and mayhem when he did laugh). I poured my ideas into what I thought would surely be the next bestseller. I did not have a clue about what I was doing. I had never heard of the RWA and had no idea about the major industry involved with romance novels. I just wrote what I felt. I finished that 95,000-word novel and wrote four more in the series. I thought they were brilliant. (Sadly, upon learning more about the craft, I sort of cringe when I think back about those books and then solemnly vow to revisit them – rewrites).

I had begun this journey…

For me, writing is fulfilling the need to get those pesky little people out of my head. I see something and a story pops up, rolling around in my head until I have to get it down on paper (or the computer screen). It’s not some underlying need to write what I think love should be – it’s just a need to tell a story that happens to be romantic. I don’t sit and spin a fantasy about true love (I have that – thank God). So I guess I am not a sad little woman with her cats who is dreaming of the man she should have. I simply want to write a good story. After all, most novels are fantasy (including Stephen King’s novels – duh- and even John Grisham’s – lawyers do not act that way). Novels are just stories. Just STORIES…hmmm

So, tell me, why do you write romance? How did you begin in this genre? And, most of all, what keeps you writing? Share your story with me. Even if it’s all about becoming the next Beverly Barton, Linda Howard, Linda Jones or Norah Roberts and all that lovely money…

I shall reward one lucky commenter with an autographed copy of Beverly Barton’s newest release AND a handcrafted bracelet (made by me).


  1. I live in my own private Idaho so I write. LOL!

    Actually I've always written but started out writing poetry first. Then in H.S. I fell in love with writing in my Lit class and wrote some stuff that the teacher really liked. It was great getting positive feedback at that time. Life happened after that. I fell in love, got married, had children to raise, and then we got a computer. Suddenly I had the means to write faster and do the research that I loved. Bingo! Everything clicked.

    Now I can share my life in Idaho with everyone else. ;)

    Why do I write historical romance? Because there is nothing better in this world than celebrating the one emotion that has outlasted time, love. And what better way to celebrate it than by going back in time to the days of chivalry, duty and honor.

  2. Years ago I would write little pieces a la Erma Bombeck. Then in the late 90's I began writing fanfiction about a TV show characters. We had a message board where we posted our tales and sadly, we had a woman who plagiarized a romance novel, changing the character names to those of the TV show characters. Unsadly, I was charged with finding the plagiarized book to make sure we were correctly calling her out as a thief. I read the book. Then went to the used book store and found others by this author. That led me to other authors and eventually I thought "Why write about somebody else's characters when I can write about ones I create?"

    And thus is began. What keeps me writing? I enjoy it. During my current divorce situation when the muse fled to parts unknown, I was frustrated beyond belief not to be able to write. She's started poking her head out again now and it feels so good to be able to put words on paper again.

    Oh, and that plagiarized author and I are friends now and hug and do the southern squeal when we see each other at conference now.

  3. Kathy - Idaho? There are no pirates in Idaho are there? Yes, you are right about life intruding but thankfully now all the kids are grown and we have gained a wonderful writer who will soon be published. And yes, love is the strongest and most lasting emotion when it is shared. I guess writing romance is truly a way to celebrate it!

    PM, pardon me for giggling, a little, but I have this image of you dressed like Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass ferreting out the plagiarist. You are so focused and intent, I am sure the woman didn't stand a chance. But, on the upside, you discovered an outlet for the stories you create. Now, we are all just waiting for those stories to be published as soon as they read your requested manuscript. I can't wait! I am so excited for you! Finally, validation for all your hard work! And, the plagiarist, did she learn from her experience? Never mess with a woman who has a whistle...

  4. I started writing after attending a workshop by a Christian fiction writer at a Christian Women's Conference when my daughter was young. I remember it vividly for 2 reasons. It was the first time I'd been gone from her all day. And second, everything that writer said resonated with me. I was an English major, books were my life, but it had never occured to me to write one.

    So like Cheryl, I went home and started writing. That first book took 2 years before it was in good enough shape to submit, but I was hooked. There is nothing like the joy of writing, nor the pain when you can't write. :)

    Why love? Because it is real, it should be celebrated, and I enjoy the journey of overcoming obstacles to find the relationship that will last throughout a lifetime.

  5. I always wrote. When I was a kid, I wrote short stories about horses. When I was fourteen, I started a novel (it was terrible). Since the novel didn't work out, I went back to short stories. Then life interfered for a while. But I always said I wanted to write a novel someday -- so when I turned 25, my hubby said someday is here and bought me a computer.

    I was reading fantasy and sci-fi at the time, but I knew that's not what I would be good at writing. So I went to the bookstore, had an epiphany at the size of the romance section, and bought a bunch of historicals. (I had been a romance reader, but had gotten away from it.)

    I wrote the longest, most god-awful medieval romance ever written. Then I wrote some more. Then I let life interfere again -- but at least I knew I could finish a novel! Eventually, I came back to the writing and loved it as much as ever. The rest, as they say, is history. :)

  6. Hmmm...my love of writing goes back to my early school years. I loved to read and even make up little love stories. With a few of my friends we wrote different parts to a book, where that book is now. I have no idea. LOL. But it was fun. :)

    I've had many mountains along the way, but my love for the written word has never faded. I will keep doing this for it is who I am...no matter what else happens around me.

  7. Danniele, I understand what you are saying about the light bulb moment. I am a journalism major and wrote for newspapers, but it never occurred to me to write a novel. Then just one day, I had an ah-ha moment - I can do this!

    I, too, enjoy the journey in writing about love but sometimes I enjoy throwing those little roadblocks in to make the turns more interesting (Yes, I am sadistic sometimes...)

  8. Misty - I know what a wonderful writer you are and all those pesky problems cannot erase that! Keep on with the writing, you will achieve your goal one day! I am still waiting for that chapter!!!

  9. Lynn, and that was last year when hubby bought the computer? My you have been very busy!

    We are so proud of your success! Thankfully you didn't give up after the medieval romance and we got your wonderful books as a result! It's amazing that we all have discovered romance novels at the bookstore and then set about writing them. I guess we saw something in ourselves that said we can do this and do it better.

  10. I've always written, even before I could put it down on paper. Believe it or not I have very early memories. I remember my mother dancing around the kitchen holding me and looking down to see a white high-top shoe on my foot. I remember being diapered. And I remember lying in bed and making up stories when I was a preschooler. There was one where a boy fell off a slide and his guts fell out. I saved him. I don't know what that says about me. As for choosing romance--Hemingway said that every true story ends in death. I didn't want to write true stories. I wanted to write happy stories.

  11. Jean, I have some memories when I was younger but nothing that exact. That is amazing! Maybe you should write suspense - guts and glory! Seriously, I agree, I want to write happy stories which is why I write romances too.

  12. You beat me out, Jean. I can't remember what I did yesterday, let alone when I was a wee one. Too many moves, too much emotional trauma. LOL!

    Cheryl, Private Idaho is a B52's song. It's my theme song. ;) I mentioned it because in the song they sing about someone who is in their own little world. That would be my (insert PIRATE here) world. :D

  13. Kathy, I was clueless. Guess I should listen to more music. My theme Song is A Matter of Trust - Billy Joel. Drives my hubby crazy!

  14. Of course no one can sing this like the B52's. But here is the lyrics for Private Idaho.

    Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo
    You're living in your own Private Idaho
    Living in your own Private Idaho
    Underground like a wild potato.
    Don't go on the patio.
    Beware of the pool,
    blue bottomless pool.
    It leads you straight
    right throught the gate
    that opens on the pool.

    You're living in your own Private Idaho.
    You're living in your own Private Idaho.

    Keep off the path, beware the gate,
    watch out for signs that say "hidden driveways".
    Don't let the chlorine in your eyes
    blind you to the awful surprise
    that's waitin' for you at
    the bottom of the bottomless blue blue blue pool.

    You're livin in your own Private Idaho. Idaho.
    You're out of control, the rivers that roll,
    you fell into the water and down to Idaho.
    Get out of that state,
    get out of that state you're in.
    You better beware.

    You're living in your own Private Idaho.
    You're living in your own Private Idaho.

    Keep off the patio,
    keep off the path.
    The lawn may be green
    but you better not be seen
    walkin' through the gate that leads you down,
    down to a pool fraught with danger
    is a pool full of strangers.

    You're living in your own Private Idaho,
    where do I go from here to a better state than this.
    Well, don't be blind to the big surprise
    swimming round and round like the deadly hand
    of a radium clock, at the bottom, of the pool.

    Woah oh oh woah oh oh woah oh oh
    Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
    Get out of that state
    Get out of that state
    You're living in your own Private Idaho,
    livin in your own Private.... Idaho

  15. Like many of you who have posted I have written off and on since childhood. I remember my first attempt at a novel in middle school, a Civil War story. I had just read Ashes in the Wind and thought, I can do that...I've been to Shiloh 100 times!

    Like others the stories were a way to get the people out of my head. I really thought that everyone made up stories about all the people they saw or met like I did. I was a teenager before I discovered that I was an "odd ball."

    I guess I wrote romance because that was what comes most naturally to me(and Jean).

  16. I write because it is like air to me.

  17. They've got lot of air in Idaho, Christine. ;)

  18. Or maybe there's lots of air in my head?

  19. Stephanie, I have always made up stories about people I meet in my head. I also had conversations in my head with these people - guess I was already plotting and didn't know it. Thankfully I never told anyone; probably be in Searcy right now. LOL

    Christine, I agree. It's an involuntary need we all must have - to get these words down and then share them.

    Kathy - Air head - do we now have a new nickname? :)