I’m the guest author at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference blog this month. Pop over and learn why I write romance. You may be surprised to learn it involves Stephen King and Mallomars.
Edited to add: Full post below, as it’s now getting harder to find on the MCWC blog (there’s some great stuff there, though, if you still want to visit!). Also, now with interesting links!
Many people who know me are surprised to learn I write romance. On the outside, I’m generally quiet, pragmatic and reserved. The inside is sometimes a different matter. But I even surprised myself by writing and publishing in this genre, and could never have guessed my road to it would include Stephen King and Mallomars.
In college, I leaned toward literary fiction, examining relationships, human foibles and interpersonal dramas. I was terrible at it. And it was boring. I searched for other inspiration.
Drawn to the Lord of the Rings, Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, and Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy, I turned to fantasy. Now this was fun, a departure from literary angst: it wasn’t about the words, but the story. I loved writing fantasy, but hadn’t developed the discipline to build a new world and establish its rules while forming involved plots. Still, I kept writing.
Then I found online chatrooms full of fellow book lovers and writers. A group comprised of Stephen King fans who created their own versions of King’s books (The Stand, Needful Things, The Tommyknockers) was great fun. This was early fanfiction with one difference: we placed ourselves as characters into King’s plots. We took turns writing, and in a surprisingly cohesive way, each contributor built on previous posts to advance the story. I gave “my” characters all sorts of intriguing quirks and histories. I even created an evil version of myself, a catsuit-wearing, Mallomar-consuming seductress with few morals, who immensely enjoyed her life. I called her “Evil Christine.” She may or may not have been an alien. I kind of miss her.
While none of this writing could be considered romance, looking back I see I added in more romantic elements with each new plotline. Yet with the thousands and thousands of words I wrote, due to the inherent nature of these collective stories, I never had to write a beginning or an end. I could call myself a writer, but not a novelist. The other King fans drifted away from the group writing, but I wanted more. I wanted to create my own stories–beginning, middle, and end–and to be published.
So a friend and I decided we would write romances, maybe some of those shorter Harlequin ones. So many people did it, it had to be easy, right? I had that thought for about five minutes, until I actually tried to write one. My friend decided it wasn’t for her, but one of the ideas intrigued me: what if an everyday Jane found herself in a relationship with a mega celebrity and it turned both of their lives upside down? I wrote a few chapters. It was semi-terrible. But it wasn’t boring. I kept writing. Take Two was the very first novel I ever finished, it became my first published book, and it launched my “That’s Entertainment” series.
During the revision process, I not only fell in love with my characters, I fell in love with writing romance. These were the kinds of relationships I wanted to explore, and if I could immerse myself in humor and joy, with my readers knowing there would be a happy conclusion, how could I not embrace that? Along with these revelations, I experienced the romance writing community’s generosity, and learned of their fierce belief that romance should be taken just as seriously as any other genre. They fight stereotypes of the genre with each story they tell, and contradict the cynics with every sale. Being part of that world thrills and enthralls me.
Plus, there’s that happy ending. I love a happy ending. And my characters can eat all the Mallomars they want.