Inspired by Liz’s super post last week, I am indulging myself this weekend because it is Mothering Sunday.
I have decided I am not going to write.
I am going to be reading.
But hang on, is reading an indulgence or a necessity?
We all need time off to recharge our batteries, refill the well, get our head together — whatever you want to call it. Sometimes it can be a good walk, or a browse around a museum, or just hanging out with friends.
This month I’ve been thinking about reading romance. Who does it? Why? When? And, well, what qualifies as romance? Troilus and Criseyde? Jane Eyre ? Anna Karenina? These Old Shades? Gaudy Night? Bridget Jones? Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music?
I’ve read them all and I’d say “yes but” to all of them. Many people, maybe most, would disagree with me on at least one.
On 3rd February the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association published its short list for this year’s awards. It’s the RNA”s 60th anniversary and this year there are nine categories.
My seven stories above would each fall into at least one of them.
Love is in the Air
And then there was St Valentine’s Day last Friday. That always brings out a flurry of saccharine fluff, embarrassing stunts and grimmish think pieces in the media.
Commercialism – shock, horror! Unrealistic emotional expectations from reading romance – fie, sir, write me a sonnet or leave at once! Head for the pub, lads, and fast. Continue reading →
This week I’m going to be unashamedly personal, thanks to music. Indeed, I want to say thank you – to friends and well-wishers, fellow writers, musicians of all kinds and the universe.
To put you in the picture – several weeks ago I booked tickets for a concert to take place this past week at the Wigmore Hall.
It appealed to me for all sorts of reasons. There was history, discovery (some of the programme was so obscure I thought I’d probably never hear it live again), drama, even youth studies. There was a band I love.
And then there was a sort of deep satisfaction in participating in a major enterprise that would last as long as Mozart’s life.
Those who know me from Social media will probably realise that I have moved. A big move. Massive. After 30 years in one house I have moved to the Scottish Highlands. To Wester Ross. It has been described as Britain’s last great wilderness, and with good reason. Moving here is not just another country, it is another life and a very different one. The language is almost the same. Almost, but not quite. One has to think more about it. No one asks where you live, it is where are you staying, as if you are just passing through.
Hospitality is generous, tea, cake or biscuits are often offered as a matter of course. Which means I need to brush up on my baking skills.
Okay, I doubt I will EVER bake anything this good!
The Scottish Highlands from a writer’s point of view
I travel through this land with my writer’s hat on. The landscape feels old. Continue reading →
I have done it! I have finished my latest historical romance!
Hooray, I hear you say. At last.
It has been polished, re-polished and sent winging its merry way to The Editor, the god-like creature who will pronounce judgement upon my baby. As some old writer hack said, “parting is such sweet sorrow.”
It is an anxious time.
But while I wait, chewing my nails to the quick, I have been pondering on Life, the Universe and…
This week I have been remembering the first draft of my first book. Well, the first book I actually completed.
I remember that it was written by hand, mostly while I was waiting for books to be retrieved from the stack in a very famous library.
The leather-bound tomes, the scholarly hush, the dust dancing in the sunbeams, the academics concentrating all around me…. oh, I remember them as if I’ve only just walked in from that day with my book bag stuffed with notes and my head full of my characters.
Or sometimes I wrote that first draft while I was waiting for an old friend in our favourite coffee shop.
When inspiration struck there, I sometimes scribbled the idea down on any old scrap of paper — including a cafe napkin once or twice.
Revisiting the Romantic Hero Formula —
except that there isn’t a formula, as I tried to show in the first blog on this topic. So, instead, I’m going to explore some aspects of creating the romantic hero.
With examples from a master of the art of hero-creation — Georgette Heyer.
Which Qualities Make a Romantic Hero Attractive — to Readers?
Most of us would say that our aim in writing romance is to create a heroine that our readers will identify with and a hero that they will lust after. Warning: it is not easy to do and not all readers will respond in the same way. Some may adore our hero and some may hate him. As romance authors, we’re winning if we have a lot more of the former. 😉
Tall Dark and Handsome?
Tall dark and handsome? Not necessarily. As readers we probably all have favourite heroes who are none of those. As writers, we may have created some of them, too.
Most telling recent example? Who became the abiding hero in the Game of Thrones series? Yes, Tyrion, the dwarf. Continue reading →
This week I spent a day with Georgette Heyer. Billed as The Nonesuch Conference, this was at a hybrid gathering at London University, offering a selection of papers from accredited academics together with reader/writer participation from people labelled in the programme as independent scholars.
Clearly, and heartwarmingly, most of the speakers I heard were also fans.
It was preceded by a writing workshop the day before. And there was a Regency Soirée in the evening after the conference, which sounds like a lot of fun.
Sadly, I couldn’t make either of these events. For one thing I’m still convalescent. (My energy gives out unexpectedly, so I didn’t want to push it.) For another, the programme was really full. Academics seemed to be supercharged, cheerily steaming from session to session, enthusiasm still at white heat.
When I read my notes I was astonished at the sheer volume of ideas I had noted down for further consideration. Continue reading →
Let’s hear it for the heroes! Tall, dark and handsome?
Hero = handsome; heroine = beautiful?
Bestselling author Susanna Kearsley published a blog last week that asks a thought-provoking question about romantic heroines: — why is it that “some readers, when faced with a blank face, are programmed to fill in the features as ‘beautiful’?”
A disturbing question, too, perhaps.
But what about the heroes? Do we readers fill in male features in a similar way? Why?
Do the heroes of our imagination have to be tall, dark and handsome? Continue reading →