Genre and Voice Part 1 : Louise Rose-Innes

Sue : I’ve been asked quite a lot recently as to what genre my second book Closing In actually falls in, there have been mixed opinions by those who have read it as to whether it’s romance or thriller.  For me, it falls somewhere between the two, under the romantic suspense category. All this made me wonder about the placing of a book and if it’s possible to sit between genres successfully or to even write in a completely different genre. I’ve found it’s a topic that causes quite a lot of discussion and, as such, decided to ask around for other authors’ experiences and thoughts on genre and voice.

I had originally intended to do one post on this, but I received such great advice from the authors I approached,  I didn’t want to cut anything down and have it over three installments.

I’m delighted to welcome Louise Rose-Innes to the Romaniac blog today. Louise is probably most known for her romance novels, but has recently turned her hand to a more dangerous story line.

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I have a split personality. With books, I mean. My teenage reading list comprised of young adult romances, and progressed to Joanna Lindsay and Jilly Cooper fairly rapidly. In fact, I remember getting detention for reading the “naughty bits” from The Thorn Birds out loud to the boys in my tenth grade English class.

Running parallel to this was a deep-seated hunger for thriller novels. Sydney Sheldon was my all-time fave. His direct, suspense-laden style has probably influenced my writing more than any other author. Clive Cussler and James Patterson are close seconds. But then there’s also Michael Connelly and Robert Ludlum and of course the all-time spy-master, John le Carré…

Occasionally, I’ll read a Booker Prize winning novel for the literacy value, and because I feel incredibly guilty if I don’t, but other than that my personal book collection is fairly evenly spread between the romance and thriller genres.

Naturally, the same would prove to be true with my writing. When I began, I thought romance would be the easiest genre to master. I’m not convinced I was correct, but the ten years I’ve spent writing the genre have taught me a huge amount about character development, internal and external conflict and (the hardest part) how to write a good love scene. Because romances are character-driven stories, you need to understand your hero and heroine extremely well and develop them and their relationship throughout the story.

Thrillers on the other hand are primarily plot-driven. Planning is essential. All the various elements of the story have to be factored in at the right moment, from clues and red-herrings to action sequences and reveals. And this has to be done in such a way that the pace doesn’t falter, so the reader keeps turning those pages. No mean feat!

There are parallels. The lessons I learned (and am still learning) writing romance, are definitely applicable to thrillers. For instance, I found characterising my protagonist in my current thriller series fairly easy. His faults, his demons, his personal journey are all extremely well developed. The same goes for my antagonist. The depth of character that I’m able to reach in my thriller writing I attribute to the many rejection letters I got when I started writing romance. Those early submission editors saying my inner conflict wasn’t well enough thought out or my characters lacked emotional depth. Hurtful at the time, but beneficial in the long run. :-)

My latest novel, Personal Assistance (Entangled Ignite), is a romantic suspense set in a Middle Eastern kingdom on the brink of an Arab-spring type conflict. The heroine, an employee of the Arab prince, stumbles upon a highly classified document and is now on the run for her life. With the embassy shut, the only person who can help her escape is a disgraced SAS commander with a hidden agenda. But can she trust him to get her out, or will he sacrifice her for his own ends?

Personal Assistance is available now from Amazon and other online retailers. Read the first chapter here…

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Deadline Dramas

I think I need more practice at meeting deadlines and less children to look after at the same time. This is how handing in my RNA NWS report went this year:

Argh! It’s August! What the frig happened to the rest of 2014?

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Okay, don’t panic, you managed to send one chapter in last year when the twins were eight-weeks-old, this year will be a breeze.

Frantic read through and tidy up of the extra 30,000 words you’ve added. Not bad, not great, but will be good to get some feedback so prep to send a partial.

Ah. The printer isn’t set up at home. Smile sweetly at husband.

Printer is set up. Go, go, go!

 

 

 

 

 

Stop! This is so NOT what they mean by a partial!

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PANIC! Why did you leave this til now to sort out? Switch to plan B = Print at local library. Sort everything out whilst they nap then head there after lunch.

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Babies: Why would you choose to not nap today! (Teething I worked out later. Three new teeth cut between them!)

Drink/Snack/Calpol = now we’ll sleep, mummy!

Yeah! *Runs around house gathering sticky labels, envelopes, pens, the magic green form*

Whilst in panic mode you share with twitter your woes and that @SotonLibrary is your only hope. @SotonLibrary tweets back saying they are ready! (Yay, social media!)

Aim to get to library at 2 when it opens. Arrive half an hour later than hoped after lunch (not the relaxing kind, the kind where two cuties lob at least 50% of theirs on the floor) and delightful double nappy change.

The printer works! The staff entertain the babies. We might actually DO THIS!

Rush to post office and IT’S SENT WITH A DAY TO SPARE!

And collapse.

By jove, I don’t know how writers with real deadlines (not involving partials) manage. I suspect it may involve some of the Romaniac staples. Cake, chocolate, and alcohol. Am I right?

 

 

Let Them Eat Cake …

Let them eat cake….

(And we’ll have some too!)

JWJ spotlight hi rez

Jane Wenham-Jones, author of the revolutionary new eating plan 100 Ways to Fight the Flab – and still have wine and chocolate, explains why every successful diet still involves a slice of what you fancy…

No Cake for YOU….

If I told you that you could never have cake again, what would you immediately fancy? Yep, a great big lump of Victoria sponge, or a rich moist coffee and walnut gateau, or a gloriously chocolatey brownie, or perhaps a fresh cream éclair…(insert your own weakness).  You may not even like cake (you strange creature) but if your downfall is crisps (as mine is), pizza, or fresh crusty bread with lots of butter, and I suddenly tell you that if you want to lose weight, it has got to go – ? Well, you get my drift…

There are two big reasons why all diets/eating plans/changes of lifestyle (a lot of books like to avoid the word “diet” to try to pretend you can still eat things you like) eventually fail. And that is, that unless you have a will of iron and a very high tolerance to emotional and physical discomfort (in which case you are probably already as thin as a rake and will already have stopped reading this and be necking down the cake anyway) they all involve feeling either hungry or deprived or both. It is no wonder that nobody sticks to a diet for long and the overweight have a whole shelf load of books promising dramatic weight loss, have tried them all, and are still waddling round the house with a doughnut in each hand. Because it is pretty dispiriting for anyone to face a future in which there is a stark choice between waving goodbye to the notion of cake for the next twenty years or getting your jeans up past your knees.

And if you are a writer, and have already experienced the problem of Writer’s Bottom ( a phrase I take full credit for coining, in my 2007 book Wannabe a Writer? ), you may already be struggling with the zip. But if you can get round those twin problems of hunger and feeling that you’re missing out, you can be the weight you want for ever. And you’ll find it much easier to cope with either one of them, if you do have to, if you know that feeling will be short-lived. Weight loss is a question of attitude as much as what you put in your mouth – a case, if you like, of mind over large quantities of matter.

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So – you want cake? You have cake…. And you don’t put on weight afterwards: Here’s how.

1. Call it Lunch. I recently did just that. A friend had given me a huge slice of homemade mocha cake and it was just what I felt like. So I munched the lot. And did I feel guilty or concerned? I did not. Because  it is all about balance. The carbs were consumed early so there was loads of time to burn them off. In the afternoon I played tennis (I lost). I had grilled halloumi, with tomatoes, basil, and a huge crunchy salad for dinner (low carb), a few peanuts with my wine, instead of crisps (protein!), and a bit more dark chocolate (it just sort of rounded things off) and then, as I do when I have any inkling that the podge might be settling in, I went for a longer walk round the block before I hit the sack.

The net result was? My weight dropped slightly. I’d had: wine, chocolate, cake, bread, cheese, and nibbles. As well as essential vitamins and minerals, some green stuff, and tomatoes.

What’s not to like?

2. Eat Carrot cake and call it one of your five a day. Eat a carrot too. There is a theory that if you lived all day on carrots and champagne, you would get all the nutrients you need. This may be true (tho probably isn’t). All I know is that I would talk too much, think I could sing, and then fall over.

3. Eat a chilli pepper nextThe hotter the better. Chillies (http://100waystofighttheflab.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/hot-tip-no-1-a-chilli-a-day-keeps-a-lard-arse-at-bay/ )raise the metabolism and the more fiery they are, the greater the effect. Experts estimate that one can expect a 15% increase in calories burned for about two hours after eating a hot chilli sauce. (If you can face cake with chilli sauce – you’re laughing!)

4. Count its calories. If it’s shop-bought cake, it will say on the packet, if you’ve made it yourself you can do the maths, if it comes from that darling little shop you can’t resist, you can probably look up approx values on the internet. Then simply adjust round it. If you bought a cake at 2,450 calories, ate a slice every day for a week, plus 1200 calories of other foodstuffs spread over three meals – including fruit and veg – you would be perfectly healthy and lose weight. (Alternatively you could eat half the cake in one sitting, eat nothing else all day and take a vitamin pill.)

5. Enjoy it! Happy people look gorgeous whatever their shape, and skip through life with an extra zing. This in turn releases endorphins, raises the metabolism and helps burn the calories. So have your cake and eat it and if you do overdo things (a slice is fine, the entire eight inch sponge probably isn’t), some extra exercise and plenty of protein and veg will put things right tomorrow… Bon appétit!

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For more creative thinking on how to eat the things you like and still only need one airline seat, see http://100waystofighttheflab.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/express-newspaper-features-100-ways/ or bite the (fat-free) bullet and got straight to

http://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Ways-Fight-Flab-Chocolate/dp/1909520926/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com/

Many thanks for a fab, flab-fighting post, Jane.

 

 

 

 

Nine Essential Elements of Romance Fiction – Catherine LaRoche

NINE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF ROMANCE FICTION

Catherine LaRoche

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I spend a lot of time thinking about romance fiction.  My mom reads the books, and I picked up the love of the genre from her when I was a teenager.  She always had a tottering pile of novels beside her bed that I’d rummage through for something to borrow.  Now I write historical romances and, in my day job, I’m a college professor of gender studies and cultural studies.  For the past several years, I’ve included romance fiction in my teaching while I’ve been writing an academic book entitled Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture (forthcoming in mid-2015 from Indiana University Press).

My students choose romances from a big box that I bring into class and write responses on them.  We do cut-up exercises with the novels to create alternative storylines.  We write a collaborative online romance with scenes ranging from suspense to spicy erotica.  I’ve set up a romance lending library in my office; my eight-year old son decorated a poster for borrowers to write down comments about the novels they check out.  As I draft my academic book, I workshop chapters with the students in order to get feedback.

I’d like to invite similar feedback from readers here, on some of the book’s conclusions.  I propose that romance novels have nine essential elements.  (I’m playing off Dr. Pamela Regis’s work in her wonderful 2003 text A Natural History of the Romance Novel.)  What do you make of my list so far?  Do you agree or disagree?  Am I missing anything?  All comments welcome!

The nine central claims made by the romance narrative:

  1. It is hard to be alone. We are social animals. Most people need and want love, of some kind. Amid all the possibilities for love as philia (friendship) and agape (spiritual or selfless love), the culture often holds up eros or romantic partner love as an apex of all that love can be and do.
  2. It is a man’s world. Women generally have less power, fewer choices, and suffer from vulnerability and double standards. They often get stuck looking after men or being overlooked by men.
  3. Romance is a religion of love. Romance entails belief in the power of love as a positive orienting force. Love functions as religion, as that which has ultimate meaning in people’s lives.
  4. Romance involves risk. Love doesn’t always work out. Desire can be a source of personal knowledge and power but also of deception and danger. Romance fiction is the safe, imaginative play space to explore the meaning and shape of this landscape.
  5. Romance requires hard work. Baring the true self, making oneself vulnerable to another is hard. Giving up individuality for coupledom requires sacrifice.
  6. Romance facilitates healing. Partner love leads to maturity. Love heals all wounds. Love conquers all.
  7. Romance leads to great sex, especially for women. Women in romance novels are always sexually satisfied. Romance reading can connect women to their sexuality in positive way.
  8. Romance makes you happy. The problematic version of this claim is that you need to be in a romantic relationship for full happiness. Here, romance fiction can be oppressive if it mandates coupledom for everyone.
  9. Romance levels the playing field for women. The heroine always wins. By the end, she is happy, secure, well loved, sexually satisfied, and set up for a fulfilling life. The romance story is a woman-centred fantasy about how to make this man’s world work for her.

Further information about Catherine can be found here: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Catherine-LaRoche/407531852

and here: http://popularromanceproject.org/professors-writing-romance/

Thank you so much for the great blog, Catherine, and we look forward to reading your results.

 

In Training for Telford

Sleeping bag, for bedding in Debbie's summer house.

Sleeping bag, for bedding in Debbie’s summer house.

In Training for Telford

The Romaniacs are roving big style this weekend. We are off to Telford for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference, leaving our loved ones to defend our castles.

It’s a weekend packed with friends, fun, food, workshops, pitching of manuscripts and wine. Not necessarily in that order.

Some of us are hoping to make it to Romaniac Debbie’s house on Thursday, before booking into the conference centre on Friday. Some of us have already packed. Some of us have already bought the Prosecco.

It is going to be a fantastic weekend and we look forward to seeing lots of romantic novelists, editors, publishers and agents in Telford. And possibly everyone in the Midlands, as we wend our way there and back :-)

Prep for the weekend.

Prep for the weekend.

Here are some crucial items we’ll need for the weekend. Are you ready?

Tea towels and teaspoons. We usually have to ring Sue and ask her to bring emergency supplies.

Tea towels and teaspoons. We usually have to ring Sue and ask her to bring emergency supplies.

Always cake.

Always cake.

Music, coffee, and if pushed, fruit that hasn't been fermented.

Music, coffee, and if pushed, fruit that hasn’t been fermented or distilled.

Ready to go? Not yet. There are empty sections ...

Ready to go? Not yet. There are empty sections …

Don't forget the paracetamol.

And don’t forget the paracetamol.

You Googled WHAT? Part 2

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post on the search terms that led people to view The Romaniacs blog. It was interesting to say the least, it’s safe to say not much has changed! Once again I’m ignoring the common ones and sharing the top ten most random search terms.

1) Images of Romantic Handcuffs

Now is it me, or is that an oxymoron?

2) Garage flowers

And I thought the handcuffs were killing the romance.

3) trisha aunty sixboys video full

Erm…

4) email and text from boss end with a kiss

Ah the etiquette of kisses at the end of a text. I’ve told Laura off about lack of kisses before. Sounds like your boss should be told off for the opposite xxx

5) best four letter word

This sounds like a contest no four letter can win.

6) i love my twin daughters

Yeah, me too. Okay, this is in because I’m soppy.

7) i kiss my sister-in-law on the lips

Hmm… by accident? On purpose? Come on man, we need more info in your search term!

8) writers stories of struggle to get published

Oh yes, we’ve all been there, done that. Am yet to get a T-shirt.

9) hot & sexy images of hot sizzling & spicy girls

So you’ve seen our profile pictures. It’s true… we’re smoking!

10) sex.nic

I want to remove the dot. Sexnic. Some recreational fun followed by food. Food. Where did we put the cake?

Your Agony Aunt,

Catherine x

Write Behind You – Sarah Manning of The Agency Group

I’m delighted to welcome the very lovely Sarah Manning onto the blog today. Sarah is a Literary Agent’s Assistant to Juliet Mushens at The Agency Group and is here to give us insight into her role and some insider info on life in a literary agency. Pull up a chair, Sarah and help yourself to cake!

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Can you tell us a bit about your background prior to working at The Agency Group?

I read History at Durham University. With no real idea what career I wanted to pursue, but aware that I loved books, I luckily landed myself a job at Orion working for their Paperbacks Department. I also interned in script development at Amber Entertainment and worked as a reader for Island Pictures before happily arriving at The Agency Group.

How long have you been working with Juliet at The Agency Group, Sarah, and how did you come to apply for the job?

I joined The Agency Group back in October 2013 and the time has absolutely flown by. I first stumbled across Juliet’s name during our many editorial meetings while working at Orion. I was beginning to realise that there were many exciting careers within the publishing industry that I hadn’t been aware of straight out of university, and so I closely followed Juliet’s career – she was in her twenties, vibrant and her success was snowballing. I found her easy to identify with and I knew I could learn a lot from her. At the time I was on a temporary contract at Orion and so I took the initiative to contact Juliet and ask her advice on how to move my career forward in publishing. Six months down the line Juliet was looking for an assistant and it felt like everything was falling into place. During that time I’d built up my experience and I knew for certain the direction I wanted my career to take.

What’s the best part of the working day for you?

The best part of my working day is reading the full manuscripts that have been called in from the slush pile. I love the creative, editorial side of reading submissions and it is especially exciting when you stumble across something special. But even when a submission still needs more work I enjoy sharing my thoughts with Juliet. I learn a lot from this process and it is always interesting to see how our comments compare.

What are you reading for pleasure at the moment?

I have just finished reading Apple Tree Yard and opened The Little Stranger by Sarah Walters on the train this morning. Apple Tree Yard was suggested to me by Juliet and, unsurprisingly, it didn’t disappoint. With a complex female narrator, and tackling interesting issues about sexual assault, it is an incredibly compelling read. I’ll let you know how I get on with The Little Stranger – here’s to hoping it’s as dark and chilling as I expect.

Could you please tell us about a typical day at The Agency Group and describe your workspace?

My days are pretty varied but there are some things which need to be done regularly. Every day we will have contracts coming in and out of the office, and it’s my job to keep a track of them all. Juliet does her own foreign rights and so we have contracts issued from all over the world, and with no separate contracts department this is quite a big job! I also complete the tax forms for our authors and am the one chasing all the money. Unlike in other jobs I have previously had, I don’t see these tasks as tiresome administration because they are so closely tied to direct contact with our clients, and I’m learning so much about the ins and outs of the industry. Hopefully this will just make me an efficient agent sometime in the future! And then, after all the general office jobs, I will help Juliet with the slush pile.

Our office is lovely, especially now we are slowly filling the white walls with framed book covers. And of course there is an enormous tube poster for James Oswald’s Mclean series.

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Do you find you have a typical day or is each day different?

Each day is different working for Juliet and this is something I really appreciate about being her assistant. I am very lucky that I am welcome to sit in on all of Juliet’s meetings and so I find myself part of meetings with potential clients; existing authors; scouts and the list goes on!

Has anything surprised you about the job?

I was pleasantly surprised by just how fast-paced the working environment is here. There is always something going on and new deals being struck. It makes it very exciting to be a part of.

What was your dream job as a child?

I’m not entirely sure it would count as a job, but for most of my childhood I wanted to compete in the Olympics in synchronised swimming. Unfortunately, you can’t read books while upside down in the pool.

What’s your dream job in the future? Do you hope to become a full-time agent and build your own list?

When Juliet asked me where I’d like to be in five years’ time I replied, “your desk”. Well, perhaps not her actual desk, but one next door as a full-time agent would be lovely. My dream is to build a client list of my own with authors as varied and as exciting as those I get to work with now. My favourite aspect of the job is following authors from their slush pile submission through to their first deal, and championing debut authors is something I hope to take forward when establishing my own list.

Do you read the submissions that come in to Juliet’s slush pile – is this a job you share or do you both read promising submissions?

Juliet will read everything that comes into her slush pile and will decide which submissions to call in the full for. I will then read these full manuscripts alongside Juliet and we share our editorial comments. I absolutely love this process and, although the pile is often very large and somewhat daunting, it is always exciting when you begin reading a manuscript and realise you can’t put it down.

If you do read submissions, what would you love to find in the slush pile?

I have a weak spot for flawed, independent female characters that aren’t defined by the men around them. I would love to find an ‘Amy from Gone Girl’ type character placed in a historical setting: something that turns the male discourse of history on its head in a very modern way.

Who’s your favourite author / favourite book of all time?

Favourite author is a tricky one as, even if there is an author who I generally like the style of, it is always the story itself that I am most passionate about. A Thousand Splendid Suns is my go-to book and got me through my finals at university. There is something so magical about the strength of the characters despite the sadness that surrounds them, that no matter where I am it always manages to transport me. Plus, I’m a bit of a sucker for something that makes me cry!

Thank you so much, Sarah!