Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is My Romance too Sweet for You?

Simple Love

Since writing ‘The Apple Tree’, I have been asked several times why I don’t include erotic content in my stories. “That’s what sells books these days” some tell me, and: “It’s what readers want!” Hmm…I wonder about that. One of the most enduringly successful romantic novelists ever does not even describe a kiss between hero and heroine in her novels. At best the hero offers a well-covered arm for the heroine to lean on as they walk (in other company of course!) But the reader is never left in any doubt about the depth of feeling between the two, because the author has taken us into their minds and allowed us to share their thoughts and emotions. So do readers really want their romances to be liberally peppered with erotica?

I was 11 when I first read Jane Austen. I remember because a cousin gave me a copy of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ for my birthday but then borrowed it immediately to finish reading it (as she had opened it and started reading it on the long walk to my house). She was older than me, so I couldn’t argue and I thought, well it must be good if she can’t wait to finish reading it.

‘Pride & Prejudice’ informed all my ideas about romance. I may have been too young to truly appreciate Austen’s wit, but I do remember smiling a bit, shedding an occasional tear and sighing quite profoundly when things finally worked out between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. I was already a budding novelist by then, of course, copiously filling up cheap exercise books with my literary masterpieces, but after Discovering Jane and graduating from ‘Anne of Green Gables’ to The Classics, I had to put my own literary aspirations aside for a couple of years while I practically moved my bed into the local public library to catch up on my reading. I was hooked!

Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, Emma and Mr Knightley, Catherine and Heathcliff, Jane and Mr Rochester…shall I go on? These characters felt intense romantic emotion for each other and not once did they have to tear off each other’s clothes in order to prove that. Of course the social mores were different and such writing – especially by women - would never have been countenanced, let alone published, but the fact is that these novels are still considered powerfully romantic by modern readers.
Although I wrinkle my nose a bit at the name of the category ‘sweet romance’, this is what many readers today still enjoy. They want the courtship and the emotional intensity, without needing the graphic description of what in the vast majority of cases, takes place in private and behind closed doors. And that suits me fine. I would no more dream of spying on a couple making love than I would of going to live on the moon.

Of course there’s every possibility that Jane Austen might today have enjoyed writing erotic romance and have her name first on the list for the next moon-trek, but I’d be very sad to think that. And in the meantime, I will continue to focus on creating character-driven stories, and an interesting (hopefully) plot that enables me to put them through the emotional mangle before they close their bedroom door on us and bid us goodbye.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year - Please join me at the party

The 'Goals versus Resolutions' interview for Book Brew was great fun! Here are some of the questions I was asked:

CTBB: Do you favor resolutions, goals or just say phooey on it all??

Me: I admire people who make and keep resolutions, so no I don’t say ‘phooey’ – I just sigh and wish I had a bit more will-power 

CCBB: What’s your rationale for this choice?

Me: Years of making and breaking rashly-considered resolutions!

CCBB: Will you share with us something that your choice helped you accomplish, one that went down in flames, or the top one on your list this year?

Me: Two years ago I gave up teaching at Christmas. I took a huge gamble but decided that I owed it to myself to make my writing work for me. But that also meant coming to terms with the confusing world of tweeting and blogging and exposing yourself on Facebook etc. It’s only now when I communicate with friends who have no idea what I’m talking about that I realize just how far I’ve come! (Though sometimes I still feel like breaking down and crying in confusion and defeat).

CCBB: What’s the weather like where you are today? If you could wrinkle your nose or wave a magic wand would you still be there or somewhere else in this amazing world?

Me: Incredibly cold today in the UK. We missed out on a white Christmas, but I suspect we might have a white New Year. Would I be anywhere else in the world, though? Having lived abroad for several years, I’d have to click my heels and say: ‘There’s no place like home.’

CCBB: Are you a chronic packrat, a travel-light-in-life devotee or in between?

Me: Oh no! I really don’t want to be a packrat, but I fear I might be…secretly. THAT’S my New Year Resolution!! I will clear my clutter. Thank you so much for the inspiration!