I presented an author talk on Friday The Art of Publishing a Romance and it was lots of fun and I think the audience enjoyed it too.
Then we came to the questions and answer session and the first question was the one that all authors expect and at times dread.
‘Where do you get your ideas?’
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? If only we could say ‘well, I pop down to the ideas store and see what they have saved for me.’ Wouldn’t that be fabulous? A store of ideas curated just for you.
So how do you explain the creative process, or more specifcially ,your own creative process?
For me it is partly research, looking at things that interest me, but equally it could be daydreaming..That aimless, letting your mind run free. It could be a tv program that I watched ,or a snippet of conversation I heard.
Ages ago I asked New York Time Bestselling author Natasha Lester a similar question.
‘How do you know you have enough of a topic to make a novel?’
Her reply really resonated with me.M/s Lester told me that she took two unrelated ideas and combined them. Four very successful books later, her latest being The Paris Seamstress AKA The Paris Orphan in the US I know she has a winning formula.
It followed that advice when I combined ice dancing and Norway with a time slip romance with a Viking age past that led to my book Fire & Ice.
So, ideas need to permeate, they need to resonate and then suddenly you realise that you have the right idea and that you are eager to write.
You may not have heard the term Vanity Publishers and they themselves don’t advertise as such, but they are out there and are a danger to both your self-esteem and your bank account.
What are vanity publishers and how do they differ from hybrid or assisted self – publishers?
Quality Control- is totally unselective with vanity publishers because their business model isn’t about the quality of your writing or its saleability. That doesn’t matter as a vanity publisher would happily publish your shopping list and tell you it was great if you paid them. They often approach you directly and you think you have hit gold. How do they find you? Maybe you won a contest or signed up for a course or a newsletter.
I personally signed up for a free writing course, a week of writing prompts and interaction with the course leader. She was a personable and engaging personality. The course was interesting, and some exercises worked, but then the hard sell began. There was a contest for a mentoring spot. An ‘associate’ called me to say that unfortunately I’d not won, but I had placed high, and I had so much potential. They could offer me a spot at a reduced price of $3,500. I politely declined saying that while I was sure it was an excellent opportunity it was way out of my budget and comfort zone.
It didn’t end there. There were a couple more phone calls, a blend of flattery –‘you have so much going for you,’ to warnings, ‘time is running out,’ and ‘we can’t hold a spot for you much longer.’ The price was reduced to $2000, and it was suggested that maybe I had savings or could take out a loan. Warning bells ringing loud and clear I thanked them but still said ‘ no’.Their final call offered me the whole course for $ 397. They said it was bargain I couldn’t refuse. But I did refuse, and I haven’t heard from them since.
This is the kind of intense pressure which encourages people to sign up with a vanity publisher. Vanity publishing is all about selling you, the writer, a service at inflated costs. As well as persuading you to buy tons of copies of your book. They don’t need to bother with marketing your book, because they made their money from you. Getting out and promoting the book is up to you. They may offer to put the book up on Amazon, but you can do that yourself if you self- published.
If you can, check out other books from the publisher, what’s the quality like? Also, be careful as their contract may take away your copyright and author rights. Buyer beware! Contact their authors and ask about their publishing experience.
The American Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association keep an updated list of publishers to beware of- it doesn’t hurt to go online to check it. Even if you simply do an internet search for Vanity publishers you will find that a heap of names come up.
Hybrid and subsidised publishing are legitimate and do charge you for partial costs but as always you need to be careful and compare costings and even research the company name to check complaints about them.
As always if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is! Save your dollars and your peace of mind by doing a little checking.
The classic definer of a love story is the film Love Story starring Ali Mc Graw and Ryan O’ Neal. It is based on the popular book by Erich Segal. It is a real tearjerker, with the beautiful young couple parted by death. It is a tragedy and almost all of the love stories considered great have sad or tragic endings.
Here are some examples taken from films and books. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, filmed and updated as West Side Story.Othello. More recently Iain Mc Ewan’s Atonement, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.JoJo Moyes Me Before You, M.C Steadman’s The Light Between Oceans. And Cecelia Ahern’s Ps. I Love you, and of course ,my all-time favourite Casablanca.
Romances are different- they promise a reading experience or viewing experience that focuses primarily on the relationship between the couple or as Romance Writers of America says, “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”
Or in simpler terms you are pretty much promised a happy ending and if not a happy ever after, at least the reader gets the happy for now ending.So if we know the ending why do we read romance?
We read for the journey, for the twists and turns of the relationship. A happy ending may be promised but getting there is half the fun. Who doesn’t love a flawed hero or heroine? Or beautiful couple too blind to see that they are destined for each other? Real-life can be dull and bland, but romances are exciting, sexy and fun. It’s far safer to have a fictional lover than a real one. Romance writers are endlessly inventive and contrive new ways for couples to meet and fall in love.
Examples of romances are Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and of course, it’s spin off’s Bridget Jones’ sDiary by Helen Fielding and the films Pride andPrejudice and Bride and Prejudice as well as the Bridget Jones trilogy of films. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a great read and has been filmed several times The fairy tales Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty.
Some romance movies are Romancing the Stone, Breakfast at Tiffany’s( but not the book which ends differently) Moonstruck, Brokeback Mountain( a guy to guy romance) Ella Enchanted and a real oldie but a goodie It Happened One Night.Another of my favourite films Love Actually spans both genres as it has both love stories with sad ending and romances with happy ones.
Why do you read romance and who are your favourite authors? Let me know!
Many people are unsure of the difference between a love story and a romance. So often what we think of as romances are actually love stories or stories with love story elements
I began to realise this when I watched that great movie Casablanca, it has stood the test of time, and many people reference it as one of their favourite films. It was one of my parents and now it is one of mine. The film was made in 1942- when the outcome of the war was uncertain.it is often referred to as a romantic drama but in my opinion, it is a love story.
The dialogue is crisp and often witty, ( written mostly by the Epstein brothers) the music haunting ( As Time Goes By) but most of all its the way the story plays out that gets our pulses racing. Rick ( Humphrey Bogart)loves Ilsa,( Ingrid Bergman ) Ilsa loves Rick, they met in Paris the most romantic of cities. Unknown to Rick Ilsa is married to Victor Laszlo( Paul Henreid), a resistance leader, who she believes is dead. Rick waits for Ilsa at the Paris railway station as promised as the Germans enter Paris, but Ilsa never arrives. Rick escapes and ends up running a bar in Morocco. It’s a shady place where expats, smugglers, locals and Germans all socialise. Worldly wise and cynical Rick is shocked when Ilsa who is with Lazlo asks Sam to play ‘As time goes by’ a song Rick never wanted to hear again. He storms up to Sam and sees Ilsa. Laszlo and she are trying to get to Lisbon but need visas and Rick’s is the place to get them.
Will Rick allow the woman he loves to leave again? Has she stopped loving him, was it all a lie? She wants to be with him, but Laszlo loves her too and would be devastated to lose her. After a night when Rick & Ilsa may or may not have got back together,(unclear thanks to US censorship at the time.) it’s up to the audience to decide. Will Rick and Ilsa be together as he has led her to believe? In the final scenes at the airport, Rick has the names Mr & Mrs Victor Laszlo written onto the visa. Will he walk off with Ilsa leaving Laszlo to his likely fate? He gives Laszlo the visas and tells Ilsa ‘We’ll always have Paris’ and that Laszlo and she are fighting for a much greater cause and if she left with Rick, she would always regret it.
With its bittersweet ending, Casablanca is a love story. If it was a romance the relationship of Rick and Ilsa would be centre stage to the exclusion of all else and they would somehow end up ‘happily ever after.’
While the romantics might wish it, it would be a far less compelling piece of cinema and would not appeal to our higher natures in the same way.
While I would have loved to share images from the film I could not breach copyright. You can easily find them online anyway.
Other love stories are Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, Gone with the Wind is historical drama with a love story element as is the film Titanic.
Currently, I am writing romance and romance comes with the promise of a ‘happily ever after’ or at least ‘ happy for now’. This isn’t to say that a romance cannot have problems and complexities, indeed it should, but to say that in a romantic story love must always triumph.
Attending the Rockingham Writers Conference this weekend, I thought what a gregarious and chatty crowd we were. So different from the stereotypical introverted, social outcasts we are supposed to be.
Individually these were people who admitted to self-doubt, imposter syndrome, insecurity, fear of failure and fear of success.
That day though, all that was put aside, and we had a ball, laughed and talked mingled, shared expertise and gossip. I left the conference buoyed with confidence and thrilled with my writer tribe.
Then I began to wonder what a group of writers was called. I couldn’t recall an official term, so I did an internet search. I got ‘a worship of writers. ’ To me, that seemed more fitting for priests, so I began to think of collective nouns for writers.
Here are some I liked
A chapter of writers.
A procrastination of writers
A draft of writers
An insecurity of writers
An imagination of writers
A scribble of writers
A cacophony of writers
A gossip of writers
A journal of writers.
Do you have a favourite term for a group of writers?
Many of the writers I know are a mass of contradictions, it left me wondering if this was an important part of a writer’s personality.
The majority admit to being Shy or even Not Very Social and then they go out a give a presentation or an author talk or if you meet them at a writers’ convention and can’t get them to shut up! The lonely Introvert turns into a Show Pony. I myself know I am guilty of this.
A majority of writers suffer from Self-doubt and Insecurity. Along with other creative types, many will admit to suffering from Imposter Syndrome. At times this manifests as a bout of Crippling Insecurity with the fear of not being good enough accomplished enough. talented enough.
In spite of that, most managed to overcome it and submit their work to a critique partner, or even a contest or publisher. If the work is accepted, after the initial rush of pride or satisfaction, it’s likely that self-doubt will surface once again. Yet some compulsion drives us on, to write more, to try again to try and fail, to try and succeed, to improve.
So what my fellow writers also have is courage, the courage to express themselves. To let their work speak for them, to expose their ideas to the judgement of others. My fellow writers, I salute you for your bravery!
Who doesn’t remember the fun of blowing the seeds away from the seed head of a dandelion clock? Sometimes they would all fly free; one huge puff of air and they’d be gone. At other times they clung tenaciously, requiring more effort to dislodge them.
Several writing events are on my horizon, author talks and workshops and a writer’s conference. I am inspired by the dandelion clock in my belief that writers are stronger together. There is strength in numbers. Much like the seed head holds its shape, because they are together.
When a writer gives a talk -they are sharing their knowledge, saying what worked for them, their processes. Learning about other writers, their joys and difficulties can inspire us as writers. To try something different, to do more, to do less.
A writers’ conference is a great example individual writers, coming together to exchange ideas, learn new skills and laugh and share information. They will drift apart at the end of the conference much like the winged dandelion pods. But all will have benefited from being part of the collective. Maybe they made a new contact, leant a new skill or found a solution to a sticky writing problem.
In our writer’s ‘clusters’ we are in a space which allows us the freedom to express ourselves. We are among friends, ones who know how difficult it can be to find the right words.
For the past three weeks I have been without an internet connection, which failed and I had to get it fixed.At the same time my desktop computer crashed in an unexpected additonal blow.
While I waited I reflected on how helpless and isolated I felt. I was missing that oh so vital sense of connection. No emails, no Facebook, no easy fact checking.
So Hello again! It’s good to be back, the time away has given me more reading time and also a time to think about writing the sequel to my book
This reflective time helped me connect with the Viking characters in my book Fire & Ice. They lived quite isolated lives.Typically Vikings had a ‘raiding season’ which went from April to October, after which the seas were deemed too dangerous.So a man could be away from home and out of reach for all that time.
Imagine having no contact with loved ones for six or seven months at a time. It reinforced to me the fact that Viking women were tough and expected to cope on their own.I also found out that if male Viking did not return home at least once every three years, his wife had the choice to divorce him for desertion,
In the past two years, I’ve grown and changed as a writer. Now its time for this blog to reflect that too. All the old posts will still be there, but in future, I will be concentrating on what I write, and what inspired me to write it. From time to time I will post about what I am reading. There will be a research section for those of you, who like me like their facts to be accurate. Along the way, I will be happy to answer your questions.
So from now, the focus will be more on the writing process, ice dancing, Bergen in Norway. Vikings and Viking beliefs.