Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Misplaced Treasures

Yesterday I was in my closet - you just never know where I'll turn up - and I found a case of book from my keeper shelf. Well, in this case I guess I'd call it a Keeper Closet because I have so many Keepers that it would take an entire room to display them all.

So who was in my Keeper box? Old Sharon Sala including the first McCall titles, three Debbie Macomber titles and...Elizabeth Elliott. I knew EE from the CompuServe LitForum back in the mid nineties. She wrote three books, Warlord, Betrothed and Scoundrel, then vanished. If I remember correctly, there was an illness in her family or something of that nature. If you can find these three books - BUY THEM. They are beautifully written medieval historicals that combine romance with some of the grit from those times. I love medieval titles and just seeing these little gems again made me smile.

It also caused me to remember why I started writing in the first place. I love everything about romance novels. The adventure of finding love, the meshing of two lives, the trials and the victories and most of all, overcoming whatever obstacles face them.

Happy sigh.

As I poured through my misplaced treasures - you should've seen me just running my hands over my beloved books and grinning like a fool - and I started thinking about how much romance novels have changed over the past 15 years. When I started writing in the ninties, erotic romance was the exception not the rule. The only authors writing ER was Susan Johnson, Thea Devine and Bertrice Small. I've always written ER starting with my first book, One With The Hunger. In reading it now, you'd probably think it was tame but back then...girllll....I got so much crap for that knife scene. Reviewers said I was glorifying violence against women, that I wrote kink....blah blah blah.

In ER now if the couple doesn't use some sort of toy then people don't think its hot enough. Spanking or menage rules the day along with GLBT (specifically m/m) and straight sex (no kink) seems to have faded into the background. What's going on here? I love ER or I wouldn't write it. But when I started looking through my Keepers (and I have hundreds) not a single one was an ER title. Somewhere I have my stack of early Susan Johnson's - it was her books that convinced me it was okay to not only write the naughty stuff but to enjoy it too.

But romance isn't about SEX. Can you believe it - I said that and the sky didn't fall. Who knew? :) Sarcasm is the next hot accessory in fashion...

Sex is certainly a component, but it isn't the end all be all of a romance novel. More and more I'm seeing books that are high in sex and low in plot or the 'sex as plot' books. When did the character arc turn into a guideline rather than the rule? I like sexy books, but none of my keepers are the hot stuff. Why? Because good sex doesn't equate to a solid, lasting relationship. Would you love your spouse any less if they couldn't have sex?

Looking at my career, in general, my writing has become hotter and hotter. I never write anything that I don't love, period. But in working on my latest project, I caught myself looking for ways to inject more heat in to the manuscript. The plotline does lend itself to being very sexy but love scenes should work to move the plot forward - not for titilation. Love scenes should explore character and work to cement the bond between the characters not to increase the sex count. The interesting thing is I couldn't figure out why the book was giving me fits. I was fighting writing it, it felt so forced and just plain wrong. Yes, writers do get sucked into trying to write to the market. I've seen it happen many times and it sa great way to kill a career. If you don't write what you love, you will burn out pretty fast.

My solution? I emailed my editor to ask for more time and she agreed because she's a goddess. :) I then went back to the manuscript and tore it in half - three weeks worth of work now gone. But its okay, is what the book needed. The last thing I want is to write something that not only cheats the readers but also the characters. I love, love, love romance novels and in finding that box I now remember WHAT it is I loved and why I started writing.

So what books are in my Keeper box?
Sharon Sala - Chance McCall, Queen
Dinah McCall - Jackson Rule, Dreamcatcher, Tallchief
Katherine Kinglsey - No Sweeter Heaven
Elizabeth Elliott - Soundrel, Warlord, Betrothed
Robyn Carr - The House on Olive Street


Carolan Ivey said...

A Walk on the Wild Side - Kathleen Korbel
Exile's End, Cherokee Thunder, and Miss Emmaline and the Archangel - Rachel Lee
Reason to Believe - Kathleen Eagle
MacKenzie's Mountain - Linda Howard
A Rose in Winter - Kathleen Woodiwiss

J.C. Wilder said...

I see you've been in your closet too. :)

Carolan Ivey said...

My basement. :)