Beginning with a blank page, the challenge of the romance writer is to make love out of nothing. And if you write contemporary romance, it’s even tougher. Your characters are modern women, sometimes cynical and jaded by disappointing experiences with love, unlike the more traditional romance novel where the women are virgins, or relatively inexperienced. The idea that women such of those would fall easily and passionately in love isn’t so hard to believe. But sadly, I don’t write about those women. My heroines have lived a little bit and think they understand something about how the world works, and about men, and sex and love.
How do you make a woman like that convincingly fall in love on the page?
That’s where I focus when I write. I generally don’t spend much time on the chase, because I think the conflict in modern romance is not often in whether the guy gets the girl (or vice versa) but in whether or not they can make sexual conquest (a term I hate, incidentally, since women have long passed the pretense of needing to be convinced they’ll enjoy sex) evolve into something much deeper. Some writers make the love happen with lots of sex. Others do it by just telling you it happened.
How many times have you read a novel where the characters say they love each other but you can’t make yourself believe it? Where the author tells you they have passion for each other, but it doesn’t feel authentic? That’s the biggest struggle: making a believable connection leap off the pages without saying it too often and evoking a feeling without telling you too often that it’s there. I could probably write a book a month if I didn’t struggle with this aspect of storytelling as much as I do – getting plot and situations and descriptions of places down on a page doesn’t take me too long. But occasionally, I read over what I’ve written and that’s all I have – descriptions without emotion, efficient “telling” but not much else.
In Secret, my new book, out sometime this year, the plotline has finally come to me and much of it is already written. I know and understand the journey that the characters are taking. And I know something about the people they are. What I’m still working on is making the love out of nothing. Why one person falls in love with another is one of the great mysteries of life, so putting that into words is tough to do. So my question to you is this: when you think about your favorite romance novels of all time wasn’t that a big part of it? That the author was great at making love out of nothing?