This might not seem like a big deal. After all, there are millions of the things.
But I’m different.
You see, my father is a psychiatrist. Think Sigmund Freud. Think lying on a couch and talking about your earliest memories. Think Oedipus complex. Yes, that’s the story where the son kills the father and marries the mother then goes blind.
And some people think romance novels have unbelievable, sex-driven plots. Sheesh.
Anyway, While other romance writers I know have fathers that say things like, “I am NEVER going to read one of your books unless you tear out the sex pages, let’s just get that straight right now.” My father says things like, “Did you realize that the hero in your last book is left-handed. Like ME?”
Ugh. My father is NOT supposed to read the sex scenes! How else would he have known my hero was left-handed? That only comes up when he so adroitly uses his left hand to stroke…oh, well, you get the picture.
Let’s get it straight right here that just because my heroine in my book is an uptight gypsy who is trying to deny the wildness that is in her blood, does not mean that I’m an uptight woman trying to deny my wildness. Try telling that to my father.
This book, my debut novel, Make Me a Match, is based on the idea that every person on this earth really does have One True Love, and there’s a gypsy who can tell you his name. Now this sounds fun, right? Sexy, no? My Dad thinks it sounds like I need therapy—quick! And the expensive kind that goes on for years and years.
But my problems don’t stop with my father. No. Meet my father-in-law. He’s a LITERATURE professor. The man has written books on Dostoevsky, for heaven’s sake. That’s right, his last name—now my last name too—is going on a book with a dancing gypsy on the cover. Make Me a Match will be right next to Deconstructing Dostoevsky books on the shelf at Wal-Mart—make sure you don’t grab the wrong one!
Okay, I don’t actually know what his book is called. Because I don’t torture him by going out and actually reading it. (Plus, I don’t think there are any sex scenes…) But my father-in-law, like my father, told me that he’s planning on reading Make Me a Match—sex scenes and all. He says things like, “You wrote a romance novel with a gypsy twist? That’s wonderful! Evidence of the breakdowns of the sub-genres is a burgeoning existential dilemma! I can’t wait!”
Okay, so that didn’t make any sense, but you get the point: he ALSO is going to READ all of it.
Ugh again. This is not supposed to be happening. I did not write that scene where the heroine discovers the hero’s secret scar on—well, you get the point. I did not write that for the eyes of my father and father-in-law!
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t use a pen name. You know, those great author names like Dixie Rose? (I’d have to be Yankee Dandelion with my gardening skills.) Or the pack of authors who want to be next to Norah Roberts on the shelf and call themselves Morah Roberrats. (What, they thought you might not notice the difference?) Well, I didn’t think that my father and father-in-law would actually READ my books. After all, women read romance novels, not men. Men are supposed to scoff at them and then go out and shoot deer while drinking beer and fixing the car.
It’s not like my husband reads my books. He says things like, “They had sex how many times in an hour? Um, I’m going out to shoot some deer and fix the car. We got any beer?”
I suppose I could write non-sexy books. The trouble is, I have small children. I mean, if I don’t write sex, there is no sex in my life. (Just kidding, honey. Sort of.) But really, I love romance. And I love writing the sexy stuff. And I know most people love to read it.
I just wish a few of them (like my father and father-in-law!) would stick with crime novels.
At least my five-year-old son can’t read yet.
Yipes, I think I better go turn off Sesame Street. They’re already up to the letter “E”!
If you’re a parent who spends a lot of time in playgrounds pushing swings or in lobbies of dance academies retying tap shoes (again), have I got an idea for you: write a romance novel.
Sound crazy? The fact is, when your children are small it is the perfect time to start a writing career in one of the highest-selling genres out there (50% of all paperbacks sold are romance novels). And that’s not just because they can’t read the sex scenes yet. Here’s why you should consider writing a romance:
You’re really, really, really bored. Face it, if you have to sit through another babygroup talking about the merits of $400 strollers you’re going to tear out your hair. But when you start writing, the most important thing you’re going to do is join a writing group. Now. Immediately. Even before you put one word on the page. These groups will consist of women who may or may not have kids. It won’t matter. Because you’re not going to talk about them (imagine!). You’re going to talk about writing. You can even make your own group out of the cool moms you know—just mention your plan and you won’t believe how many women feel they have a novel inside them struggling to get out. (Don’t worry, it’s way easier than childbirth, believe me.)
You have exactly the right amount of time to write. Really. Most fiction writers write for only two to three hours a day. Much more than that makes even the most intrepid writers loopy. So if you have an infant who naps, or a dance class you sit outside of, or two hours of pre-school free time, you’re golden. Most of the effort of writing has to do with thinking. What should happen? How should I describe his eyes? What is wrong with this scene? Wouldn’t you like something to think about when you’re driving the carpool besides what to make for dinner?
Maybe you’re looking for a way to work and stay home Writers work from home. It’s that simple. I worked in advertising for fifteen years before I had my kids, and I was sure I’d go right back as soon as they were in school. Until I wasn’t sure any more. I wanted a way to stay home and make money. Writing is it. Granted, it takes time to sell a novel. And even more time to actually make decent money at it, but when you do, you have a job most moms would kill for.
Romance is the genre that is perfect for harried mothers You may be the next Ernest Hemingway, but believe me, Ernest didn’t write Old Man and the Sea while spending ten hours a day with small children. Leave the literary stuff for when your kids are grown and you have the braincells to sweat the grand themes. Now, you need a little fun. I only had two rules when I started writing: there wouldn’t be any kids in my books, and the heroines wouldn’t have barf stains on their shoulders that they didn’t know about. Ah, the fantasy.
So, how do you get started?
First, write. Promise yourself you’ll write 100 words a day. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. Just get the juices flowing. Words on a page. Write on a yellow legal pad in the sandbox. On your laptop at Starbucks while your kid disgorges the napkin dispenser. Just get it done.
Second, read. Figure out what you like and study those books closely. Also, read writing books. Steven King’s On Writing is amazing. Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a personal favorite. Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, Conflict is a romance writer’s classic and the most important book you’ll ever read on writing.
Third, join writing groups. Get on the web and search “RWA.” That’s Romance Writers of America. They have chapters in every state in the country, and most will let you sit in on a few free meetings until you get your bearings. These women are incredibly talented, they love their genre, and they want to help. Why? Because they’re women (yes, they’re mostly women) who have been where you are now. Go to your local library and check the bulletin boards for writing groups. Ask your friends. If you’re serious about getting published, this will be the most important thing you’ll do.
Fourth, have fun. Remember, that writing a romance novel should be fun. Whether you’re writing a “sweet” novel (no sex), and “inspirational” (really, no sex!), or a steamy “romantica” you should do it because you like to do it. After all, you do enough stuff for other people. This should be for you.