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Archive for the tag “Birdsong”

Is romance on the rise?

Over the last couple of years there has been a significant rise in sales of romantic novels. For a while the industry was puzzled, but gradually the reason has become clear. With the advent of Kindles and other eReaders people have suddenly found themselves able to read romantic fiction without detection. Gone are the days when you had to conceal your Mills&Boon in the pages of War and Peace in case your boss caught you reading in your lunch break. Now you can upload romances to your heart’s content (as long as you also have The Catcher in the Rye handy to flip over to when someone asks what you are reading!) and eRomance sales have consequently boomed. 

So why are we so shy about our love of romantic fiction? Perhaps it is partly because the so called trashy romances gave the genre a bad name. But there’s also plenty of badly written crime fiction around and that hasn’t given the crime genre a bad name. Of course the British literati have turned their noses up at romance for years, often refusing even to acknowledge it as an important element in the popularity of certain ‘literary’ novels. Runaway bestsellers such as Birdsong and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin are praised by literary critics for the quality of the writing, the historical accuracy and powerful characterisation, but very few praise them for including a cracking love story! 

And why shouldn’t we relish a good romantic read? They are just as difficult to write. What is any novel after all but a means to escape the real world and lose ourselves in an exploration of make-believe, whether it be cliff top chases, gun battles, gruesome murders, ancient history, psychology, fantasy, science fiction or human relationships? Whether we like to admit it or not, romance, in one form or another, plays a huge part in our lives. We are emotional beings and it’s not surprising that we seek out novels that allow us to explore our feelings and fantasies. What is more surprising is that we still feel the need to have The Catcher in the Rye on standby! 

In my next blog I will outline some of my all time favourite romantic reads, but in the meantime, especially as Valentine’s Day is approaching, I encourage you to take your courage in your hands and lose yourself in a romantic novel.

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Creating a hero that women will love

 As an author I’m often asked how I create my characters, are they based on real people or do I make them up.  The truth is that it is a mixture, I make them up but they often have elements drawn from people I know, or have known. My aim, like all novelists, is to to invent characters that readers can believe in. But as I am launching a romantic novel, The Art of Loving, for Valentine’s Day, I don’t just want people believing in my characters, I want them to fall in love with them too. Especially with my hero. 

So what qualities do we look for in a romantic hero?  Traditionally, of course, tall dark and handsome is the benchmark, arrogant comes in handy, rich with a nice house or car is always a bonus, intelligent and quick with words pretty obligatory. But not always. Heathcliff after all wasn’t much good with words, Captain Corelli isn’t rich and doesn’t drive at all, and it has to be admitted (reluctantly) that Jack Bauer is short and fair. For me it’s not just the looks, the cars and the arrogance, although they clearly help. It is much more than that. Those are just surface attributes. Deep character is the key, and that comes from making the character believable, and that means human. 

For readers to believe in characters, those character have to seem like people we might possibly one day meet, not paragons, however gorgeous, but imperfect with endearing (or not so endearing) quirks and foibles.  My hero of The Art of Loving, Max Dreiecke von Hardtwald, has, by any standard, a filthy temper, but he is also very affectionate towards his dying aunt. He drives (his Porsche) far too fast but he also suffers from jetlag. He is infuriated by inefficiency and is furious with himself for falling in love with the (endearingly) scatty heroine. Like me, female readers seem to find him irresistible, despite these foibles – so much so that my husband (clearly green with envy) has started a ‘Boot Max Dreiecke von Hardtwald out of fiction campaign’! 

So, British men, it seems as though you can be as moody and temperamental as you want, but as long as you are affectionate towards your old aunt, women will still fall in love with you.

 

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