This week, we’d like to put a spotlight on a genre we love in our office (as well as one that our agents are actively seeking) – romance! Whether you’re a dedicated reader or a romance newbie, unsure of where to start in a sea of covers featuring shirtless men, this post is your Romance 101. If you are someone who likes to inject a bit of romance into their everyday life with pheromones and romantic gestures, then you probably have a longing for great romance novels but find it hard to pick up ones that suit your specific needs, and trust us, there are MANY out there. So read on for what makes all those love stories, from sweet to steamy, so irresistible and hopefully you’ll be able to find something that piques your interest.
Weighing in here are our very own Shira Hoffman (who is looking for new romance projects to take on) and Alecia Douglas, who is the most voracious romance reader in our office. We also have four of our brilliant authors, Teri Wilson (author of Unleashing Mr. Darcy and Unmasking Juliet), contemporary suspense author Rachel Grant (Concrete Evidence and Body of Evidence), romance author Cheryl O’Donovan, and young adult author Erica Chapman, to weigh in on the YA side of things. Without further ado:
What Draws You to Romance?
Teri: I write romance because I love the genre so much. I love the optimism and hope of romance.
Rachel: Romance is my favorite genre to read. I want the chemistry, the intensity, the emotion that, for me, is missing when I read mysteries and thrillers that lack a romance thread.
Shira: When considering a romance project, chemistry is absolutely key, the sexual tension needs to be high even if the project is more sweet than steamy. A strong hook is also really helpful, as with all projects, but the characters are key since romance is all about the feeling of falling in love. If I don’t swoon, neither will readers!
Cheryl: Oh, shoot, I like ‘em all, historicals, (“Flowers from the Storm” – swoon!), contemporaries, paranormals, even horror – I’m a “Walking Dead” fan. Yet I love Francine Rivers, too, like “Redeeming Love.” Romances with staying power usually have an iconic, one-of-a-kind hero – the Rhetts and Rochesters.
Alecia: I want to say that my first title that made me fall in love with the genre was HONEY MOON by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I took the book from my aunt back in the late 80’s early 90’s. Recalled loving how Honey overcame all her haters!! Missing the book because I didn’t read it ten times. This is all before I started to keep all my favorites.
Erica: For me, a good YA romance is all about keeping us hooked by suspending all the pivotal moments. The kiss, the declaration of love, the fall-out, the make-up. The near-miss kiss is one of the most powerful weapons a YA author has in their arsenal… Most of all, and this is most important, don’t give us what we want right away!
What Makes a Great Romance?
Alecia: A happy ending! If the couple does not end up together by the end to the book, or the relationship does not continue throughout the series I get very upset. I found out how upset I would get after reading Judy Blume’s book Forever .
Teri: Emotion. A great romance really makes you feel all the feels. It makes you cry both happy and sad tears. I also think witty dialogue is important.
Cheryl: That the leads struggle and aren’t cardboard perfect. I love those big whopper endings, like “Jerry Maguire,” and “you complete me,” or Bradley Cooper chasing Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Or the pelting rain at the end of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” as they embrace and Cat’s meowing between them.
Rachel: I write romantic suspense, and my answer is different for suspense than it would be for a straight contemporary romance. For me, the most exciting dynamic to have in a romantic suspense is when the conflict between the characters is integral to the mystery storyline – and the bigger the conflict the better. For me, romance needs that push-pull of intense attraction warring with strong internal and external conflict.
How About Our Hero and Heroine?
Shira: I look for complex characters that I can relate to and/or fall in love with.
Teri: I love it when a hero and heroine really go toe to toe. Oh, and for sure a strong heroine.
Cheryl: As the daughter of an alpha male, (and married to a hybrid Alpha), my ideal hero is unapologetically masculine, a risk-taker. He’s infuriating, exciting and direct. He rattles the pretentious and has a killer wit. My heroines aren’t princesses, but worker bees.
Alecia: I don’t have an ideal hero and heroine because as I get older they keep changing! One minute you want the strong, silent types for the guys and the next time it’s the take-charge guy. For the gals, it all depends on where I am in my personal growth and what women are like now.
Toughest Part of Writing a Romance?
Teri: The thing that I struggle with the most is plot. I’m very inspired by traveling to new places. So I always start with a setting. Next, I create the characters. I always have a list of interesting people who I want to write about. I write dialogue for them sometimes, snappy retorts, before I even know where the plot is going. Then I just have to figure out what they’re going to do with one another in this fabulous place.
Cheryl: Fresh stories and characters. After awhile, reading some romances leads to that eerie “Groundhog Day” sensation. I blink a few times, and scratch my head. “Huh. Weren’t her eyes a beguiling violet color in the last romance I read?” So my quest – if you want to call it that — is to write fresh characters who are real. A big part of that is making the male POV convincing, writing him like a bona fide guy.
Rachel: Providing the fantasy while at the same time keeping the story real and believable. Writing emotion that feels authentic and leaves a lasting impression on the reader. Romance needs to remain true to the characters throughout the story.
Erica: I think one of the most important things to remember is to be authentic. Romance is messy, confusing, and funny and teens in love will say stupid stuff (we all did, right?), so that should be represented. Keep the dialogue and voice sincere while relying on the emotions of the characters. What would they do in this situation? Would they kiss right away? Would she try and then back down? What foundation is there for how they react to each other? Those are the things I try to remember.
What’s One Thing You Want the World to Know about Romance?
Alecia: That the romance genre doesn’t just exist in the romance department of the bookstore, but is in every fiction genre. Wherever there is a relationship/love, I will lump it under “Romance.”
Cheryl: Give the romance genre a chance. Resist the eyeroll thing. If you like a meaty women’s fiction novel, try a sophisticated romance novel. You might be surprised.
Teri: Love, in all its forms, is important. It’s what makes life precious. I hate that the genre gets dismissed as fluff sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with hope and a happy ending.
If we’ve convinced you to take the romance plunge, check out our authors’ websites and twitter pages, below!