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Writing the Romance Novel: Why Romance?

Monday, April 14, 2008

If we were to survey 100 romance novelists why they write romance novels, we would get approximately 5,000 reasons. But I think what it boils down to is that we’re adrenaline junkies, just like those people who dive off cliffs in Hawaii, skydive, snowboard, or subject themselves to horror films. It’s just that we get our adrenaline rush from the emotions evoked by two characters facing and defeating the odds to achieve what is so rare in real life: a happily ever after ending.

But because we get our rush from experiencing an emotion, our genre is looked down upon, considered at the very bottom of the literary ladder; our readers are considered less literate and intelligent than those who read other varieties of literature. And this is a problem even within genre-writers’ circles. There were times at my grad-school program, which was genre-fiction focused with no genre held in higher esteem than any other (supposedly), when subtle but snide remarks were made by instructors about how little they thought of the romance genre (with one going so far as to rank Christian worldview fiction as the lowest of the low).

If you’re going to write romances, you must prepare yourself for this—and outside of Christian circles, it can be even worse for those of us who write inspirational or Christian romances. If you can’t handle the wink-wink-nudge-nudge, supercilious looks and comments, writing romance may not be for you. Because the truth of the matter is that even though we’re writing about one of the most tender emotions, we must have tough skin to weather all the negative comments we’ll receive.

Once you’re certain you can put up with that, you have a huge decision to make: s*x or no s*x (sorry, don’t want this being picked up by webcrawlers looking for the S word). Or, in other words, are you going to show it or keep it behind closed doors? Most of my readers here are writing for the Christian market—which means no relations before/outside of marriage; and after marriage, it’s always behind closed doors.

One thing I know many writers struggle with is the morality behind if it’s okay to write the graphic scenes, so long as the characters are married. That’s a choice best left up to the individual author. Because I’ve chosen to write inspirational romances, I won’t go into a discussion of how to write those scenes—there are plenty of resources out there, so no need for me to write about something I have no interest nor experience in (the writing part of it, anyway wink-wink-nudge-nudge). But we will discuss every other aspect of writing this most beloved, most maligned genre.

There are many sources I’ll be referencing in this series. Here are the seven books that are currently sitting on my desk:

For Discussion:
What’s your favorite romance novel/author? How old were you when you read your first romance novel? Why did you choose to write romances (or why are you thinking about it)?

  1. Aubrey permalink
    Monday, April 14, 2008 11:30 am

    Great topic, Kaye!

    To answer your questions…

    My favorite novel (and author) is This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It’s sweet, funny, and I relate to Molly on so many different levels.

    Like many romance writers (and readers) I started reading romance at a young age. I was twelve, I think, and in the sixth grade when I found a box of old Harlequin romances. I read three within a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, and within a few days had gone through the entire box. Needless to say, I was hooked.

    That love of reading romance is what caused me to start writing it. Even when HEAs don’t seem likely in real life, it’s oddly comforting to read about someone else’s HEA. The same goes for writing. I’m naturally drawn to romantic movies and books, and when I see a couple I’ll often wonder how they got to that place, what obstacles they faced (if any at all), how long they’d been together, etc. I guess I’m just a natural romantic, but for me the interesting part has always been how two people get to the happily ever after, not necessarily that they got there.


  2. Leslie S permalink
    Monday, April 14, 2008 12:03 pm

    I vaguly remember reading a YA series of romance novels. The first one was called P.S. I Love You – When I’d find them at Goodwill or Salvation Army I would always get them. I guess I was probably 12 or so when I first started reading them.


  3. Leslie S permalink
    Monday, April 14, 2008 12:18 pm

    I checked Amazon – it was the Sweet Dreams series that I was thinking of.


  4. Monday, April 14, 2008 12:26 pm

    There’s a subgroup in Christianity that thinks “Christian romance” is an oxymoron and that reading an LI or HP is the same level of sinful as a bodice-ripper Harlequin. It’s a very popular mindset among the more conservative homeschoolers and I’ve left online homeschool communities because of it. What I write is not a sin and they have no right or Biblical reason to judge me for it.

    I read my first romance when I was about 11. It was a Lori Wick book, the last one in the Kensington Chronicles series. We were doing a unit study on the Reformation at the time and that book fit the time period. I very quickly went through all the Lori Wick books my mom owned and moved up to the House of Winslow, then systematically went through just about everything he’d written up to that point.

    Went through a Grace Livingston Hill phase, but they were a little too sweet for my tastes. I prefer my romance with more of an edge to it.

    I can now say my favorite romance novel is a tie between Redeeming Love and A Passion Most Pure. I consider Passion one of the BEST romances I’ve ever read and a wonderful contrast between romance as God intends and how the world intends. I identified with every moment of Faith’s journey and couldn’t put it down.

    I’m still not completely comfortable pegging my writing as straight romance, but I have to have a strong thread of romance in the book. I’m a mushy Victorian romantic who loves all of the stereotypical things that go with romance and writing about it lets me live it over and over and over. The relationship between a man and a woman is a picture of Christ’s relationship with his Church, so I think a romance from a Christian worldview that demonstrates God’s love for us is the best way in the world to use your God-given talent.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Monday, April 14, 2008 12:58 pm

    My favorite romance author is Francis Ray. Her romances are not inspirational but she is very good as weaving interesting plots with a boatload of emotion, book after book.

    Redeeming Love may be my favorite inspirational romance too. Although I’ve read plenty of good ones, that story gave me goosebumps.

    I don’t know how young I was when I first read romance because I read beyond my grade level from first grade on, pretty much everything and anything I could get my hands on. Books were cherished in our home, so there was no censorship or filtering to keep adult books out of my hands.

    I can tell you that I read my first inspirational romance in the early ’90s, and I was hooked! I’m thinking it was a Heartsongs Presents or maybe a Lori Wick. I couldn’t get enough. I found, and as soon as I found out about Harlequin’s subscription service and Love Inspired, I signed up.

    I love the emotional see-saw of romances. I like knowing that the hero and heroine will get together, even if I don’t know how they’ll get there. LI made me want to write inspirational romance. Discovering that there’s almost no multicultural inspirational romance, only fueled my desire to write. That situation’s changed somewhat in the last few years but there’s still a dearth of inspirational romance featuring multicultural heros and heroines in settings and situations that speak to both their secular culture and unique spiritual culture.


  6. Monday, April 14, 2008 1:03 pm

    Hey, Kaye, I almost missed out on keeping up with this series. I thought you said you were starting on Wednesday. So glad I popped by today. The sooner, the better. Getting to your questions, though:

    As a young teenager I devoured Grace Livingston Hill’s novels. Though my first attempt at writing a romance novel was instigated by a desire to overcome a debilating fear, I suspect it was those early reads that subconsciously prepared me for writing Inspirational romances.

    Romances are my all time favorite read, always have been, and although I wish I was versatile at writing, for now, I have my hands full with the romance genre and I’m loving every minute of it.


  7. Monday, April 14, 2008 3:28 pm

    The first romances I read were by New Zealand author Essie Summers. I have almost all of her books and her love of words and high ideals shine through her work.

    I write romance because I love romance. 🙂


  8. Monday, April 14, 2008 3:56 pm

    That must have been hard–being in a grad program where they actually put down your chosen genre.

    It looks like I’m in good company because Redeeming Love is one of my favorite books. It’s been years since I’ve read it, but wow it had an impact.


  9. Monday, April 14, 2008 6:38 pm

    Hi Kaye,

    What IS there besides romance? Seriously. I’ve written some other ‘stuff’ but the romance element always pops up. I was dreaming up romance stories in elementary school.

    I don’t know if I could choose a favorite author, other than JA of course. But there are many wonderful crafters of romance out there.

    This series will be wonderful. Thanks for offering your expertise.


  10. Monday, April 14, 2008 8:57 pm

    I read my first romance when I was 16….. instead of paying attention to chemistry. I can honestly say chemistry hasn’t helped me much and romance novels are my life work…

    My favorite author is Rebecca Winters. Just finished her latest. My favorite novel is the first one I read and remains my favorite today, Three Little Miracles. I’ve read it at least 20 times.

    And why do I write romance? Because I love romance novels with a passion. Because I love the readers and the authors who write it. I love the love, the emotions, the Happily Ever After. Because I honestly believe in true love, soul mates, love at first sight. I love the message of hope and love conquering all. Because I’m a love addict and I find love everywhere I can (just ask my dh, he laughs at me sometimes.). Because to me, there is no greater genre that encompasses so much of what life has to offer, good and bad, and nothing I’d rather spend my day doing.


  11. Saturday, June 7, 2008 1:02 am

    Can someone help tell me how to orginse PLOT?



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