A wonderful review over at Dear Author for Karina Bliss’s latest Harlequin Superromance. I love her stories, and I’m really looking forward to reading this one, though I do have to say stories that start with the hero or heroine trying to pick up someone else tend to squick me out a bit. It does seem to turn up a lot in these “best friends into lovers” stories. That’s possibly just me showing my personal preferences, or it could be my age. I read Blaze now, so I can handle the heat, but I was brought up on Sweet, no-sex romances. I definitely want one man-one woman stories, even a start showing the heroine with someone else just sets the tone all wrong for me. I’m old-fashioned.
I’m realising that a lot of what is wrong with my stories is exactly what the reviewer commented on- they read like they were written by someone’s Mum in 1983. Co-incidentally, about when I first tried writing a romance!
I had a small epiphany yesterday, when I realised the problem with my WiP and the real reason why the situation and the heroine’s backstory just weren’t gelling was her age. I started writing with her 28, a good age and one I usually like for heroines in stories I read. But the way she was living and the things she was doing seemed too immature for someone of that age to still be doing- I felt impatient with her, wondered why she hadn’t grown up. I tried changing her age to 24. Better, but still not right. Suddenly I realised- she’s forty!
Everything fell into place, beautifully. All the pieces of backstory that didn’t fit, the conflict with the hero that felt contrived, the motivation for her doing what she was doing. It works. Or at least, hopefully it will work. I still have to write the story, of course. It’s a good lesson in the importance of making sure I know my characters, really know my characters, before I start. The essence of the story, as I mapped it out using the Beat Sheet from Save the Cat, is identical. It just works so much better now!
Where I went wrong was not even thinking about it. The story was aimed for Harlequin, so the heroine had to be in her twenties. Realising, no, she doesn’t, is a wonderful change, and is absolutely right for this heroine, even though I know it stops this story being a fit for any of the Harlequin lines.
That wasn’t the epiphany though. The epiphany was that this is the sort of story I want to keep on writing- sensual stories, set against a small town or community background, with grown up heroines.
There doesn’t seem to be much available for women of a certain age, who want to read about women their own age finding true love and happy endings, but who still want stories with good sex too. There’s women’s fiction, usually with an unhappy ending but a life lesson learned; for a short time there was “hen lit”, which seems to have fizzled; there are a few sweeter romances with older heroines, with the bedroom door tight closed; or there are hot stories about women half my age, or over ten years younger at best. The only exception seems to be abominations like Sex and the City 2, which I totally detested for the shallow pathetic characters, caricatures rather than heroines anyone could identify with. At least what SATC shows though is women in their forties and fifties, still wanting love and sex. Where are the romances, for and about women in their forties, fifties, and beyond, with heroines who are falling in love and having the hottest sex of their lives? Few and far between, it seems, certainly from the major romance publishers. Which is understandable given the huge costs of paper book production and distribution.
So if I write the stories I want to write, I will never ever have any chance of being published by Harlequin, no matter how well I learn to write. Maybe there is no market, and the best I can hope for is to get my stories published by an obscure e-publisher and sell six copies, all to my friends, who make polite noises but never actually read the things. Or maybe there are actually a lot of women out there who know that love and sex don’t stop at thirty, and would love to read stories with older heroines, who are just not finding the books out there they would like to read.
I discovered yesterday that at least one of the romance e-pubs, Wild Rose Press, has a line featuring older heroines, called Last Rose of Summer. I intend to read a few, see if I like them. The wonderful thing about e-publishing is it lets publishers take risks on books that might sell poorly. When fabulous big publishers like Harlequin have tried series with older heroines, sales weren’t good enough, so the lines soon folded. E-pubs can afford to get away with lower sales, so can publish a more diverse range. I’ll still keep reading the Harlequins I love, but it’s time to be more adventurous and venture further afield too.
Much though I would love to see my name there on the supermarket and newsagent shelves on the cover of a Harlequin/ Mills & Boon, it’s not going to happen. I love those books, and there are so many brilliant writers of all ages writing wonderful stories, for HMB, but I won’t be one of them. My chance of getting published is going to come with one of the e-publishers. I honestly think it’s time for me to stop writing the weak, cliched stories I’ve been labouring with, stories that were never going to fly because I didn’t believe in them, and because they read like the stories I tried to write when I was the same age as the heroine I was writing about. My writing can only get better if I try writing honest stories from my heart.
Any suggestions for great romances with older heroines for me to read? What do you think- would you read a story with an older heroine?
Oh, completely unrelated- if anyone saw the post I did earlier about the free Harlequin comics on Amazon, I took it down when I found they weren’t offering complete stories as the freebies, just samples. Still worth a peek at them though, just for the sheer awesomeness of a story written in English that’s been translated into Japanese to be turned into a manga, then translated back into English again.