Sunday, 24 October 2010

Breaking the rules

It has become painfully clear that it was arrogant of me to me to assume I can be a successful M&B novelist without actually being a M&B reader. Why do I want to write for Mills and Boon? The success of that A-level coursework, a love of happy endings and sexy men and I am really project/deadline driven; the clear submission requirements of M&B suit me. Plus, I admit it, I thought there was a formula I would follow it and hey presto. FYI there really isn't more's the pity.
So, why don't I read them? Once I did but although I continued to read the great Georgette and other regency writers published 20 years ago (Marion Chesney, Emma Darcy & Sheila Walsh were all favourites)I didn't pick up a M&B between 18 and 34. Partly it's because I am a really fast reader and can read a 50,000 word novel in an hour, no exaggeration. I need more emotional food from a book than I can get from one that's wrapped up in an hour. Secondly the big pile I read that post A-Level summer left me a little alpha-maled out. I was bored of tyrannical tycoons bossing around virginal secretaries only for said secretaries to fall into their arms, ironic as after just one chapter my hero comes across as just such a heartless tyrant. And I was really uncomfortable with the idea that a heroine needed to be a virgin and considerably younger than the hero, the books I bought from New Romney charity shops in 1991 stuck to that cliche rigidly and even today the word "virgin" crops up in quite a few titles. When I first thought about romance writing 4 years ago I read a few modern romances and the heroines were still either virginal or had only experienced terrible sex - until the alpha male came along, natch. Plus, they all had heroes that "rasp" (horrible word) and in the now explicit sex scenes "lave" various body parts (another word that makes me shudder in disgust). New Voices chapters however seem to be refreshingly clear from these cliches.
So I need to read more, and not just the historicals. I have read quite a lot of Mira titles and some of the longer historicals, plus non M&B authors such as Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn and Jo Beverley who manage to conjure up ubersexy regency alphas that suit even a sensitive feminist such as myself. But I need to read, to research more so have collected some of the 100 year celebratory titles (downloaded onto my Kindle), a halloween historical special and the free ebooks recently offered. Some I have really enjoyed (especially Emergency Wife Lost and Found and Colorado Abduction, neither genres I would usually read). First thoughts? The rules they tell aspiring writers DON'T COUNT! I have read a book where the hero hardly features, one that is just sex, another where the whole first chapter is written from the viewpoint of shock, horror a secondary character (and 8 chapters in I still know more about her than the heroine,)books where the whole conflict hinges on plot not emotions and another where the whole conflict could have been cleared up with a conversation. All big no-nos to us wannabes. Maybe if I hadn't tried to stick so closely to the rules I might have had enough of a New Voice myself?


Julia Broadbooks said...

If you're looking MB titles that surprise try the recently released (in the US) The Shy Bride by Lucy Monroe. Cannot recommend it strongly enough; it was charming.

Evangeline Holland said...

What I think it is is that veteran authors--even in single title--can get away with things debut authors must earn the right to employ (and earn as in $$$ as well as critical acclaim). I feel the editors have these guidelines to give aspiring authors a set of goal posts in which to write. A brand new author writing for, say, Harlequin Presents would scare a longtime reader of the line by doing things different than the expected norm because that new author is,well, new. It's all about earning a reader's trust. Now, in ST there's more room for "different" but even then readers can shy away from deviations from the norm (like a historical set in 1780s Italy). Plus, a major thing is gaining your editor's trust--to show them that you can take a wild prenise or unconventional characters and still hit the emotional highs and lows a more coventional book is expected to deliver. Basically, it all boils down to "same, but different"--meaning a different and unique spin on the tried and true that comes directly from your unique perspective, all the while maintaining reader expectations about a particular line. It sounds a bit convoluted I admit, but if you think about it and scrutinize your targeted line and/or genre, it makes a lot of sense.

Julia Broadbooks said...

That does make a lot of sense. The last thing you want to do as an author is fail to meet reader expectations. MB have more well defined expectations than most of romancelandia.