Monday, May 22, 2017

THE DEFINITION OF ROMANCE BY KATE MCMURRAY




There was recently an article on the Book Riot website arguing in favor of romance novels without happy endings. I read it and thought, “But happy endings are the one requirement!”

RWA’s definition of romance is pretty loose. A romance novel must have a central romance story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Most readers interpret the latter as the romantic couple (or ménage, etc.) ending up together. 

But that still gives writers a massive amount of room to tell stories. Characters can fall in love in Regency or Medieval England, in 1920s New York, in the Wild West, in China, in India, in Africa, in South America, in the future, in space, in some imaginary place. These characters can be rich or poor or somewhere in between, they can have a whole host of interesting jobs, they can solve crime or make scientific discoveries or save the universe. Romance heroes and heroines can have any background, can be Irish or African American or Japanese; they can be vampires or cat shifters or aliens; they can be Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or atheist. The characters can be a man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman, they can be trans or asexual, or there could be three people, or seven, who all fall in love with each other. They can express their love physically behind closed doors, explicitly on the page, or not until they’re married.

The only limit to what happens in a romance novel is that there must be a love story at its heart and we need that happy ending (or at least a happy for now). Otherwise, the only limit is what your imagination can cook up.

So why do we periodically get these think pieces arguing that literally the one thing that defines romance as a genre should not hold true?

The author of the Book Riot piece argued that the happy ending, while satisfying, does not always reflect reality. Sure, that’s true. In real life, some great romances end in divorce or death. But love stories with unhappy endings can be found aplenty in the literary fiction section of the bookstore. Why would one argue for romance to change?

Romance authors on Twitter had theories. For example, sometimes these think pieces about romance novels not requiring happy endings come from authors who write lit fic but want romance money, so they try to argue that the book they’ve written belongs on the romance shelf where the hungry readers buy books, even if the book doesn’t technically fit the definition. Or you get an author who assumes all romance is trite and formulaic and argues their new, edgy approach to the genre—an unhappy ending, how revolutionary!—is going to change everything.

But we as romance readers know that the genre is rich and full of talented authors. Let’s keep that as a given. Because romance has two requirements: central love story, happy ending. And that’s it. 

We romance readers and writers know, the guarantee of a happy ending is not a spoiler. For us, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right? And given all the room that still gives to tell stories, if you can’t fit a romance into those wide boundaries, you’re the one lacking in creativity, not the genre.

I am all for pushing genre boundaries. But if you took the whodunit plot out of a mystery, what are you left with? If you took the suspense out of a thriller? If you took paranormal elements out of urban fantasy? Genres have parameters for a reason. They help readers find the books they want to read, mainly. And for a lot of romance readers, the happy ending is what they want. They want the hope, to believe that everything will work out.

Consider this: writers have been publishing novels with gay characters since the early twentieth century (at least!) but until fairly recently, the characters in those books met with unhappy endings. Even through the eighties, AIDS was a prominent theme. In the last 10–15 years, with the ballooning popularity of gay romance, these characters are finally getting happy endings, and we’re sending a different message to readers. This is true of romances involving people of color as well. What we’re saying is: You deserve happiness, not tragedy. You deserve love. And great things are possible.

So why would you rip that rug out from under the romance genre? Damon Suede often calls romance “the literature of hope.” If you want to read or write books that don’t have happy endings, that’s great, but those novels are not genre romance. The core of romance is hope.♥


Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America; and as Vice President of RWA/NYC. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at www.katemcmurray.com.


Read Romance



  

Friday, May 5, 2017

BOOK COVER FRIDAY! IRONIC BY HARPER MILLER

  
WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.


IRONIC
by Harper Miller


SUMMARY:   Ironic is the first installment in The Kinky Connect Chronicles. The Kinky Connect Chronicles are short erotic stories all wrapped up in a neat little bow. No cliffhangers in the lot!


READ ROMANCE  



Friday, April 28, 2017

BOOK COVER FRIDAY! SHOW & TELL BY KATE MCMURRAY

  
WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.




SHOW & TELL
by Kate McMurray



SUMMARY:  Dan is a superfan of the TV show Junk Shop, hosted by the handsome and charismatic Malcolm Tell. When an old music box turns up, Dan’s sister encourages him to try to get on the show and meet the object of his affection. He does, and everything changes.  When Dan and Malcolm first meet, they have a sudden vision of something horrible that happened years ago. Is it a glimpse at a past life or something else entirely? They agree to work together to find answers and discover a forgotten Celtic myth that may explain everything. If the myth is true, then Dan and Malcolm could be a pair of lovers who have been reincarnated over two thousand years. That seems impossible, but it’s hard to deny that something very strange is happening.  As Dan and Malcolm work to find the truth, they fall for each other hard. But searching for who they really are puts them both in grave danger, and they find themselves racing against time to keep their happily ever after.

READ ROMANCE! 






Friday, April 21, 2017

BOOK COVER FRIDAY! MAKE ME BEG BY REBECCA BROOKS


WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.



MAKE ME BEG
The Men of Gold Mountain Series
by Rebecca Brooks
Entangled



SUMMARY:  Bartender Mackenzie Ellinsworth has always gone it alone. So when she has a chance to open her own bar and restaurant, she’s got a plan for how it should go. Not in that plan: a ripped and rugged playboy stepping in to take over. Connor Branding is determined to prove he’s not the directionless playboy Mack thinks. But opening a place together causes more problems than it solves.


READ ROMANCE! 




Friday, April 14, 2017

BOOK COVER FRIDAY! ROMANCING THE FASHIONISTA BY K.M. JACKSON

  
WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.



ROMANCING THE FASHIONISHTA
The Flirty Fashionistas series
by K.M. Jackson


SUMMARY: Manhattan fashion maven and magazine editor Melinda Mitchell shuns the social media spotlight. That is, until a tipsy girl’s night out ends with her first Facebook account and a friend request from none other than her secret high school crush, Nolan Parker. 

When Nolan lost his chance at the big leagues, he signed on with Doctors Without Borders and never looked back. Now he’s back home to help out his ailing father. Running into Mel at his fifteen-year high school reunion rekindles old feelings he thought he’d buried for good.

Intrigued by Nolan’s irresistibly sexy profile, Melinda heads to the reunion with her best friend to see if the picture matches up to the man. Their instant attraction flares brighter than the Manhattan skyline. 

Although the tough fashionista and accomplished ex-jock rub each other the very right way, a few stumbling blocks will decide if the heat between them is a symptom of forever love, or a past that should be left where it belongs.

Warning: Contains a tough, no-nonsense, Big-Apple businesswoman who likes to call her own shots, and a hot doctor who can turn her on with surgical precision.




READ ROMANCE!




Friday, April 7, 2017

BOOK COVER FRIDAYS! LOVE POEMS BY KAREN CINO

  
WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from 
one of New York's Leading Romance Authors.


Happy to celebrate Poetry Month with author Karen Cino.




LOVE POEMS
by Karen Cino


SUMMARY:  LOVE POEMS will take you on a magical journey through the inner depths of one's heart and soul. The underlying emotions that are revealed through these poems show how deep love truly goes. The poems will make you laugh and they will make you cry. They are written for those who have met their soul mate and are still waiting for the moment that will bring them together.


READ ROMANCE!



Monday, April 3, 2017

THE LITTLE THINGS MATTER BY KATE McMURRAY


  
I picked up a book recently that was a delightful surprise. It was a nonfiction book, but the author had a Shakespearean gift for word play, and I enjoyed the prose almost more than the content. It was a nice reminder that writing itself is an art form, can be something truly beautiful.

There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on authors these days to produce more books. Some of that pressure is external—readers demanding the next book in a series, publishers wanting to keep authors on tight schedules, etc.—but some of it is internal. We put pressure on ourselves to produce, perhaps out of fear we’ll fade into obscurity if we don’t put new books out constantly, of needing to put out new books on a regular schedule in order to earn a certain income. Or, we see our colleagues put out book after book and feel like we have to write more in order to be competitive.

We can’t do much about the external pressure, but we can be a little introspective about the internal pressure.

Here’s what I mean: I’ve read probably a dozen novels so far this year. They’ve been a nearly 50/50 split of traditional and indie pub. And most of the books have been… fine. Not terrible, but not great either. And, because sometimes it’s hard to turn off the editorial part of my brain, I thought a lot about what kept these books from being great.

Here’s a theory: authors, particularly indie authors, rushing books to market is actually doing these books a disservice because getting the book out matters more than the story.

This manifests itself in a few ways. Some are obvious. An author who cuts corners on editorial will have a book full of typos. An author who skips over research will put out a book full of factual errors. Some are less obvious. An author who rushes through the writing process might put out a book without obvious flaws but that is nevertheless kind of dull or not engaging or ultimately forgettable.

And all of those things can kill a writing career, because a subpar book might persuade readers not to pick up the author’s next book.

What can be done about this?

I argued in my column last month that I thought gatekeepers would make a comeback. One way to get through the gates is to write a better book. And the best way to do that is to slow down and remember what’s important.

Story is important.

I teach a class on revision in which I recommend that, before authors revise, they take a few minutes to write a paragraph about the core of their story. That story core is something that I think gets lost among published authors when we talk about writing. We’re preoccupied with marketing strategies, with sales, with the size of our royalty checks. We think about social media, conferences, deadlines.

However, a really great book will sell itself.

“But I wrote a good book! How do I let readers know about it?” No, slow down. Marketing is important, but story is king. Story sells your book.

A book about nice people falling in love might be a perfectly nice beach read. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to write perfectly nice books. I want to write books that evoke what Sarah Wendell calls “good book noise,” that delighted sigh the reader lets out when she reads something that hits her in the right place. I want to write books readers talk about, pass around between each other, encourage others to read. I want to write books that people are still talking about five years from now. I want to write amazing books.

And, you know, I’d rather sell 10,000 copies of a great book than 1,000 copies each of 10 okay books.

The thing about rushing a book to market is that we overlook the little things, but the little things matter. Words matter. The best books have compelling stories and beautiful writing.

So push aside as much internal pressure as you can. What can you do to make your next book your best yet? Does that mean writing slower? Taking more time to revise? Rethinking the core of the story? Does that mean hiring a better editor or spending a little extra money on an eye-catching cover? Does it mean trying a different publication strategy (indie vs. traditional)? Does that mean stopping the rush to publication and taking the time to get it right?

At the end of the day, I want us all to write better books. Better books makes the genre better as a whole. A rising tide lifts all boats, and we are those boats. Not to mention, more good books in the world give me more good books to read.

So my advice this month is to take a step back and really think about what is more important: your story or your need to get it up for sale? The latter might be good for your short term career, but the latter is what will make your career sustainable. Because great books win over readers and earn us fans for life.♥


Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America; and as Vice President of RWA/NYC. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at www.katemcmurray.com.