Posts Tagged ‘romance’

One of the nice things about being a writer that doesn’t often get talked about is that when a friend/colleague of yours has an achievement, you get to be part of the celebration. Which is why I’m very excited to invite my friend and fellow novelist, the wonderful Dellani Oakes, back to the blog for another interview. She’s got a new book out, Maker, Book 3 of the Lone Wolf series, and I’m looking forward to asking her some questions about it.

RU: Welcome back, Dellani. Now, you’re coming out with Maker, the third book in the Lone Wolf series. Tell us a bit about the series in general.

DO: It’s set in the distant future in the year 3032, and begins on a small mining ship in deep space. Marc and Matilda are working there when something goes horribly wrong. Someone has brought a load of Trimagnite on board. This is a semi-liquid ore which is highly toxic and extended exposure will cause madness and death. Enter the Lone Wolf, Wil VanLipsig. He’s sent to collect the ore, but finds himself highly attracted to Matilda Dulac, who proceeds to aim a pistol at his head because he’s lying to her. Who can resist a woman like that?

Unfortunately, Commandant John Riley of the Mining Guild is determined, not only to discredit Wil, but do as much damage to the Mining Guild as he can. It’s up to Wil, Matilda and Marc to stop him before he brings his plans to fruition.

RU: What about your series would attract readers to the characters and story of the Lone Wolf universe?

DO: Lone Wolf isn’t a Star Wars or Star Trek type universe. It’s unique, I feel, because the characters make it so. There are insectoid characters, giant mercenary cats, sentient ships and AI’s housed in special rings. The main character, Wil VanLipsig, is an 86 year old Colonel in the Galactic Marine’s black ops. Funny thing, though, he looks like he’s in his mid-twenties. The Marine doctors played genetic games with him and a few other select people, stopping their aging process. That doesn’t begin to describe what else was done to them.

RU: What can we expect from your new book, Maker?

DO: The Maker brings in a variety of new characters, as well as following the original ones from books 1 & 2. They discovered in Shakazhan – Book 2, that their planet, Shakazhan, is an artificial construct. What they don’t know is that there is an entity buried deep within the planet, who has many secrets and he’s loathe to part with them.

RU: Ooh, an entity. How HP Lovecraft! Next question: you normally write straight-up romances. Did you find it challenging to change to a sci-fi setting?

DO: I really don’t find it challenging switching genres. There are elements of romance in the sci-fi series, though they are minimal. My original idea was to write futuristic romance, which I suppose the first book could loosely be labeled, but the romantic elements fade out and the action takes over. I love constructing a whole new look at the universe and those in it. An author can do so much with sci-fi that can’t be done with more conventional genres. I had a great time thinking up new planets and races, giving them names and characteristics. Sci-fi is a blast.

RU: It most certainly is. And since it is a blast, here’s a question: how long do you see the Lone Wolf series going for?

DO: There are 6 in the series – plus 1 finished sequel, though at least 2 others are in the works. There is also a companion book, Lone Wolf Tales – A Lone Wolf Companion, which is a collection of 9 short stories and novellas associated with the series. I used them to explore various characters and incidents from the series.

RU: Sounds like a very involved sort of universe. And speaking of universes, what were your biggest influences in writing this series and crating this universe?

DO: Years ago, when I was newly married, we played a role playing game called Traveler. This was rather like Dungeons and Dragons, only sci-fi based. Friends of ours, and I, participated in a game my husband led and the characters of Wil, Matilda and Marc were created. I was going to chronicle their adventures, but it soon became apparent that the characters didn’t want that. They took off running in another direction and I just hung on for dear life. Aside from the character names, nothing remains the same.

RU: I notice characters do that. It’s very hard working with them sometimes. So, you’ve written romance, sci-fi, historical romance, and even some YA. What genres are you planning on diving into next?

DO: I’m not sure where I might venture next. I’ve been challenged to write a murder mystery, which I did (with a heavy romantic tone—what can I say, I love romance!) There are so many genres out there, permutations of one another, it’s hard to pick. One thing I’m fairly certain of, I won’t write horror. I scare easily and I usually write late at night and go to bed after everyone else. I don’t need to see ghoulies and ghosties in the dark!

RU: There goes that collaboration I was going to ask you about, LOL. Now Dellani, you release chapters of your books on your blog. How has your readership reacted to that?

DO: People don’t comment, for the most part, but I am finding more folks following and liking my stories. That seems positive to me. I wish people would comment and let me know what they like (or don’t) but I’m pleased to see new avatars on the page. I hope they enjoy reading the stories as much as I enjoy writing them.

RU: Yeah, the commenting thing affects everyone. Final question: what’s next for you and for your writing.

DO: I have a lot of unfinished novels, and I’ve set myself a goal of finishing one a month. I’ve been doing that for the last 2 ½ years, and am pleased with my progress. My goal is to get more of them published, but getting covers, paying copyrights, and all the other fees associated with self-publishing books, adds up quickly. I plan to send another book in to Tirgearr Publishing, who has already released four of my books. I’m working on getting a good, clean edit before sending it in. I have also begun preliminary edits on The Kahlea – book 4. There’s been action up to now, but this book takes the reader and knocks their socks off. More new characters, action, battles, and a little romance. I finished reading through it recently, and it left me breathless. I’m hoping it will do so to the readers as well.

RU: So do I, Dellani. Thank you for joining us.

If you’d like more from Dellani, please check out her interview here. Also check her out on her blog, on Amazon, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

And if you’d like to be interviewed on my blog, check out my Interviews page, and we’ll see what magic we can work.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time!

 

Raymond Esposito, a horror writer and acquaintance of mine (check out his website here), recently started a video series with romance writer SK Anthony (check out her website here), Writers After Dark. The purpose of this series (besides a fun excuse to drink, that is), is to discuss the various qualities of their respective genres. The topic of their first video was which of their genres was the more like life. Or not.

And because it’s fun to watch them just go at each other in a good-natured way. I’ve posted the video below. Enjoy:

 

Okay, if you didn’t have a half-hour to watch the entire video (too bad, because you’re missing out), here’s the conclusion: both of them think that their genre is the one that’s more realistic, though I think they both poke a lot of holes in each other’s arguments. And maybe spend a bit too much time on if love is real.

Anyway, after watching this video I thought I’d give my own opinion on this subject. I actually think I’m in a unique position to talk about this subject. Yes, I write and read mainly horror, but I also read a lot of romance mangas, read a book series that went from prehistorical fiction to prehistorical romance fiction in the later volumes, and watched one or two movies (10 Things I Hate About You is still considered romance, right?). Plus a lot of my stories, even ones that I haven’t written yet, have heavy romance elements. Snake is a horror-thriller with such an emphasis on romance, and my thesis/novel project Rose is a horror story about a really twisted love story (among other things). I kind of live in both worlds (though I prefer the one with deadly hotels and evil spirits and Lady Gaga in a leading role).

 

So which is more realistic and which is totally out there? Well, I think that’s kind of a trick question. In terms of horror, I’ve seen evidence of the supernatural and I’m well aware of the evil mankind is capable of (check out current events of the world to see what I mean). However, last I checked zombies were still a fiction and when a serial killer dies, they usually stay dead. And we still haven’t discovered any mummies that have come to life once unearthed or come across any pizzerias with killer animatronic bears.

At the same time, I’ve seen my fair share of long-lasting and happy relationships, and I’m sure you have too. Still, I’m not sure I believe in the concept of unconditional love. All relationships, especially loving ones, are built on give and take, on trust and communication. No two people ever say to each other, “I will love you no matter what and you never have to do a thing for that to continue”. All relationships take work, and romantic ones most of all. And true love? Same answer: all relationships are based on work. I don’t think you can meet a person and within minutes know they’re the one for you. Maybe after thirty years and you still care deeply for them, then maybe we have something there.

 

So which is real or unreal?

I think, in the end, both fear and love, the bases of horror and romance, derive from the need to survive. Horror is the result of the fight or flight response, and romance is the result of our desire to find the mate who will give us the best offspring. Neither one is truly realistic or unrealistic, because both speak to the human experience. Sure, some cliches and tropes are pretty silly and unrealistic (the virgin girl is most likely to survive, the couple overcome all and live happily ever after, etc.), but it’s the stories themselves that speak to us and keep us coming back for more, not the various elements that may or may not be realistic.

But what do you guys think? Is there one genre that’s more real than the other? Did I or the folks in the video miss something? Let’s discuss.

And let’s discuss it fast, I and six other people are being chased by a killer who died twenty years ago and we can’t seem to escape this haunted mansion no matter how hard we try! And in the meantime three of the people I’m with–one the crown princess of a kingdom of succubi, one a young woman with big dreams and a curse that’s slowly killing her, and one a very handsome young man with a dark past–have confessed their love for me at a really inconvenient time. I’m kind of attracted to all three, and I have to choose one of them before we leave this house! Strangely the killer takes five-to-ten minute breaks so that I can deliberate over my romantic predicament and let it take center-stage in my life when I should be more worried about where the killer is, how he came back when he was electrocuted in 1995, and why for the love of God there’s a convenient object in every room that could become some sort of murder weapon!

What a weird world I live in.

I just recently finished the second draft of “Gynoid”, a sci-fi love story novelette. During that time, I thought a lot about romance in fiction. Have you noticed that it’s everywhere? In fiction, you find a lot of time devoted to find your one true love, and in real life, you find people not just actively looking for their one true love(s), but even measuring themselves by fictional couples! Our music is rife with love songs or how love is betrayed (the so-called “Song of Songs” in the Bible is one huge erotic love song), and if you go back in time, some of our oldest stories involve love and lovers.

Heck, it’s in a lot of my fiction too! And I write fiction where “love” is more likely intense adrenaline and a shared peril being mistaken for attraction. Snake has a love story that’s central to its plot, Reborn City has a bit of romance in it here and there, and..well, you saw the description for “Gynoid” above.

But rather than speculate on why romance and finding it is such a big thing (I think we can all guess at the answer, right?), I think I’m going to share some of the trade secrets I’ve gleaned over the years from other writers and from my own romantic experience, both writing it and from experiencing it (do not ask me which I have more of. I wouldn’t want to upset anyone) on writing romance in your stories. Why? No particular reason, it’s just on my mind and in my stories so much I feel like talking about it. And I know I might not be the most qualified person to talk about the subject–I know I’m not a romance writer–but I know a bit, and since when has not being an expert ever stopped anyone from talking about anything? (*cough* climate change deniers in Congress *cough*)

So let’s begin on my tips for including romance in your stories:

  1. Give the characters personalities, make them fully-rounded and three-dimensional. I feel like often times some of our most celebrated romances involve people who are just good-looking nice folk and not much else. Romeo and Juliet were a sad emo guy with a thing for teenagers and Juliet was a teenager, Cosette and whatever her guy’s name was were good-looking and nice but they weren’t much else, and Katniss Everdeen…okay, Katniss was at least well-rounded. You knew who she was, what her problems were, what she stood for, and what she was willing to do to overcome those problems. Her love interests, on the other hand, just seemed there so as to add something to the story that the story might have done fine without. I mean, Gale is just handsome and angry with the Capitol, and I can’t tell what Peeta is besides sweet. One minute he’s skillful enough to manipulate the hearts of the whole Capitol, the next he’s too naive to tell that Katniss is using him for survival. Make him one or the other! Seriously, if you’re going to bother putting love interests in the story, I’m going to need a reason to ship either of them besides their attractiveness and professions of love.
    And that brings me to my next point:

    It took a long time, but these two became a wonder couple.

  2. What’s the reason they fall for each other? Please don’t say, “Oh, they’re good-looking”, it’s got to be more than that…or heroin-flavored blood. Take one of my favorite anime of all time, Sailor Moon (yeah, I’m a huge fan of that even so many years on. Moonies forever!): all of the main characters are good-looking. So why does Sailor Moon end up with the male lead, especially when in every adaptation of the story they start out fighting and disliking each other and in some he’s already seeing someone else? Leaving aside backstory exposition, I think they just grow comfortable with each other over time. They realize they can be honest with each other and that their faults are just part of who they are. Cute parts too. And it helps when they find out each other’s secret identities, which shows how courageous and reliable they are to one another, to the point they make a pretty good partnership, in love and in combat.
    Another example I’d like to use is Captain America and Peggy Carver in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is my only reference point, I was never much of an American comic books reader for some reason). Heck, at the beginning of their relationship, Cap’s a scrawny guy who doesn’t seem like much of a hero, while Agent Carter is…well, Agent Carter. What forms the basis of their relationship is that Carter likes that Cap wants to help out despite all the barriers facing him, and his sweet and loyal personality, while Cap likes that she’s a unique and confident woman who doesn’t need a man and who also doesn’t look down on him for not being tall and buff. Over time and numerous battles, their relationship grows closer and they fall in love, which ultimately doesn’t end well but I’m sure that if things had gone differently, it would have been a different story.
    Speaking of which, here’s point 2a. Shared experiences, especially combat experiences, can bring a relationship closer. Unless of course you and your supposed lover work really horribly together, in which case fighting will just highlight it and you’ll fall apart at the seams.
  3. There is no point where the relationship becomes perfect. Work is involved. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships in the real world, they’re always a work in progress. Why? Because we’re all works in progress, so our relationships are too. There’s going to be rough times, where the characters struggle or worry that something or someone will come along and the good thing they have going will be ruined. Back to Sailor Moon for a second. Fans agree that the heroine and her man are a strong and stable couple (though whether or not it’s a good coupling, I find people disagree on the subject more than you’d think), but they do have to work at it. Besides enemies that threaten to pull them apart for whatever reason, they have the normal couple troubles: people who seem like better matches coming along, occasional misunderstandings, an unexpected child. Heck, they even broke up for a time during the anime’s second season. Just goes to show that even great couples have ups and downs.
    And the best part is, you can extend these meetings, character explorations, falling-in-love scenes, and ups and downs over several books. In fact, half of the fun of the TV show Scandal is watching the heroine Olivia have an on-again, off-again relationship with the (married) President of the United States. You never know how that one is going to work out. And as long as you can keep it going, the more you get to explore these characters and their relationships (provided fans don’t start to get bored, of course).
    And now that we’ve discussed what makes for a relationship, let’s discuss some content.
  4. Sex is not always necessary. Yeah, I know we live in a hyper-sexualized society where everything has a sexy component to it, and I know I included a steamy sex scene in Snake, but seriously, sex isn’t always necessary. In fact, some people prefer romance stories without anything racier than a kiss or two. There’s actually an entire sub-genre of romance like that, it’s called sweet romance, where the characters don’t have sexual relations before marriage (or commitment too, maybe) and it has a big and loyal following. Besides, some authors aren’t comfortable with sex scenes. I know I wasn’t at first, though I later got more comfortable with them. So if you don’t want to do one, there’s no law saying you have to.

    Love the relationship dynamics of this show!

  5. Also, you don’t have to just have one person love only one other. I know there are a couple of Buffy fans reading this blog. One of the best parts of that show is the characters had many different relationships over the 7 seasons. Buffy herself had three major relationships over the course of the series.  The writers could’ve had her with Angel, her first love, through the whole series, but they allowed her, Angel, and many others to explore other relationships and really mature through that. Same with Teen Wolf, which had two main characters being “meant to be forever and ever”, but gradually changed things up over time. So if you want to, you can have characters wait a long time and go through several relationships before finding the right person.
    Especially with love triangles. I hear there are quite a few series out there where a good dose of fun is trying to find out who the main character will end up with in the end, especially when there’s two really great, fleshed-out characters to choose from (though usually from what I hear it’s whoever the protagonist meets first).
    And this brings me to my final point.
  6. Don’t do it because everyone else is. And no, that’s not a drug PSA (though you shouldn’t do those either. Not even weed, that stuff will mess with your system). Yeah, you see people putting all these different things in their stories–love quadrangles, the other man or woman, unexpected pregnancies, even some sexual exploration. Only put those in your story if you feel they’re what the story needs, not what others say you should put in or what others are putting into their stories. Believe me, that’s how I avoided something really unnecessary romance-related stuff in Reborn City, and that worked out great for me.

I’m going to end it right here, but I have to say, there’s a lot more that I could include in this post. Suffice to say, there are a lot of intricacies to writing romance and love stories (point number 7, a romance has a happy ending, a love story doesn’t have to. Learned that a romance writer friend of mine), and you learn these things over time. But hey, in the end they can lead to some really great stories, and maybe melt a heart or two while you’re at it.

What romance writing tips do you have? Do you feel romance is important to your stories or not so much?

*Warning: this post contains spoilers on a recent novel. Read with caution.*

I heard something very interesting yesterday that I, as a writer, a Jew, and a scholar on the Holocaust have to comment on. When you read that title and saw the words “Nazi Romance”, what popped through your mind? Probably nothing good if you haven’t heard yet, and probably a ton of controversy and maybe some simmering anger if you have heard yet. In case you’re among those who haven’t heard, let me explain:

The controversy centers around a Christian romance novel called For Such a Time by a woman named Kate Breslin that came out last year. The novel has received nods for awards and positive reviews in that time, including a few from the Romance Writers of America. However, a lot of people are taking offense at the subject matter: it’s a retelling of the Biblical story of the Book of Esther set in a Nazi concentration camp with a Jewish woman with Gentile looks and a Nazi commandant as the heroes. Long story short, the commandant thinks this blonde beauty can’t be Jewish and puts her to work in a supervisory role in the camp under a false name. Thus begins a strange, tension-filled romance that some have likened to sexual harassment coupled with Stockholm Syndrome (sounds a bit like my thesis Rose) that ends with the two heroes getting together despite all obstacles and, because this is a Christian romance novel, the heroine converts to Christianity (not like my thesis Rose at all).

Now I have not read the novel–I only found out about this yesterday, I’m not interested in reading a romance novel, let alone one trying to get me to look at Jesus in a new light, and even if I was by the time I finished it the Internet’s short attention span might have moved onto something else–but you can see why this sort of story might cause some upset feelings. The major criticism is that the novel co-opts one of the greatest tragedies in modern history, and the biggest tragedy in modern Jewish history, so as to advance a particular religious aim.

At the same time, some have come out in favor of the book. Anne Rice actually defended the novel, saying that writers should be able to experiment and that the almost extreme outcry rising on the Internet around this novel is akin to censorship and a lynch mob. The organization Romance Writers of America has said something very similar in response to For Such a Time getting two nods for major awards they hand out.

Now, I don’t like Internet confrontation. But like I said, I’m a writer, a Jew, and a scholar on the Holocaust, so I feel some need to weigh in on this subject. First off, I understand the point of view about experimentation vs. censorship. In several stories I’ve written over the years, including Rose, I’ve pushed boundaries of my own comfort zone and maybe the comfort zones of my readers in order to create a better story. Writers should be able to do just that, experiment and push boundaries in the name of creating a great story. To regulate what writers work on or threaten them if they write something someone finds offensive, which is made all too much easier by the anonymity of the Internet, does smell of censorship and makes me think of extremist vigilante justice using a new medium to intimidate people. Almost like a lynch mob, in fact.

Can you really make fiction–let alone romantic Christian fiction–out of a subject like this?

However, I do see why people are outraged over this book. Like I said, the Holocaust was a tragedy. Of the estimated 12 million victims of the Nazi genocide, around half were Jews. To take what was a horrific and defining moment for modern Jewry and use it as a backstory for a romance meant to draw readers close to Jesus is very insensitive to victims and survivors of the Holocaust who lost their lives because of their heritage, as well as those who carry that heritage today. The conversion to Christianity at the end is also very disturbing, because many Jews were forced to convert before, during, and after the war for survival and it sometimes caused trouble for them later in life. To portray it as an act of love…to say the least it seems unsettling.

Ultimately, I feel the best way to view For Such a Time by Kate Breslin is to view it as a teachable moment. While writers should be able to write and experiment as they wish, they should also be cognizant that writing about some subjects (like the Holocaust) requires more sensitivity and caution than others. When dealing with a subject such as this, it’s important not just to know your facts, but how people–particularly those affected directly by said subject–feel about it. That way when you write about it, you are writing it in a way that, while it may not please everyone, it will not cause the sort of outrage this novel has caused.

This was what I did with Reborn City when I wrote it. I’m as far away from the gangster lifestyle as possible, so I did my research to make sure I represented gangsters in a way that would do the lifestyle justice . So far, I haven’t had any complaints.

Thankfully Breslin has already issued an apology, saying she wrote it with the best of intentions and she’s very sorry for any offense or pain she caused to the Jewish people. And while others may not forgive her, I think I can. I think she’s learned form this experience. And when she puts out her next book, perhaps it’ll get the attention that every author wants their book to have, rather than the nasty kind her first received.

What’s your take on this subject? Is Ms. Breslin out of line or was she just trying to write a good story?

Should authors be more sensitive when experimenting with their stories? And is the uproar over this book overblown or justified?

Let’s discuss.