Friday, February 17, 2006

What is a romantic novelist? Melinda Hammond ponders the question, with tongue firmly in cheek!

With Valentine’s Day still strong in the memory I realise just what a mistake it is for those of us who write romance to call ourselves romantic novelists. There is nothing in the least romantic about sitting in front of a computer trying to find yet another way of getting hero and heroine into each others arms without mentioning heaving breasts, eyes burning with desire or hot blood pulsating through the veins. Nor is it romantic to be working late into the night (or early in the morning) trying to finish a book to meet a deadline. Then there is the very unromantic job of checking the typescript – it is difficult to become dewy-eyed when reading a page for the umpteenth time checking for errors - one is more likely to be come cross-eyed, and that is definitely not a description one uses for a heroine! So are we romantics, or hard-nosed business people? Well, frankly, we cannot be the latter or we would not be writing in the first place, since the chances of getting published at all are very small, and of making a living even smaller. Running a company might be problematic, but it is nothing to the nights spent dreaming up new ways to put a maiden into a life-threatening (or, more likely in historical novels, a reputation-threatening) situation and then even more nights finding ways to extricate her.

To make matters worse, the authors on this blog are historical romantic novelists, so we have to stay even more clear-headed as we set our characters in a world that we can only visit vicariously: our knowledge of the past must come from our meticulous research, which is even more work.

So, where’s the romance? Well, personally I love visiting historic sites and reading about past lives: then there is that spine-tingling moment when one feels another story beginning to form: for example I read that in 1815 fortunes were won and lost by those waiting to know the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo, and at the same time the fashionable world was dancing through the summer nights as if there was not a care in the world. These two factors began to circle round in my mind, making me think “what if?” on a hundred little points. The story grew into “Dance for a Diamond” and after all the hours of creating, writing, editing and correcting I have to admit that the romance came flooding back when I first held a copy of my brand new book. So, writing – it’s not glamorous, but, OK, I’ll admit it's romantic!

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