I’m often asked how I can read romance decade after decade, as if it’s the same as reading the back of a cereal box—and the same cereal box. “Romance is a formula,” I’m told, and that’s to some extent true.
Of course, all genre fiction has an element of formula, that why it’s, um, genre fiction.
I’ve tried mysteries, and while the good ones have a wonderful dramatic arc—I need to know who did it!—I miss the big character arcs of the romance novel. I’ve tried thrillers and many have terrific forward momentum and interesting characters, but those characters aren’t transformed significantly between explosions, averted wars, and derailed trains.
I’ve tried classic and popular literature, and while the prose might be lovely, and the themes profound, I also want that happily ever after.
I’ve tried sci-fi, and found some exquisite world building, but again, the character arcs are often not so dramatic, and—dare I say it—the prose is sometimes not on my wavelength.
I love all books. I love the sight, smell and feel of a book. I love that readers come in all varieties and I’ve found delightful reads in many genres.
But a well written romance… wow. I get my big character arc, usually times two, because a romance is not about one character who occasionally has some frolic and detour with an intimate partner (though I do find those scenes in other genres). The romances I love are about two people whose shared love inspires the courage necessary to grow and change.
That shared love has such a large and unique presence in each romance, it’s nearly another character traveling a third arc, a romantic arc weaving the characters and drama together.
And world building? I can find everything from lost asteroid worlds to early Egyptian royal courts to Victorian England in romance novels, beautifully rendered and carefully researched.
I find gorgeous prose in my romance novels, subtle subtext, exquisite dialogue and themes as profound (and often mirroring) those found in more literary fiction.
My keeper shelf is full of books whose dramatic pacing holds up to any thriller, and exceeds the pleasure of the “thrill read” for me because good romance authors gets me more heavily invested in the characters and their problems.
Every reader is different, and every book is different, but for me, as a reader, the keeper romance has everything I look for in fiction: Lovely prose, compelling characters transformed by their experiences, strong world building, dramatic pacing, meaningful themes and a satisfying, well earned happy ending.
Good heavens! If that’s a formula, then thank goodness so many talented authors have the ability to write it so well!
Anything by Joanna Bourne (8/28). Her next release is The Rogue Spy (November 2014).
Patience Jackson’s Kilts and Quilts series of Scottish contemporaries. Debut was in June 2014: To Scotland, With Love
Enhanced ebook re-releases of Courtney Milan’s Turner series of Victorian romances. Makes the ebook romance a multi-media adventure!
Questions for the Author:
Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.
My Big Adventure: Joining my first tour group to see Scotland in 2013. Scotland is an adventure, of course, but to share the bus and hotel with 30 strangers in a strange land? I’m a warp nine introvert, and this was a bunch of musicians with a fondness for whisky…. Best fun I ever had! (Though I’m still a warp nine introvert.)
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)
The Writing Journey: I read romance voraciously for more than thirty years, sometimes limiting myself to a book a day, but then, when my daughter moved out…. Blessed emotional oxygen filled the house. The writing started then, and it hasn’t stopped.
Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)
A Book That Changed My Life—The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), by Thomas S. Kuhn. Big title for a small and very readable book. Kuhn looked at the historical “breakthroughs” in science and found they often weren’t breakthroughs at all. The truth is usually staring us right the face, coming at us from many sides, and still, we as a society and as individuals, will invent more and more elaborate theories to justify the bad science that authority, infrastructure and industry have invested in heavily. This little book helped support my sense that the emperor—be it a professor, politician, or CEO—is often wearing new clothes, and my instincts about how the world is shaped could well be spot on.
Grace is generously giving away five print signed print copies of her August release, “The Traitor,’ three to U.S. readers (entry below), and two to international winners (enter here).
I am the sixth out of seven children and was raised in the rural surrounds of central Pennsylvania. Early in life I spent a lot of time reading romance novels and riding a chubby buckskin gelding named—unimaginatively if eponymously—Buck. I also spent a lot of time practicing the piano. My first career was as a technical writer and editor, a busy profession that nonetheless left enough time to read many, many romance novels. A few academic degrees later, I’ve turned to writing romance novels, and if that’s not a happily ever after, I don’t know what is!
Buy Grace’s Books: