Thursday, 26 August 2010
A writers struggle - but she's getting there! Welcome, Lisabet Sarai!
Confessions of a Clueless Newbie
By Lisabet Sarai
Let me begin by making my title clear. I've been writing since I was six or seven years old. I've been publishing for more than a decade. So I'm not a clueless newbie as an author. No, the area where I'm sadly clueless is the romance genre.
From reading author interviews, I get the impression that most romance writers started out as romance readers. Not me, I'm afraid. Before I began submitting to romance publishers, my idea of “romantic” fiction was Wuthering Heights, Gone with the Wind and Romeo and Juliet. Stories like these tore at my heartstrings, but you'll note that none of them has a happy ending. I read my first mainstream romance (some title by Danielle Steele) in my forties and to be honest, I didn't think much of it.
My earlier publications were basically erotica. I entered the romance world only three years ago, when the owner of Total-E-Bound contacted me about six months before the company launched to ask if I'd be interested in submitting something. I offered them two of my erotic novels that had gone out of print. The books really weren't traditional romance―in both cases the heroine has encounters with several individuals beside the hero―but they did both end with the hero and heroine getting together, and they were sexually intense, something TEB was seeking.
Since then I've penned more than a dozen new tales specifically targeted for the romance market. But it has been tough. I've had to learn new narrative conventions. For instance, much of my previous work was written in the first person, but my publisher made it pretty clear that she preferred third person. I wasn't used to providing detailed descriptions of my characters, but I came to understand that many romance readers want this. I've learned that I can give reign to my sexual imagination―the days of the closed bedroom door are over―but only if I keep the spotlight on the protagonists. I can't have the sexual subplots and the side scenarios that I used to include. One of the most difficult issues for me has been the apparent dislike that readers of M/M fiction have for including any female-oriented sexuality of any sort. I've also had to accept the relative unpopularity of F/F stories, even though I enjoy writing them.
Finally, one of the biggest adjustments for me has been always delivering a happy ending. I know that most of you reading this blog will find this strange. It's clear from the polls that I've conducted that romance readers insist on things turning out well for the hero and heroine (or hero and hero). But personally, I prefer more ambiguous resolutions to a story's conflicts. The problem with guaranteed happy endings (from an authorial perspective) is that they make it really hard to create any kind of suspense. No matter how impossible the obstacles dividing the protagonists, readers always know that everything will work out in the end. How do you make the reader care about the conflicts―how do you make the problems believable? --when a HEA is a foregone conclusion?
I'm still struggling with this issue. I've been reading my colleagues' work, trying to understand the dynamics of romance―what makes it work. I think I'm improving, but like I said, I still consider myself something of a clueless newbie. I hope that my readers will take that into account and be gentle!
My latest release is a M/M/F vampire ménage set in Jamaica called Fire in the Blood. Here's the blurb:
MADDY AND TROY HOPE THAT A CAREFREE VACATION IN TROPICAL JAMAICA WILL RE-IGNITE THE PASSION IN THEIR FIVE YEAR RELATIONSHIP. ON A SCENIC MOUNTAIN TRAIL RIDE, MADDY'S HORSE BOLTS AND CARRIES HER DEEP INTO THE JUNGLE. INJURED AND LOST, SHE IS SAVED BY A SEDUCTIVE GIANT OF A MAN WHOSE MERE PRESENCE KINDLES UNBEARABLE LUST. BY THE TIME SHE UNDERSTANDS HIS DARK NATURE, IT IS FAR TOO LATE FOR HER TO ESCAPE.
BITTER AND ALONE, ETIENNE DE RÉMORCY HAUNTS THE FOREST AROUND THE RUINED PLANTATION OF FIN D'ESPOIR. HE HAS SWORN TO NEVER AGAIN TASTE TASTE HUMAN BLOOD, BUT WHEN SLENDER, RAVEN-HAIRED MADELEINE BEGS HIM TO TAKE HER, HE CANNOT RESIST.
TROY IS HUGELY RELIEVED WHEN MADDY MAKES HER WAY BACK TO THEIR HOTEL AFTER HER ORDEAL IN THE MOUNTAINS. BUT HE FINDS HER GREATLY CHANGED―FIERCELY PASSIONATE IN BED, RESTLESS AND DISTURBED AT OTHER TIMES. THE TALL, ELEGANT STRANGER HE MEETS ON THE BEACH HOLDS THE KEY TO HER TRANSFORMATION―AND SOON HAS SEDUCED TROY AS WELL. EVEN ETIENNE'S MOST POTENT MAGIC CAN'T EXTINGUISH THE FIRE IN TROY'S AND MADELEINE'S BLOOD.
FIRE IN THE BLOOD IS NOW AVAILABLE AT TOTAL-E-BOUND. YOU CAN READ AN EXCERPT AT HTTP://WWW.LISABETSARAI.COM/FIREINTHEBLOODEX.HTML. YOU'LL FIND INFORMATION ON MY OTHER WORK AS WELL AS LOTS OF FREE STORIES ON MY WEBSITE, TOO.
Love, love, love your honesty, Lisabet! We all struggle with this from time to time, I think. HEA is not always easy to achieve if the plot doesn't warrant it - I have had to stop myself several times and go back to rethink. What will guarantee the HEA without making it contrived or 'convenient'. So over to you guys, there must be other writers who want to share frustrations!