Breaking the Rules
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I once broke the cardinal rule of romance writing. It wasn’t my fault. Back in the day, it seemed impossible to carry a believable, interesting romance over a number of books. If you followed up a love story you usually had stupid misunderstandings. When I finished a book I wanted my characters to have gone through hell and back, and not let stupid shit push them apart.
So long ago, when I was writing category, Lydia Paglio at Dell asked if I’d be interested in writing three connected action/adventure romances. And I said of course, even though I took a 25% cut in advance, because it sounded like so much fun. I was going to write about three sisters and their cold war adventures (this was mid-1980s). I wrote the first book, a kick-ass book with a literally kick-ass heroine named Maggie Bennett, called ESCAPE OUT OF DARKNESS, and all was well.
Except they liked Maggie so much they decided they wanted her to star in all three books. And her love story was complete – I could see no way to sustain any reasonable tension between Maggie and Mack for two more books.
So at the beginning of book two I did the unthinkable. You know what I’m talking about, though I won’t put it into words in case someone hates spoilers. It happened off the page, and I cried when I did it, but I had to give Maggie motivation for going out and kicking butt. And I needed to bring the devious, bewitching Randall in.
So I did it. In DARKNESS AT DAWN Mack … er … well, you can guess what happened. Maggie went on to save her sisters (they got to be subplots) and discover the truth about the most devastating occurrence in her life. And I always felt guilty but justified. Hey, it wasn’t my fault.
And the happy ending in Book Three justified it all. I really loved Randall — he was such a deliciously wicked character, and he deserved Maggie. I was happy in the end, even if I broke the cardinal rule.
And all was well, until we come to the new renaissance in paranormal/urban fantasy. And lo and behold writers like Jeaniene Frost, Kelley Armstrong, Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs, among others, manage to spin a totally convincing, intense love story through five or six or even more books. And I’m covered with shame.
I took a dive, took the easy way out instead of figuring out a way to make it happen. You gotta understand there were lots and lots of rules back then, most of which I broke on a regular basis (now why does that sound familiar)? Most of them were good rules to break. Wouldn’t you know I’d go and break the one rule I shouldn’t have?
So therein lies my apology in advance. A bunch of my romantic suspense backlist books are available for the Kindle (for the first year) and for everyone the following year, and they’ve put the Maggie Bennetts back out again, if you’re interested. They really are divine.
But be prepared to forgive me my sins. If I had to do it all over again I could make it work. In fact, I think I need to write a series about the same characters that go through three or more books, just to see if I can do it.
I always did love a challenge.