My Sweet Side by Mimi Riser

Does anyone remember the old style sweet romances? Not today’s sweet romances, but those short contemporaries of the ‘60s and ‘70s that matched up young, virginal heroines (who were often poor and alone in life) with older, worldlier heroes, who were always very rich, very handsome, and very, very alpha? 

Believe it or not, I once wrote one. (Yep, me, who now writes erotic-romances. Talk about moving from one extreme to the other, LOL.) In fact, I would have written more, but the publisher closed. It was fun while it lasted though. I honestly liked those old style sweets—both reading and writing them. They were like fairytales in a way. Also, my mother and older brother were writing them at the same time I was, which added to the fun. The year was 1978—I was an innocent young thing of 23 (almost as young and innocent as those novels’ heroines, come to think of it)—and the three of us were writing for the MacFadden Romance line, which was published out of NY in the late ‘70s. If you’ve never heard of that line, just picture the old original Harlequins and you’ll have a good idea of what a MacFadden romance was like. 

They were called “formula romances,” a term that’s considered rather derogatory today, but it didn’t seem so back then. True, the books were written to a pretty specific formula, but it was one that readers enjoyed. It worked, just like a recipe for one’s favorite food. If you like a particular dish, you can eat it often without tiring of it, right? That’s the reader perspective, anyway, as I see it. 

As an author, now, I found the challenge in writing this sort of book was discovering how creative I could be within the confines of the assigned formula. To use another food analogy, it was like cooking with limited ingredients but still doing one’s best to produce a tasty meal. My mother, for instance, always managed to season her MacFaddens with a dash of mystery and suspense, whereas mine contained a generous sprinkling of comedy, so though we were using the same basic recipe, our stories still had different flavors. 

My brother, on the other hand, was a little too creative, so to speak, and ended up having to rewrite half of his before it could be published. What he did, actually, was… Are you ready for this?… He wrote a ROMANY hero. (Gasp. LOL) Nowadays, of course, that would be fine, but we couldn’t slip it past the “formula police” back then, and he had to change it. I received a wee bit of criticism, too, for writing a hero with an Irish accent, which was also considered a tad un-formula. Mind you, an Irish hero was okay, but apparently I should have had him educated in England so he could have an English accent. My bad. However, I convinced my editor to let it stay by regaling her with tales of the Irish rugby team my two roommates and I had dated for one weekend back in college, thereby proving that it was indeed a sexy accent and added a worthwhile dimension to his character. (Big grin)  

18 Responses to My Sweet Side by Mimi Riser

  1. JOYE

    Enjoyed the interview I have read alot of formulaic romances but still enjoy them and I enjoyed reading one of your books too

  2. anne

    Your blog was fascinating to read since it resounded with me. I did read those typical types of romance novels since I had to read everything in sight and devoured them endelssly. I find it amusing though now to realize how dated they are, but were enjoyable at the time. Your books sound compelling. Best of success.

  3. Maureen

    Hi Mimi!
    I don’t remember MacFaddens romances but I do remember those Harlequins from back then. I enjoyed those formula romances too. The hero didn’t give his feelings away at all until the end.

  4. Fedora

    Hi, Mimi! Loved your post today–very interesting! I don’t remember the MacFaddens, but I do remember the old Harlequins. How neat that your whole family was in on the writing thing! Out of curiosity, do your mom and brother still write, too?

  5. Billie Jo

    Mimi,

    Hey girl. I don’t remember the old romances. I didn’t start reading them until about 10 yrs ago.

    Great blog.

    Billie Jo

  6. Billie Jo

    Hey Mimi

  7. Cathy M

    When I first started reading romance stories, I inhaled those “formula” romances books too. I am still hooked, but have graduated to hot and sexy.

  8. Mimi Riser

    Hi Joye, Anne, Maureen, Fedora, Cathy, and Billie Jo! Thanks for the comments and good wishes, y’all 🙂 It’s interesting, isn’t it, to look back on those old stories and consider how far we’ve come since– even just in the writing of the books. It used to be that you couldn’t use any POV except the heroine’s. Then when it was finally allowable to include the hero’s POV, oh my! what a wonderful innovation that seemed (LOL). I’ve always been a big fan of fantasy and SF, too, and I can remember thinking back then how great it would be to blend those genres with romance, an unheard of idea at the time… but not too many years later that was exactly what was happening. And I was so pleased to see it. 🙂 Needless to say, I haven’t written “formula” for a loooong time (I’m not sure I even could write it today, so it’s a good thing I don’t have to ), but I still read it occasionally and still find it enjoyable. What can I say? I love romance in all its forms. I’m just a Romance Junkie. 😉

  9. Mimi Riser

    PS – I was asked if my mom and brother are still still writing… My brother still does part time (but not romance). My mom, unfortunately, died of cancer in 1985, shortly after her 60th birthday (way too young)…but if heaven has typewriters, I can imagine she’s still writing, too. 😉 What’s nice is having the books she left behind. I reread them occasionally and find it very comforting. It’s like holding a piece of her in my hands.

  10. Mimi Riser

    PPS – [waving to Billie Jo] Hey, BJ! Long time no see. How’ve you been, stranger? 😉

  11. Jenyfer Matthews

    I love it that your brother was writing them too! What’s he up to these days?

    And you are right – men with accents are sexy!

  12. Billie Jo

    Mimi,

    Waving back at you girl. I am doing well. How are you?

    Billie Jo

  13. Fedora

    Mimi, I’m so sorry to hear about your mom–I imagine she’s still creating 🙂 And it must really be a treasure to still have her books–such a tangible legacy of sorts!

    And that’s really neat, to be part of a family of writers!

    Oh, and also yes, accents are very sexy! 😉

  14. Debbie Wallace

    OMG…do I ever remember those sweet romances! Back then I was also hooked on Barbara Cartland novels, anyone remember her? Her heroines were also young and virginal.

  15. Mimi Riser

    Hi Jenyfer! It is cool when men write romance, isn’t it? My brother, of course, had to write his under a female name, since it was considered then that no one would buy a romance written by a guy. To even things out, tho, that same year (’78) I also wrote a couple of sci-fi adventure novels for another publisher…and those came out under a male name for the same reason in reverse. (“Who’d want to buy a space-opera written by a girl?” LOL) What my brother’s working on now is a western mystery…I hope. Meaning that the first three chapters were good, so I wish he’d hurry up and finish it so I can read the rest. Grrr…

  16. Mimi Riser

    Thanks, Fedora!

    It was interesting to say the least growing up in my family. Kinda like living in a critique group… lol 🙂

  17. Mimi Riser

    Hey, Debbie, I liked those Barbara Cartlands, too! In fact, I think hers were some of the first romances I ever read. The lady had “formula” down to a rare art form. And she was quite a character in her own right. (Didn’t she once say she was going to keep writing till her face fell off?… or something like that.) You had to admire her.

  18. Mimi Riser

    Hi, everyone – Just popping in to announce the winner of my contest here… With everything else they do, the lovely “Goddesses of RJ” have graced me by choosing a name in a random drawing from among all those who’ve posted comments…

    And the WINNER is… Billie Jo! Yay! 🙂

    Billie Jo, just let me know which book you’d like (“Samantha White & The Seven Dwarves” or “Tina Takes A Tumble”), and which format you’d like it in (PDF, HTML, LIT, PRC, or RB)… To help you decide, you can check out blurbs and excerpts for the books at:
    http://www.amberquill.com/AmberHeat/SamanthaWhite.html (for “Samantha”)
    http://www.amberquill.com/AmberHeat/TinaTumble.html (for “Tina”)

    THANK YOU to all who took the time to read & comment on my guest spot here– and remember that if you didn’t win this time, you’ve got other shots at it thru my newsletter, because I do monthly prize drawings there. For a chance to win, all you have to do is sign up at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MimiRiserNews (Everyone who signs up is automatically entered in all the drawings.) 🙂

    Thanks, RJ, for giving me the chance to guest blog! I gotta admit, it was my first time guest blogging anywhere, and I was a little nervous about it, but you ladies made it so simple and so much fun. I truly had a wonderful time! 🙂

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