By Cheryl Brooks
You have only to look at the names of blogs where romance novels are reviewed and discussed to realize one thing: we are all Romance Junkies at heart! There is something intensely addicting about the sensation of new love and though some women go from lover to lover to fill that need, most of us read (or write!) romance novels.
It’s no secret that reading romance novels is cheaper, safer, and easier than finding a new man every few weeks—though when you’re browsing the bookstore shelves, it doesn’t always seem that way!—which is probably why the romance market is such a huge part of the publishing industry. Even when the economy is taking hit after hit, the romance novel market is standing firm. The reason? We all need our regular dose of “romance endorphins” to help us cope with difficult times; it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity! We read historical novels to look back on simpler times and to help us better appreciate what we have today. We read contemporary novels to see how others deal with life in today’s world and changing times, and we read paranormals for pure, unadulterated escape.
The latest installment of The Cat Star Chronicles, Outcast, has a little bit of all three. For a woman working her farm alone, there are changing times to be dealt with and life is fraught with dangers and frustrations. Because this story is set during a colonial period, there is a historical feel to it, but it’s not just a new country or continent being colonized; it’s a new planet. Though some of the other colonists are from Earth, there are just as many others from strange worlds throughout the galaxy which provides endless opportunities for good, escapist fun!
Of course, none of these elements provide the same high that a romance gives the reader. The first inklings of attraction, the fantasies, the denial, the pain, the rush of sexual awareness which ultimately culminates in the excitement of new love, then more pain (it’s a romance novel, right?) and finally, the joy of love. It just doesn’t get any better than that!
These are the things I’ve tried to incorporate into Outcast, but the funny thing is, I don’t think about them while I’m writing. It’s after I’ve written a book that I can see what I was trying to accomplish. In many ways, I go about it backwards. I hate being asked to write a synopsis for a book that’s not yet written because I know it will change as the story unfolds. New ideas and inspirations come along as I write, and if I were inflexible, some of the best stuff would never reach the printed page. When a character begins to speak, sometimes they say something I didn’t intend, but it often turns out better than what I’d originally planned. This is why I like to begin with a vague idea for a story and then let it play out.
My characters are born the same way. A friend recently gave me a pillow with “Careful, or you might end up in my novel” embroidered on it, and I believe there’s a great deal of truth in that. People I’ve never even met have wound up as characters in my books, along with some people I know quite well. Most of mine are composites, and I doubt that any writer ever comes up with a truly original character. I begin with certain characteristics, and then that character grows over the course of the novel. Sometimes I have to go back and rewrite earlier passages, but when I discover a hidden talent or flaw in a character, it’s like getting to know someone new; when you meet someone for the first time, you can’t know everything about them right off the bat. They have to introduce themselves and get acquainted with you before revealing their deepest secrets.
I’m guessing that most of you Romance Junkies out there read novels to escape, but what other ways are you coping with today’s changing world? I’d love to hear your ideas and strategies, but, be warned: you may end up in my novel!