This week’s task: find a friend or family member – or anyone we know who read something we wrote, or just reads romance in general – and interview them to see what kinds of things they want to see more of in romance books.
After reading the assignment, I immediately contacted the one person who has read everything I have ever written for publication – my daughter, Robyn. I trust Robyn to give me honest feedback because she is a writer herself. She earned a degree in professional writing and works as a technical writer, producing user manuals for a company that creates manufacturing machinery. Also, since she’s my daughter, she has no compunction about pointing out any errors or inconsistencies in my writing.
Since we both lead busy lives, we agreed to make the interview short. I drew up five questions, and she graciously answered them:
What genre do you usually read for pleasure?
I read a variety of genres, but I would say that 95% of the time if it’s fiction, it has an element of romance in it. Recent examples are Northinger Abby and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Lately, I’ve read a lot of memoirs. I just finished Amy Pohler’s Yes, Please and Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl. I’ve also read Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?, three autobiographical books by Chelsea Handler and one by Kathy Griffin.
Other than your mother asking you, what would make you pick up and read a romance?
I get a lot of recommendations from friends. Currently I’m on a quest to read at least one by book by every author who is a household name, (both classical and currently popular) and there are a lot of romance authors on my bucket list.
What kinds of characters appeal to you? What do you dislike in a character?
Quirky characters appeal to me. People who try to put their best foot forward but experience struggles to reach their goals. Characters who I can tell don’t have it all together. Sometimes I will like a character but dislike the way they’re written. I don’t like characters who are one-dimensional, who don’t behave the way humans act. People with perfect lives. They need to be flawed, like everyone else.
Do you get bored with the “happily ever after” of traditional romances?
I like the happy ending, but predictability is what bores me. I want to be surprised.
What advice would you give romance authors?
Pull more from real life. Make your characters and situations more realistic, yet unexpected – life is crazy and full of curve balls, so your stories should be, too. People are imperfect and life isn’t always tied up in a bow.
So I guess I have my advice: look for the wacky characters and situations in real life and use them as the basis for my next book! I owe a great deal of thanks to Robyn for her patience in answering these questions, as well as her young person’s perspective when I’m writing about characters much younger than me. I also appreciate her eagle eyes in editing my stories, since she reads them all before I submit them.
What advice would you give to a romance writer?