I can't remember when my passion for stories began, but I clearly remember the first time it got me into trouble. You know those moments you want to curl up into a ball so tight you turn invisible? The ones that are etched on your brain for the rest of your life? This story even followed me to high school. I still cringe to think of it...
I was five, sitting in a classroom in Australia with little wooden chairs, faux wood veneer desks and linoleum floors. The teacher was reading a story out loud to the class. It was one of those melting summer days, where the heat shimmered off the tarmac outside and the ceiling fans simply shifted stifling air around.
I'd drunk a lot of water at 'big lunch'.
And right in the middle of this fantastic, breathtaking story, I had to pee.
But boy, did I need to hear the end of that story. I wriggled a bit. I glanced outside. The bathrooms were a bit of a walk away...
The angst of indecision tore me apart as badly as any tortured hero in a romance novel. In the end, story won.
And now I'm a writer, I want to make people hang on the edge of their seat for the end of my novels. I want them to say they couldn't put the book down--yes, even when they needed to pee. But how does a writer achieve that goal?
Is it tension and pacing? Is it making the reader care passionately about the characters? Is it conflict? Is it plot? Is it all of those things? What makes an ending compelling? After you've burned through the pages to get there, what ingredient makes the anticipation worthwhile, leaving you triumphant yet desolated and restless when the book ends? Do you know that feeling? I certainly do. I mourn some books for days afterwards, wishing I hadn't read them so quickly. Sometimes I even re-read them straight away.
What is it about those books that make me want to go out and buy the author's complete backlist, or long for her to hurry and write the next in the series?
I'm pretty sure I know what *doesn't* work for me as a reader. I've read romances where the romantic conflict is resolved far too early, leaving about a quarter of the book to deal with solving the mystery, getting the bad guy and so on. You know, I'd really like to say I cared about the stolen diamonds/long lost sister/orphans in trouble, but the truth is, the *romance* is what keeps me reading a romance novel--a compelling relationship between hero and heroine. If the couple spend the final fifty pages in perfect accord, they're probably fifty pages I won't read.
But sometimes the romantic conflict just drags on too long, until you're convinced these two can't possibly be happy together. So it's a fine balance. I don't think I have the answer. I just have to write the books as they come and do the best I can to give the reader that pay-off at the end. But if anyone has the secret, I'm here, ready and willing to listen.
So what about you? What's your favorite ending to a romance? Can you tell me why? And what's your most embarrassing childhood moment?
Oh, and here is my new cover!! This is for my second Berkley historical romance, The Dangerous Duke. Isn't it gorgeous?