Monday, May 23, 2011

Many Genres, One Craft

By KJ Howe

I had the pleasure of attending Seton Hill University while completing my Master's in Popular Fiction, and, recently, a large group of graduates have contributed to a fabulous book about the craft of writing. MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT is a compilation of craft articles from graduates of Seton Hill, and it was edited by the talented Heidi Ruby Miller and Mike Arnzen. I'm proud to be part of such an exciting project, and I thought I'd introduce a few of the romance contributors to our Romance Bandits crew.

First, I'd like to introduce the wonderful Dana Marton who came to the United States from Hungary, learned English and sold her romance novels to Harlequin. She's an absolute inspiration:

Romance is a big part of my books. Usually, with a Harlequin Intrigue, 40% of my plot is romance while 60% is suspense. Romance adds an extra layer of conflict, an extra layer of color and substance to the suspense plot. It brings everything into focus and brings things to another level. A lot of my heroes are commando type or secret agents, etc.—tough and rough. They're not very much in touch with their softer side So it's always interesting to watch them fall in love.

I've only published romantic suspense so far, but I've written in other sub-genres of romance. The romantic element does vary, as does the sensuality level. Ultimately, every element must serve the story itself. The romance must fit the personalities of the main characters. Their feelings and how they react to their feelings should reveal a lot about them. Do they jump in with both feet? Do they resist? Why?

-Dana Marton, author of The Socialite and the Bodyguard and The Spy Who Saved Christmas


Dana Marton -

The Socialite and the Bodyguard -

The Spy Who Saved Christmas -


Next up is Penny Dawn, and this girl writes the best love scenes ever, so if you're looking for some hot romance, check out Penny. Her storytelling abilities, both on paper and in person are unforgettable:

Romance plays a great part in all of my work, even if I'm writing psychological thrillers. I believe characters ought to be written true to life, and I've yet to meet a human not interested in romance. Disinterested in dating? Sure. Disgruntled with marriage? Absolutely. But most people thrive on sharing themselves with another.

In books centered around relationships, obviously, the romance is the main focus. However, if I'm writing criminal suspense (of which I am currently in the throes with the marvelous Patrick W. Picciarelli,) romantic inclinations become subplots, meant to enhance characters. As my work is character-driven, I use romance to flesh out the personas in my head. To my thinking, one finds herself only after a major experience in politics, religion, occupation/economics, or matters of the heart. Once I drive a character through desire, heartache, climax, and fulfillment, she's reached Velveteen Rabbit status--she may as well be alive.

I have never written without romance, and I've rarely written without sensual threads. I hope I never see the day, when I stray from this edict. Love is a pulse within each of us. Ignoring it is detrimental to character development.

-Penny Dawn, author of The Carman Chronicles and Measuring Up


Penny Dawn -

The Carman Chronicles -

Measuring Up -


And please welcome Adina Senft who has written under several names. She amazes me with her ability to be successful in any genre. And, for everyone who knows about our Golden Rooster, you may be interested in asking about Adina's chickens!:

Whether I’m writing a young adult novel, a category romance, or a women’s fiction novel set on an Amish farm, romance always factors into my plots because the courtship story is so important to me. I could be reading a hardboiled David Morrell thriller, but if he puts a romance thread in there, that’s what will hook me rather than the flying bullets. So when I’m writing, romance is inevitable.

It does vary with the type of book I’m working on, though. In category or single title romance, of course, the courtship and building the relationship is the whole plot, and issues and subplots are secondary to it. But in YA and women’s fiction, the core story is about a woman finding herself and her place in a community, so the focus is on the journey of self-discovery. Along the way, in my books at least, part of that self-discovery includes my heroine’s capacity to love someone and build a meaningful, healthy relationship. This can happen in a co-ed boarding school, as in my "All About Us" series of teen books, or in a farm community in the Amish country of Pennsylvania.

It’s almost more challenging for me to write the romance thread in women’s fiction novels, because the reader may not be the core romance reader who is looking for that satisfying conclusion—the happy ending. And in YA, for example, it wouldn’t be appropriate for a 17-year-old looking forward to her high school graduation to find "the one" and get married. But she is looking for an emotional connection as part of her growth as a human being, and my urge to write romance can be satisfied with a first kiss for that character. In my women’s fiction, especially in the Amish setting, that first kiss can pack the punch of an entire love scene. There may not be as much romance in such a story as there is in a single title, but as the writer, I want to make it immensely satisfying—both for myself and for the reader.

-Adina Senft, author of The Wounded Heart


Adina Senft -

The Wounded Heart -


And, Heidi Ruby Miller's incredible organizational skills are evident in everything she does, from building unforgettable worlds for readers to reaching out to every student at Seton Hill and making them feel special. A huge thank you to Heidi for her efforts in putting this book together:

The tag line for my latest novel, Ambasadora, says it best: If everyone told you love wasn't real, would you still be willing to die for it?

Of course, we want the characters to say YES, then prove it! And, mine always do.

My brand is strength through a lover, so the relationship is just as important to me as the adventure. The adventure takes many forms—space opera, thrillers, fantasy—but the coming together of one or more couples within that framework is a must for the story. I love reading emotional scenes of intimacy, and for me, they are just as exhilarating to write, so I make consummating the relationship as big of a grail as stopping the bad guy. In my mind, it's the most satisfying ending.

It was only in my recent work that I wasn't afraid to admit how much I loved seeing couples fall in love because as a woman trying to write science fiction and spy thrillers, I felt I had to write for a male audience and feared losing that audience to sentimentality. So I wrote like I thought a man would write and about things I thought a man would write about. It was difficult always holding back what I really wanted to put on the paper, reworking the vision I had for my own work. Then one day I had enough and just started to write for myself—a woman who likes to be titillated by those shy glances and deep kisses as much as she likes the adrenaline rush of two powerful characters coming to blows. I found out that romance makes my stories better, and it certainly makes me happy when I'm writing them.

-Heidi Ruby Miller, author of Ambasadora and co-editor of Many Genres, One Craft


Heidi Ruby Miller -

Ambasadora -

Many Genres, One Craft –

Many Genres blog –

Thanks to all you for coming to visit the lair today. I have such fond memories of my time at Seton Hill and meeting all of you. For anyone looking to find a craft book with many different perspectives and genres, MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT could be the right fit for you.



Nancy said...

KJ and friends, what an interesting post! I think figuring out where the genre lines are can be a challenge, especially for new writers.

Welcome, Dana, Penny, Adina, and Heidi!

Nancy said...

Looks like the rooster will be paying us a visit. The resident canine chases birds, so maybe he'll have an incentive to be useful!

Anna Campbell said...

Wow, KJ, a cast of thousands today! And all incredibly interesting. Dana, I've heard a lot about your books from my friend Robbie Grady. They sound wonderful!

Nancy, you've got the chook! That doesn't happen very often. I hope you're going to keep him on the straight and narrow!

Mary Preston said...

This post was both insightful & interesting. I loved that.

Helen said...

Well done Nancy it is a while since he has visited you have fun with him

KJ,Dana,Penny,Adina and Heidi

Great post

What an interesting post I love the comradre between authors that in the end gives us readers more awesome books to read

Have Fun

Donna MacMeans said...

Sounds like a great book - more than craft, really - a good insight into a number of genres.

Congrats on the GR, Nancy!

Anna Sugden said...

How cool, KJ and what fun to see some familiar names! I've just been reading one of Dana's books - she's a favourite Intrigue author!

I love hearing that I'm not the only one who enjoys the romance threads in an otherwise non-romance book. I have to admit, it can be frustrating when it's not handled well, (mostly by male authors) but I agree with all our guests, it lends a wonderful level of depth to the characters.

The great thing is that romance is now available in so many sub-genres, so we can combine our love of other types of books with our passion for romance!

KJ Howe said...

Nancy, congrats on the GR. Hope he is good to you!

KJ Howe said...

Hey Anna, hope things are going well in Australia. I just received the most fabulous postcard!!! Many thanks!

KJ Howe said...

Hey Marybelle, we really appreciate you stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

KJ Howe said...

Helen, the experience at Seton Hill was like no other--I really enjoyed getting to know all these lovely ladies!

KJ Howe said...

Hi Donna, one of the things I liked about Seton Hill was the mixed genre groups. By critiquing different genres, you can learn so much, and it can add to your writing.

KJ Howe said...

Anna S, I feel strongly that a romance sub-plot adds such wonderful dimension to any genre, that it's sad when authors don't do it. Although, it's best when the romance is handled well. I've read a few novels where there is no emotion, and that didn't work for me.

Heidi Ruby Miller said...

Hello everyone and thank you for the warm welcome!

We're very proud of the MANY GENRES book because it was two years in the making with 65 wonderful contributors who taught me something each time I read over their essays.

Seton hill has always been an incredible writing community--that's where I met Kim!

Nancy said...

Donna, Anna, KJ, and Helen, the GR is currently hiding on top of the piano, behind an 8 x 10 photo of the boy. It doesn't entirely conceal him, but the dog is too short to see over the frame.

He tried to sneak out the back door, probably to work mischief and annoy the neighbors, but she chased him back inside. Looked very pleased with herself, too.

I plan to find something useful for him to do. I'm just not sure, yet, what it'll be.

Nancy said...

Anna, I also like romance threads in books outside the genre. However, I often find them poorly developed.

I want to know what brings the h/h together. I don't expect the degree of emotional exploration we find in romances, but I want there to be _some_thing below the surface, something to show me why this particular man and this particular woman are drawn ro each other rather than to someone else. And there often is nothing to tell me that.

Nancy said...

Heidi, welcome! I've pretty much had my fill of school, but if I were to go back, it would probably be for something like the Seton Hill program. I've heard great things about it.

Heidi Ruby Miller said...

Nancy, you mentioned how many romantic threads outside the genre tend to be underdeveloped. I agree! In fact, I wrote an entire essay about that in MANY GENRES, at least in regards to SF Romance.

My thoughts were that there's this misconception that readers won't like mixed genres, so a writer still needs to "choose a side" and use the tropes from one genre or the other and just sprinkle in details from the other.

That's ridiculous, in my opinion.

I believe there are many readers like myself who want the romance to be treated with as much gusto as the rest of the plot.

KJ Howe said...

Hey Heidi, welcome to the lair. I can't wait to read through the book and learn from all the others as well. So many fabulous articles!

KJ Howe said...

Nancy, I'm wondering if the GR is trained to do housework????

adinasenft said...

Hi everyone, and thanks so much for having us here--especially to Kim, our hostess.

Nancy's question of slipping romance into a non-romance story and making that couple convincing is a very good one--because I've noticed the same thing. What I do when I have an H/h who are wildly different is to give them some underlying qualities that they share. It's these qualities that attract them to each other, even though they may not be out there on the surface.

I suppose it's a result of meeting my DH--he's very different from me (picture a librarian and a lumberjack), but we share qualities under those surface elements that make us a good fit. We're about to celebrate our 23rd anniversary so it must be working! LOL

PS: Send the GR over ... I have a couple of golden hens who will set him straight!

Heidi Ruby Miller said...

Penny just emailed me to say she's having trouble posting comments, but she says, "Hi!" and will keep trying.

Something with her Google account.

Hi Adina!

jo robertson said...

What a grand group of writers you've brought to the Lair today, Kim! I'm so impressed with the expertise and range of skill among Dana, Penny, Adina, and Heidi!

I've long thought that suppression of the romance thread in mainstream mystery and suspense has been driven by the marketing aspect of publication. Where, oh where, to put that particular book on the bookstore shelf?

LOL, the internet seems to be changing that along with a lot of other stuff.

KJ Howe said...

Hey Adina, wonderful to have you here! I knew you'd be the woman to sort out our Golden Rooster. :) You make a great point about opposites attracting--there usually are some common values that bring people together, but they can be very different to the outside eye. The librarian and the it!

KJ Howe said...

Hey Jo, you are so right about marketing driving the placement of books. All the marketing guys want round pegs for round holes...and if you dare write a square one, it'll be a hard sell. However, look at Diana Gabaldon. She sure broke the mold.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Dana, Penny, Adina and Heidi! Welcome to the Lair!

This project sounds fab, KJ, et al. I love the exploration of genres and genre lines. Several of us have had some interesting discussions about this very thing. Of course, that's probably because several of us have those mss that just "don't fit" the mold of one particular genre.

Or they're in an "off" time period.

As Jo said (I think it was Jo) those lines are blurring though, thanks to all the changes in publishing.

To all of you, how do you think the coursework at Seton has affected your writing?

Heidi Ruby Miller said...

You said it about the changes happening in publishing! I believe it will benefit readers the most by finally giving those hard-to-fit books a home.

Seton Hill's diversity in genres made my writing so much fuller. During critique sessions I learned different tips from different writers, and I wouldn't have been able to attain my vision of my thesis, AMBASADORA, without help from both the Spec Fic writers and the Romance writers. And, having a supportive community of the alum numbering in the hundreds is a dream come true!

Nancy said...

Here's hoping Blogger will let me post the comment this time.

Heidi, I do think that the genre choice should determine which elements dominate, but I also think that if a plotline is worth putting into the book, it's worth developing. If you're not going to give us some actual reasons these two people are attracted, why bother?

I realize there are readers out there who'd just as soon have no romantic arc in their books, and that's fine, but I prefer books that have at least some degree of romance in them.

Nancy said...

Adina, the GR is currently sulking in the yard. The dh set him to weeding the garden under the dog's watchful gaze.

Nancy said...

Jo wrote: I've long thought that suppression of the romance thread in mainstream mystery and suspense has been driven by the marketing aspect of publication. Where, oh where, to put that particular book on the bookstore shelf?

I suspect it's also driven by considerations of guy readers. There seems to be more romance--though not a lot--in cozy mysteries than in police procedurals or thrillers.

KJ Howe said...

Hi Jeanne, great question about Seton Hill. I liked the multi-dimensional experience. My craft improved, my storytelling skills developed, and the critiques gave me invaluable feedback. I'm so happy I had the privilege of attending.