A question fiction writers are often asked is will they write a sequel. Some authors do write sequels or perhaps they’ll write an entire series of books, as I did with a series of novelettes I wrote in the 2000s as Gayle Martin. The Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers was about two modern day youngers taking a summer road trip with their mother. Along the way they stopped at historical sites where they traveled back in time to learn the real history of the American west. While each book in series was about a different historical figure, there was an overall plotline that carried over each book; the road trip the two kids were taking with their mother.
When I switched genres and started writing contemporary romance novels I made the decision to not write sequels. Sequels can be problematic as they tend to be redundant and are often not as good as the original. My books would be stand alone novels and each story would end with complete closure. However, there were times when I created a supporting character who was interesting enough to warrant having his or her own story, as was the case with Jeremy in The Reunion. He soon his own book, The Journey, but The Journey wasn’t a sequel to The Reunion. It was a spin-off.
Simply put, a spin-off is when characters from one story are put into a different story. The late producer Norman Lear created a television show in the 1970s called, All in the Family. It was a huge hit, and those of you born in the eighties and beyond have no doubt heard of it or have seen it. All in the Family soon had a spin-off called, Maude, which in my opinion, was a whole lot funnier. Maude was Edith Bunker’s outspoken cousin who was first introduced in an episode of All in the Family. Interestingly enough, Lear later produced a spin-off from Maude called, Good Times, which was about Maude’s housekeeper, Florida Evans. All three shows were hits and ran for several seasons.
Hey, if it was good enough for Norman Lear, then it’s good enough for Marina Martindale. Along with The Journey, I’ve written two other spin-off novels; The Betrayal, another Reunion spin-off, and my newest novel, which I’ve just started, called, The Diversion, which is a spin-off from The Betrayal. It’s lead character, Tonya Claiborne, was a strong supporting character with a lot of potential. Look for The Diversion in 2021.
All stories have their antagonists, and in my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, Randy Hall is perhaps one of my most villainous characters to date. Randy is the ex-husband of lead character Lauren McAllen, and his goal is to destroy her at all costs.
Randy and Lauren had a dream marriage until Randy developed an addiction disorder, leaving Lauren no alternative but to file for divorce once the marriage became toxic. Randy, however, doesn’t think he has a problem. He sees Lauren’s departure as abandonment, and, in Lauren’s words, “no one dumps Randy Hall and gets away with it.” As the story unfolds Lauren is unwittingly caught up in a major Hollywood scandal, which Randy skillfully uses as a weapon to wreak havoc on her life and her career.
Many of us have experienced relationships which started out well, only to unravel because, unknown to us at the time, the person we became involved with had an addiction disorder. Unfortunately, people with addictions don’t come with warning labels, and addicts are oftentimes masters at hiding their addictions until it becomes too late. Once the addiction becomes known some partners will end the relationship as quickly as possible, while others may go into their own form of denial, believing they can change the addict. It’s a great romantic fairytale, but one I will never write about, because the reality is that the only person who can change the addict is the addict him or herself. In the real world the so-called helpful partner becomes the enabler who reinforces the addiction, and the relationship typically doesn’t end well.
Randy is a composite character whose inspiration comes from a few men I’ve known in the past who, sadly, turned out to have addictive disorders. Thankfully, none were as toxic as Randy, and none of the relationships lasted long.
A few people have asked me if I’ll be writing about Covid-19 in any of my future contemporary romance novels. My answer is no, absolutely not.
This isn’t to say pandemics can’t be good subject matter for a novel. For some genres, such as science fiction, mystery, or thrillers, an epidemic can make for an interesting story with plenty of conflict and drama. (I read The Stand, and loved it.) However, I write contemporary romance. My characters are hugging, kissing and making love, which would be rather awkward in the age of social distancing. Erotica writers on the other hand might have fun writing, shall we say, interesting, scenes about masks or Zoom sessions, but I write sensual romance, which means most of the action in my stories takes place outside of the bedroom.
In the meantime I spent much of my time during the lockdown going over my earlier books, and, as a result, you’ll be seeing a spin off novel from The Betrayal. One of the minor characters in The Betrayal was a teenager named Tonya Claiborne. She appears in the latter part of the story, and she’s a strong character with a lot of potential for a leading role. I wrote The Betrayal in 2015, so you’ll be meeting an adult Tonya in the new book, which will most likely be titled The Diversion. The young Tonya was self confident but likeable, so we’ll see what she does when life throws her curveball and she goes off course. I had planned on The Rival being my next book, but I’m bumping it back until after The Diversion. So, it looks like I’m going to be busy for awhile.
In the meantime, in case you haven’t read The Betrayal, I’ve posted a free preview below.
Director Charles McKenna, the leading man in my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, has been drawn to Lauren McAllen for some time, although she’s not aware of it. For the past few years they’ve been working closely together a top rated soap opera. Lauren, however, has recently left the show, hoping to break into feature films, while Chuck wants out of Hollywood for good.
The son of a set nurse and a director of B-rated horror films, Chuck grew up in the entertainment industry. He too thought he wanted a career in movies and television, but after years of grueling hours directing a soap opera, he’s burned out and no longer sure of what he wants. His plan is to relocate to Colorado once his contract is up. As much as he wants Lauren, having such different goals means any romance between them would be short lived at best, so he decides to keep it as just friends. Fate, however, has other plans for both Chuck and Lauren, as each experiences their own unforeseen tragedies which turn both of their lives upside down and will redefine their relationship.
To read a free preview of The Scandal, please click on the link below.
Sometimes life imitates art. The Harvey Weinstein scandal broke shortly after I had decided to write a contemporary romance novel about Hollywood. This created an unexpected challenge as I strive to create unique, original characters. Therefore, I would have to make a point of not having a character with too close of a resemblance to Mr. Weinstein. Enter Calvin Michaelson, a Hollywood mogul and the catalyst for The Scandal.
I had envisioned Cal as a predator, but he would be similar to Roman Polanski. Unfortunately, it came out way too creepy for my taste. I wrote a couple of revisions, but Cal remained too creepy. Novel writing, like other endeavours, doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes what sounds good in a treatment, or the story summary, simply doesn’t work once pen is put to paper, as was certainly the case here. The character would have to be reinvented. So, after much thought, Cal went from a creepy predator to a Hugh Hefner like playboy. He’s a womanizer who makes no apologies for who he is. Unfortunately, like many of his real-life counterparts, Cal will become his own undoing and he soon finds himself in the middle of scandal that rocks Hollywood. Later on, however, Cal will become an unlikely hero, and readers will discover a hidden side to this complex character.
Calvin Michaelson is a purely fictional character. His inspiration comes from powerful men who thought they were too big to fall and thus became their own undoing.
Lauren McAllen, one of the lead characters in my contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, has achieved fame in a town where few become successful. For the past ten years she’s played an iconic vamp on a top-rated soap opera, making her a household name and the woman fans love to hate. Now she’s ready to move on and become a star on the big screen.
Once again, luck appears to be on Lauren’s side. Hollywood mogul Calvin Michaelson has seen her work, and he soon offers her a supporting role in a feature film. For Lauren, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and dream come true. However, it may come at a price. While Cal has made other women famous, he has a reputation for expecting certain favors in return. But before the cameras start rolling, Cal is accused of a serious wrongdoing, and Lauren will soon find herself caught up in a major scandal that rocks Hollywood.
Lauren is a fictitious character. Her inspiration came from a cousin who once played on a soap opera many years ago. However, Lauren is a unique individual whose life is very different from from my cousin’s.
Please click on the link below to read a free preview of The Scandal.
Ask any fiction author. They’ll tell you characters have minds of their own. And believe me, I have experienced this phenomenon many times myself. There’ve been times when a character came out differently than planned, and always been for the better.
Other villains, however, had a certain quality about them. They’re more complex, more charismatic and, for lack of a better word, sexy. Jeremy Palmer in The Reunion was the first. Originally intended to be a rogue character who would do his dirty deed and disappear, Jeremy had that special charisma. He became a rival, competing with his father to win Gillian’s affections. Josh Ramsey in The Letter was a conman. Then the chemistry between him and Stephanie unexpectedly sizzled. So I revamped him into a mystery man.
I strive to make my villains as despicable as I can. There’s nothing more fun than a villain we love to hate getting their comeuppance. Some of my more dastardly villains include Scott Andrews in The Betrayal. Scott was a married guy presenting himself as a single guy to entice unsuspecting single women. Then there’s Beau Fowler, the corrupt detective in The Betrayal. He tried to frame an innocent woman for a crime she didn’t commit. And finally, there’s Craig Walker, the sociopathic villain in The Stalker. He’ll resort to kidnapping and murder to get what he wants.
Now it’s happening again. This time it’s Calvin Michaelson, in my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Scandal. Cal’s a Hollywood mogul with a reputation as a playboy. Intended to be a despicable villain for readers to hate, his character became more dynamic than expected. He too is being revamped. He’ll still be a playboy, but at the end of the story a new and completely unexpected side to Cal will be revealed.
With only a few more chapters to write my next contemporary romance novel will soon be ready go to the editor. I am loving this story. It’s coming out much better than expected. It includes an amazing cast of characters, and it’s probably my most well researched book so far.
As my readers know, I put a lot of time and effort into making my storylines as realistic and believable as possible. And with this novel I’ve learned a lot about the television and movie industry. I also had to do some major revisions, but that’s okay. Each revision makes the story that much better. I also had to revamp my main antagonist.
As luck would have it, shorty after I decided to write a book about Hollywood, the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. Interesting timing, but I didn’t want to emulate it in my novel. I opted instead to have my lead antagonist be more of a Roman Polanski. However, it came out a bit too creepy for my taste. After several revisions it was still too creepy, and I simply didn’t like it. So, I had to go back create more of a Hugh Hefner inspired character, along with a Marina Martindale twist. This time, it worked. Perfectly. Of course, he’s not my only villain, and as I’m wrapping up some of my loose ends another antagonist is poised and ready to strike. And that’s all I have to say about that.
If all goes according to plan, The Scandal will be available this summer.
My readers have given me a lot of nice feedback about the characters in my contemporary romance novels, and I love them too. However, let’s not forget my other characters. The nonhuman ones.
I love animals and I grew up around dogs and horses. So, it stands to reason that some of my characters are dogs and horses. They may not be as cunning as their human counterparts, but dogs and horses do what dogs and horses do, and sometimes it creates problems for the protagonists. In The Reunion, a black mustang named Miss Mollie puts Gillian in a real jam. Her dachshund, Duke, also becomes the catalyst in a major life changing event. However, these animal characters can do good deeds as well. Some even end up being the unsung heroes in the story. Lurch, the lovable mutt in The Betrayal, helps save Emily’s life, while Lucy, Shane’s dog in The Stalker, becomes attached to Rachel, much to Shane’s chagrin. My upcoming book, The Scandal, will also have a canine character. This time it’s an English springer spaniel named Barney, who belongs to leading man Chuck.
Those of us who have pets will tell you they really are part of the family, and my two real-life dogs are no exception. Of course, they wish I’d spend less time writing and more time with them. In fact, if it were up to them, I’d dote on them twenty-four/seven. Lucky for them they have a nice big cozy dog bed right next to my writing desk. Now, if only I could get them to give me feedback on my writing. Unfortunately, about the only words they really seem understand are, “eat,” “food,” and “treats.”
When I tell people I write contemporary romance they’re often genuinely curious about what I do. They ask questions such as, are my books a series, and are my characters based on real people? Yes, some of my characters have been inspired from people I’ve known. For example, protagonists Ian and Gillian in The Reunion are loosely based on real people.
So what exactly do I mean when I say a character is inspired from a real person? Does it mean the character is a clone of that person, but with a different name? The answer is no, they are not. They are based on my memories of people I’ve known, and I use those memories as a template to create a unique and fictitious individual. Ian, for example, was based on my old college boyfriend. I incorporated some of his positive aspects into Ian, such as his desire to succeed. However, none of us are perfect, and my old boyfriend certainly had his faults too, but most of those characteristics were not part of Ian. Oddly enough, I’ve found some of his negative traits in antagonists in other stories, although I didn’t realize it until after the book was published. Funny how our minds work.
Whether inspired from a real-life person or not, each character I create is fictitious. Each is a unique individual in his or her own right, and I must be doing a good job. I’ve had some interesting feedback from my readers. Some truly hated my villians and were glad to see them get their comeuppance. Others shared their frustrations over protagonists making bad decisions. My all time favorite, however, came from a lady who told me she was reading one of my books in her apartment complex laundry room. One of the antagonists made her so mad she started cursing him out. Then she looked up and noticed other people were giving her strange looks. Her story was the highest compliment a reader could ever give me.