Can I Be in Your Book?

The things you should never ask a creative writer

They say there are certain things you should never ask an author or creative writer. One of them is, “Can I be a character in your book?”

For a time, however, this was a running joke between me and one of my friends. First, he dropped me an oh so subtle hint in my birthday card. Then, whenever we’d run into one another, he’d tease me and say, “Hey, can I be a character in your book?” I’d tease him back and reply, “Sure. How do you want to die?”

Oh, if you only knew

Here’s the real butt of of the joke. Some of my friends actually are in my contemporary romance novels, as they are inspiration for some of my characters. Ian, in The Reunion, is loosely based on an old college boyfriend. Lauren in The Scandal was inspired by a family member, and the idea for Craig in The Stalker came from someone harassing a friend on Facebook.

That said, my characters are all unique individuals. Each has their own distinct personality, including their own quirks. My protagonists aren’t perfect. They make their fair share of mistakes. Some of my antagonists are downright chilling. Others are good people who’ve made bad choices. But regardless of whether the character is inspired by a real person, or someone I created from scratch, all are believable, three-dimensional people who readers can connect to. 

So, did I ever put my friend in one of my books?

Well, sort of. There is a supporting character in my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Diversion, who is somewhat similar to my real-life friend. Both are professional musicians, and both are serious about making careers in the music business. 

Marina Martindale

 

The Reunion, The Stalker, and The Scandal are available on Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com.

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I’m Going Back to Hollywood

© Can Stock Photo / PerseoMedusa

I’m going back to Hollywood for my next contemporary romance novel. This time my lead character is a musician whose dream is to become a recording star.

The Harvey Weinstein story broke while I was in the early planning stages for my last contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, which also takes place in Hollywood. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the real-life scandal really threw a wrench into my plans. My original intention was for my lead antagonist, studio head Calvin Michaelson, to be a sexual manipulator, but with the Weinstein scandal came the #Me Too movement. I keep politics out of my novels, and the last thing I wanted was for my book to become politicized. So, after many, many revisions and rewrites, Cal ended up becoming a redeemable character, and I had to place many of his negative traits into another antagonist, tabloid journalist Randy Hall

This time around things are different. Weinstein is now serving twenty-three years in the pen, as well he should be, and the #MeToo movement seems to have run its course. Now I can finally create the villain I wanted to create in The Scandal. His name is George Monroe. He’s a high-level executive with a record company, and he’s going to be like the devil incarnate. Charming, compassionate and caring on the outside, but underneath the mask is a manipulative control freak who micromanages the lives of those around him for his own narcissistic pleasure. The working title is, The Diversion, although it may be subject to change. What I can tell you for certain is this is going to be fun write.

Marina Martindale

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No Covid Here

Will I included Covid 19 in any of my future contemporary romance novels? No. I absolutely will 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

I’ve 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 my contemporary romance novel, 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.

Marina Martindale

Click here for a free preview.

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So Why Write Romance

© Can Stock Photo / yellowj

People sometimes ask me why I write contemporary romance as opposed to other genres, such as mystery or science fiction. To which I say, why not?

I write sensual contemporary romance because we all have hopes and dreams and a desire to be happy. That happiness, however, may elude us because of the poor choices we sometimes make. Most of us have experienced at least one romance that went sour, so it’s a genre many readers can relate to. Perhaps this may explain why romance is so popular.

Along with conflict driven storylines, I create characters who are realistic and believable. My protagonists, such as Carrie in The Deception aren’t heroes. They make bad decisions and they have to deal with the consequences of those bad decisions. Sometimes an antagonist, such as Scott, also in The Deception, will learn from his or her mistake and try to do better. Most, however, remain defiant, such as Scott’s wife, Maggie. Either way, they too have to live with the consequences of their actions, and a few even pay the ultimate price for their sins.

The one thing you won’t find in my stories is gushy, gooey schmaltz. For those who like that kind of melodrama, it’s out there, but that kind of storytelling isn’t my style. My inspiration comes from my own life experiences, and the stories others have told me. Readers tell me they feel the connection, and they like how believable my stories are. This is the highest compliment a reader can give an author. 

This is why I write romance. It’s the one genre where I can dig deeper into the relationships we have with others and try to better understand the human experience.

Marina Martindale

The Deception is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

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Revamping The Reunion

A book cover featuring an illustration of a lady in a yellow dress.
Cover illustration by Wes Lowe.

I sometimes go back and reread my earlier contemporary romance novels as over time I forget some of the details. While I’m there I may also get an idea for a spin-off novel, or I may consider using a character in a future book. It’s also interesting, and occasionally nerve wracking, to see how much I’ve grown as a writer.

The Reunion was my first contemporary romance novel. Prior to that I’d written a cookbook and a series of children’s novelettes, (all under a different name), but The Reunion was my first real novel. It’s also the one nearest and dearest to my heart, as it’s loosely based on someone I once knew. We went our separate ways years ago, and after I started writing books I began wondering what would happen if, by chance, he ever showed up at a book signing. I have no idea actually, but the scenario became the inspiration for The Reunion.

So, as I was wrapping up my latest novel, The Scandal, I grabbed an old copy of The Reunion and started reading, but instead of a happy trip down memory lane, all I saw were things I wanted to go back and edit. Apparently I really have improved as a writer. So much so that the work I was so proud of years ago now looks amateurish, at least to me. Cynthia, my editor, has become much more stringent as well. Granted, most people would never notice the wordiness here, or the choppy sentence there, but to me it’s like listening to sour notes. So, I’m going back and doing a tweak. I’m removing filler words, such as, “decided to,” along with bits of unnecessary narrative. You know, the stuff you won’t miss once it’s gone. The story, however, remains the same. Each and every chapter and scene is still there. They just read a little better.

By the way, I’ve written three spin-off novels from The Reunion. The Journey comes the closest to being a sequel. It’s about the same family, but with different lead characters and an unrelated storyline. The Betrayal and The Letter include minor characters from The Reunion, this time with bigger, more significant roles.  Gillian the lead character from The Reunion also makes cameo appearances in both books.

Marina Martindale

 
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I Write Books I’d Love to Read

An open book with magical stars coming out of it.
© Can Stock Photo / stillfx

I began writing contemporary romance novels out of a desire to write books I would enjoy reading. I wasn’t concerned about how many books I would sell. My goal wasn’t to become rich and famous. (Not that I would mind becoming rich and famous.) I simply wanted to write stories that I could lose myself in. For me, it’s about the joy of storytelling. I write out of my own love of reading. I also thought if I wrote books I would enjoy reading, others would enjoy reading them too. It turns out, I was right. I’m getting some wonderful feedback from my readers. It happy to know that people are enjoying my books.

How it all began

I consider myself lucky. I grew up in a house full of readers. Both of my parents enjoyed reading. Dinner table conversations were oftentimes about the books they were currently reading. They liked spy novels. They read the entire Ian Fleming James Bond series, but they also read mainstream fiction.

I loved horses when I was a kid. I must have read the entire black stallion series. Marguerite Henry, however, was my favorite author. I read Brighty of the Grand Canyon from cover to cover many times over. I also loved her Misty series. Beverly Cleary was another favorite. Beezus and Ramona are timeless.

As I became an adult

I took English lit courses throughout high school. This introduced me to many different genres. Of course, some were more interesting than others. Oftentimes, however, my biggest challenge was putting the book down. Sometimes I wanted to keep going to the end, but I couldn’t get too far ahead of the rest of class.

As an adult, if you’ll pardon the pun, I fell in love with the romance genre. Like my parents, I also enjoyed mainstream fiction. So, from time to time, I borrowed one of their favorite novels. Like Jaws. Great read. I think this is why my romance novels are somewhat similar to mainstream fiction. Authors such as Arthur Hailey and Peter Benchley most certainly have influenced my writing.

Marina Martindale

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Final Edit for The Scandal

A book cover feature a woman buttoning her blouse, with two men and the Hollywood sign behind her.
Cover illustration by Wes Lowe.

Finally, after more than a year of writing, my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal has gone to the editor for the final edit. Once again, I feel like a mom whose kids have just moved out. You think you’re going to feel happy, and part of you does. At the same time, however, you also feel sad. I guess you’d call the feeling bittersweet.

I’ve genuinely loved writing all of my contemporary romance novels, but some have been more fun to write than others. On the pleasure to write meter, The Scandal is right up there with The Reunion.

What The Scandal is about

The inspiration for The Scandal came from one of my cousins who, years ago, had a major role on a soap opera. She was kind enough to not only invite me to visit the set, she also invited me to her wrap party when she left the show. And by the way, a soap opera wrap party is like any other corporate party. Nothing really interesting happens. The only difference is  the faces are more familiar. But then again, when you’re a writer, you can add a little unexpected drama to make a corporate party a whole lot more interesting, which is exactly what I did in The Scandal.

For  the record, my lead character, Lauren McAllen, very different from my cousin. In fact, all of my characters are unique individuals with their own distinct personalities. About the only thing Lauren and my cousin have in common is that they don’t hang out with the Hollywood crowd. Not all actors do. Some like to go home from the set and hangout with their families, and their social circles don’t necessarily include other celebrities. This is who Lauren is. If anything, she’s an extension of me; a woman totally devoted to her craft who feels truly blessed to be able to follow her dream and do what she loves.

The Scandal is also my most researched novel to date. As a writer, I strive for accuracy. While visiting the set and watching a taping was truly an honor and a privilege, it hardly makes me an expert on television production. So, I spent a lot of time reading articles on how things work on the set and what happens behind the scenes. Hopefully, I’ve come close.

Marina Martindale

Update. The Scandal is now available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

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Entering the Home Stretch for “The Scandal”

A photo of the Los Angeles skyline seen through mist.
© Can Stock Photo / trekandshoot

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.


MM

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How I Create my Characters

 
Photo by Gayle Martin
And are they based on real people?

When I tell people I write contemporary romance novels they’re genuinely curious about what I do. They ask a lot of questions such as, are my books a series? No, they are not. Are my characters based on real people? Sometimes. Ian and Gillian in The Reunion are loosely based on people I’ve known.

Gillian in particular is based on someone I know really well. Me. I really was an art major in college. Some of my work has been in juried art shows. I also thought about buying an art gallery, but couldn’t get the funding. I’ll never know for certain what my life may have been had I made different choices, but Gillian was a wonderful opportunity to play what if.

Ian was loosely based on an old college boyfriend. I incorporated some of his positive traits into Ian, such as his desire to succeed. However, none of us are perfect. My old boyfriend certainly had his faults too, but most of those characteristics were not part of Ian. Oddly enough, I later found some of his negative traits in antagonists in other stories, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Funny how our minds work.

Whether inspired from a real-life person or not, each character is fictitious and unique individual. I must be doing a good job as I’ve had some interesting feedback from readers. Some truly hated my villians and were glad to see them get their comeuppance. Others shared their frustrations over the protagonists making bad decisions. My all time favorite, however, came from my proofreader, who was reading The Reunion in her apartment complex laundry room. She said one of the antagonists, Ryan Knight, 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 anyone could ever give me.


Marina Martindale

 

The Reunion is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

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I’m Going Hollywood

The iconic Hollywood sign.
© Can Stock Photo / PerseoMedusa

My next contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, begins in Hollywood. I’m having a blast writing it. Hollywood a bizarre place indeed. There’s no other place like it in the world. (Thank goodness!) Things happen in Hollywood that you could never, ever, get away with anywhere else. This means that as writer, the sky’s the limit. My characters are doing all kinds of crazy stuff. No wonder I’m having so much fun writing this one.

The inspiration for this story goes back many years to when I was a young, budding artist. One of my cousins played on a soap opera. She was kind enough to allow me to draw the cover art for her fan club newsletter, and, when she left the show, she invited me to her wrap party.

Now, here’s something I bet you don’t know. Hollywood wrap parties are just like any other corporate employee party. The only difference is the faces are more recognizable. However, in my story, my character’s wrap party will be anything but boring.

I’ve created a lead character who’s very different from my cousin. She’s completely fictitious. And the title implies, she’ll be unwittingly caught up in a major Hollywood scandal. The rest of the story will focus on her struggle to reinvent herself and she’ll move on to a whole new chapter in her life. So stay tuned.


Marina Martindale

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