So Why Write Romance

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People sometimes ask me why I write contemporary romance as opposed to other genres, such as mystery or science fiction.

I write romance because we all have hopes and dreams and a desire to be happy. That happiness, however, often seems to elude us because of the choices we make, and how we relate to the people around us.

I create characters who are realistic and believable. My protagonists aren’t heroes. They make bad decisions and they’re left to deal with the fallout. Likewise some, but certainly not all, of my antagonists learn from their mistakes and they try to do better. Most, however, remain defiant until the bitter end. 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 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 feel the connection, and they in turn tell me how believable my stories are.

This is why I write romance. It’s the one genre where I can dig deeper into our relationships with the people around us and try to better understand the human experience.

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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Writing Relationship Fiction

Photo of an open book with stars coming out of it.
© Can Stock Photo/kudryashka

This may sound arrogant, or even hokey, but I get weary of hearing myself say, “I write contemporary romance novels,” whenever I’m asked about what I do. People think I’m writing cheap, schmaltzy novels. Or they think I’m writing erotica. Neither is the case, as there is so much more to what I write.

I write stories about human relationships. Love isn’t limited to a man and a woman falling in love and living happily ever after. Love is about all kinds of human relationships. The love of a parent to a child. The love between siblings. Even the platonic love between close friends. The romance between and man and a woman is only a part of my stories.

One of my contemporary romance novels, The Journey includes a heartwarming subplot about the relationship between brothers Jeremy and Larry Palmer, as Larry puts his own life on hold to help his ailing brother through a life altering crisis. That’s true love. 

In The Deception, another contemporary romance novel, a father literally takes a bullet meant for his child. That too is true love. 

The Betrayal, another contemporary romance novel, includes a story of a long estranged aunt who finally lets go of the rivalry she carried for her deceased sister and reaches out to her niece, accepting her like another daughter. That too is love.

The reason why I write contemporary romance, as opposed to science fiction or mystery or horror, is because I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity and dynamics of human relationships. Not only between lovers, but between close friends and family members as well. Of course those relationships can be part of the storyline in those other genres. However, the romance genre is the only one where the primary focus is on human relationships.


Marina Martindale

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Oh My!

A graphic of a pair of red lips.

I’ve had some interesting feedback from some of the men who’ve been reading my romance novels. They tell me they’ve really enjoyed reading my sex scenes. Apparently, I have a talent I didn’t know I had. To quote George Takei, “Oh, my!”

Well, I must confess. I’ve actually done some research on how to write effective love scenes, and I’m happy to explain the techniques I use.

First, I take my time to build the sexual tension between my characters. The build up happens slowly. Arousal starts innocently, with hands accidentally brushing, or someone touching a forearm. The man may find the lady’s dress sexy. Sometimes horseplay turns into foreplay.

Certain body parts are never mentioned by name. I’m writing romance, not a medical textbook. My goal is to describe what the characters are feeling. I’ll refer to it with words such as, “she felt a sweet sensation.” We all know what happens during the act. My editor came up with a wonderful way to refer to it. “Reaching his (or her) release.” Oftentimes I’ll use the words such as climax, ecstasy or, the two briefly became one, when describing the euphoria the characters are experiencing.

In addition, I don’t use much dialogue during my love scenes. Two people who love each other, and are making love for the first time, probably won’t be in the mood for chatting. Likewise, too much dialogue would interrupt the flow of the story. I save the dialog for the pillow talk scene in the next chapter. One thing I will do, however, is to try to instill a sense of responsibility in my characters. Oftentimes the lady will be asked if she’s using birth control, or the man will stop to apply a condom. Most importantly, if the characters are making love for the first time, the man will ask the woman if she’s okay with what’s about to happen. My leading men are strong and masculine, but they also know to respect a woman’s boundaries.

And, finally, I only use these scenes to enhance the plot, and I use them sparingly. There are usually no more than two or three such scenes throughout my entire novel. My stories are about people and their relationships, and there’s a whole lot more to a romantic relationship than just sex.


Marina Martindale

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Stuck in a Literary Sexual Rut

An open book with two pages folded together in the shape of a heart.
Photo by Fotolia.

 

Oh the problems one encounters when writing contemporary romance. As I explained in my earlier blog post, Sweet, Sensual or Erotic Romancethere is a distinct difference between sensual romance and erotica. In sensual romance, the “romance” scenes are written to enhance the plot as the characters consummate their relationship. The emphasis is on what they’re feeling.

That said, as I’m working on my third novel, The Journey, I found myself in a bit of a rut when writing those scenes. Let’s face it. There are only two kinds of equipment out there, and that equipment only works in certain ways. I was starting to worry that my writing might be become too redundant.
So, I decided to do a little research and downloaded a copy of an anthology called Little Birds, by Anais Nin.

Ms. Nin is perhaps the literary madam of erotic literature. I thought I might learn something new about writing from her. What I found, at least in my opinion, were stories that were a little cold. The characters were one-dimensional and lacked passion. Afterwards, I looked at my own writing. I think there’s something to be said for writing about what the characters are feeling, emotionally as well as physically. As for the redundancy; I suppose it is what it is. Even Ms. Nin’s stories were a bit redundant. Yet decades later, readers still enjoy them. I guess there are some things in life that people will never get tired of. Like chocolate cake.


Marina Martindale

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Blame It On Too Many Soap Operas

 

and My Misspent Youth

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People often ask me what motivated me to become an author. Or why I write contemporary romance. I blame it on my misspent youth. I was a soap opera junkie for many years. It began when I was in the sixth grade and it continued into adulthood. I suppose I could blame it on my mother too. Instead of telling me to go do something more productive, she got me started on her soaps.

I used to schedule my college classes around my soaps. Mind you, this was in The Dark Ages, before we had the Internet, so having my first VCR was a truly liberating experience. I could now have a life. I was able to tape my soaps and watch them at my convenience. I taped my favorite soap everyday for many years.

What makes soap operas so compelling?

So, what was it about soap operas that was so compelling?  According to my high school drama teacher, soap operas were real life, exaggerated. Soap operas relied on classic plot lines, such as extra-marital affairs, illegitimate children, and long-lost family members. Viewers could make a connection because they were believable stories.

The other thing that made the soaps so compelling were the characters. I never watched the now defunct All My Children, but I know who Erica Kane was. Dr. Marlena Evans on Days of our Lives was my personal favorite. Two great actresses, Susan Lucci and Deidre Hall, played those memorable roles. They transformed these fictitious characters into believable, three-dimensional people.

I too strive to create believable, three-dimensional characters in my contemporary romance novels, such as Ian PalmerGillian Matthews, in The Reunion, and Carrie Daniels and Alex Montoya, in The Deception. I also work hard to create believable stories. My plotlines twist and turn, just like a soap opera. My characters get involved with the wrong people. Long-lost lovers are reunited, and people betrayed by the ones they trust the most. In other words, they’re real life, somewhat exaggerated.

Marina Martindale

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