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Friday, June 12, 2009

From Wuthering Heights to Dog Nanny

From Wuthering Heights to Dog Nanny

I never intended to write a romance. Never.

Romance simply wasn’t “me.” I was a high school and college English teacher who’d always read classics, women’s fiction, and bestsellers. I’d even teased my longtime department chair about her penchant for surrounding herself with candles and reading romance novels in her whirlpool each night, while her husband fielded phone calls from colleagues and parents. For her, 7 to 8 p.m. was as sacred as Wednesday night church services in the Bible Belt.

But how could she read romance novels when Wuthering Heights beckoned? Did it get any hotter than Heathcliff? As I eventually discovered, yes, it did indeed.

Flash forward ten years or so.

Today, my romantic comedy, Dog Nanny, is being released from The Wild Rose Press. Yes. I wrote a romance. Great Gertie, how did that happen?

By 2006 I’d retired from 30 years of teaching and had begun writing articles for a local magazine. I’d heard of a group of romance writers who belonged to an organization called Romance Writers of America® and thought their stories would make an interesting feature for a Valentine’s Day piece.

Little did I know how pivotal that encounter would be.

With three unpublished manuscripts of my own—all women’s fiction with a humorous bent—I set out to discover why anyone would write soppy romances.

That’s when my real education began.

My first lesson—romances always have happy endings. I had no problem with that. My unpublished novels all had happy endings, unless you count the fact they were unpublished. They even had a little romance.

The real eye-opener for me, however, was how much romances had changed since I’d last laid eyes on a cover graced with a Fabio look-alike clutching a heroine with flowing hair and full bosom. Seems while I’d been teaching Hamlet, the romance genre had undergone an amazing transformation.

For one thing, there were now more sub-genres than you could point a mouse at. Paranormal, inspirational, historical, fantasy, comedy, suspense, chick-lit, young adult—some women even wrote erotica! And I’d thought Cosmopolitan was racy.

Too, many of these books weren’t that far removed from the women’s fiction or bestsellers I’d been reading. What’s more, the romance writers I met could discuss everything from craft to publishing trends.

Further research revealed how popular the genre had become. In 2007 romance fiction was the biggest fiction category—and still is. In 2007 alone it generated 1.375 billion dollars. Publishers of romance wouldn’t be needing a government bailout anytime soon.

So how difficult could it be to write a romance? Surely I could do this.

All I needed was a “how-to” book, so I picked up a copy of Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies. Don’t laugh. I’d already made the faux pas of asking someone if Nora Roberts was a “big name” in romance fiction.

From my Dummies book, I learned there were certain rules that were non-negotiable, like the HEA (happy-ever-after ending). But I also learned that some of the rules—like not using multiple points of view or the need to introduce the hero on page five—could be, and often were, broken.

And in the end, I did write a romance. Was it as easy as I’d thought? No way.

In fact, the toughest parts for me were the, ahem, romantic scenes. I did fine as long as I was writing about dogs or bad guys or men I modeled after all the frogs I’d kissed once-upon-a-time. But when it came to emotion and intimacy, I choked.

Not only did I imagine my mother peering over my shoulder, with her were all my former students, friends, my husband, my mother-in-law, and some people I’d yet to meet. To write about love, I had to dredge up some rather personal feelings. You can’t just whip up a sex scene like a Western omelet.

So never let anyone tell you writing romance is easier than writing other kinds of fiction. In the end, we all open a vein and bleed.

As for Heathcliff, he’ll always be my first love, but sometimes a girl just has to move on.

*************

I live in the heart of Texas with my journalist husband and two dogs—Jolie Blon, a spoiled Cajun poodle, and Mardi Gras, a retired pet therapy dog. A reformed high school and college English teacher, I’ve published poetry, non-fiction, and short fiction in newspapers, literary journals, and magazines. My fictional characters are often larger than life and sometimes find themselves in absurd situations.When not writing, I play mah jongg, read, sing, and play the guitar.

Available now at www.thewildrosepress.com, www.amazon.com, and www.bn.com.

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Champagne Line (contemporary romantic comedy), 335 pages

ISBN-10: 1-60154-448-0

ISBN-13: 978-1-60154-4483

Dog Nanny finaled in the 2008 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest.

Love with a Texas Twang

www.AnnWhitaker.com

Dog Nanny, The Wild Rose Press, June 12, 2009

www.myspace.com/AnnWhitaker

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7 comments:

Ann Whitaker said...

I'm giving away a $10 gift certificate from Amazon.com to one lucky someone who comments on how or why they got into reading OR writing romance.

Check back here on Saturday to find out who won and send your e-mail address to Ann@AnnWhitaker.com so I can get your certificate to you.

Many thanks,
Ann Whitaker

Carolyn Matkowsky said...

I love the interview, Ann. I've been reading romance since I was a teen. I love HEA. I've always wanted to be a pubbed author. Years ago, as I was reading a Harlequin romance, I said, "I can write one of these." Writing romance has been the hardest, and one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. It is not easy to write an emotional story about two people falling in love, losing each other, then finally having their happy ending. It took me 10 long, hard years to sell my first book, but it was worth it. Good luck to you. My copy of "Dog Nanny" is sitting here on my desk. I can't wait to read it.

Sandy James said...

Hi, Ann! Loved the post!! I'm really looking forward to reading Dog Nanny!! :-)

Ellen Dye said...

Hey Ann!
Great posting---I have my very own copy of Writing Romance for Dummies :)

Tessy said...

Dog Nanny is witty and downright laugh out loud funny! Ann, you really are amazingly talented!

Tessy

Nancy said...

Hi Ann! What a fabulous post! Funny, honest, affirming. Great job, and I'm eager to read DOG NANNY! I know this is just the first step on your road to publishing success!

Light,
Nancy Haddock

Ann Whitaker said...

You guys are ALL the greatest, and I wish you could all win! I had my husband draw to keep it honest. (I tried to get one of the dogs to do it, but they were totally disinterested in slips of paper.)

The winner of the $10 gift certificate from Amazon is.........TESSY!

Please send me your e-mail address, and I'll get the card to you ASAP.

Have a great weekend.

Ann