Sunday, January 24, 2010

SUPERROMANCE SUNDAY - EDITOR VICTORIA CURRAN

The Pink Heart Society is Super-thrilled to present a special Sunday post - SUPERROMANCE Sunday with SUPER editor Victoria Curran. Ok, so that's a lot of Super. But you aren't going to want to miss this - especially if you've got your eye set on the Superromance pitch session coming up soon at eharlequin.

Welcome to the Pink Heart Society, Victoria! We're very excited that you're here to answer a few questions about the line with us.





1. What makes a Superromance so super? What qualities characterize it as a line?

The super-terrific stories, of course! Actually, the “super” in Superromance was originally inspired by the fact that we’re one of Harlequin’s longest series romance lines. We still are the longest contemporary series at 60- to 65,000 words, but the title reflects much more than the length of the book (because we all know it’s not about how big you are, but what you do with what you’ve got!). Our stories plumb the depths of characterization and often include enriched secondary stories and sometimes even secondary romances. Fundamentally, our books are character-driven reads we know will resonate with contemporary readers who recognize themselves and their family and friends and neighbors—and colleagues—in the diverse range of stories we offer. Except that these recognizable and familiar situations to today’s reader always work out in a satisfying happy ending. If you think you’ve got it bad at work right now, read how poor Cynthia Merritt ends up hiding in the broom closet of her office in Abby Gaines’s Her Surprise Hero (out this February). I guarantee you, though, no matter how bad things get for Judge Cynthia, she’ll land on her feet in the end…with sexy single-dad rancher Ethan Granger’s help, of course—or perhaps in spite of it! Talk about your wish fulfillment.


2. Superromance is sold all around the world but the settings are mostly North American. Are you open to settings in other parts of the world?

Yes, we’re sold around the world, although our biggest readership is in the United States. We are open to stories set outside of the U.S., though. In fact, I contracted a new author last year from New Zealand, who set her debut Superromance there. Zana Bell’s Tempting the Negotiator—a deeply emotional novel with a strong sense of fun running through it, not to mention a gorgeous champion surfer—will be on shelves in March. And Zana’s my second New Zealand author who sets her books there. Off the top of my head, we’ve also had stories set in Australia, Canada, France (in an always-exciting holiday romance storyline) and the U.K.


3. Superromance is a Home and Hearth type line. Could you clarify for our readers what levels of sensuality you are open to in your titles?

Ah, sensuality. I once had an author express concern that her hero and heroine just didn’t seem to want to get into bed with each other, and was that okay? Well, Ellen Hartman may not have been able to wrestle her lead characters into bed in His Secret Past, but she wrote a sizzling scene at a wedding reception, with the hero and heroine fully clothed in the middle of a crowded dance floor. So sensuous is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, and we publish a range of levels of sensuality. I’ve edited sex scenes that made me feel like having a cigarette afterwards…and I don’t smoke! If authors need to keep the bedroom door shut for the sake of characterization, so be it: Superromance is first and foremost a character-driven line.

4. What kinds of heroes and heroines populate the Superromance world?

Contemporary ones! As far as our heroes go, they run the gamut from Alpha to Beta to…Omega (if that’s even possible). We just need to make sure they’re contemporary Alphas, not traditional Alphas. And regardless of how poorly the heroes act, they’re men we know our heroines are safe with. “Relevance” is a word we use a lot in the Harlequin editorial department. We try to publish stories that are relevant to our readership. In the case of Superromance, that means a contemporary story grounded in realism. Not many billionaires, sheiks and princes in our line.

As for heroines, the contemporary woman would never end up a victim tied to a railway track by a villain, waiting for a Mountie to ride in and rescue her. She’s motivated, proactive and takes action…and then has to deal with the consequences of her actions. We try to steer clear of stories where events out of the hero and heroine’s control shape too much of the read.

And motivation applies to all characters, even cameo appearances. We want our authors to break away from stereotypes and breathe life into the people who populate the world of their writing. If they need a secondary character to play the role of a rich, jealous woman who’s set her sights on the hero, readers need to identify with something in her—it’s not all “dahlings” and tottering around on expensive stilettos. Characterization is about shades of gray, good and bad, not the most obvious or extreme choices. Surprise us!

5. What upcoming Superromance titles are you particularly thrilled about?

I could answer that question because there are so many good books coming up…but then, as they say, I’d have to kill you. Either that or my authors would kill me!

6. Are there any themes/premises you wish you would see more of? Any you think are currently over done and that really need to be done extra well to make the cut?

With six Superromance novels a month, we publish so much variety in our line that we don’t put a lot of restrictions on storylines. Our writers throw a lot of pregnancies, babies, cowboys and dysfunctional families at us, but I’m not sure there can ever be too many… I think it’s safe to say infidelity stories rarely work in romances, and for us specifically, marriage in jeopardy themes don’t seem to resonate as well with our readers.

7. What are you looking for in a pitch?

I hope the writer who’s pitching has read something about Superromance and knows she or he is targeting the right line…and if I come across paranormal or historical elements, that’s a clue to me they haven’t! Beyond that, I need to know the fundamentals of setting, plot and characterization, but there’s not a lot of time or space to convey those in a pitch. That’s what makes aspiring authors so nervous about pitching, I think, although to me it would seem easier to get it down succinctly in a written pitch. In a nutshell, I need to know the who, what, where and why. I want to quickly understand who the hero is and what motivates him (what he wants) and who the heroine is and what she wants. I need to know where they are, what situation brings them together and what is keeping them apart (what is going to sustain the romance for 65,000 words…and I hope it’s not a simple misunderstanding or avoided conversation!). It would be great to get just a sense of how the characters are going to act based on what they want, and how their actions will drive the plot forward. And in an ideal world? I’d love to know what exactly each of the lead characters stands to lose in loving the other one—what high price this romance is going to cost them. I don’t ask for much, do I?


That's wonderful information, Victoria! Now for some important links for our readers:

For a great workshop to hone your pitch: Check out Winnie Grigg's workshop on eharlequin

The thread for the Superromance Editor Pitch at eharlequin

The Superromance Editorial Guidelines

And for a GREAT resource, it's well worth the time to listen to the Meet The Editors Podcast featuring Wanda Ottewell and Victoria.

Victoria is going to be popping in on Monday to check the comments, so this is the perfect chance to ask her any questions about the upcoming pitch session and the Supers line!

And a huge thank you to Victoria from the PHS for taking time out of her crazy schedule to visit!

21 comments:

  1. Hi Victoria
    Thanks for the reminders about what Superromance is looking for! I love the variety in Supers, both as a reader and a writer. I'm looking forward to Zana Bell's first book.

    To anyone out there interested in writing for Supers, if you're lucky enough to sell to the line you'll learn a lot from the great editorial team.

    BTW, just a teeny correction, my book Her Surprise Hero is actually a January release in the USA (Feb in Australia and NZ).
    Abby

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  2. Victoria --

    It is really great to have you here and to learn what Superomance is all about.

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  3. Hi, Victoria! Great interview and reminder of what Super wants. LOL on Ellen's h/h not wanting to get it on. Too funny. I hadn't heard that story, but yes, the dance scene was hot.

    One of the things I love about writing for Superromance is the diversity of the line. There is a lot happening within the covers of those books.

    And speaking of covers... I've noticed Super getting some hotter looking covers compared to the past. Is this a testing phase or can we look forward to more in the future (please?! ;0) )?

    Kay

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  4. Great information and article. Thank you very much.

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  5. Great insight into Supers. They are my favorite line and the one I plan on targeting.
    Thanks PHS for question 7 and thanks Victoria for an insightful answer.
    Being unpubbed I'm always looking for a secret entrance into the inner circle - even though I know the true answer is to write a great story.
    I love reading a debut author and it's great to see Supers is looking for new authors.
    And like Kay - the covers have been getting better and better!

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  6. Great blog Victoria. I'm getting excited about the Superromance Competition - and I don't even write them! (I "do" Historicals lol). Caroline x

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  7. Hi Victoria;

    Looks like I got back online just in time! Knowing what you're looking for is helpful even for a veteran Superromance author like myself.

    Thank you,
    Rogenna

    Ps. Good luck to everyone making the pitch or entering the competition.

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  8. Great interview! I second Kay about the sexy covers. LUV THEM! Please keep 'em coming.

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  9. Hi Victoria,

    Lovely interview. I particularly like reading debut authors because their voices are fresh and I find that inspirational in my own writing. Beth Andrew's debut Superromance stands out in my mind. I'm looking forward to reading Zana's book.

    Good luck with the pitch--I hope you find a gem.

    Jeannie

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  10. Thanks for being here Victoria!

    I enjoyed your interview SO much. Every single part of it. Your enjoyment of the line really comes through in your responses.

    One question we didn't think to ask I'm going to ask now...

    What kind of story would you LOVE to see cross your desk? What gets you excited as an editor?

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  11. Hello Victoria,

    Thank you so much for the informative interview. In light of making sure we're targeting the correct line, could you clarify the differences between Superromance and some of the similar family lines, such as Silhouette Special Edition? What types of plots would be found in SSE but not in HSR?

    Thank you so much.

    RSinara

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  12. Hi Victoria,

    What a terrific interview. I love seeing your thoughts on Supers--you gave us all some good insights.

    About the sensuality level of Supers, that's one of the things I like best about writing for this line. Because there is no "expectation" about what has to happen or what can't happen, the love scenes can truly suit the characters. I think love scenes are key developmental points for characters so being able to play with the full range of options is great.

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom. The contest winner will be Super lucky if he or she gets to work with you. ;-)

    Ellen

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  13. Hey, guys! I'm a bit of a luddite, so this is quite the intriguing start to my week. If I misspell anything, it's the ruddy computer's fault, okay?

    Marcie said she's looking for a secret entrance into the inner circle...and Donna asked what gets me excited. I guess the answer, as far as unsolicited manuscripts go, is writing that stands out from the pile. And what might that look like, you ask? Hard question to answer. I used to include a line in my letters that went something like, “We are looking for manuscripts with a genuinely individual quality.” But I’ve always thought that was as helpful as mud and have put some thought to what “genuinely individual” means. A pitch could come in that has top selling plot points to become a success with our readers (secret baby fathered by a cowboy, for instance), yet the story is middle of the road and doesn’t get to contract. What does it take to stand apart?

    I’m going to borrow from one of my favourite books on writing, Robert McKee’s Story. He writes: “An old Hollywood expression goes: ‘If the scene is about what the scene is about, you’re in deep shit.’…“Writing this, for example: Two attractive people sit opposite each other at a candlelit table, the light glinting off the crystal wineglasses and the dewy eyes of the lovers. Soft breezes billow the curtains. A Chopin nocturne plays in the background. The lovers reach across the table, touch hands, look longingly in each others’ eyes, say, ‘I love you, I love you,”… and actually mean it. This scene…will die like a rat in the road.”

    I agree with McKee, obviously. And I get excited when the writing surprises me by choices the author makes (in dialogue, turning points, characterization, internalization—everything), when there’s subtext at odds to what we’re being told and we’re not told everything…when a reader can get some of it on her own by what’s being left unsaid or through opposites or by making unusual and unexpected choices. We know a romance is going to end happily, so the more surprising the route to get there, the more individual the story will be.

    I’ve got to run to a cover meeting, but I’ll be back!

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  14. Victoria, thanks for the great information -- it's helpful even for those of us who have reached "The Inner Circle." As a matter of fact, I'll probably print #7 as a reminder to myself. And I loved the McKee quote! Yep, all you'll need to put on my revisions now is "dead rat" and I'll know just what you mean. ;-)

    Carrie

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  15. Oh McKee -- he is one of my faves. Story sits beside my bed.

    It is really interesting to hear about how Super works as I normally approach it from a reader's perspective.

    If you could name three authors whose combine work currently encapuslates the line and where it is going , who would they be?

    Also are there any upcoming/newer authors to be on the lookout for?

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  16. Victoria -
    Thank you!
    I hope your meeting went well.

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  17. Okay! One meeting down, one more to go. Plus, boot camp's done for the week, hurrah.

    Now, back to Michelle. To answer your question, or rather to not answer it, it would be too difficult to point out specific authors we believe have nailed the line. First, no author hits a homerun every time, but every author writing for us is here because we think they have something to offer that our contemporary readers want to read. And second, I don't want to drown in that political quagmire! Success is judged many ways, so if you want to learn more about us by reading something specific that has resonated with a select set of readers, I suggest you pick up a RITA-award winner like Janice Kay Johnson's Snowbound or Helen Brenna’s Treasure… (Hm, do you have to have a one-word title to win a RITA, I wonder?)

    How’s that for politically correct? AND long-winded. I’m going to just run and get a glass of water and be right back.

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  18. I'm back and hydrating. (Does anybody truly like boot camp??)

    Now, in regards to covers, Kay, we always try to match the tone of the cover to the tone of the book. So if you happen to see the naked torso of a man on the occasional cover, it's because our authors have written the man that way! I blame you guys if the covers are getting sexier, however I think we have always provided a variety of images and we're still striving to do that. Some are flirty, some are sexy, some are more family-oriented, etc.

    (Honestly, though, I don't see how Carolyn McSparren's self-defense teaching cop could have been in that boxing ring sparring with the heroine in February's Bachelor Cop with a shirt on. It would have been soaked through--gross.)

    I thought you'd enjoy what I found out from my art director this morning in the cover meeting. Apparently Alana won't allow pleated pants on any of her heroes ("especially with Dockers," she said and shuddered)... and she's got a thing against baby's breath in flower arrangements, too. So I dare you to spot either on the cover: men's pleats or baby's breath. Who knew? I'm clearly out of the style loop.

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  19. Hey, RSinara;

    You ask a really good question about differentiating among the three "family and home" lines at Harlequin/Silhouette. Personally, I find it difficult to articulate sometimes myself! There's a word count difference, but it's not huge. Yet because we are the longest of the three (American Romance is the other one), we have the luxury to play with more words, to go deeper into the worlds of the book, if I may.

    Having my own American Romance author, I can personally attest to the fact that storylines cross over. But there is a unique tone to each line that you can identify when you read the books. So each series may feature a single father hook or a 9 Months Later, but there will be a different energy and depth of focus to the execution. (Does that make any sense at all?)

    All I can do is stress that unpublished authors confused about where their stories fall should read the series guidelines on eharlequin and try to read one or more books from each of the three lines.

    As far as Superromance goes, we are the line that presents a contemporary fictional world that's as believable as possible. Our readers will know the people in the stories, or relate to aspects of them and recognize people who've lived through the kind of situations we feature.

    As for pitches, I'm not as concerned that unpublished authors have figured out which of the three family lines their story falls into. I'm more concerned that they've figured out their work is suited to a contemporary line grounded in realism (translation = no paranormal or traditional or historical).

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  20. Victoria -

    Thanks so much for answering my question. I'm a huge reader of all the family lines, but I think their similiarities left me second guessing myself. I think it clicked when you mention that Super is the most 'realistic' of the lines. I'm guessing that, although they're also realistic, some of the other lines, such as SSE, might entertain more 'could happen' plots.

    I ordered Robert McKee's Story today. Can't wait to read it!

    Thanks again,

    Rula Sinara

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  21. Nice to hear about the ban on pleated pants.

    *shudder*

    Loved the quote from McKee. Thanks for the detailed answers. This is good stuff!

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