Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Writer's Wednesday: Lessons from a Harlequin Writer
I’ve been writing for Harlequin for ten years. And I have wanted to write for Harlequin most of my life. And while the realities of a writer’s life - cold coffee, microwave popcorn and days upon days of questionable personal hygiene - are not particularly glamorous, they are highly fulfilling. Reading is easily one of my top five joys. It was one of my top three, but I’m a mom of young kids so sleep has been climbing the charts. And being able to provide another person with the same comforting thrill that I have always appreciated lying back in my bed and opening a new book is truly a humbling experience. But, not always an easy one. Writing is not easy and writing for the best selling genre is akin to walking a tight rope during an earthquake.
1. You must have one eye on the news, a thumb near the pulse of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, the ever bleeding soul of an optimistic poet and the skin of a Komodo Dragon.
While Harlequin provides an outlet for readers of any kind of romantic fantasy, the readers of the novels I write are looking not just for that pure Calgon Take Me Away experience, but they want a story and characters truly grounded in modern times, dealing with and finding joy and suffering from all the things that we experience. War, death, parenthood, addiction, education, crime, friendships, family, love, loss and sex.
Those critics that scoff at the genre don’t understand what reading these books provide - it’s a way to suffer and commiserate and ache along with a character, but as there all too often isn’t in real life, you’re guaranteed a happy ending.
Now, the skin of a dragon comes in handy in surviving those places where entertainment and commerce mix. Namely in dealing with print runs, editors, agents and critics. Getting published once is not a golden ticket, it’s an invitation to try harder, to work faster, deal with rejection better and think outside the box.
2. Friends and family particularly your husband must have a sense of humor because they will at some point be in a book. Change the names to protect yourself at family dinners, but when Aunt Gladys talks about when she got her breast caught in the mammogram machine and the fire department had to come and get her out - take notes.
Everyone always asks me where do I get my ideas. And frankly, here’s the truth. I steal them. I steal them from the people I overhear on the streetcar, from the news, from my friends, family, fans, from real life and from my imagination. The world is a really fertile place if you’re looking for seeds.
3. Sex may sell - but it's not easy to write on deadline. I've got two kids. I've had about six hours of sleep and 30 cups of coffee - so my stomach hurts. I'm not sure when I showered last much less actually touched my husband and today? I've got to write a sex scene. So - you may ask - how do I actually write the sex scene? I wait until my husband comes home and pour myself a big glass of wine and remember what life was like when I was nineteen.
4. The High’s are High, the Low’s are low and the Ruts are DEEP -
If they made a zoo of professions - this would be the writer’s natural habitat: hair a mess, sweat pants, four coffee cups and plates on top of stacks of books and papers on top of a desk that hasn’t seen daylight since it was set up. But getting out of that mindset is truly rewarding. Hemingway? Wrote in the morning and in the afternoon he went out to fill his well.
Molly O'Keefe's new series THE NOTROIOUS O'NEILL'S starts this month with THE TEMPTATION OF SAVANNAH O'NEILL. She will give away three books - all you need to do is post in the comments!