Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Writer's World - Making the Perfect Mix - Annie West

The makings of a perfect mix
On a recent trip away  I received complimentary lemonade in my hotel. Not a can of drink. Not a voucher for a soft drink in the bar, but delivery of a tray of ingredients so I could mix to my taste. Cool, eh? There was a big jug plus  glasses with swizzle sticks that made me laugh - you'll see why when you scroll down. There was also a lemon, neatly halved, an old fashioned juicer, a bottle of sparkling mineral water and a bottle of lemon syrup, made, I suspect on the premises. All I had to do was mix to taste and enjoy.

Swizzle sticks just perfect for a romance writer
Needless to say I enjoyed mixing the ingredients so that soon we (some friends popped in) were having an impromptu lemonade party. The nice thing was that though I used all the ingredients to make the basic mix, people could sweeten their glass to their own taste using extra syrup. We all had the same mix but with slight variations.

Of course that got me thinking about writing romances (hey, I was at a romance writers' conference and the people in my room were other writers!). When you think about it we all start with the same few ingredients - a hero and heroine. They come with their own particular ingredients - a pinch of trauma, a dash of pride or vulnerability or determination, a spoonful of self-doubt or determination, in fact a whole recipe full of experiences that we can draw on to flavour our story.

Almost finished - yum!
We put them together where they can't escape - which is why the picture of the male and female swizzle sticks stuck in the same glass makes me grin. We stir things up with a good, juicy conflict to keep our hero and heroine from getting too settled. Then we sip to taste and adjust to suit our preferences.

We all have our personal preferences, not just in mixing perfect summer drinks, but also in romances. Some are drawn to marriage of convenience stories. Some sigh over a gothic set up where an innocent young heroine starts work in the mysterious 'big house' where rumours abound and her darkly enigmatic boss intrigues her. Others love a reunion story, an office romance, a no-holds-barred action adventure romance where the heroine battles against demons or angels for perhaps just old-fashioned criminals. Plus of course there are the wonderful locations that provide settings for our stories, perhaps adding atmosphere to the romance and sometimes almost as intrinsic to the story as another character.

Then relax and enjoy the results
People talk about romance writing being about following a formula (aka a recipe). If only it were that simple! There's so much work that goes into writing a compelling romance that others will enjoy. Yet it's true that some standard ingredients come up again and again. The feisty heroine, the virginal heroine, the cinderella heroine, the duck out of water heroine. Then we've got the scarred hero, the reluctant hero, the warrior hero or the geek. Put them together with the right mate, in the right circumstances and the mix is sure to please.

What are your favourite romance mixers? Do you buy on the basis of a catchy back cover copy that talks about runaway heiresses, sheikhs, secretaries, brides left at the altar? Do you like masquerades or historicals with plenty of derring do? Do you prefer witty dialogue or sultry love scenes? Or perhaps you'd like to share a recipe for your favourite summer mixer? Something I can shoe and them bring out to make when the heat arrives Down Under?
To celebrate my upcoming UK release, DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY, I'll give away a signed copy to someone who leaves a comment. Just come back before tomorrow's post to find the winner's name.

Annie is celebrating a couple of releases right now. In Australia and New Zealand, there's 'GREEK AFFAIRS: TEMPTED BY THE TYCOON' which includes her bestseller 'THE GREEK TYCOON'S UNEXPECTED WIFE'. Then in October she has two UK releases - DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY (a story of forbidden passion and the clash between duty and love) as well as another anthology called SULTRY NIGHTS, which includes her sexy story 'THE SAVAKIS MISTRESS'. Visit Annie's website for details on the books and where to buy them. There's also a terrific contest running from the site.


  1. Now THAT's a different desert story, Annie! I thought the hero would be a sheikh; nice spin with the princess instead! I definitely want to read this one!

    Today I buy books based on what I've read in the "romance blogs" and I buy based on certain favourite authors on those blogs/web sites. Before blogging, I bought based on the back cover blurb, and any mention of a sheikh always got my elevated interest. I ALWAYS prefer witty dialogue. I read one book (while waiting in a busy reception area of a clinic) where I was LOL, and 4 pages later I had tears in my eyes. Now THAT got my attention. VERY well written (at least in my eyes).

  2. I'm a reunion girl. I will never be able to resist picking up a story of star crossed lovers getting back together. With a caveat. I hate it when marital separations involve infidelity.

  3. Annie, what a lovely post. So clever! Goodness me, will you write my next book for me? I remember the lemonade - wasn't it great? I like a whole stack of romance ingredients so probably you should call me a buffet gal. Marriages of convenience. Forbidden love. Honour versus love. Enemies into lovers. Tortured hero healed by love. Oh, man, I could go on and on! By the way, I LOVED Defying Her Desert Duty. Whoever wins it is in for a treat!

  4. Maybe this will be 3rd time lucky. Will my comment show up?

  5. Yay, at last. Blogger has been eating my comments.

    Laney, it's great to hear from you. I'm a sucker for great dialogue too and a good sheikh book will always draw me. It sounds like you enjoy an emotional read too. Snap! That's a must for me.

    By the way, Zahir is a sheikh, just not your average one!

  6. Hi Princess Fiona. Star crossed lovers make for such intense stories, don't they? I love them so long as there's a believable reason for them to have separated (and got back together)!

  7. Anna, I'm hanging out for YOU to write your next book. Don't look at me! Hm, you've touched on some of my favourite themes too. Actually, it's funny when I read the back of books in the romance section of a store - so many of them appeal!

  8. I like best friends to lovers & marriage of convenience a lot and always get those. But I also love stories where they get a second chance, a mistaken identity & a classic cinderella tale.

    1. Cinderella is one of my face's too! And second chances. And of course marriage of convenience. I have to say I haven't read so many friends to lovers stories - maybe an area to explore more.

  9. Hi, Annie! Weren't those complimentary lemonades divine? Such a nice way to kick off the afternoon after a long trek from the airport.

    I'm all for variety when it comes to novels, but some of my favourites are ugly duckling stories and, like the commenter above, friends to lovers.

    Congrats on your twin releases this month!

    1. Hi Vanessa, thanks for the congratulations. It's terrific having two books out!

      Yes, I thought the make it yourself lemonade at the hotel was fantastic. So pleasant and a great way to make yourself at home with friends.

      Oh, ugly duckling stories - what fun. That's a theme I've tried my hand at and had such a lovely time.

  10. Hi Annie,

    A very thought provoking post. You are so right, in that so much goes into writing a romance and yes even though we all have the same ingredients they are all unique when we are finished with them.


    1. Hi Efthalia, it's good to see you here. That's one of the things I love about romances - even the most familiar themes get a new twist with each writer. It's such fun to see the new ways writers entertain.

  11. Annie, great blog! I won't be able to look at mixers for drinks the same way every again! Actually, our complimentary lemonade was a fizzer (if you'll pardon the pun) because the ingredients didn't turn up... I'm kinda wishing after reading your fun blog, that I'd made inquiries! I'm sure it was just an accidental oversight that they'd have been very happy to attend to.

    I'm rather fond of clove cordial with soda water and ice! Very nice!

  12. Sharon, I've never heard of clove cordial. Is it nice? Really? Wow - I'm definitely going to have to search this out - or maybe come visiting in summer to try it out.

    Oh, yes, if you're ever at this hotel again, do try the complimentary lemonade.

  13. I have to go out and thought I'd better draw a winner for that copy of DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY. The winner is Jo's Daughter! Congratulations!

    If you email me at annie(at)annie(dash) west(dot)com with your postal address I'll pop the book in the mail to you.

    Looking again at these photos I'm thinking of a lovely, long cool drink after a productive day's work!