Anne McAllister is celebrating 30 years of publishing. As she gets to write The Pink Heart Society blog on the last day of 2014, she looks back -- and looks forward and shares the one main resolution she has gleaned from those 30 years of experience.
In January 1984 I got a phone call saying that Harlequin wanted to buy my book, Starstruck, for their American line. It was the second book I ever wrote -- and they were still hanging onto the first book, having had it for almost two years at that point. They also had the third, and three months later they bought them both -- and brought out all three in 1985, in three different lines!
This was, you may be sure, before anyone in marketing (was there marketing back in the dark ages?) was saying, "We can build your name if you stick to one line."
But the truth of the matter is, I don't think I'd still be writing if I had stuck to one line. I think I would have died of frustration trying to get my characters to conform. They are quite possibly more stubborn than I am (and my mother would say that is very stubborn indeed).
My characters did not all want to tell their stories in 50-55,000 words. They did not all come with several million dollars in the bank. Some were alpha, some were loners, some were mothers with five children and a rabbit (can you say, Starstruck?). They didn't conform easily, if at all, to what "lines" expected them to do. And I couldn't make them budge.
Truth to tell, I didn't want to. I wanted to find out who they really were. I still do. So I follow the characters wherever they go, whoever they are. I write from them first. Plot comes later (or not at all, as some of my editors have suggested).
Yes, well, tell that to the cowboy or the beach volleyball player or the charter pilot or the real estate developer or architect. They don't care about my plot. They care about their lives. And because I'm writing romance, the love of their lives. And usually they're so insistent about it that I care, too.
I don't care how long their stories are or what they do for a living or how many rabbits are lurking under the sofa. They catch my eye or my ear or they saunter into my head and sit down and begin to tell me their stories. The men often look like Hugh Jackman, too, so I can't just throw them out, can I, even if they don't fit a particular editorial slant?
Of course not.
And even if the heroes don't always look like Hugh, they still intrigue me. I want to know more about that choices they've made that have brought them to wherever they are when they turn up in my mind and say, "Here's my story."
So, my New Year's resolution is to keep right on doing just exactly what I've been doing -- trusting my characters to tell me their stories, being true to them, letting them be whoever they turn out to be (it's a lot like raising kids, to be honest), and write about that. It's what has kept me writing -- and kept me interested -- for the past thirty plus years. It's what makes me want to turn up every day at the computer -- to see what they're up to now.
My dear friend Kate Walker said something similar, but with a different focus, when I talked to her over the Christmas holiday. We discussed resolutions -- and while mine comes at it from a 'character angle' hers approaches the notion from the angle of personal satisfaction.
She said, "I am resolved to preserve the joy of writing for myself by writing the stories I want to read and not to focus on 'trends/ what's selling' or 'what editors are looking for.' After 30 years in this business it's become even more obvious that if you can see the bandwagon then it's already going past you. And writing to demand is a sure way to stagnation - if not burn out. Each one of us has a unique writing talent and writing career path - comparing and contrasting with anyone else is death to your authentic voice."
That's what it comes down to, I think: being authentic, striving to tell the truth as we see it -- in our characters, in our stories, in what we believe. To do so gives satisfaction, joy and, as we can attest, a nice long career.
My golden retriever Mitch (whose resolution is to get me to take him for a long walk every day regardless of how many degrees below zero it is) will choose one from among those who comment with their resolution, and I'll send a kindle copy of my most recent book, Last Year's Bride, to that person. So check back to see if Mitch has chosen your entry.
To learn more about Anne and her books, please visit her website.