Tuesday, January 27
Writers Paying Attention
I also love watching people around me falling in love, being in love--how sweet to see young people gaze into each other's eyes over coffee at Starbucks. My heart sings when I'm in the grocery store and I see a gray-haired, stooped man reach for his wife's hand, and she gives him that smile, the one that says yes, I'm here. I'll always be here. I soak up romance everywhere I go.
Part of being a romance writer, or any kind of writer really, is paying attention, watching, examining every situation you see. And it’s not because your friends and their pain and joy may end up in your novel. Writers aren’t taking notes during their friends’ and family members’ crises—well, at least this writer’s not. But most writers I know have amazing memories and imaginations. We use our memories to bring life and realism to the gritty situations in our stories and our imaginations help us when we can’t quite find the level of emotionality we need to convey.
But we take a chance when we write about situations we’ve never experienced. There will always be someone who’s actually experienced or is experiencing the same exact things our characters are going through. I once got a great review for Sex and the Widow Miles that included a personal story about how the reviewer related to the heroine, Julie Miles, because she too lost her husband to a sudden heart attack. I couldn’t help getting a little bit choked up when she wrote that I’d gotten the emotions of the situation right on. She should know—and I confess, I don’t. But I’ve seen friends lose their spouses and I’ve witnessed the paralyzing grief, the unbearable sadness. I tried to portray that emotion in Julie’s struggle to get her life back after Charlie’s death. It warms my heart to know that for one dear widowed reader, it worked.
Romance is fantasy, our heroes are often bigger than life, our heroines are often the women we wish we could be. But for me, real life is what's romantic. I love stories that try to bring the real world in just enough for me to feel a connection. I like aging characters--men who are sexy, but maybe a tiny bit paunchy and gray around the edges; women who are beautiful because time is showing in the fine lines around their eyes and in bellies that are no longer tight and flat.
Talk to me about how you find the inspiration for the romance in your stories. Do you ever see a couple in the airport or in a restaurant or on the street and think, "I want to write their story"?