Michelle L. Levigne is guest blogging but not as a speculative fiction author. To read those posts, click here. Today, she’s put on her romance author hat (I supposed that would have a broad brim with lots of feathers or flowers) and writes about her latest romance seriesand how one woman’s romance is another women’s farce.
A writer I used to know had a tagline something like, “When Love Is A Laughing Matter.” It made sense to me, because what’s the fun of romance that’s all angst and struggle? Yes, a good story has conflict and goals — but if you can’t laugh along the way, what’s the use?
Which brings me to my newest romance (sigh, published last year, but a new one in the series coming, promise!): A Match (not) Made in Heaven. Book 1 of the Match Girls. What’s the premise that ties them together? Gertie Foster, a wacky old lady armed with a computer program and determined to find them the love of their lives — whether they want one or not!
Enter Dinah Clydesdale, overworked and underappreciated church secretary who is fired because of church politics. At Christmas, no less. That sends her to a Christian job-matching service, run by our hero, Zach Foster, and his elderly Aunt Gertie. Dinah declines to sign up for A Match Made in Heaven dating service, but Gertie does it for her anyway. That puts Dinah on a collision course with a domineering woman determined to get her slightly creepy son married off, whether the bride is willing or not.
Can you see the comedy potential here?
The next book will be, Making It All Up, about Reggie Grant, Dinah’s best friend, head of the makeup counter at the local department store, and Gertie’s next target.
Too busy to read? I’m in the process of producing the audiobook of Match. Keep an eye out for updates on my blog or website. If you like clean, slightly snarky romance, you might just like Dinah, Reggie, and Gertie’s other future victims — umm — clients.
Great to hear about your audiobook! I’m sure that’s an adventure in itself.
On the road to publication, Michelle fell into fandom in college and has 40+ stories in various SF and fantasy universes. She has a bunch of useless degrees in theater, English, film/communication, and writing. Even worse, she has over 100 books and novellas with multiple small presses, in science fiction and fantasy, YA, suspense, women’s fiction, and sub-genres of romance.
Her training includes the Institute for Children’s Literature; proofreading at an advertising agency; and working at a community newspaper. She is a tea snob and freelance edits for a living (MichelleLevigne@gmail.com for info/rates), but only enough to give her time to write. Want to learn about upcoming books, book launch parties, inside information, and cover reveals? Go to Michelle’s website or blog to sign up. You can also find her at www.YeOldeDragonBooks.com , www.MtZionRidgePress.com . Facebook, and Instagram.
What’s the relationship between these two characters? Most people would say a grandfather and grandchild, but I’m imagining a great-grandfather with his great-grandchild. In my YA mystery, my main character’s great-grandfather is a major influence within her dad’s family. Another character was raised by his great-grandfather until he was eight years old.
I only met one of my great-grandparents, my paternal grandmother’s mom, and don’t remember much about her, except for a visit when I was preschooler. Grandma Irene had had part of an arm amputated almost forty years before when a drunk driver hit her while she walked to church. I remember asking her how she lost it.
So it’s been enjoyable exploring this relationship in my fiction. I wonder if having great-grandchildren gives you a new connection to your own childhood. What do you imagine this great-grandfather and grandchild are discussing as they walk?
Happy to post this author interview with Anne Clare! Anne stopped by last year and wrote about being a new author, which you can read here. Today, she’s here to talk about romance and her WWII novel, Whom Shall I Fear? Welcome back, Anne!
Which came first when writing your novel Whom Shall I Fear?—the history or the romance?
While the history ended up driving much of the final story, I must admit, the romance came first. My initial idea for Whom Shall I Fear?came from a half-recalled snippet of a dream. It was a dramatic scene set in WWII London… which I can’t detail because it would include major story spoilers. From that scene, I worked backwards. How did James and Evie—my protagonists—know each other? What had they been doing during the war? How did they wind up in that dark alley? (Oops! Right. No spoilers.) I filled two journals with their love story, and then the history—the true stories of the muddy slog through the Italian front and the struggles on the British Home Front—gave the story flesh.
On a side note, my current project began in the opposite way—the history of the Anzio beachhead first, the characters and their stories later. Each method has had its complications, but at least this time around I haven’t had to rewrite huge chunks due to timeline issues!
Was it difficult writing from a male perspective?
I find that no matter the character, it takes some time to find their distinctive voice. I spent a great deal of time reading memoirs and recollections of people who lived through the events I wrote about—especially James’s part of the story—trying to get the right tone and timbre for his voice. My husband is also an amazing beta reader and helps kindly point out if occasional things “don’t sound like a guy.” As to the romantic side of things…well, that can be tricky to do well from a male or female perspective. But that leads into your next question…
What do you think is the key to creating a romantic couple readers can root for?
So. A Midwestern man found his wife crying. When he asked her what was wrong, she sniffled and said, “You never say you love me.” He stared at her, shocked. “But, honey, I told you on our wedding day. If something had changed…I would have let you know!” Ba-doom-ching.
Why bring up an “Ole and Lena” joke here? (And if you don’t know what I mean by an “Ole and Lena” joke, well…they’re the “dad jokes” of the upper Midwest. There seems to be an unlimited supply of them, and they are all pretty painful.) I do not come from particularly emotive people. Writing “love stuff” doesn’t exactly come easily. Embracing the romantic element of my story took some time. Fretting over finding ways to write believable romantic scenes for my characters took more time. How should they talk to each other? How could I show that they were attracted to each other? How could I make the attraction justified? Would there be anything…physical?
I’ve found that I tend to focus on romance through action, meaning that I try to allow my characters the chance to show the characteristics that make their relationship believable. This took some trial and error.
In early drafts, I caught myself telling about James and Evie’s admirable attributes. Occasionally, I’d have other people talk about how nice they were, etc. It was…not great. I worked to improve this by giving them opportunities to show their personalities instead—chances for them to spend time together, to talk, to see each other at their best and to see each other struggle. Taking time to strengthen each of their scenes together, making the dialogue and action count, helped the story as well as the romance.
I also found that it can be tempting to try to “sell” the suitability of the romance too hard. I ran into that with Evie especially. I found myself writing a caricature, not a character—she was too perfect in the early drafts. Thankfully, my first comments on the novel by a professional pointed this out. After the initial “oh no!” of receiving criticism, I used it as an opportunity to explore her flaws, make her into a more well-rounded character, AND to improve the love story. A couple with flaws as well as strengths can complement each other, creating a more balanced relationship.
It can be so hard to let our favorite characters have flaws! It really helps to get the opinions of others.
All that Sergeant James Milburn wants is to heal. Sent to finish his convalescence in a lonely village in the north of England, the friends he’s lost haunt his dreams. If he can only be declared fit for active service again, perhaps he can rejoin his surviving mates in the fight across Sicily and either protect them or die alongside them.
All that Evie Worther wants is purpose. War has reduced her family to an elderly matriarch and Charles, her controlling cousin, both determined to keep her safely tucked away in their family home. If she can somehow balance her sense of obligation to family with her desperate need to be of use, perhaps she can discover how she fits into her tumultuous world.
All that Charles Heatherington wants is his due. Since his brother’s death, he is positioned to be the family’s heir with only one step left to make his future secure. If only he can keep the family matriarch happy, he can finally start living the easy life he is certain he deserves.
However, when James’s, Evie’s and Charles’s paths collide, a dark secret of the past is forced into the light, and everything that they have hoped and striven for is thrown into doubt. Weaving in historical detail from World War II in Britain, Italy and Egypt, WHOM SHALL I FEAR? follows their individual struggles with guilt and faith, love and family, and forces them to ask if the greatest threat they face is really from the enemy abroad.
Anne Clare is a native of Minnesota’s cornfields and dairy country. She graduated with a BS in Education in 2005 and set out to teach in the gorgeous green Pacific Northwest, where she and her husband still live. She also serves as a church musician, singing in and occasionally directing choirs, playing piano, organ, and coronet (the last only occasionally, when she forgets how bad she is at it.) After the birth of her second child, she became a stay-at-home mom, and after the birth of the third she became reconciled to the fact that her house would never be clean again, which allowed her to find time to pursue her passion for history and writing while the little people napped. Although she’s back to teaching part-time, she continues to write historical fiction and to blog about WWII history, writing, and other odds and ends at thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com.
You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @anneclarewriter.
So sorry this is late. I thought I’d scheduled it for yesterday morning, and it was still in draft.
I still wanted to do a Valentine’s Day prompt. The body language of the couple in this photo can inspire several different scenes. Do you think the couple is having a romantic moment? Or are they breaking up? Here’s mine:
I looked at the water. I had to look at something besides him. My breath seemed to scorch my throat.
“I had to tell.” His deep voice was almost a whisper. “Couldn’t keep hiding things from you.”
So he had to be honest now. How thoughtful. Hadn’t it occurred to him that being honest from the start would make life easier for both of us?
His fingers fumbled for my hand. I wanted to jerk it away but couldn’t summon the strength.
“Can you forgive me?”
Can she? Or maybe she can’t immediately and the story is about how she eventually does? Or the story can take a totally different direction. What do you think?