I’m guest blogging over on author Anne Clare’s site about how to use winter weather as writing inspiration. Stop by and see if it inspires you!
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.
I’m so glad to feature this author interview with Bettie Boswell today. I met Bettie through the local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She wrote a post a few years ago for me about the similarities to writing and music, which you can find here. Today, just in time for Valentine’s Day, she’s here to talk about her sweet romance On Cue.
What inspired you to use a musical as the setting of your romance, On Cue?
I have been involved in several community theater events as both an actor and as an author/composer. One of those events did involve a musical called Just Around the Bend which raised funds for a historical museum in the area. For that program, I was a co-author, did some composing, acted, and participated in the production team. That background provided me with a hands-on experience for the book’s setting without having to start any research from scratch. I was also a music teacher for many years and have always enjoyed anything involved in music making. Authors quickly discover there is always some kind of research and the musical experience in my own community provided an easy way to do that for On Cue.
Yes, it saves so much time if a writer pulls from his or her own experiences for a story.
Is it difficult writing from the male perspective?
I had two older brothers and two children who grew into fine young men. They provided me with some of the experience I needed to create my hero. I also read at least one Christian romance every week, so I have a feel for what that perspective is like in this genre. In earlier drafts of On Cue my critique partner liked Scott’s development better than Ginny’s so I had to work more on the female perspective. One writing workshop I went to emphasized the female writer should make sure the man’s voice sounds like something a guy would say or notice. He isn’t going to recognize a brand name purse or comment on whether she is wearing a flared or a-line dress. He would just notice that she looks amazing in the blue dress.
What surprised you the most about writing the romance in your novel?
I had a lot of fun with the secondary characters in this story. Many of them were not in earlier drafts and that was a shame. They added depth to the story while supporting the main characters. Those characters gave the leads someone to talk to, someone to care about or rescue, someone to add a little humor, and also provided open doors to possible appearances in sequels to On Cue. I am planning to work on one of those character’s stories starting sometime this summer, when I retire from my day job of teaching. The musical in the story has already inspired a prequel that I am working on during weekends, but my current fulltime teaching position keeps me very busy.
I love creating secondary characters, too! And it’s so rewarding when writers find characters that inspires them to write more than one story about them. Best of luck with your new story!
What do you think is the key to creating a romantic couple readers can root for?
They both need something they can overcome for both an inner journey and an outer journey. Scott and Ginny have the outer journey of unwillingly working together to put on a successful musical that will help the historical museum in their community survive. For their inner journeys they struggle with overcoming issues of trust and forgiveness that have arisen from past experiences in close relationships. Main characters have to be real enough for the reader to identify with them. They need to make the reader smile, cry, relate to their faults, and feel their frustrations and victories.
What advice would you give a writer who wants to write romance?
Read as much as you can in the genre. Find a critique partner who has the ability to correct and encourage. Both are critical to the writing process. Don’t give up. On Cue evolved over the course of several years and many of its earlier forms drew rejections from multiple publishers. Always strive to grow your craft by attending conferences, workshops, and supportive groups like local chapters of ACFW. Those activities helped me realize what I needed to do to improve On Cue. Attending those types of events led me to know about my publisher, Mt. Zion Ridge, and led to the opportunity to write for them.
Connecting with other writers and professionals in the industry is so critical. Thanks for the advice!
When a college sweetheart used Ginny Cline’s dreams for his own glory, he stole her joy of composing music and her trust in men. Years later, encouraged by prayer and a chance to help the local museum, she dares to share her talents again. Unfortunately a financial backer forces her to place her music and trust into the hands of another man.
Theater professor Scott Hallmark’s summer camp benefactor coerces him into becoming the director of Ginny’s musical. The last thing he needs is another woman who uses him to get what they want, especially an amateur who has no idea what they are doing.
As Ginny’s interest in Scott grows, her confusion arises over Honey, a member of Scott’s praise band. Mix in a couple of dogs and quirky cast members for fun and frustration as the couple work together to discover that forgiveness and trust produce perfect harmony.
Bettie Boswell has always loved to write. During her career as a teacher she has written everything from worksheets to musicals to articles in educational journals. Recently she stepped out of her classroom and into the world of publishing. She dipped her toe into the profession by contributing to several teacher education books and eventually wrote a leveled reader, “Side-tracked,” relating the adventure of two boys as they work for the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad. Those train tracks still run from Toledo, through Sylvania, (where Bettie teaches,) and into Michigan. As an active member of Ohio’s SCBWI and ACFW, she is involved in critique/support groups from both organizations. She became aware of submission information for a short story collection through the Ohio ACFW group and contributed “Fred’s Gift” (inspired by the memory of her father) to a collection of tales called “From the Lake to the River.” Her debut Christian Romance novel, “On Cue,” was released on November 1, 2020. Follow Bettie on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.