Hello everyone. Happy Valentines Day and welcome to a special guest post in honour of this romantic day. Warning: Beware of the twist :) Read on and enjoy.
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The First Rule Is Break All of the Rules by Elizabeth Ann West
Children ask this question without hesitation. My own are experts at the inquiry. Yet as we age and mature, we stop asking why. We accept. Any authority issues an edict we conform. Authors are not generally different.
I had the outline and idea for CANCELLED long before I wrote a word. The story is about a robotics engineer who holds a secret love for his business partner. Except in the four years they have worked together, they've never been both single at the same time. Unfortunately, rash behavior on the “hero's” part just before the two realize they both were just waiting for the other to notice, rears it's ugly head. A previous one-stand appears to return his shirt. Pregnant. And it's his.
While most authors jump to pour out their souls, my non-fiction writing background led me to first seek a publishing solution for the novel. I didn't find one. Why?
Because there is only one. That's right, if you wish to write a “romance” you only have one true outlet and that is Harlequin and its many imprints. Small imprints are cropping up to handle less formulaic stories, but their distribution is little better, and in some cases worse, than me striking out on my own. I poured over every guideline Harlequin offered for the books they were looking to publish, hoping CANCELLED would fulfill the requirements. My story didn't fit.
CANCELLED is told mostly from the male main character's point-of-view. Romance publishers want a female's point-of-view, or at best a compromise: a split narrative where the book reflects both the hero's and heroine's point-of-views.
Why? In heterosexual romance, men make up 50% of the relationship! Why on earth is a book no longer “romance” if it's from the male POV? This is probably less a genre rule than a marketability rule, but a rule to write romance, nonetheless.
So, I broke that rule. Thankfully, no one has asked for my head on a platter. My next issue with the guidelines involved endings. Ah yes, the HEA, or happily-ever-after. I read a great deal of Regency romance, mostly Pride and Prejudice fan fiction. Yes, that's another rule broken. Serious authors aren't supposed to like fan fiction, but I'm here to tell you, that's where you really see cutting-edge literary works! For whatever reason, perhaps the feeling that the harsh realities of daily life in history made happiness too unlikely, a happily-ever-after ending isn't always required.
I love stories with unpredictable endings. Love them. But with the romance genre, if you're only allowed one possible conclusion, the methods and manners to get there are naturally limited. I also don't like artificial twists and turns designed to “trick” me as a reader. Real romance can be hot, sexy, steamy, and NOT mean happiness forevermore. Most of us are quite content with happiness for now.
We don't expect people to live miserably with the same person for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the only way around a “happily-ever-after” often results in an ending of complete desolation. One of the romantic partners dies, making it okay for the other to move on. In searching for traditional publishing opportunities, my choices appeared to be complete fairy tale ending (romance) or tragedy beyond repair (literary fiction/women's fiction with a romantic element).
Why only the two extremes?
So, I broke that rule, too. My ending is not traditional nor is it outside the realm of real life. The only person who dies is dead from the beginning, so you won't shed any tears over him. CANCELLED's characters do what most of us do every single day...they make the best of a tough situation.
If you've had a less than perfect romantic relationship, you'll understand. In fact, I think you'll love the escape CANCELLED offers, because at the end of all of my books, there's only one thing I really want my readers to feel: “Thank God my own drama isn't nearly as bad!”
Happy Valentine's Day! Be sure to tell the people in your life who give you no right to be unhappy that you love them and appreciate them. And for every reader who risks reading a love story through the eyes of a man, I thank you for taking a chance on my book. We all need a little rebellion in our lives.
Thank you so much Shah for having me! You have an amazing blog here, and the readers of Words In Sync are very lucky you share your time and talent! :)
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Ann West is a Jane-of-all-trades, mistress to none! After writing non-fiction professionally for three years, she made the jump to fiction in 2011 with her debut novel, CANCELLED. A chicklit/romance from the male POV, Elizabeth's novel challenges the conventions of modern romance. In 2012, CANCELLED became a top downloaded title on Amazon in both Contemporary Fiction and Contemporary Romance with over 8,000 downloads in less than 24 hours. Her next work, STONE, is slated for released March 2012
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Many thanks to Elizabeth for this guest post today, she's been super busy promoting her book, and is probably ready for a holiday. :)
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