We five authors had a lot of fun doing this, and we hope you’ll enjoy the results. Each of us came up with a question for the interview, and all of us answered every question. So let the games begin!
As both a writer and a reader, what ingredients do you consider indispensable for a romance novel?
Anne:Interesting three dimensional characters and a ‘real’ relationship or building of one between them. I want to be able to care about the characters, even if it takes me a while to grow to like them. There also needs to be some conflict they need to work through whether it’s their history, a situation outside of their relationship or whatnot so that their HEA or HEA feels as though it’s deserved and worked for.
A common enemy or opposing force
Conflict between the parties to the romance
Resolution of that conflict
United victory over the external opposition
A final consummation or sealing of the new love.
Elizabeth: A solid plot and a good story with characters I have some sort of emotional reaction to, even if that means the character is a jerk.
I’m a huge fan of the happy ending, in some manner, and I’m not a fan of the tragedy. I read because I want to feel good, so the characters and the plot need to come to some logical end that is at least nice. I don’t mean they have to be ooey-gooey, just not in tears and emotionally wrecked at the end.
No matter the setting and world the characters must be believable and solid in their development and the development and progress of their relationship. I particularly need characters who can communicate and have a sense of humor.
T.J.: Believable characters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pulled out of a story when a character suddenly just does something that makes me go WTF!?!? It’s a bummer when that happens because it can definitely effect how I read and view the rest of the story. When I write, I have a long thought process for most scenes, where I will sit back when it’s finished and think “Okay, would (fill in the blank) REALLY do/say what whatever they just did/said?”
Rhys: A romance? Whoosh. Um. Keep track of the dead bodies. Never ever write about a ferret. And most importantly, I would say a sense of realism. I love happy ever afters as much as the rest but there’s something satisfying about seeing a relationship build over a series of books. And hot sex. Okay, that just helps.
Plot or character, which comes first?
Anne: A bit of both, depending on what I’m working on. I work a lot on what-ifs either with specific characters in mind or those characters show up and become a part of whatever happens or is going to happen. Once I have the basic plot, how the rest of the story develops is very much down to the characters and where they want it to go, often leading in directions I hadn’t thought of or where I hadn’t planned to go.
Lou: For me, character almost always come first. The characters demand my attention until I make them a story, but then they change the story as we go along until, in the end, it rarely resembles the story we started with.
Elizabeth: Ah, the old chicken or egg question…LOL For me it’s the plot and generally not even the entire plot. I’ll often come up with an entire plot idea based on some small scene or even a line in a scene or dialog. I’ll often imagine a character physically along with that little kernel of a plot idea, but I’ll develop the characters to suit the story.
T.J.: Characters, all the way. I have weirdness going on in my head where my characters “talk” to me and are born as such. Plot follows, but it’s usually only after I’ve already thought up how character will look/sound/act. But obviously, there have been moments where a set piece has come into my head and I love to find out how my characters will fall into it.
Rhys: I’d say the main characters. Mainly I write series so I need characters that can hold up over a few books. If they aren’t complex enough, then the plot of the book falls apart. For me, there are two sets of plots; the book’s plot which will be resolved at the end and the arc plot which should span over the series. There could be smaller sub-plots accompanying the main arc plot but they must supplement the overall story, not overwhelm the characters.
How do you name your characters, or do they already show up with their own names or ‘correct’ the names you’ve chosen?
Anne: Some characters turn up already named, others I have to hunt for. One of my favourite websites is ‘behind the name’ as it gives the meanings of the names and their origins which I like to keep in mind when I am naming characters. Others though, as I’ve said, just turn up with all of that in place and don’t care about what their names mean. I’ve also named characters, started writing and been told, in no uncertain terms, that no my name isn’t this, it’s this. I don’t tend to argue with them on that.
Lou: Naming my characters is almost a ritual with me. I struggle (though I enjoy it) to find a name that is right — representing ethnic origin and character traits, having the right sound, and interacting with other character names the right way. My first resource is a baby name book that I’ve had for years, but sometimes I use other sources, too. In the process, I almost always learn more about my character (by knowing what does and doesn’t fit), or at the very least solidify the character in my mind. Sometimes, a lesser character comes with a name: Margie, Jim Ladd, and (believe it or not) Mack Money. For the dog in Delsyn’s Blues, a reader named him in a contest. That was fun.
Elizabeth: I don’t have any specific ritual I go through to name characters and often the names just pop into my head. If I have the wrong name I know it and keep searching until the correct one shows up. Sometimes I use online name sites if I want a certain meaning or nationality.
Another trick I’ll do is go through the data base of names of at work and pick a first and last name that appeals to me. I’ll sometimes read movie or TV show credits for names. I keep a list of names to peruse when I’m naming characters.
T.J.: As a writer who has somewhat…different names of characters, I’ve been asked how I get the names that I do. (I anticipate that won’t change when This Is How We Burn The World comes out and people get to meet Seven, and the Clock Twins, Tick and Tock.) They generally show up in my head already named, but sometimes some tweaking is in order. For some reason, I’m drawn to “A” names for secondary characters and I have yet to figure out why.
Rhys: I usually “taste” a character’s name. It’s rare that I change something once I start writing. It has to fit the person before I start. I know the character. Then I name him or her.
What is a “classic tale (fairy or otherwise)” that you’d like to retell. And how?
Anne: St George and the Dragon. I’d rework the story a bit though so that the so called dragon slayer really isn’t one and the dragon is a shifter and so naturally there’s a HFN in there for both of them. After all fairy stories and the like are only based on the truth and the actual story behind it can be quite different. *sigh* I’m going to have to write this one now at some point. Thanks, Rhys 😛
Lou: I don’t have anything specific, but I really love TH White’s The Once and Future King. Let’s face it, it’s chock full of little tales that could be—should be—gay.
Also, on a completely different note, there is a beautiful Iroquois tale that has at least a couple of versions for each of the nations about a young man who falls in love with a salmon wife. He sees that beneath the lake is a mirror-image world (and here we all thought it was reflection), and he goes to live with her there. No, he doesn’t drown! Why would you think that? ;-)Anyway, I think it would be very fine if the mirror-world lovers were both fine young men.
Elizabeth: The Three Musketeers. Well, I think instead of bromance there’d be more actual romance between the Musketeers. It sort of screams for it. I’m not sure who I’d pair with whom yet, but, yeah, that would be cool. My second choice would be the Atlantis legends.
T.J.: Sleepy Hollow, hands down. The original scared the crap out of me when I was a child and I recently read an M/M take on it that I though could have been so much more than it was. I’ve stewed on the idea for quite some time, even having gone as far to write a general outline, but I’ve stopped time and time again, just because I don’t think it’d be right to mess with what is obviously a classic.
Rhys: Damn it, I came up with this question and I don’t have an answer. What a fricking fail! Um… I would say a more current tale that I would love to re-tell is The Treasure is the Rose by Julia Cunningham. Fantastic book. Perhaps the Wizard of Oz. Less… psychotropic drugs but still, that would be fun. I would love to take a stab (no pun intended) at the Ninja Circus, an old Japanese drama about a group of assassins traveling from town to town as an entertaining troupe.
Is there a particular genre or sub-genre that you’ve always wanted to write in but have not done so yet? What would it be?
Anne: Gothic. I’d love to write a ghost story, but give it a bit of a twist and throw some romance into the mix.
Lou: Space opera!
Elizabeth: Space opera! I’ll have to second that.
T.J: Horror. Man, would I give my left arm to be able to write in horror. I’ve read every Stephen King book countless times and I always wished I could write a good horror story. I think that horror can definitely be effective in the long story/novella format i.e. Edgar Allen Poe, and I still hope to one day sit down and write something that’ll scare the bejesus out of everyone, myself included.
Rhys: Wow, I have no answer for this one either. I’ve written in a lot of genres. I would say I’d love to Regency romance (in the style of Loretta Chase). So much discipline and knowledge needed for those. And the language shifts. Totally daunting. And of course, as a male-male romance.
Anne Barwell is the author of Cat’s Quill, Tj Klune is the author of Bear, Otter, and the Kid, Rhys Ford is the author of Dirty Kiss, Elizabeth Noble penned Marked Yours, Together Bound, and Strays, and I wrote Loving Luki Vasquez.