New Writers' Scheme member, Jeevani Mantotta-Maxted reports...
I’m in the NWS scheme for the second year now and I’ve finally stopped lurking the background, too shy to say hello to the fabulous published writers. When I finally did break cover, I realised that they were a lovely bunch of people and not scary in the least.
As part of my attempts to get more involved, I went to the Writing Romantic Novels talk given by five RNA members are Reading central library. I was early, but the place was already busy. Clearly there are a lot of romance readers and writers out there. We were offered a free drink and each member of the audience was given a collection of goodies including bookmarks, a funky pink pencil (from Little Black Dress) and a free book!
The panel consisted of Janet Gover, Beth Elliot, Julie Cohen, Ray-Anne Lutener (Nina Harrington) and Tania Crosse. Between them, they covered modern romantic comedy, several lines of Mills and Boon, historical romance and sagas. After the initial introductions, the panel answered questions, some of which they had prepared themselves, some of which came from the audience.
They were asked now many books they wrote before they got published. The answers varied from 2 to 10! The most common number seemed to be four. I found this heartening as, for some reason, I had this idea that most people had their first or second book published.
Also discussed were their journeys to publications. Four out of the five came through the NWS scheme (Hurrah for the RNA!). There was some discussion about the importance of having an agent, as there are so few publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts nowadays. The importance of networking at conferences (and RNA events, of course) was stressed.
There was an audience question, from one of the few men in the audience, about how similar or different heroes in romance novels were to real men. There followed some descriptions of some rather delectable heroes. I think the gist of the replies was that the heroes are realistic, but better than real life. Readers want heroes that are believable fantasies who can sweep us off our feet, without us having to pick up their dirty socks. The important thing is that you should be able to imagine fancying your hero. If you don’t fancy them, how will you persuade your reader to?
The last part of the discussion was devoted to writing sex. Everyone agreed that sex had to tie in with the development of the characters and that the emotional involvement was more important than the description of the mechanics involved. Julie briefly mentioned how much fun it was to write explicit sex for the erotic market, whilst Ray-Anne described a scene that had me thinking about chocolate tiramisu for the rest of the night. Tania mentioned writing a bad sex scene (as in a scene where the sex isn’t pleasurable, not a badly written one!) and how difficult this is to do. It all came down to the sensations felt by the protagonist, so no matter whether the sex scene describes glorious sex or something less than comfortable, so long as the reader can be there with your character, then it’s doing its job.
At the end of the night there was a raffle for more free books and the authors stayed around to sign books, chat and generously share their free chocolates.
All in all, it was an informative and fun evening and a bargain at £3 a ticket. I shall certainly be looking out for more such events and I’m certainly going to find that book with the chocolate tiramisu in it!