The Art of Writing Romance Novels

An Interview with Author Keli Gwyn

Keli Gwyn Historical Author Photo June 2014A good love story keeps readers turning pages as they cheer for characters who struggle to overcome the obstacles that keep them apart. Yet not many writers realize the complexity of writing romance novels.

Award winning author Keli Gwyn delights readers with relatable characters, unexpected plot twists, surprising humor and tender love stories. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, won first place in the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Awards.

Please welcome Keli Gwyn as she celebrates her latest release, a Love Inspired Historical title, Family of Her Dreams, and shares about the art of writing romance novels.

Xochi: Thank you for joining us, Keli. Congratulations on your newest release. Would you please tell us a little bit about the fun event you have planned to celebrate the launch of your first Love Inspired novel, Family of Her Dreams?

Keli: Thanks for inviting me, Xochi. It’s great to be here.

I’m exited about the event, which takes place this coming Sunday (details below). My Book Release Party is being held at the very railroad station in Shingle Springs where the (fictional) hero of my story, Spencer Abbott, is stationmaster. It’s where he meets Tess Grimsby, the headstrong woman who will become his housekeeper.

My guests will be able to purchase the book, enjoy refreshments and browse in the quaint Antique Depot shop operating in the historic building still standing today. In addition, the Western El Dorado Railroad will be offering rides that day for a nominal fee.

Xochi: Celebrating the novel release at the same train station your fictional characters meet sounds exciting. What role do setting and time period play in romance novels?

Keli: The setting, especially real ones like I use, can bring a historic location to life in readers’ minds. Through the descriptions sprinkled in a story, they can travel to a new place. Depending on the period the author has chosen, readers will experience what life was like at that particular time. For example, Shingle Springs is a sleepy small town these days, but in 1865 when Family of Her Dreams begins, it was home to one of the busiest rail depots in the state. Readers will see a bustling community that played an important role in California’s history.

Xochi: What are the most important elements of a good romance novel?

Keli: Creating likable characters readers want to spend time with is important in any story. In a romance we must go beyond that and show the deepening relationship between the hero and heroine. In inspirational romance, we focus primarily on the couple’s emotional journey rather than physical attraction. There are kisses, of course, and we inpsy authors learn how to get the most out of them. 😉

Xochi: What should writers be wary of when crafting their love stories?Keli Gwyn Book Cover - Family of Her Dreams  - June 2015

Keli: It’s important to remember that a romance is first and foremost about the relationship between the hero and heroine. Plot is important, but the focus needs to be on the couple and their journey to the Happy Ever After, which romance readers expect and eagerly await.

Xochi: Please share a few tips on developing the perfect couple for a romance novel.

Keli: Our heroes and heroines need to be strong characters. They’re bigger than life. Readers don’t want to read about ordinary people. They want stories about extraordinary people. It’s important to show attraction, but there can and should be sparks at times. Readers want to see how a couple handles the many obstacles we writers throw at them. In inspirational romances, readers want to see the role faith plays in the hero and heroine’s lives as well.

Xochi: What stereotypes should writers avoid?

Keli: Readers want characters with depth. Cowboys are a reader favorite in the Love Inspired Historical Line, but if a LIH author creates a cowboy hero, he has to have traits and characteristics that set him apart. If he acts and sounds like a stereotypical cowboy, he won’t endear himself to readers.

Although our heroines are strong women, they are unique. Each heroine has to become a real, distinct person in a reader’s mind. A heroine has to be someone the reader relates to, admires and might even want to be more like.

Xochi: What should writers keep in mind when plotting a romance novel?

Keli: Keeping the couple together is key. Most scenes should include the hero and heroine. Each scene should advance the story and not be episodic. The turning points and Black Moment should relate to the couple and their relationship. The external plot needs to be there, but the romance takes top billing.

Xochi: Would you please explain the concept of the Black Moment?

Keli: The Black Moment comes just before the end of a story. It’s that point in time when everything appears to be falling apart.

In a romance it takes place when the hero and heroine appear to have resolved all their issues. However, something comes along that makes it seemingly impossible for them to end up together. All is lost–or so they think.

In The Sound of Music Maria realizes she’s fallen for the Captain and returns to the abbey confused and conflicted. The Mother Abbess convinces Maria the only way to resolve things is to go back and face her fears–and the Captain. She does, arriving filled with hope of a future with the man she loves. But then comes the Black Moment: the Captain is already engaged. There’s no way Maria’s dream can come true. Of course, it does, but before it does the reader/viewer experiences the pain of dashed hopes along with Maria. The Black Moment makes the long-awaited Happy Ever After that much sweeter.

Xochi: What sets apart a romance novel from a novel that has romantic elements?

Keli: In a romance novel, the developing relationship is the primary focus of the story, taking precedence over the external plot. In a novel with strong romantic elements, the romance is there, but it is secondary. Think of The Sound of Music. If you removed the romance between Captain VonTrapp and Maria, the story wouldn’t be the gem it is. This classic movie has stood the test of time not because it’s a great WWII story, but because it’s a wonderfully satisfying romance.

Xochi: What advice would you give an aspiring romance novelist?

Keli: Read plenty of romances to see how other authors craft a story. Then sit down and have fun writing yours.

Let the words flow freely. Don’t expect your first romance to be a work of genius. Allow yourself time to learn and grow as a writer without putting undue pressure on yourself. Spend time studying craft. When others knowledgeable about the romance genre tell you you’re ready to put your work out there, begin querying.

Xochi: Thank you for joining us, Keli. I look forward to reading Family of Her Dreams.

Keli: Thank you so much for hosting me, Xochi, and for asking such insightful questions. You really made me think. 🙂

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Visit Keli’s website to connect with her and purchase copies of her books. You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Please join us to celebrate the release of Family of Her Dreams on Sunday, June 14, 2015 at the Antique Depot, 4241 Mother Lode Drive in Shingle Springs, California, from 11 am to 2:30 pm.

Call the Antique Depot at (530) 677-5542 with questions.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Xochi DixonWith a heart for loving God, loving people, and nurturing spiritual growth, Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon encourages and equips women to experience the fragrance of God’s presence through prayerful study and application of His Holy Word at www.xedixon.com.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license

Get Inspired: Fiction Author Panel June 20

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Join us next Saturday, June 20th as we host a panel of fiction authors who’ll answer your questions about the craft, editing and publication.

We’ll meet at Oasis Christian Mission Center

10255 Old Placerville Road, Sacramento, CA

9:30am to Noon

Members attend free, non members pay $15 at the door.

Meet the panelists:

 

Morgan BusseMorgan L. Busse writes fantasy for the adult market. She is the author of the Follower of the Word series, including Daughter of Light, Christy and Carol Award finalist. Morgan lives on the West Coast with her husband and four children. You can find out more about Morgan on her website.

 

 

 

Shannon Dittemore_cropped

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. Connect with Shannon on her website. 

 

 

BootsElaine Faber is a member of Sisters in Crime, Cat Writers Association (yes, you read that right!) and Inspire Christian Writers, where she serves as our distribution coordinator and as an editor for the annual Inspire anthology. Elaine has published three novels, most recently, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel. Her short stories are in multiple anthologies. Stop by Elaine’s website to learn more about her and her writing.

 

 

1013122_1385472168352270_778892518_n(3)Joanne Butterfield writes historical fiction. Her debut novel, The Dust Settles is the story of an Iowa farm family at the end of the Dust Bowl. The second book in The Planting trilogy releases later this year. She also writes and teaches Bible studies after serving for 20 years as a discussion leader and class administrator for Bible Study Fellowship. Recently retired, she took part in UCDavis’ Creative Writing Program. Joanne lives to read, write, walk and take vacations with her husband, Phil. She finds great joy in her involvement in the lives of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchilren. You can connect with Joanne on Facebook.

 

 

Bring your fiction questions and your writing friends.

Writing Past the Doubts

I’ve just broken through a 3-day writing slump. For three solid days I couldn’t write a cohesive sentence to save my life, which thank God, was never threatened.

37323112_sLast week I committed to a writing project that I’m very excited about. I also committed to work with a mentor to (finally!) dust off a project that stalled out a few years ago. These two writing decisions brought me a brief episode of euphoria. I re-worked my schedule to accommodate them and bellied-up to the keyboard ready for adventure.

And you know what happened?

Doubt.

Suddenly, I was hammered by it.

All the voices in my head formed a choir that serenaded me day and night. “You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good. Baby you’re no good!”

And you know what I did?

I believed them. In fact, I helped them build a case against me. I remembered every rejection, tough critique and bad grade I ever received. It’s amazing how the mind works. I forget why I walked into the garage, but can recall with perfect clarity every criticism that’s come my way.

For the past 24 hours I thought of all the ways I could graciously wiggle out of my writing projects. After all, “I’m no good!”

Then, I decided to fight back. I put my pen to the pages of my prayer journal and cried out for help. I asked for renewed passion and for a little inspiration to get me over the hump.

And you know what happened?

I sat down and wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

The words flowed effortlessly and landed on the page as though they belonged there. I wrote thousands of words including a chapter, an outline and a couple of blog posts. Tomorrow I’ll finish my submission for the Inspire Forgiveness anthology.

The euphoria is back! I just needed to pray and write.

What do you do when you’re assailed by doubt?

beth_thompson brightElizabeth M Thompson hosts weekly Open Studio writing times in her home because she loves to write in a quiet house filled with other creatives creating. When she’s not reading, writing, or serving the Inspire writers, she can be found along the American River, pedaling her bike, paddling a kayak or walking hand-in-hand with her husband Mike. Elizabeth blogs about overcoming on her website and can be found on Facebook and Twitter if you’d like to connect with her. Be sure to stop by Prayers4Writers every Wednesday evening from 6pm PDT/9pm EDT on Twitter. Use #writetoinspire to join the conversation.

Free One-Year Inspire Christian Writers Membership

17823873_sWe interrupt this blog post with a quick announcement:

Because we had such a great response to the survey and received so much helpful feedback, we’ve drawn two winners instead of one!

And the winners are…

Linda Lohman

Jane Daly

Congratulations to you both! You will receive a free one-year membership to Inspire Christian Writers (or an extension of your existing membership). Your membership comes with many great benefits. Be sure to take full advantage of them.

The survey results and comments from participants will help us deliver the content you want most. This is what you told us you’d like more of:

  1. Fiction Writing Tips & Training
  2. (tie) Writing Basics/Platform & Marketing/Blogging
  3. Inspiration and Motivation for Writers
  4. Nonfiction Writing Tips & Training
  5. Critique
  6. (tie) Author Interviews/Writing Business
  7. Self-Publishing

Only 4 points separated our highest score from our lowest, showing a very broad interest in all categories. We will increase our posts on Fiction Writing and bring in more fiction speakers. We’ll continue to seek out and present great content in each area. I hope you’ll continue to give us feedback. Let us know what your writing goals are and how Inspire can help you achieve them.

Is there anything about the survey that surprised you? Anything you’d like to add to our list of topics?

Everlene’s Sky

How A Letter to a Sailor Ignited a Lifelong Friendship and a New Book

While serving in the Navy, aboard an aircraft carrrier in the Persian Gulf, Michael Russo received a letter from a stranger. That letter was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and the catalyst for his debut novel, Everlene’s Sky.

 

I interviewed Michael about his friendship with Everlene and the book he just launched, a novelization of her life story.

Here are some of the questions I posed to Michael:

  • Tell me about the first time Everlene made contact with you.
  • What propelled you to write back to her?
  • How did her correspondence impact you.
  • At what point did you start thinking, “Hey, this would make a great book”?
  • And when did you start writing it?
  • Prior to this, had you written for publication?
  • Describe your writing process.
  • How involved was Everlene in the process?
  • The title, Everlene’s Sky, comes from a quote from Everlene. Can you share that quote and why you used it for your book title?
  • Describe your publishing process.
  • How has the book been received so far?
  • What are you doing to help promote Everlene’s Sky?
  • What would you say to someone who’s in that place where you were–they have an interesting book idea and are at the beginning of the writing and publishing process. What have you learned that you can pass along?

Be sure to watch the 700 Club segment about Everlene Brewer and her unique ministry to U.S. service men and women.

You can connect with Michael Russo via Facebook or Twitter.

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Have you had an encounter with a stranger that became a subject of your writing? Tell us about it.

_______

beth_thompsonElizabeth M Thompson loves stories–fiction and nonfiction alike. Mostly, she loves God’s story and seeks to share with readers how they fit into it. When she’s not reading, writing, or serving the Inspire writers, she can be found along the American River, pedaling her bike, paddling a kayak or walking hand-in-hand with her husband Mike. Connect with Elizabeth on her blog, Facebook or Twitter. She loves to connect with other writers!

The Benefits of Writing with a Focus Group: An Author Interview with Joanne Kraft

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Eccl. 4:9-10).

 

Joanne Kraft Author PhotoWriters who work the majority of their time in isolation can understand the value of community and relate to King Solomon’s words.

When writing a book, authors usually present their own ideas and support their information with Scripture and quotes from other books. However, some writers, like Joanne Kraft, have discovered the benefits of focus groups made up of people who fit their target audience.

Please help me welcome Joanne, as she shares how a focus group helped form her latest book, The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids.

Xochi: Congratulations on your newest release, Joanne. Please tell us a little bit about The Mean Moms Guide.

Joanne:  Thanks so much for having me! The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids is my newest nonfiction parenting book. It encourages marshmallow moms (softies) to stay the course and keep loving boundaries—especially when parenting is hard.

 

Xochi: What are the benefits of working with the focus group as you write a nonfiction book?

Joanne:  When I signed my contract for The Mean Mom’s Guide I knew I’d need help. With a title like “mean mom”, well, I wanted to have a lot of support from other moms. I used my social media to ask women if they’d be interested in joining “The Mean Mom Team.” I wanted to gather moms and hear what they had to say about things like technology, entitlement and how to maneuver sibling rivalry.

 

Xochi: What are the greatest challenges in working with focus groups?

Joanne: For me, the toughest part was older moms weren’t as well represented as the younger moms in my focus group. Since I drew my focus group from social media, the older generation of moms (moms of adult kids) weren’t as interested in a parenting book as younger moms were.

 

Final Cover The Mean Moms Guider_editedXochi: Please describe the process required by publishers when using focus groups.

Joanne: Each publishing house is different. You’d have to contact your editor and see what they say, or refer back to your contract for that information.

 

Xochi: What, if anything, are authors expected to do for the members of their focus groups?

Joanne: The number one thing? Communicate. I made sure these moms knew the private group they were joining was for The Mean Mom’s Guide. They knew when I asked questions that their answers were part of my research and anything they shared might be used in my book. I made that clear. When my galley copies arrived I went back to my focus group numerous times and shared each mom’s quotes and let them know which chapters they’d be in.

 

Xochi: Why should nonfiction writers consider working with focus groups?

Joanne: I never thought I must have a “focus group.” It was an organic process the Lord made into something better than I’d ever imagined. These women have encouraged me so much this year. I pray for these women and want their faith to grow deeper, just as I would if I was facilitating a ministry face-to-face in church.

 

Xochi: In what ways did having a focus group benefit your writing process?

Joanne: The better you know your target audience the better chance at providing a solid manuscript/written resource. If you struggle to know who your audience is or what they’re all about, then a focus group for your next project might be a great benefit.

 

Xochi: What happens to the group after you complete your manuscript?

Joanne: The Mean Mom Team became so engaged with one another over the past year that when my book came out it was natural to offer them the chance to be a part of my book launch team. I’m using my same group space on Facebook to run my book launch.

We’ve been together for over a year now. They’re helping me get the word out about my book through social media. I’m also reading through the book with them. On Saturdays we have “Prayer & Praise” where we pray for one another and rejoice in the blessings they’ve experienced, too.

When the launch is over I’ll go back to using it for ministry with these women.

 

Xochi: Are there any circumstances where focus groups would not be helpful?

Joanne: If you’re a writer who struggles with criticism a focus group may not be for you. When you open the door wide for lots of people (who aren’t writers) to tell you what they think, a focus group may not be a good choice.

 

Xochi: Please offer our nonfiction writers a final word of encouragement.

Joanne: Inspire Christian Writers was one of my very first steps toward publication. The value of being around writers weekly is immeasurable. If you’re in an Inspire group—keep going. If you’re not in a group yet—find one. If you’re frustrated over edits—keep writing. If you’re discouraged about rejections—ask Inspire friends for prayer. Whatever you do, don’t give up. If God can use me He can use anyone.

 

Xochi: Thank you for joining us, Joanne. I’m looking forward to buying The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids as a gift for all the moms I love.

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To connect with Joanne, please visit her website, “like” her Facebook Author Page, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe to her blog. And when you’re buying your copy of The Mean Moms Guide, please don’t forget to buy a copy for another mom who needs encouragement through biblical wisdom presented with delightful humor.

Would you like to read an excerpt of The Mean Mom’s Guide? Sign up for Joanne’s monthly Newsletter and she’ll provide an excerpt!

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Xochi DixonWith a heart for loving God, loving people, and nurturing spiritual growth, Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon encourages and equips women to experience the fragrance of God’s presence through prayerful study and application of His Holy Word at www.xedixon.com.