A 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: 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. 🙂