Thursday, February 19, 2009

"We sell happy."

I was recently on a panel with several romance authors, and the delightful and business-savvy Kimber Chin made a statement that I'm not going to forget. "We sell happy."

Ain't that the truth? And ain't it great?

This is what romance readers and romance writers understand and appreciate. What we also understand and appreciate, but that dismissive critics of the genre don't, is that happy does not equal easy as in "causing or involving little difficulty or discomfort," for the writer or the reader or, I'd add, the characters.

Anybody familiar with romance knows that we want our characters to suffer and strive before they get that happy ending. We want our readers to be in a fever-pitch of anxiety over their fate. And heaven knows writing anything is stress-inducing, let alone a novel. Of course, we want it to read as if we just sat down, started typing and voila! A book! We do want our characters to achieve a blissful, successful outcome after their struggles, both internal and external. We want our readers to sigh with satisfaction after they close the book -- but it takes a lot of work and effort to get there.

That's what the workshop I'm conducting at the conference of the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America this March is really all about. It's called "What Lies Beneath: Adding Layers to your Characters and Conflict" but it could also be called "Adding Complications." "Making It Tough." "How to put your characters through the wringer."

In other words, making it the opposite of easy for your characters, for you the writer and for the reader, too.

So yes, we happily sell happy. But that doesn't mean it's easy.


Amy Ruttan said...

Nope. It's not easy. I just finished writing a book with the most scarred hero I ever have written.

I'm pretty much chilling this week, I feel so tired and numb.

Kimber Chin said...

Okay, getting quoted by Margaret Moore on writing has MADE my year (and it is only February). Thank you so much.

ALL sales are made on emotion.
I love that romance novels sell on such a positive one. There is not enough happy in the world.

And no, it is not easy. Look at the careers of big name comedians. Actually don't. That's way too depressing.

Oh, Amy, I LOVE scarred heroes! I can't wait to read it!

Margaret Moore said...

Amy, I love me a scarred hero, too (obviously -- look at poor Emryss, minus an eye AND something else).

Kimber, I guess you have no idea how much I envy you your business smarts and how much I admire your focus on doing what you want to do (ie romances with a business setting) when it comes to writing. Well, I do!

Amy, I also admire anybody who manages to write while pregnant and with small children. I didn't start until my youngest was in nursery school, so I had at least half a day to myself.

Amy Ruttan said...

Well as you said that day Margaret it's also about spending time with them.

They are my first priorities. They're only young once. Thankfully they go to bed at 7 p.m., then it's writing time for me ... though it's proving hard to balance the lap top on my lap. ;)

In the end I do this job A) cause it makes me happy and B) I get to be with them instead of trapped in an office.

And I love Emryss!! *sigh*

Kimber, I'm reading Invisible right now. :)

Kaye Manro said...

This sounds like a wonderful workshop, Margaret. Makes me wish I were in New England now so I could attend!

I love scarred heroes too -- love reading them, and try hard to write them.

Kimber Chin said...

(Wiggles with embarrassment at Margaret's comments)

Kaye, if you ever get a chance to hear Margaret speak - do it!
Not only will you learn SO much
but you'll laugh until your belly hurts.

Amy, my business babe buddies and I have a saying "You can always get another job. It is harder to get another family." Family always comes first. Always.

Sometimes though it is challenging to remember that the people you spend 8 hours (or more) a day with (i.e. your coworkers) aren't your true family. I tend to do that a bit.