My writer’s journey: an essay

I wrote an essay for Reedsy, the independent writers’ marketplace:  link.

What else am I up to otherwise?  I’m awaiting word from my editor, and I’m gearing up for a new round of writing with my Goodreads Writing with Partners group.  This time around, it is a five-person novel!  I have ten chapters to write by sometime next month.  I have about 5-6 chapters written.

I feel like I’m in the midst of my own personal NaNoWriMo!

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

Sweet Heroines in Sweet Romances?

More food for thought.  This time, these ideas are coming from a conversation I had on one of my Goodreads groups on sweet heroines.

A group of us were thinking about how annoying some heroines in romance novels can be.

“Reckless, flamboyant,” as someone suggested.  Adding to that, characters that appear silly, stupid, or who are just b****es (for no explicable reason), I just want to put the book down.

I like smart, level headed, practical, and reserved heroines, because those are the types of women I admire in real life, attractive and desirable women who present themselves with dignity, class, and decorum.

And I want these heroines in sweet romances, because I want them to have wholesome relationships.

But here is something interesting.  These types of heroines are often presented, it seems to me, as living in small town settings, or from some type of suburban environment.

Now here is my snark coming through.  Do we presume that women from big cities can’t be like that?

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.



Celebrating the “Deliciously Strange”: Renegade Characters

I’ve been mulling over the ideas in this essay for some time.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed about what inspired me to write Starting Over:  Rick:  BriannaRemusBooks.

I addressed a unique challenge I gave myself in developing my characters.  The popular culture doesn’t typically imagine young women in their late teens as ready for marriage.  But that wasn’t always the case.  Over the past fifty or so years, the age of first marriage for young women has been rising.

After last month’s meeting of my local RWA chapter, I saw a call for essays on the “deliciously strange” in our writing, and I couldn’t resist describing my characters as deliciously strange renegades.

The essay follows.

On June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court held in Loving v. Virginia that the State of Virginia could not deny Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Loving, a black woman, recognition of their marriage.  Asked whether he wanted to say anything to the Court, he said simply, “Tell the Court I love my wife.”  All state laws banning interracial marriages would henceforth be illegal.

Back then, Annelise Perigault, the African American heroine of Starting Over:  Rick, and the hero, Rick Santelli, would have each been considered edgy renegades.  They dated, loved each other, and married interracially.  Rick was an Italian American man born in Brooklyn, New York in the wake of the interracial tensions and violence that rocked New York City in the 1980s.  His family had always been open-minded about race relations.

But through a modern lens, Annelise is an anomaly and a paradox, a deliciously strange young woman.  She is a regular churchgoer, religious, and conservative.  Yet, she identifies as a feminist.  She is a member of a liberal Protestant denomination that ordains women and which tends to adhere to a more liberal view of sexuality and relationships.  She has no qualms about having sex in a committed relationship, and as an empowered young woman, she requires a partner who is mature and responsible enough to get on board with what she requires.

Fifty years ago, Seventeen Magazine published ads for hope chests, because it was fairly common for young women to get married when they were a few years out of high school.  Annelise would have been considered traditional, yet modern.   But in today’s world, she is a renegade.  She is a recent high school graduate and an honors student in college who hopes to get her B.A. while she gets her “Mrs. Degree.”   She might be inexperienced, but she has some serious game.  A grown up relationship with a man ten years older doesn’t intimidate her.

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.

A documentary on reading and writing romance novels?

Amber Belldene has a number of articles on her website about reading and writing romance novels.  Some of them appear fairly scholarly, within the fields of cultural criticism and literature.

I found out from one of the articles that there is a documentary I should look at:  Love Between the Covers.

A review mentioned something very interesting.  That although the Romance Writers Association recognizes that writers’ novels are from all aspects of the genre, and across all of the political spectrum, the documentary did not address “Christian romance novels, which avoid any reference to out-of-wedlock or premarital sex—a gap in an otherwise comprehensive overview of the genre.”

“Very telling,” I thought.  I have been pondering this for some time.  “Sex positivity,” as it is perceived in modern culture (and arguably among modern feminists), is limited solely to left-wing perspectives.

So a woman who wants commitment before sex, including marriage, is not being sex positive?

If anything, I think it is very positive!

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.


On being inspired…

I recall some correspondence from a few weeks ago.  A writer I was acquainted with was looking for reviewers, but she had no interest in reviewing other writers’ work.  Apparently she was in the midst of writing and didn’t want to be influenced (dare I say, with full snark–contaminated?) by them.

What an odd perspective.

I’ve always seen critique to be a give and take, and that dates back to my earlier training as a writer.  We wrote, reviewed each others’ work and continued with our own writing, with new insights and suggestions.

So in any event,  I was recently in the midst of a writer’s block.  I just finished editing Roger’s story.  Nothing more to do now, I think.  I am looking for an editor’s insights now.

I have had two ideas for the subsequent story, Kimberly or Lauren, Annelise’s friends who were also her bridesmaids.  But nothing was coming to me.  I played around with my Pinterest boards, where I had all kinds of images of male models I imagined would fit my visions of Rick’s friends, Don and Juan.  Still nothing.

Then I saw the program for the  Golden Apple Awards sponsored by my chapter of the RWA, and suddenly, I was inspired.

I saw my peers’ book covers.  Kay Blake’s latest one intrigued me.  What if the next book were from the heroine’s perspective, and I had a picture of her on the cover?

What an interesting twist!  Two books from a guy’s perspective, then a book from a woman’s perspective?

But that was as far as I got, as I continued to wonder, Lauren?  Kimberly?  I reviewed the sections of the book where I discussed them.  I thought about it on random occasions, and heard bits of conversation in my head as I tried to imagine my characters’ interaction.  Still nothing.

Then, this morning, I was baking in the kitchen.  I suppose I was in a playful mood.  It occurred to me, what if it were a romantic comedy?  By the time I was at the gym, I had a piece of scrap paper and was jotting down ideas.

I thought it was hilarious, and could work.  Lauren?  Kimberly?  Don?  Juan?  Based upon how I imagined my characters’ earlier development (off book, outside of Rick and Annelise’s story), I’m leaning towards Lauren.

This is going to be one hell of a ride!

Copyright Barbara James.  All rights reserved.