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Monday, October 20, 2014

Guest Blog: M.S. Spencer: If I'm Happy and I Know It, Can I Write Romance?


Does your own love life help or hinder your romance writing?

I had a writer friend who'd been publishing romances since she was 19. Her earlier books were nice and steamy (or as steamy as Harlequin allowed), but her later books exhibited a slower, more deliberative, even hesitant approach to romance. I asked her why. Her response? "If you ain't gettin' any, it's hard to write it."

I've been wondering about that. Many of my author friends who write erotic—even BDSM—often turn out to be in blissful marriages with small children. Perhaps the balance in their real lives allows them to break out into all kinds of fantasies. Perhaps they like the contrast. How does a mind work that, on the one hand, can live a bucolic existence in a suburb of (say) Des Moines, and on the other, write about shape-shifting vampires from another planet?

From the reader's perspective, is the writer's writing impaired if she has an active love life? Does it bubble up in the writing? Does it distract the reader if he thinks he's reading an autobiography? These are indeed interesting avenues of inquiry, but today I want to address a different issue, this time from the writer's perspective. Does having romance in your own life make it easier or harder to write romance?

Romance writers tend to have two things in common—they like happy endings, and they like the push and pull, play and by-play, of the romantic story. The question becomes, if you're supremely happy—on your honeymoon, or celebrating the birth of a first child, or in your twentieth year of wedded bliss—does it hinder your ability to sit down and write a  story that effectively conveys all the necessary bumps on the path to happiness? Alternatively, if everything in your own life has gone wrong—death in the family, or divorce, or you despair of ever finding Mr. Right—can you still write a story that sails tranquilly over placid blue water into paradise?

Does it perhaps differ from writer to writer?

It's often been assumed that a true artist must suffer in order to create powerful emotional scenes.  Some people work better with a little angst in their lives--they can immerse themselves in the story and forget their troubles, or use the story as a release for their emotions, or create a sublime and harmonious world that they can manipulate any way they want.

On the other hand, some (like me) do much better when we're happy. It may sound odd, but when I'm with someone I care about, this little itch starts in my side and crawls up to my head and whispers, "Write, write, write now." When I don't respond, it usually hisses, "You moron, use it or lose it." On the other hand, if things are going badly, I'll do anything rather than put fingers to keyboard—activities that usually include staring out the window, making lists, and in my youth, smashing wine glasses.

Eventually, however, as with most authors, I'm driven to write no matter what the circumstances in my life.  But in this case,  the heroine tends to have a bit of a hard time getting to that happy ending and the story can get bogged down in booby traps, misunderstandings, and criminal elements. When my life is going smoothly, the story tends to move along a bit more quickly and the hero and heroine have fewer obstacles to overcome.

As to actual research into the psychology of the thing, I've found academic articles that examine how expressive writing affects the reader's mood—but not the other way around, i.e., how the writer's mood affects the expressive writing. I did find one blog by Darren Cormier written in 2010 that picks up the theme in a very interesting way: http://www.darrencormier.com/2/post/2010/10/how-does-personal-mood-affect-writing.html

I would love to have readers of Romance Books 4 Us weigh in with their perspectives. To a comment that sheds new light on the subject, I'd like to offer a beautiful keychain, suitable for holding the key to your heart, your home, or your planet.

BIO:
Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five continents, the last 30 years have been spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director and parent.
Ms. Spencer has published nine romance novels. Six—LosersKeepers, Triptych, Artful Dodging: The Torpedo Factory Murders, Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine (a Sarasota Romance, Lapses of Memory, and the Mason's Mark —were published by Secret Cravings.

BLURB: Her latest is Whirlwind Romance, published September, 2014
In the aftermath of a hurricane, Lacey Delahaye finds herself marooned on the Gulf coast of Florida with a mysterious castaway. They are immediately drawn to each other, but before Armand can confess his identity, they are kidnapped and taken far from civilization to a tiny, remarkable island in the western Caribbean. With the help of her son Crispin, a small, but proud young boy named Inigo, and a cadre of extraordinary characters, Lacey and Armand must confront pirates, power-mad ideologues, and palace intrigue if they are to restore the once idyllic tropical paradise to its former serenity and find lasting happiness.




7 comments:

Sandy said...

M.S., I'm sure my mood can effect my writing, or if I can write at all if something is wrong.

Janis Susan May said...

Of course our moods and circumstances can affect our writing - just not always in ways we can predict! My own life is so happy and my husband so wonderful that by contrast everything in a romance novel seems flat and uninspired. (I mean, he even proposed to me in a moonlit garden at the base of the Egyptian pyramids... try topping that in a novel!) I guess it means I just have to work harder...

M. S. Spencer said...

You've done a pretty bang-up job so far Janis Susan May! Thanks all for reading and commenting. M. S.

Cara Marsi said...

What an interesting question and something I've never thought about. My husband and I have been together for over 40 years. We've had some rough patches as most couples have. I don't think my mood has influenced whether or not I can write. I write when I'm happy and I write to escape when I'm stressed. I love happy endings, and the idea of love that can withstand all obstacles. I use those tropes in my books. Some of my experiences in my younger, wilder days have shown up in my stories. We writers have such active imaginations that we don't have to have lived something to write about it.

Melissa Keir said...

I agree that mood affects our writing. Like you mentioned, my writing flows better when I'm happy... but I'd like to propose that we need to add another variable to the equation... when I'm unhappy, I'm not eating well, not sleeping well and generally feeling yucky.. I don't want to write let alone do anything but lay around. When I'm happy, I love to write.. I love to dance around the room and share my laughter and horrible singing with others. :) Beware!

So writing of course comes easier when I'm happy...but so does life!

M. S. Spencer said...

It's nice to know someone else can't sing, Melissa! I inherited my voice from my mother, & an indication of how bad hers was is that at our annual town Christmas caroling she was politely asked to meet everyone at the end for cocoa.... Ack. M. S.

M. S. Spencer said...

Cara, can you send me your email address? I'd like to send you the beautiful keychain I mentioned! Thanks to all who commented so thoughtfully. M. S.

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