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.
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.