Huge thanks to Liz and everybody at The Contemporary Romance Café for hosting me today! I’m a new writer—and I mean new! I began my first novel on a snowy morning in Jan 2012, after I complained to my husband about not having a romance to read. We were snowed in, no wi-fi, and I was going crazy. Flippantly, he dared me to write a book and upload it onto my Kindle and said I could read that. Cheeky man. Not one to walk away from a challenge, I hauled my arse out of bed and in front of my laptop, wondering what the hell to write. A romance, definitely, but what about? Set where? Historical or contemporary? Little did I know that no matter the choice, there would be a snippet of received wisdom to tell me I was going about it the wrong way.
If I ‘wrote what I knew’ for example, my books would be long essays on living near sheep in the middle of nowhere. Great, if I’d been interested in hunks of fluffy white wool, but it was an entirely different kind of hunk I wanted to write about. If I’d followed that so-called wisdom, my debut romance, Hate to Love You, would be an entirely different novel.
And had I followed the worst piece of ubiquitous writing advice I’ve ever heard – ‘murder your darlings’—Hate to Love You would never have been written at all. Paisley and James wouldn’t have their HEA and you wouldn’t be reading this post. Because, you see, Paisley was my darling. An abrasive eighteen-year-old, frank, and unapologetically profane, a woman whose actions make people cringe in embarrassment or swell with righteous anger. In other words, an anti-heroine.
Anti-heroines don’t belong in romance, or so I was told by well-meaning writers and the literary agents who rejected Hate to Love You. They liked my writing, the hero, and the forbidden element of the story, but as for Paisley? Recommendation: a knife through the heart. Insecure, I took their advice and tried to ‘murder my darling’. I made her conform to conventional norms of likeability, softened her voice and smoothed her edges.
And hated the result.
I also felt…guilty. By putting Paisley on the page I had developed a relationship with her—a marriage between my imagination and how she brought my story to life. Following that advice felt as though I’d betrayed that commitment. So I gave up trying to murder the character I’d created to embrace the woman Paisley was, warts and all. I chucked out my insipid new draft and wrote Hate to Love You from my gut. I had no experience of Paisley’s traumatic past (fortunately!) or James’s uber-rich lifestyle (unfortunately!). However, I could imagine what they experienced. I could empathise and relate to them as flawed human beings. I have a few warts of my own.
In June, 2013, I sent Hate to Love You to the slush piles of my top choice publishers, fully expecting to receive rejections. Imagine my shocked delight when I received ‘the call’ from Harlequin Carina Press twelve weeks later! Not only that, I subsequently received two other offers for Hate to Love You. One Sunday afternoon conversation with Kerri Buckley, my editor extraordinaire, and I knew Paisley and James had found the perfect home.
I think people should write whatever inspires them, not necessarily what they ‘know’, and the only ‘darlings’ we should murder are those who put on false British accents and kiss the air instead of our cheeks. The world needs less of those. Seriously.
Blurb: Despite my slutty reputation, I was technically a virgin at eighteen. But it turns out all those sex-ed teachers aren’t just trying to scare you. The faint positive on the budget pregnancy test sent me spinning, moments before I was supposed to meet my snooty sister’s new fiancé.
Shaking hands with upper-crusty James was like downing a triple shot of vodka. Dizzy with desire, confused by my body’s reaction, and shocked by the possessiveness flashing in his eyes, I deceived him that night and told the world at their wedding reception.
I slept with my sister’s fiancé. Hot and sweaty, all night long in a room so dark he couldn’t tell I wasn’t her.
Said fiancé is the father of my child. The one I signed over my rights to just before he was born.
That was seven years ago.
It’s time to come clean.