The Great British Romance Q&A

3 Oct

Heart-FlowersWith summer fading into autumn and shorter days just around the corner, thoughts of UK LesFic naturally turn to cheerier things. Romance, love, and smoochy stuff, to be precise. Bearing this in mind, we rounded up a pucker (hey, if you can come up with a better collective term, feel free to let me know!) of UK romance authors and asked them all to ponder these questions:

As a romance author famed for bringing passion to your pages, who is your favourite smoochy fictional couple – literary or screen – and who is your favourite romance author?

Have they (the author and/or couple) influenced your own romantic scribblings in any way?

Which couple or heroine made you tear your hair out, and how would you rewrite their story?

Here’s what they had to say:

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Clare-Lydon-LV-cropClare Lydon (“writer, blogger, lover”) burst onto the LesFic scene in March of this year with her best selling début London Calling. She is a Virgo, a Spurs fan, a new convert to turkey rashers and a Curly Wurly devotee. A second book is currently “in the works.”

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starting from scratchMy favourite lesbian romance author is Georgia Beers – she produces hugely enjoyable and readable books time after time – I particularly liked Too Close To Touch, Mine and Starting From Scratch. I also just read Melissa Brayden‘s Kiss The Girl and that’s a fantastic read where the chemistry from the two leads jumps off every page. And I have to mention K.E. Lane‘s And Playing The Role Of Herself which mixes the glamour of Hollywood with an at times absurd plot, but you can’t help falling for Robyn and Caid. They’re probably my all-time favourite lesbian romance couple. I’m also mainlining Lindsey Kelk right now to see what I can learn from her – she’s a hugely successful and funny straight romance writer.

For on-screen lesbian couples it’s slim pickings, but I think Bette and Tina from The L Word ticked a lot of boxes – their reunion was a thing of beauty.

love waitsGeorgia Beers has certainly influenced me in how I try to build character development – she’s a master at it. And K.E. Lane wrote a book where the characters get together in the first half of the book – and I liked that a lot. It wasn’t a whole book of realisation dawning, followed by angst, followed by trepidation and finally, a climax. I think romance readers need a gamut of options in their plots, not for everything to follow a formulaic structure. Obviously, you can’t stray too far from the rules, but I’m all for breaking them a bit.

 

I can’t really think of any stories that have had me tearing my hair out. I read Geri Hill‘s Love Waits recently and although it’s smoothly written, my goodness, you have to wait forever till the pair get together. What can I say? I’m a very impatient woman, clearly.
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hp munroEdinburgh-based author H.P. Munro has had a pretty good year, with Grace Falls and Stars Collide both romping up the amazon charts, and her first novel Silver Wings scooping a Goldie award for best Historical Fiction. The least said about the L-Fest pirate outfit the better, however…
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As a romance author famed for bringing passion to your pages, who is your favourite smoochy fictional couple – literary or screen – and who is your favourite romance author?
I have been pondering this since you asked me a couple days ago and I can’t settle on one for either question, I think I’m too fickle to choose…However there are some fictional relationships that have resonated and stuck with me.

sunset songSunset SongLewis Grassic Gibbon. I first read it as a fifteen year old and hated the story, then while doing my Higher English I re-read it and fell in love with the book that tells the story of a young woman growing up in Aberdeenshire in the early 1900’s. Thanks to the main romance in the book, it was the first book to break my heart and I had to sit quietly in class wiping tears as the book ended. I have re-read the book about a dozen times since then and it elicits the same response now as it did to my seventeen year old self.

Not quite as literary is the relationship of Helen and Nikki in Bad Girls, it was the second mainstream TV portrayal of two woman falling in love that I saw and connected with (the first was Beth and Margaret on Brookside, which prompted me to tell my best-friend that I was gay, her response was ‘no you’re not.’ It was another twelve years before I finally got to say ‘told you so’)

I adored Helen and Nikki, the show took the time to show the friendship and subsequent relationship develop and it was my first foray into fanshipping. My penchant for getting overly attached to TV characters resulted in me writing so I guess it makes that first time special.

As for romance writer – I have a few that will make me do a happy dance when I see a new book from them. Robin Alexander, Melissa Brayden and LT Smith.

bad girlsHave they (the author and/or couple) influenced your own romantic scribblings in any way?

I definitely think so, they all are able to create an organic relationship despite how strange or unusual the meeting circumstances and they’re great at dialogue. I try to make sure my characters speak the way that I do with my friends (minus the Scottish accent). I think having a relaxed dialogue helps show the chemistry between the characters. The other thing that I like about them is that they all write with humour. I definitely try to make sure that humour is part of my work, I think the best way to a woman’s heart is being able to make her laugh (even when she’s ready to wring your neck – it’s a tactic that I find useful, if not lifesaving!)

Which couple or heroine made you tear your hair out, and how would you rewrite their story?  

Almost every book I read I end up almost yelling “Will you just speak to her!” the lack of ability to communicate honestly and openly is a plot device often used in books – mine included – but that doesn’t lessen my fury when if one or both of the characters would just use their words, they could live happily ever after sooner. Although that would probably make for a crap book. They meet, fall in love, talk…the end!

So with that in mind LT Smith’s latest book Still Life, falls into that category, but I wouldn’t want to change anything about it.

Given ten minutes with Harry Potter and I’d definitely have Hermione cop off with Harry though!

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jenny frameJenny Frame lives in Motherwell with her partner and a very spoiled dog. An Academy of Bards fan fic author, her début novel A Royal Romance will be published by Bold Strokes Books in 2015.

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My favourite fictional couple has to be Mr Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. I love the book, and the dynamic of their relationship. There have been many actors who have represented them, but I think the two who captured them best were Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the BBC adaptation.

BSB-LoveHonorFor my favourite Romance author I would have to say both Ali Vali and Radclyffe. They were the first lesfic authors I discovered, and the ones whose characters I could relate to the most.

Have they (the author and/or couple) influenced your own romantic scribblings in any way?

Absolutely. As a relative newcomer to the world of writing, I think each new book you read teaches you something new about the process, building characters, building worlds etc. So a big influence I would say.

Which couple or heroine made you tear your hair out, and how would you rewrite their story?

Emm… I don’t think there’s been a fictional couple who have made me want to rewrite their story, as I’m not a big fan of angst ridden romantic fiction. I’m more a happily ever after type of girl. In saying that, probably Mr Darcy and Miss Bennet are the ones who would make me tear my hair out in a good way. They have so many false starts and misunderstandings, but that’s what makes it all the more romantic in the end. Well…I think so anyway!

pride-and-prejudice

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stilllifeL.T. Smith is “a late bloomer when it comes to writing”, who didn’t begin until 2005 with her first novel Hearts and Flowers Border. She soon caught the bug and has written numerous tales, usually with a comical slant to reflect, as she calls it, “my warped view of the dramatic.” Her latest novel, Still Life, was published by Ylva this month.

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Smoochy fictional couple?  Really? Smmmooooochy? Hmmm. Okay.  I will focus fully on the tasks ahead of me and try, yes try, to be as honest as I possibly can.

When asked who is my favourite ‘smoochy’ fictional couple I actually felt every thought in my head disappear as if it’d been written with a dry wipe pen and the question had acted like a white board eraser.  No. It wasn’t the word ‘smoochy’ that did it, even though the term does make the soles of my feet itch with want of running.  The main reason is because I just can’t make a decision.  There are so many couples out there that I have loved, lived with, lost over the course of a book or length of a film – and, in some cases, over a span of a series, to just choose the one.

kiss migGut reaction? Still buggered over.  I loved the characters in Kyss Mig – the delectable and edible Frida with those gorgeous blue eyes loving it up with the serious and seemingly distant Mia. But then I think of Tala and Leyla in Sharmim Sarif’s I Can’t Think Straight (for me, the book is better than the film – just saying) and the jury is out once again.  So many to choose from, Rebecca and Paris (A Perfect Ending), Elena and Peyton (Elena Undone) and many many more that I doubt you want to hear about from me.

OMG! I am expected to pick just one author from the many brilliant writers I have read? Which one of these authors has tickled my proverbial fancy with his or her construction of believable romantic figures? Each author has created people that have crawled beneath my skin and lived there for a long and beautiful time.  These characters have been part of my life for longer than it took me to read the book. That is the key to it all. If their memory echoes, if I look for them and miss them, then they are keepers.

If I had to choose one writer it would have to be Sarah Waters.  Susan Trinder and Maud Lilly will forever be my ‘look for’ ladies and Fingersmith is still my all-time favourite book.

fingersmith-bookcoverSo, has Ms Waters and the brilliant Fingersmith (not me, I hasten to add) influenced my writing?  Too damned right – the name’s a giveaway for a start.  However, it is the dual narrative found in my ‘fave’ book that gripped and grabbed and held me.  Experiencing the love and romantic dabblings between these two women from different perspectives was one of the main reasons why I penned my story Miracle in the same style.  I loved how the couple in Fingersmith relived the moment so differently but with the same love and passion. How, ultimately, this sexual joining of two women in love could hold so much yet break apart straight after.  I won’t go into detail in case you have not read the book, but for me, the point of their not getting together at this point, will press me forward and onto my next point …

This is the tearing my hair out part.  Why couldn’t Sue turn in Maud’s arms and nibble her lover’s lily white throat before whispering, ‘For all my sins, my Maud, I love you completely’ instead of pretending everything was the same as before they’d made love? But I wouldn’t change it for the world and could never rewrite it to be any better.  The only thing I would change would be the ending. I want to see more, experience more, and feel it thrum through me just like it thrummed through them.

But then again, maybe this is just me not wanting to let them go.  I’d do anything to keep them with me just for a little while longer.  That’s because even after all this this time, I still miss them.

Yes.  I am a sad git.

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BSB-AndreaBramhallLgAndrea Bramhall writes romances with an appealing difference, whether it be scuba diving in Florida Keys for Ladyfish or love across cultures in Nightingale. Her last novel Clean Slate won this year’s Lambda Award for romance and Swordfish, her follow-up to Ladyfish, will be out in January.

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As a romance author famed for bringing passion to your pages, who is your favourite smoochy fictional couple – literary or screen – and who is your favourite romance author?

Hmm…tough one. I think I’d have to admit that I don’t have a single favourite. Depending on the mood I’m in I find different dynamics attractive. Some days it’s got to be Reese and Tory, other days, it’s Dar and Kerry. Catch me on another day and its Eve and Selene. Fave romance author? Again, depends on the mood, ladies. *Shrug* What can I say? I’m fickle.

tropicalstormHave they (the author and/or couple) influenced your own romantic scribblings in any way?

Undoubtedly. But I think the couples I don’t have that much affinity for affect my writing even more. I can look at those more critically and figure out the parts that I see reflected in my own writing and help to eradicate them. Everything we read, good or bad, can have a massive influence on our own writing. That’s why the biggest tool in a writer’s arsenal is their own reading.

Which couple or heroine made you tear your hair out, and how would you rewrite their story?  

Oooo…I’m pleading the fifth on this one. I won’t give reviews to other writers and I won’t insult someone else’s work or effort by going down the route of this should have been done like this, that, or the other. I’m sorry. I don’t think it’s fair or ethical to do so. Gran always told me, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

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JadeWintersphoto Jade Winters has a knack for finding an appealing plot. Her novels, including Faking It and Say Something, shoot to the top of the charts and have their ardent fans. Her next book, Second Thoughts, is out in October.

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As a romance author famed for bringing passion to your pages, who is your favourite smoochy fictional couple – literary or screen – and who is your favourite romance author?

barbaracartland_1539376iRight, without a doubt, my favourite fictional couple would have to Tala and Leyla, in I can’t think straight. The characters have great chemistry and appeal that I found myself falling in love along with them. The fact that Lisa Ray is drop dead gorgeous is totally beside the point 🙂

My favourite romance author apart from Barbra Cartland (joke!) is Sarah Waters – although her novels always have a lot more than just romance, which is what really appeals to me.
ttvHave they (the author and/or couple) influenced your own romantic scribblings in any way?

I have always loved the work of Sarah Waters and find her writing inspirational. Her language is so poetic. She manages to add such charm to her books, such a sense of being there that you can’t help but fall in love with her characters. That to me is the ultimate goal for a romance writer – you want the reader to fall under the spell of your romantic heroines too. That’s what it’s all about – making the reader ‘feel’. I think she does that incredibly well and that’s what I aspire to do in my writing.

Which couple or heroine made you tear your hair out, and how would you rewrite their story?

Definitely Nan and Kitty from Tipping the Velvet. They were so obviously right for one another. It would be nice to see them in a straightforward romance. If I was to rewrite it I would make it into a coming out story for Nan during the Victorian era and their fight to stay together despite facing adversity.

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clareashtonWhen Clare Ashton isn’t being a blog mistress on here, or attempting to corral two lively toddlers, she somehow squeezes in the time to write a book or two. Her twisty, sumptuous novel After Mrs Hamilton won a Goldie award, and her first foray into the RomCom genre, That Certain Something, shot to the top of the Amazon LesFic charts and stayed there for quite a while. 

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pride and predThe book that I could re-read ad-infinitum, and would never fail to be captivated by the roller-coaster romance, is Pride and Prejudice. Fiery, intelligent Elizabeth Bennet and rich, unattainable Mr Darcy – classic and difficult to beat. And on the silver screen it’s a romance between two actors I find completely unappealing (so this really says a great deal about the script) and that’s When Harry Met Sally. I will try very hard not to endlessly quote lines from it. Very hard. Really very hard. But the impassioned speech that Harry gives Sally on New Year’s Eve that ends “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” makes me well up every time.

I think I must have a soft spot for romcoms, and Jane Austen did write awfully good ones, and hate-at-first-sight romances.

SilverLiningS250My favourite lesfic romance writer is Diana Simmonds – and funnily enough her latest (Silver Lining) was witty and had that hate-at-first-sight beginning. Diana writes with such flair. There’s never a lazy sentence or mundane line of dialog. She could make the menu of a chip shop entertaining. And she makes writing seem like the easiest thing in the world. God she pisses me off.

Have the above influenced me? Oh undoubtedly, but with my own writing I tend to go for the love-at-first-sight archetype. I do love the heaving passions and emotions that burn as the couple so right for each other are kept apart, especially when one is an older woman.

Which couple or heroine made you tear your hair out, and how would you rewrite their story?

loisThe book would be Monica Nolan’s Lois Lenz Lesbian Secretary – “Her soul was pure. Her desires were sinful. Her typing was impeccable.” It’s a fantastic 50s style pulp romance – a steamy lesbian version and very funny in places. I know Netta was the right girl for Lois. And I know even through Pamela, Paula, all the others that it would only ever be the serious, smart, beautiful-behind-the-glasses Netta. But I really wanted Lois to have the wrong girl. Which reminds me, I still need to read Monica Nolan’s The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories.

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So, do you agree with our authors? Who are your favourite couples and writers and which duo drove round the bend?

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