Kate Cuthbert: Readers, I have raved and raved and raved and raved about Rachel Vincent for years, so if you haven’t yet taken my (highly valuable and always correct) advice, perhaps a little Q&A with the lady herself will sway you?
editor of the Booktopia Romance Buzz,
and the Booktopia Book Guru ask
Nine Naughty Questions
1. I wonder, is a romance writer born or made? Please tell us little about your life before publication.
I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. Literally. I wrote my first short story when I was five, and except for a hiatus after college, when I was told I’d need a “real job,” I haven’t stopped since. I didn’t start out in romance, though. I was a big horror/fantasy fan growing up, and I think that’s been very influential on what I write now, though I can’t imagine writing a story without a romance thread in it somewhere.
2. For all the glitz and the glam associated with the idea of romance novels, writing about and from the heart is personal and very revealing. Do you think this is why romance readers are such devoted fans? And do you ever feel exposed?
I do think that’s why romance readers are so devoted to the genre. I rarely feel personally exposed by what I write, though, because the romantic elements are just as made-up in my books as the fantasy elements are. Writing the emotional parts is an exercise in empathy for me. Putting myself in my characters’ place and writing about how that feels. It’s not about what I’ve been through as much as it’s about what they’re going through, even though I am (necessarily) drawing on my own experience.
I actually have back-to-back releases in September and October. September 1 (US, Canada, UK) (ED: 23rd August for Australia) brings the first in my Unbound trilogy, Blood Bound, which I describe as a grown-up Romeo and Juliet-meets-The Godfather. It’s set in a new, complex world, and the characters have ties to one another that not even they fully understand.
If I Die, the fifth in my young adult Soul Screamers series, comes out on October 1 in the US/Canada (ED: September 27 for Australia). This book’s a game-changer in the series, and I’m proud of it.
4. Is the life of a published romance writer… well… romantic?
Um…no. Not the life of this romance writer, anyway. My life is full of jeans and tees, coffee, and deadlines. I work 12+ hour days, most days, lost in my own thoughts. Alone with only the characters I made up for company. And I rarely get a weekend off.
5. Of all of the romantic moments in your life is there one moment, more dear than all the rest, against which you judge all the romantic elements in your writing? If so can you tell us about that special moment?
No. In my opinion, romance isn’t about a single grand gesture. It’s about a series of moments strung together by the life you share with your significant other. It’s remembering the little things. Spending time together, whether that time is spent over a nice dinner or fighting off the invading hordes of werecat invaders. Romance is seen a lot in fiction, but romance does not equal fiction. It’s real. And it feels good. But it’s a lot of work.
6. Sex in romance writing today ranges from ‘I can’t believe they’re allowed to publish this stuff’ explicit to ‘turn the light back on I can’t see a thing’ mild. How important do you think sex is in a romance novel?
I think that’s a matter of opinion. My own books are somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I only write one sex scene per (adult) book (usually), and even then, the sex needs to mean something. It needs to change something for the characters and/or the story. I think that the results of a sex scene (regret, characters becoming closer, or whatever) are more important than the act itself.
7. Romance writers are often romance readers – please tell us your five favourite (read and re-read) romance novels or five novels that influenced your work most?
- Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles. Great gritty, realistic contemporary teen romance.
- Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong. I read it years ago, and it’s stuck with me. (SPOILERS!) Clay biting Elena is one of the most perfect, heartbreaking romance moments ever. He loves her so much he’d do anything to be with her forever. Even though he’s making a HUGE mistake, he’s doing it for love.
- Any of Jeaniene Frost’s Nighthunter books. I love the chemistry between Cat and Bones, and I love that a committed relationship retains such sizzle. And I love that they fight, but still love each other.
- Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. I ache to see Cassel and Lila together, and their near-misses kill me.
- Lisey’s Story, by Stephen King. I’m a huge King fan, and his non-traditional take on romance won my heart. Lisey’s husband is already dead when the story starts, but her memories of their marriage broke my heart.
Not really, and I try not to question or anticipate trends. Madness lies down that path. I was writing fantasy/paranormal before I knew it was hot, and I suspect I’ll be writing it even after the trend ebbs, if that ever happens. I write what I like to read. Period.
9. Lastly, what advice do you give aspiring writers?
Other than the obvious necessities (talent and hard work), the key to surviving in publishing, in my opinion, is believing that you’re good at what you do, but that you could always be better. You need confidence, but you also need the guidance of an editor and/or a trusted critique partner.
Thanks so much, Rachel!
About the Contributor
John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for the last twenty years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Head of Product and Chief Buyer at booktopia.com.au.