GUEST BLOG: My Romantic Achilles Heel – by bestselling author Kate Belle

Bestselling author Kate Belle on the expectation of a HEA

I have an affliction as a ‘romance’ writer. I’m not good at happy endings. Actually, it’s more of a curse than an affliction, because romance readers expect their Happy Ever After (HEA) fix, it’s why they read the genre. For God’s sake, in romance HEA’s are mandatory! It’s part of the genre’s promise.

Believe me, I’ve tried, God knows I’ve tried, but to no avail. My story’s endings are always tinged with bitter-sweet. My questionable romantic history probably has a lot to answer for here. My bent out of shape, battered heart looks more like a returned WWII soldier than a thing of worthy of loving. I’m not doing a poor-me act here, I know I’m not alone in the ‘I stuffed it up’ stakes. But for some reason, perhaps the way my psyche is built, instead of hungering for inspiring stories where true love ultimately finds a way like everyone else, I hunger for truth. I want to know how to survive a broken heart, humiliating mistakes and choosing the wrong guy. I want to understand how to come out of those experiences wiser and stronger.

Which isn’t, on the whole, what a romance writer is supposed to do. Most romance authors offer their characters bright, sunny futures as couples. I offer mine tough choices and the opportunity to seek a deeper truth about themselves in love. Which leads me to wonder, can I call truly myself a romance writer? Am I failing reader’s expectations by classifying my books as ‘romance’? Am I just upsetting people by not delivering on the widely accepted promise of a HEA?

Kate BelleThe truth is I can only write the stories that grow within me. Everything I write comes from a deep and honest place. I draw it up from the murky subconscious and half the time I don’t know what’s coming until I start typing. If I try for a neatly-tied-up-in-a-bow HEA ending, all sweet and romantic and perfect, I feel I’m betraying the origins of my story in some way. If I force it I fear I’ll be outed as a fake. So best I be honest, ‘woman-up’ and admit it.

I’m crap at romantic Happy Ever After.

The uncomfortable ramification of this revelation is realising I’m a black sheep in Australia’s golden stables of pedigree romance writers (we have so many of them, just look at Booktopia’s Romance posts for July). What right do I have, with my subversive stories, to even lay claim to being a romance writer? Am I traitor to the cause? The ultimate wanna-be?

My answer arrived recently in a timely email from a reader who’d received The Yearning as a birthday gift. This is what some of she said:

I have to say, the book resonated with me in a way that no other book has. … I like that it didn’t deliver the cliche ending, it kept things real but also left you hanging somewhat – yearning almost – giving the reader the opportunity to draw their own conclusions about some of the story. … I cannot stop raving about the impact that this book had on me.  (Reprinted with permission)

Thankfully books find their natural habitat once they are released into the wild. People read them and either allow their expectations to be shifted, or push the book aside because it doesn’t give them what they were looking for. As it turns out, Happy Ever After doesn’t always have to be about neat bows. It can be about wisdom, strength and the confidence to step into a new future with a clearer vision of what we want. While my stories may not fit romance in the purest sense, they are about love. The journey’s my characters take are inspired by what I’ve learned from the School of Romantic Failures and my endings, while not always neat, contain the most important ingredient in a HEA – hope.

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Kate is a multi-published author who writes dark, sensual contemporary women’s fiction. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter and a menagerie of neurotic pets.

Kate holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

Head over to Kate’s website http://www.ecstasyfiles.com, like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/katebelle.x, and don’t forget to follow her on twitter at @ecstasyfiles

2013 Romance Writers of Australia Conference: Top 10 moments

Recently our Romance Specialist Haylee Nash flew the flag for Booktopia at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia conference in Fremantle. These are her stories.

dancing up a stormFor those of you who have never been to a Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Conference, or indeed any kind of romance conference, let me paint you a picture. Imagine a modestly sized room, filled with women. Hundreds of women. Each of these women are writers, romance writers, who spend their day behind a computer (if they’re lucky enough to be able to live from their writing) and in the rest of society are often derided for writing “those books”. So it’s fair to say that these women don’t often get the pleasure of speaking about romance, certainly not with fellow enthusiasts. Now to this joyous scene add oodles of champagne, a nautical theme and a conference venue that  is far enough away from most attendees to require staying at the hotel, sans husbands, significant others, kids, pets or any other responsibilities. Into this melee I walked, and, rather than wincing at the noise and leavig, I grabbed a champagne and, with stupidly big grin on my face, entered the fray. Continue reading

Love and Other Firsts – Booktopia’s Haylee Nash chats with up and coming author Kate Belle

There’s nothing quite as nostalgia-inducing as first love. Get any random group of female friends and throw in a few bottles of wine and chances are first love will come up. Chances are this discussion will lead to the discussion of other firsts – the first time you had sex, the first time you moved out, first car.

Kate Belle’s The Yearning explores, in a way that is both raw and poetic, a first love that is also a forbidden love, so Booktopia’s Head of Romance Haylee Nash thought she’d quiz Kate on some of her ‘firsts’.

KateBelle-glamfrontlores1. Who was your first crush?

Prince Charming. There’s a scene in The Yearning where the little girl begs her grandmother to read Snow White to her again so she can gaze in awe at the “…figure drawn tall and manly, riding a powerful white stallion. He wore a tight red vest over his broad chest and his brown boots reached up to thick thighs barely hidden by a royal blue cape. Square-jawed and raven-haired, his image gave her goosebumps…”. The scene is taken from my own childhood. I still remember the picture very clearly and I used to spend my holidays with my grandparents pretending Prince Charming was my boyfriend.

2. Describe the first place you lived when you moved out of home?

When I was 18 I moved from Geelong into Medley Hall, a Melbourne University student residence. I had the dungeon room, a dark little corner on the ground floor facing out onto the lane. The Drummond Street, Carlton building was very old and gothic, and was reputed to have once been a well-known gaming house and brothel. It was noisy. And fun. And I learnt to eat swede, which was bloody awful.

3. What was your first embarrassing memory?

Ha! Farting while I was learning gymnastics in my country home town, Benalla. I was probably only 8 at the time and the instructor was teaching us rolls and every time I tried I let off a ripper. I was so humiliated I refused to go back.

4. When was the first time you told someone you loved them?

Honestly I can’t recall. I suspect it might have been my first serious boyfriend at the end of high school. Can’t imagine I meant it.

Oh wait, I remember now, it was my best girlfriend in high school. We were inseparable. We had the traditional teenage sleepovers, eating potato chips and watching lame Godzilla movies. I think we exchanged ‘I love you’s one night after we’d talked at length about how hopeless boys were and decided that one of us should be a boy so we could get married. Days of innocence.

5. Describe your first kiss.

Like a threshing machine in my mouth. Muck like the swede, it was also bloody awful. Can’t even remember his name now – go figure.

6. What was the first lie you ever told?

Lie? A lie wouldn’t ever besmirch these lips (smirks).

7. When did you first get drunk?

My 19th birthday. My university friends bought me a bottle of Bailey’s. We drank a couple of mug full’s (yes, student life was pretty classy in those days) in my dorm room over lunch break and came back to our prac lesson (I was doing a chemistry degree) silly as wheels. It was fairly pleasant really. Don’t even recall a hangover.

8. What was the first book that really affected you?

Are you ready? Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. I discovered it on my grandmother’s bookshelf when I was ten-ish (I think). There was something in the story that really resonated with me. I remember reading it again and again every time I went there for holidays, until she relented and let me take it home. I still have it. It’s in happy company with a number of other Richard Bach books on my shelf.

9. What was the first thing you bought with your first paycheque?

Do you have any idea how long ago that was? Probably something frivolous. Like a Stevie Nicks LP from JB’s Second Hand record shop. Yes. I am old.

10. Who was your first friend?

This Easter I attended my first friend’s wedding on St Kilda beach. We met at St Joseph’s Primary School in Benalla and have stayed friends our entire lives, in spite of the two of us moving to different places and in very different circles. Other than my family, she’s the person I’ve known the longest. I love the shared history we have. It’s unique.

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Kate Belle lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter, and a menagerie of neurotic pets. She holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

You can follow Kate on Twitter @ecstasyfiles

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