Congratulations to Madeline Ash who is a finalist in the 2017 RUBY Awards, nominated for Breaking Good! We chat with her about her nominated book, how she reacted when she found out she was a finalist, and her advice for aspiring authors.
Congratulations, you’re a finalist in the 2017 RUBY Awards! How did you react when you found out you were a finalist?
Thank you! I was at my sister’s house when I checked my inbox and saw the subject line in breath-stopping capitals. I read it aloud to her and my partner, who had gathered around at my disbelieving, ‘No way!’ They might tell you that I collapsed onto the floor afterwards, clutching my phone to my chest, but I maintain that I kept my cool…
Please tell us about the story you’ve been nominated for. Did you have a secret alternative title while you were writing it?
Breaking Good is a contemporary reunion romance. The hero Ethan struggles with adult ADHD and feels that his mental chaos rules out the possibility of relationships—so I threw an unconventional heroine and secret son at him, and used the story to explore how those three lives could realistically all fit together.
The working title was initially the names of the characters, but I started this story afresh so many times that I got overwhelmed by the numbers building up on each new document (Stevie&Ethan_5.doc), so switched to calling it The Actual Story.doc to disguise my false starts!
Do you write romance books in secret, or are you loud and proud?
Oh, definitely loud and proud. I use a pseudonym, but everyone in my life knows that I write romance. I adore the genre and return the occasional snicker with a steady stare.
I share the manuscripts as I write, so even the stories themselves aren’t secrets. I want as much feedback as possible, so will show my partner, sisters, Mum, and critique group as I go. My muse loves discussions, so wouldn’t cope if I had to write in secret!
Headless washboard abs, a torrid embrace, the sprawling homestead, an elegantly dressed décolletage, or a vaguely kinky object against a dark background – what’s your favourite type of romance cover and why?
I love any cover that accurately conveys the tone of the story. Of course it’s important to convey the era and setting, but provided I get an impression of the tone through the cover image, they’re all good to me.
What is the secret life of a romance writer? What goes on between you and your keyboard (or quill) behind closed doors?
A lot of tea drinking, exercise breaks, and glaring into space. I’m a very slow writer. I plot before I write, edit as I go, and think way too much about every sentence. Each time I sit down to write, I’ll read the last scene (at least) to pull me back into the emotional headspace of the characters. I always write at home. I play music to set the mood of the scene. And when something isn’t working, I’ll vent on a walk with my partner and he’ll help me nut it out. As I mentioned, my process is quite collaborative!
Do you remember the first romance you read, the one that inspired you to continue reading and writing in this genre?
My genre of choice was fantasy for a long time. Then I realised I mainly read fantasy for the romantic thread – reading and writing romance seemed obvious after that! I adored the romance in Juliet Marillier’s The Sevenwaters Trilogy and fell head-first into category romance with Kelly Hunter’s Playboy Boss, Live-in Mistress.
Do you hide any secrets in your plot line that only a few people will find?
I don’t believe so. My characters will usually have a secret of some kind, foreshadowed throughout, but all readers discover the truth by the end.
How you differentiate between romance fiction, erotica and porn. Are romance readers getting naughtier?
Romance fiction has a love story at its core, with characters that must overcome external and emotional conflicts in order to be happy. The spice rating can range from squeaky clean to explicit, but whatever the heat, readers pick up the book for the love story. Erotica is much raunchier, but still involves character growth and falling in love. Porn is a vessel for sexual excitement—plot, characterisation, emotional connection are optional!
I wouldn’t say romance readers are getting naughtier. I’d say the growth of digital publishing has enabled romance writers to tell stories without limitations, and if they want to write fully-realised sex scenes—if they want to write five of them per book—they can. Romance readers are on board with that. And if the publishing landscape had welcomed stories like that thirty years ago, my guess is that readers would have been on board with them then, too.
More women read romance than men, but some men do. What do you know of your male audience? And why do they read you?
I only know of one male reader and he was in my old critique group, so I’m not sure. I would love to know if I have male readers, though, you’ve made me curious!
What advice would you give aspiring romance writers?
Become a member of Romance Writers of Australia and join a critique group. Critique groups offer invaluable feedback while teaching you how to take constructive criticism (necessary for working with editors). Analysing other writers’ stories can provide insights into your own work, and you get to make friends with fellow romance writers, who are the most supportive group of people I’ve ever encountered.
Believe in yourself. Make writing a priority. Embrace doubt, but then tell it to shove off. Don’t rush. Don’t be too scared to submit. And don’t give up!
Thank you, Madeline!
Rags to Riches Series: Book 4
He wasn't good for her. He never would be.
At eighteen, Stevie Case finally surrendered to her attraction to bad boy Ethan Rafters, sharing one night with him before she graduated and he skipped town on a one-way road to destruction. Years later, Stevie has hit back life's curveballs and is no stranger to hard work, but when she finds herself working for Ethan, who's turned his life around, her world shatters not only because their chemistry is still fierce and undeniable but because fate separated them before she could tell him he has a son...