IMPERFECT CHARACTERS – PERFECT HEA’S
I’m a USA Today Bestselling romance author with Harlequin/Mills & Boon, Entangled Publishing, and Tule Publishing and have an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. I write sometimes funny, usually awkward, always emotional stories about strong, quirky, wounded characters overcoming past adversity to find their Happily Ever Afters. I believe Love is Love is Love and I’m grateful for every thread in my intricate brocade of happiness, though I rarely remember everything. Represented by Jill Marsal at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC
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Worth the Wait
Mandy Reynolds needs a reset on life in so many ways. Her acting career isn’t exactly where she’d hoped it to be. She can’t even get a job as a germ for a commercial. When she inherits half a house she sees it as a sign and heads home to Heavenly Falls, Illinois. She’ll sell the house, and use the money to take her career to the next level in Los Angeles. That is if she can convince her hard-headed––and stupidly gorgeous–– ex-stepbrother, Alex Noonan, to sell fast.
The last time Alex saw Mandy, she was a gangly teen, who followed him around like a sad puppy. But she’s grown into a smart and funny woman, who is as frustrating as she is beautiful. The fact that they have to live in the house––together––while they fix it up, is one temptation he doesn’t need. And while he’s having fun spending time with her, she’s moving on soon, and he needs time to heal.
Plus, she has no idea he’s got a secret that could put a monkey wrench in all of her plans…
Ebook on sale for $0.99 Sept. 14-21. Click here to get yours today!
If you’re one of my regular readers…(do I have regular readers?)…you may be wondering why Girl Meets Monster — a blog that typically features dark speculative fiction writers, themes, and characters — is chatting with a romance writer. Well, the short answer is that Traci is a good friend and fellow alumna of the MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University. The longer answer is that Girl Meets Monster is a space where all forms and genres of writing are welcome, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but almost all stories have some element of romance in them. At least, most of my stories do even if they don’t usually have happily ever afters (HEA’s). So, I thought it would be interesting to feature a successful romance writer and ask her some questions about the genre that I often have while reading and writing romance (or at the very least, the elements of romance I inlcude in my dark speculative fiction).
GMM: Welcome to Girl Meets Monster, Traci. Congratulations on the publication of your latest romance novel. How many novels have you published, and what kinds of romance do you write? Do you read the same kinds of novels, or do you prefer reading a different genre?
TD: Hi, Michelle! Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here! I’ve been writing romance since 2011 and have been published since 2013. So far, I’ve got 12 full-length novels and 4 short stories under my belt, with more on the way! I write both contemporary and paranormal romance, with heat levels from sweet to spicy.
When reading for market trends, I read within the genres I primarily write at the moment. But for pleasure? I tend to go for things completely different. Historicals and LGBTQA+ romance are personal faves. (Love me some Lisa Kleypas, K.J. Charles, and Josh Lanyon). And yeah, I gotta have my monsters in there too, so PNR is always part of the mix (Gena Showalter, Kresley Cole, and J.R.Ward are always at the top of my reading list).
GMM: My preference for romance usually involves vampires, werewolves, demons, etc. Have you written paranormal romance? What is the main difference between the romance you usually write and paranormal romances?
TD: My start was actually in paranormal romance and it’s my first and forever love. The first books I had published were PNR, with the now defunct Crimson Romance. I’ve since gotten the rights to those titles back but haven’t had a chance to revamp them and put them back up for sale yet. Next year (2021) hopefully. And after a three-year hiatus after losing my mom in 2013, when I returned to writing again in 2016, the first new books I had published then were PNR. My Blood Ravagers trilogy with Tule Publishing follows a rag-tag group of monster misfits in an MC in a fictional Wyoming town called Salvation. There’s a bit of everything in those books—vamps, shifters, demons, psychics. Something for everyone! And they are definitely on the steamy side.
The main difference I find between writing my contemporary romance and my paranormals is world building. With romances set in the real world, present day, the environments in which the characters exist follow the same rules you and I find in our realities. But with PNR, anything goes! And there’s something truly freeing about that aspect that I love. I also find it’s sometimes easier to delve into more complex, topical subjects through PNR than through contemporaries. With the country so divided these days, sometimes using allegory or analogy might hook a reader who would otherwise be turned off by an in-your-face discussion of difficult subjects (racism, sexism, any kind of -ism really) and get them interested in your story and your message in a round-about way. Books and stories really can change the world, I think.
GMM: One of my favorite tropes/plot devices in romance is the suspension of time between when a couple meets, gets together, and then eventually have sex. Sometimes I think that I prefer the time leading up to the first sex scene as opposed to everything after that point. The longer a writer can sustain that tension, the better. How difficult is it to create that feeling in a story? Are there any tricks or craft tips that other writers could benefit from learning?
TD: Oh, the sexual tension is everything in a romance novel, isn’t it? I mean, the sex act itself is good, yeah, but the build-up to the climax… (pun intended) Wow! LOL. And yes, creating that starts with your characters. Making them three dimensional and empathetic, if not necessarily likeable. (I’ve got a soft spot for my anti-heroes). People aren’t going to care about what happens between the sheets if you don’t get them invested in the characters themselves first. In a true romance novel, the sex is never just about the sex. It’s about moving the story forward. It’s about moving their character arc forward. And that takes true vulnerability. The characters should never be truer to themselves then when they’re having sex and that should propel them toward new and sometimes unexpected revelations about themselves. One of the best pieces of advice I heard when I was first starting out was that the plot of a romance is never the romance. The external things happening (including the sex) are just the window dressing. The true heart of the story is the character arc and how those events happening around them affect those character’s and change them, for better or worse. Creating a good, strong, believable character arc can be so difficult sometimes, but it’s so worth it. That’s what we read for, is that transformation, right? If I just wanted to read about two people getting it on, (and there’s nothing wrong with that, BTW), there’s plenty of erotica sites and porn videos on the Internet. Romance is about the emotional journey more than the sex. And yes, there is a formula to every romance. We know it ends in an HEA (Happily Ever After) or HFN (Happily For Now), but how those two people get there is everything. And incredibly diverse from one book to the next.
GMM: For some reason, most romance I write ends up being erotica and there are typically monsters involved. Monsters or not, have you written erotica? Is it more difficult to write explicit scenes as opposed to the more PG-13 or R-rated versions? Do you have any favorite erotica writers?
TD: I have not written any straight up erotica yet, though I’ve read some really well-done stuff. I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult to write spicy scenes versus the sweeter stuff, but for me it is necessary to make sure that each explicit sex scene moves the story forward in some way. As I said before, if you’ve done your character arc right, sex can be so revealing for characters. Everyone is unique, so their “style” between the sheets is different. If you’re cued into that, as a writer, then picturing how they’d be in bed is easy, and hot! LOL. As far as favorite erotica writers, I find a lot of super-hot stuff on Literotica.com. Anyone can submit, so it can range from first-timers to seasoned pros. But there are some truly gifted smut writers on there, and I mean smut in the best sense of the word. As far as erotic romance writers, my faves are Tiffany Reisz, Katee Roberts, and Anne Rice.
GMM: On the flip side of erotica, apparently there are romance novels where the main characters never consummate their relationship. Is there a specific name for that subgenre? Have you written any of those novels? What is the goal in a romance that doesn’t end with the protagonists having sex?
TD: Hmm. The only romances I’ve ever read where the characters haven’t consummated the relationship somewhere within the book (either on or off page) or it’s at least implied, are the classics, like Georgette Heyer or Jane Austin. Sweet romances (or “clean” romances—I hate that term. Like the rest of us are dirty or something) close the door on the sex scenes, but it’s still clear in the story that they are having sex (at least in mine), just not on the page. I write these types of sweet romances for the Entangled Bliss line. There’s no explicit sex in them, though plenty of sizzling sexual chemistry before and after they do the deed.
The sex is behind closed doors in those books, but I usually take my characters right up to the line, like clothes coming off, before I cut away, so yeah. Some things are left to the imagination, but I give the readers a pretty clear view of how it’s going to go. And then I usually head right back into the bedroom after the fact, so we get to experience that afterglow through their eyes and see how that act has affected them. Because again, that’s what it’s all about. Moving their character arc forward.
There are some romances, namely inspirational or Amish, that don’t involve the protagonists even overtly lusting after one another. The most they do is kiss. And there’s definitely a readership for that. The goal in those books is more a focus on the emotional journey and, in the case of inspirational and maybe even Amish, the spiritual journey is important as well. Those aren’t my things, per se, but romance really does have something for everyone!