13 October 2011

Season for Temptation (Theresa Romain): Interview and CONTEST!

Season for Temptation
Back around the turn of the century, I landed my first summer job, at a Goodwill thrift store. It was great: first pick of all the clothes, 25-cent paperbacks . . . and I worked with my BFF Theresa Romain. One of our favorite pastimes was flipping through what I'm now aware were old-school romances--real bodice rippers--giggling and highlighting the naughty bits (or bits we could make naughty by highlighting selectively).

A decade-ish on, she's just published her first Regency (and thoroughly modern) romance, Season for Temptation. It's a delightful read, the story of Viscount James Matheson’s making a prudent engagement to kind, shy Louisa Oliver…before meeting her headstrong, scatterbrained stepsister, Julia Herington, who find herself as unexpectedly--and inappropriately—taken with him as he with her. The joy of reading a good romance is in knowing who will end up together but being mystified as to how; Season skillfully strings the reader along with moments of genuine anxiety and an impudent wit, largely exemplified by Louisa’s formidable aunt, Lady Oliver—who ranks with Jane Austen’s most redoubtable secondary characters.

I am pleased and proud as punch about her achievement! To celebrate, I had to do something special-er than just a review, something I'd never done before on this blog. Then it turned into TWO things: first, an author interview! I wrote a piece about her for her alumni magazine (Wichita State University), but there was so much great stuff I didn't get to put in, so it's publishing here in its entirety. Second, as part of her blog tour (oh these modern authors!), Theresa's graciously providing a copy of Season to one of you lucky readers. The procedure for entry? Just be a romance writer for a day! Comment below with your very best plot idea. I'll roll a d-something to pick a winner on Saturday at noon.

Without more ado from me, here's that interview. It's a good one.

So you've got this wonderful string of degrees [psychology, English, public history, all three from WSU]. Tell me about why you got each, what fascinates you about each discipline, and how/whether they're useful to your writing.

There was nothing systematic about what I studied, but I do think each field is useful to my writing. I started off studying psychology, because Plan A was to become a therapist. In my last semester before graduation, I suddenly became horrified by the idea (probably because I took a class in which I had to practice therapy and I realized how draining it was). So I studied English instead, just because I’ve always loved reading and I didn’t know what else I wanted to do. From there, history was a natural leap since it’s so intertwined with literature—every writer is influenced by the social and political atmosphere in which they live.  And really, all three degrees are just different ways to snoop into peoples’ lives. That’s my ultimate goal: literary snooping and story-telling.

When did you start writing Season? How long did it take? Favorite scenes/characters?
I started writing Season for Temptation soon after finishing a nonfiction book, about 3-1/2 years ago.  The first draft took me nine months, though I didn’t know it was my first draft when I finished because I’d never written fiction before. I’d spent years writing scientific articles and even a biography, and unfortunately that first draft of Season sounded eerily like a scientific article too. I tinkered with it for a while, then after months away from the manuscript due to a house flood (ulp) I saw it with fresh eyes and revised the whole thing.

I like all the main characters, because they have traits I admire but don’t possess. Julia, the heroine, is optimistic and outgoing; James, the hero, has a dry wit. Lady Irving, the aunt and matchmaker, says whatever is on her mind—who wouldn’t love to do that?  And Louisa, the heroine’s sister, is socially insecure and bookish. OK, maybe she’s kind of like me after all.

Tell me about the agent/editing/selling process.
My first sale happened kind of backwards, because I actually had an offer before signing with an agent. I’d been querying agents with Season for a while, but I also entered some first-chapter contests sponsored by state chapters of Romance Writers of America. Not long after we finished the clean-up from the house flood, I got word that I’d made the finals of one of these contests, so I sent in my newly revised book for the final judge—an editor—to read. She loved it and made an offer soon after. I called my dream agents and gave them the scoop, and one agreed to take me on as a client after reading not just Season, but my other works in progress. An agent isn’t in the relationship for one deal, but for an author’s career.

What surprised you about "the writing life?" What would you want other struggling authors to know?
This might sound common sense, but it’s a good starting point: authors should treat a writing career as professionally and systematically as they would any other career.  For example, think of query letters as resumes; think of each agent as someone you’re interviewing for a job, and choose only “candidates” who work in your field (that is, agents who represent the type of work you write). Also, follow query and submission guidelines when sending your work to agents or publishers; this alone will set you apart from the crowd. And when you’re online, be professional—no public bad-mouthing. 

Are you planning to write more novels? Will they also be Regency? (If so, why this period? What does it have over other "old-timey" eras?)
I’m in this for the long haul, I hope. I’d love to make writing my full-time career, and I do write every day (well, ok, almost every day). Everything I’ve written so far has been set in the Regency. I think a lot of authors and readers get hooked by the Regency because of Jane Austen’s novels. I got intrigued by that world through her work, and the more I researched it, the more it appealed to me.  The Regency era in England is the last gasp of the pastoral, pre-industrial society, so in that way it’s very exotic to a modern reader—and yet the styles and fashions of the time appear very elegant to our eyes today. Playing the manners of the time off the expectations of modern readers is all part of the fun.

I also meant to ask about your social media presence. Can you explain to a non-industry insider why it's so important for an author to do this these days?
A social media presence—blogs, Facebook, Twitter—is an author’s supplement to a publisher’s marketing arm. Strictly from an author’s or publisher’s perspective, the goal of social media is to create awareness about a new book/series/genius-must-buy-writer. But the real purpose of social media is to connect with people, and it’s essential for an author to keep that in mind. Readers will be put off by a presence that’s just about self-promotion.

Most open-ended of all: why romance? Here's where you get to Bust Stereotypes and Defend Awesomeness. Can't wait.
Romance is fun to write and to read because it’s optimistic—yet it’s realistic, too. At its heart, a romance novel is a story about how a couple works together to overcome obstacles to a healthy relationship. It’s rarely easy, and it often involves struggle. I think the popularity of romance shows that this type of plot is something we can all connect with, because we all struggle sometimes with our own relationships (whether romantic, friendly or professional) and want a healthy, hopeful resolution.

The best romances I’ve read are among the best books of any type I’ve ever read. Unfortunately, the romance genre gets a lot of snark, mainly from people who haven’t read a modern romance novel. I’m not sure why that’s the case, because pretty much everyone likes romance, even if they don’t know it. For example, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies had romance subplots. What’s not to like about people working out their problems and supporting each other?



  1. My Plot idea would be for a gal who is full figured that lives in her beautiful sisters shadow, but gets the hunky Duke... Big girls deserve a HEA too!!

  2. Sara W--right you are. "Happily ever after" is the right size for everyone!

    Have you read Eloisa James's Pleasure for Pleasure? The heroine's a full-figured woman with THREE older sisters, and she gets a HEA with an earl. It's a lovely novel. (Just don't look at the cover, which for some reason shows a very skinny chick.)

  3. I haven't read that one! But I did enjoy Too Much Temptation by Lori Foster... It's a contemporary novel, but the heroine is a "curvy" girl that gets the hot hunky guy! :)

  4. I am curious about how you approach your characters. Do you ever find yourself pyschoanalyzing them?
    I think it is kind of funny about your comment about the romance genre getting a lot of snark. Over the summer my friend's daughter was reading a Sarah Dessen book and telling me about it. When I told her that it sounds like a romance novel, she had a fit. She informed me that Sarah Dessen writes books about relationships with boys and girls not romance. I don't see the difference, however she informed me there was.

  5. Just stopping by to say "Hi". Loved hearing you guys started out working at the Goodwill. My Mom and I love to go to second hand stores. I am the unofficial queen of the ten cent book.

    Great questions, and I liked the comment on social media. I have a romance plot, but since its about a Viking Princess, who loves biscuits, homemade wine and raises baby Kraken I'll save it for twitter. :)

    Don't enter me in the book drawing. Read it, loved it and waiting for the next one.

  6. Did each of you ever imagine, when working together at Goodwill, that one would eventually blog and the other would become an author?

    Plot: A young woman applies for a job as governess to get close to the widowed duke who ruined her parents.

  7. Sara W.--I've been reading more contemporaries lately. Sounds like one I'll have to check out. Thanks!

  8. Ora--I do think of my characters in terms of personality types (Myers-Briggs, if you've ever run across those). "Julia's an extrovert, so she wouldn't mind that." "Pellington's an ESFJ, so he'd say..." It helps me keep their reactions consistent throughout the story.

    Most romance readers have run into snark sometimes! It's unfortunate. I think the best way we can combat it is by being our awesome selves, proud to enjoy what we read. Romance Writers of American defines a romance novel as having "a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending." According to this definition, Gone with the Wind is not a romance. Nicholas Sparks's books are not romance. Your friend's daughter might well have been reading a romance without knowing it!--though she seems to have a pretty different idea of what romance means. (A Fabio cover, maybe?)

  9. Roxy Combes a young firefighter, anxious to prove that she didn't get in because of the alleged lowered standards set up to let in women.

    Tre Maxwell is a first-responder that's moved over to the police Arson squad.

    When she saves his life, pulling him from a burned out building, things really start to heat up. But will they be able to catch the firebug that's declared war on NYC's Arson investigators? And is it some one closer to both of them than either could ever imagine?

    Find out in "The Hot Season".

  10. GayleC--you totally made me laugh! If I ever actually see a book like that anywhere, I'd...I don't know. Be kind of horrified, probably. :)

    I just realized we haven't talked about food yet. How can that possibly be?! Not to get TOO far off topic, I'll add: I love what I call "foodie romance" plots. I've read both historicals and contemporaries with heroines who bake delectable pastries in the course of finding a HEA. I wonder if there are any romances with a hero-baker? (Not a chef: a BAKER. I want descriptions of sweets!)

  11. Kim--I think I'd have been surprised to know about the future, but definitely not surprised that we'd both wind up working with words. :)

    I love your plot! Revenge plots usually focus on the hero's attempt at revenge, with the heroine as a pawn, and you've completely flipped the roles. Tricky, tricky!

  12. Chris (or Dr. S)--you have a startling knack for back-cover copy! That is a perfect description of a romantic suspense. Now you just have to write the book! I even know where you could find an in-house editor to critique you. (Yes, she's literally in-house.)

  13. Fun stuff, everyone!

    Kim, like Theresa says, I don't think anyone's surprised we're writers. We wrote goofy poems and stories together too (*ahem DITCHED FOR DAN ahem*), most of which make no sense if you weren't us at the time. Or even then.

  14. Mine would be: singing star who had withdrawn from life after a trauma; meets the hero, through the relationship she learns to trust again and takes back her life.

    I used to amuse myself (still do sometimes) by imagining stories in my head when waiting in a queue or struggling to get to sleep. They do tend to be a bit soap opera-y though!!

    Your book sounds like fun. I'm looking forward to reading it. Congratulations on you debut release!

    hankts AT internode DOT on DOT net

  15. I hope you continue to write Regency romances for ever & ever Theresa! They are my favourite.

    I have zero imagination! I wouldn't be able to come up with anything if I were paid to do it.


  16. I've been reading so many regency romances lately, my best plot idea would have to roll up all of my favorite aspects: a strong heroine who might sometimes have occasion to wear breeches and pretend to be a man, a hero who is not an unrepentant rake but has sense of humor despite a dark past, and a colorful cast of side characters, including a crazy grandma or aunt, a dandy, an outspoken child, and some kind of nefarious person who poses a small amount of threat.

    alexabexis at gmail dot com

  17. Anna--I laughed out loud just remembering "Ditched for Dan." I still have it AND its sequel, "Abandoned for Alex." I'll send you some scans!

  18. Kaetrin--that's awesome! Developing trust is a big part of romance. I think you've got something there. :) Do you ever write down any of your stories?

  19. Linda--thank you! Regencies are my first and greatest love too. Was Jane Austen your "gateway drug" too, or did a different author get you hooked?

  20. alexabex--I love it. You've got all the elements of plot gold there!

    Actually, I think Eloisa James's Duchess By Night or Gerogette Heyer's These Old Shades might have a lot of the elements you like. Those are the two best cross-dressing-heroine romances I've read! Have you read either of those, or do you have other favorites?

  21. @Theresa Romain - not so far but you never know, I may do something in future. Right now, I'm flat out with work, home, reading and reviewing and my own little blog. :)

  22. Kaetrin--I hear you! It's hard to be divided in so many ways. But having lots of good books does make it better. :)

  23. How nice of everyone to make it a d6! Nice and tidy. alexabex, you are the winner!! I'll send you an email.

  24. Congrats, alexabex! Thanks, Anna, for hosting, and thanks to everyone who stopped by with a romance plot or a fun comment. I wish you all shelves full of fantastic books.

  25. @Theresa: I have not read that particular title by Eloisa James, but I've added it to my to-read list. Recently I read a couple of books by Sarah MacLean that have women in breeches, and I really liked "The Exploits and Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy" by Elizabeth Aston. It's a fun series.

    Thank you, Anna and Theresa! I can't wait to read "Season for Temptation." :D


Creative Commons License
Muse at Highway Speeds by http://museathighwayspeeds.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.