Monday, February 25, 2013

Claire Ashgrove

Our guest blogger this month is Claire Ashgrove, and she says it all! So I'll just hand over HoF to her and let her do her thing.

Ah, it’s February and romance is in the air….

Not so much if you’re a single, romance author—then the romance is all in your head!  But as a romance author, I’m delighted to be here this month and celebrate that all important human emotion with all of you. 

One of my favorite movies is He Said, She Said.  When Terri-Lynne said I could piggy-back off one of the authors blog posts here, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to use that He Said, She Said approach and tag onto her thoughts about the happily-ever after and what constitutes romance.

Let me start with why romance (and across any genre) appeals.  I think it is because that is a human emotion that everyone relates to.  In non-romance genres, I think you see more of a “loss” of loving couples, so to speak, and heartbreak, because those emotions are even more powerful than the bliss of being in love.  As such, it’s natural to include it in plot arcs.

But when you start talking about genre romance, you start dealing with an entirely different core plot.  Compared to fantasy where the storyline often trends toward the “hero-quest” approach, a genre-romance isn’t so much about whether the demons are going to overtake the world, or whether the main character is going to escape the pandemic set upon the land.  The focus of a romance novel is the hero/heroine romantic involvement, and everything external has to contribute to that developing relationship.

The typical romance reader has a set of expectations the novel must meet, and when those expectations aren’t fulfilled, the reader has some…shall we say pretty strong…reactions.  One of those expectations is a Happily Ever After or Happily For Now resolution.  The hero or heroine can’t die in the end, otherwise the focus of building their relationship through however many pages is…pointless.

Let’s look at my other favorite movie, Message In A Bottle – Nicholas Sparks.  We have a wonderful love story.  But as I step back and dry my eyes from that gut-wrenching journey, that story isn’t about two people falling in love.  It’s about a man who has to be able to overcome his past.  The story is the hero’s journey. The heroine is merely his inciting action.  If you look at her life throughout the movie…nothing much changes.  She’s in a slightly better place at the end, than where she was at the beginning.

We love the hero’s journey because what he does to become a better man is so terribly emotional.  When we reach the end, and are sobbing because he’s not going to get the girl (or the girl isn’t going to get him), we’re also able to see that he died a stronger person, one who didn’t live in his shadows, and had come to peace with himself.

That’s more like women’s fiction…only with a sexy, brooding male main character instead of a quirky, smart heroine.

So what constitutes romance?  That wholly depends on how you define it.  If you choose to define it as what we all encounter in our daily lives, it can be present in any novel, in any form.  If you choose to define it as a genre romance, then yes, the expectations are boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end. 

As someone who writes across a variety of genres – historical fiction, romance, erotic romance, thrillers, and fantasy – romance is fun, no matter how you use it in writing.  (Gee what better way to make a reader empathize with a character than to rip out his heart by killing his loved one in front of him?)  I love to plot and subplot, and subplot some more, and I don’t like having everything resolved all nice and tidy at the end, even if my hero and heroine have achieved their HEA.  I write in the other genres so I don’t have to maintain that standard when I don’t feel it fits the story running around in my head.

So that’s my three cents!  And I’d love to hear your questions or thoughts on them!

~Building on a background of fantasy game design, a fascination with history, and a lifetime love of books, Award-Winning author Claire Ashgrove brings to life action-filled, passionate journeys of the heart. Her first contemporary novel, Seduction's Stakes, sold to The Wild Rose Press in 2008, where she continues to write for the Champagne and Black Rose lines. Adding to these critically acclaimed romances, Claire's paranormal series, The Curse of the Templars (Tor,) marries the history of the Knights Templar with the chilling aspirations of the most unholy--a must-read for speculative fiction fans. Her books have received multiple nominations for "Best Romance of the Year" awards as well as placements within a variety of contests, including the rigorous, Reader's Crown Awards, where Immortal Hope was named Best Paranormal Romance of 2011. For those who prefer the more erotic side of life, she also writes darkly arousing espionage novels for Berkley as the National Bestselling Author, Tori St. Claire.

She is an active member of Romance Writers of America, and her local RWA chapters, Heartland Romance Authors, Midwest Romance Writers, and North Texas Romance Writers of America.

Claire lives in Missouri with her two young sons and too many horses, cats and dogs. In her "free" time, she enjoys cooking, studying ancient civilizations, and spending downtime with her children and the critters. She credits her success to her family's constant support and endless patience.
Connect with Claire via:  Facebook  |  Claire’s Blog  |  Claire’s Website  |  Twitter


Terri-Lynne said...

My post about HEA was sparked by Claire Delacroix's story, "An Eligy for Melusine," which did not end happily, or even happily enough--and yet it was in a collection of romance tales. But...but...but...I thought to be a romance, it HAD to have an HEA, or HFN!

It seems, as you say, that's the rule, though there are exceptions. I suppose I'll have to be satisfied with that.

Thanks for coming, Claire!

Claire Ashgrove said...

Thanks for having me here today! You all have a wonderfully entertaining blog!

Unknown said...

Great topic Claire. Another example to consider is Night in Rodanthe also by Nicholas Sparks. There is romance in the story, but it's more about the main characters coming to grips with their individual demons - and that they do it together is what I consider the heart of the story. So sad when the hero dies, but seeing the heroine invigorated by the direction her life has taken as a result of her love for the hero is inspiring. The true love story is the one the heroine ends up in with herself.
I really enjoyed your thoughts on this topic.