Thursday, February 11, 2010

The wacky side of romance

I’ve always been a slut for romance novels.

In high school I worked hard to hone my talent for snatching any bodice-ripper romance novel out of a garage sale bin and locating a major love scene in under a minute. It was a skill based largely on my ability to skim for words like “heaving” and “moan” and “thighs” and “pounding,” but a skill nonetheless.

Sadly, it’s one that’s gone largely unappreciated by my employers.

One of the first things I did after graduating with a degree in English Literature was drive to a thrift store and cram an oversized garbage back with as many romance novels as I could carry. I spent the summer devouring those books, loving every gasp and whimper and flirtatious frolic in a meadow.

But despite my appreciation for the more traditional romances, my real passion is for the ones that are a little more offbeat. Those authors who can take something decidedly unromantic and turn it into something that makes me want to toss my panties on a chandelier.

Take Jennifer Crusie, for example. Any author can set a love scene in a candlelit room with rose petals on the bed, but Crusie can do it in a miserable, stifling attic with a heroine whose mind isn’t in the moment and a hero who turns her on by throwing a lamp and an alarm clock at the wall (read WELCOME TO TEMPTATION if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

In Tiffanie DeBartolo’s HOW TO KILL A ROCK STAR, one of the sexiest scenes in the whole book has the heroine sitting backstage on a crate while the hero plays guitar onstage. The two don’t even touch, yet it’s one of those pulse-pounding scenes you’ll find yourself daydreaming about on the subway two months later (and when you’re all flushed and sweaty, you can tell your seatmates you have a highly contagious disease. More room for you!)

And don’t even get me started on Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER series. When my book club’s ringleader described a 660-page novel about time travel in the Scottish Highlands in 1743, she pretty much hit every hot button of what I don’t like to read. Then she whispered scandalously, “everyone I know who read it swore it spiced up their marriage.” Sign us up! And somehow, Gabaldon managed to take these improbable situations with unwashed bodies, a forced marriage, and a virgin groom and create these unbelievably hot love scenes over and over and over and over and . . .

Where was I?

Oh, right. So when it comes to my own writing, I’ll admit I take my fondness for offbeat romance to the extreme. Fortunately, this is something my brilliant and talented agent Michelle Wolfson seems to like about me, which is probably why she didn’t have a stroke when I told her I wanted to write a sexy mystery set in a landfill. I’m very happy that Michelle loves GETTING DUMPED as much as I do, and we’re excited about our upcoming quest to find the editor (and readers!) who share our enthusiasm.

My other current project, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, falls more squarely into the romantic comedy realm. There’s a scene where my heroine says to the hero, “This has to be least romantic courtship in the history of the planet.” In my mind, that line existed before I wrote a single word of the book. Every scene I wrote leading up to that line was crafted so the reader would reach that point and say, “you know, it is the least romantic courtship – but damn if it I don’t want to jump the mailman right now.”

Don’t do this, by the way. Mailmen carry mace.

At any rate, I’m crossing my fingers there are plenty of others out there with a fondness for offbeat romance. Based on feedback from my critique partners, beta readers, and agent (who are never afraid to tell me when I suck) these stories don’t suck. Thank God.

In the meantime, I’m pleased to announce that Saturday marks my twelfth wedding anniversary with Pythagoras. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you the least romantic engagement story on the planet – and why it’s precisely the kind of romance I love.


Xuxana said...

Wow! I'm going to read every single one of those books you recommended.

And why aren't you published yet, my dear? You damn well should be!

Tawna Fenske said...

Xuxana, thanks for the vote of confidence! We're working on the publishing thing, and I'm confident my brilliant agent will get me there soon.

I love every single one of those books I mentioned, though now that I think of it, I couldn't have picked three more different books if I'd tried!


snacks said...

I'm with you Tawna. I'm sick of the generic love scene. Bathtubs, meadows, fluffy beds, ugh! Give me dirt, sweat, sarcasm, maybe the office of a male strip club...

Linda G. said...

I've always had a fondness for romance novels, but it wasn't until I discovered they could be funny that they really reached out and grabbed me by the...uh, what's this blog rated again? Never mind.

I admit it--I love to laugh. If there is any way possible to find humor in a situation, I will do it. To me, laughter is the sexiest thing out there. If a writer can get me all hot and bothered while cracking me up, I'm hers (or his) for life.

Tawna Fenske said...

I'm with you, Snacks! I'd love to see more offbeat love scenes on the market (hint hint to any editor who may be reading).

Linda G. I totally agree that the funny bone should count as an erogenous zone!