Susan Fox (who also writes as Susan Lyons) is one of the best contemporary romance writers I’ve ever read, and I’m so pleased to be able to host a guest blog for her at S&S! We’re celebrating the release of Yours, Unexpectedly, so check out the contest at the end of this post!
Thanks to Sharon Ashwood and the rest of the gang at Silk and Shadows for inviting me here. What a great way to start 2012!
When an old year fades away and a new one begins, I get reflective. What did I accomplish? What did I learn? How will I make the next year a better one?
Well, one thing I accomplished in 2011 was to finish my second 4-book series: Wild Ride to Love (Kensington Brava). It seems like a very long time ago that I first had the notion of writing a sexy “planes, trains, and automobiles” anthology of 3 novellas about single older sisters who come home from far-flung places for their baby sister’s wedding and find sexy romances along the way.
Lesson: Listen to the muse – or instinct, or whatever you want to call it – when she speaks! Don’t discard any ideas, even if you’re not ready to use them now.
I pitched the idea for that anthology to my Kensington editor and somehow she got the notion I was talking about a 4-book series. Huh?
Lesson: Don’t turn down a good opportunity! When asked if you can do something, say yes!!
So I started on the series. In the first book, Sex Drive, oldest sister Theresa, the serious professor, comes home by planes from Australia – and her sexy seatmate, Aussie thriller writer Damien, shows her some in-flight entertainment that just might turn into true love.
In book 2, Love, Unexpectedly, second sister Kat, the girl with the worst luck in love, comes home by trains from Montreal – and her best friend Nav plays “stranger on the train” and gets her to view him in a whole new, sexy and romantic, light.
In book 3, His, Unexpectedly, third sister Jenna, the free spirit, comes home from Santa Cruz by automobiles – and hitches a ride from hot marine biologist Mark, who shows her that some things in life – and some people – are worthy of commitment.
So far, so good. But what about book 4? I’d initially conceived of baby sister Merilee as the one who was lucky in love, having fallen for Matt in grade 2 and been with him since then. Very sweet and romantic, but where’s the tension that makes for a compelling book?
Lesson: Be flexible and creative. You can always find a good idea if you hunt hard enough.
The runaway bride!! But with a twist. That’s what I came up with.
We authors do like to torture our characters. So, as Merilee watches her sisters arrive home with exciting new romances, she realizes that her own relationship is sadly lacking in excitement and passion. Full of doubt, she calls off the wedding and she and Matt break up. Yes, I split up my young lovers.
And now, here’s the twist. When Merilee decides to go on the honeymoon Mexican Riviera cruise alone, to get some distance and perspective, she discovers Matt has the same idea. So there they are, reluctant roommates, aboard a luxury ship bound for Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. And now what?
Lesson: An author is bound to put a large chunk of herself into her books. Or at least, if we do, it tends to make our books deeper, more insightful, and more emotional.
I remember what it was like to be 21. You think you’re all grown up, but nope, that’s not true. Actually, I believe you’re never “all grown up,” in the sense that you have nothing left to learn. And to me, M&M’s problems hinged around the concept of growing up.
They’d been best friends, then boyfriend-girlfriend, then lovers, over the course of 14 years. They thought they knew themselves and each other inside out. But how dull is that? People need to change, to explore new ideas and activities, to – yes, you know it’s coming – to keep growing.
And that’s the journey I sent M&M on, as they go on their cruise as individuals rather than a bonded-at-the-hip couple. As they give themselves make-overs, play pirate and flapper, explore Mexican towns, go zip-lining, and experiment with their sexuality.
It’s time for each of them to find out who they really are and to become adults. There are lots of surprises in store for them as they discover whether growing up means growing apart or growing together in a way that’s deeper, more exciting, and more passionate. A way that will last a lifetime.
Lesson: Okay, this one I knew all along. I write romance. There will be a happy ending!!
Often, I write about strangers becoming lovers, and Yours, Unexpectedly presented a different kind of challenge, and a different romantic journey.
Lesson: For me, every good romance shares two common elements. One is, of course, getting to know your lover – whether they’re someone you’ve just met or someone you’ve been with, perhaps even been married to, for a decade or more. The other is getting to know yourself better – to stretch and learn and grow and become a better person, a person who will fight for love, and who deserves love.
If I bear those elements in mind as I write, it helps me set the challenges my heroine and hero need to meet, and to make sure their journey is an emotional and satisfying one. As I hope M&M’s is.
In a Top Pick review at The Romance Reviews, Shana Rea said: “Yours, Unexpectedly is both wild and sweet. It tugs at the heartstrings and delivers a powerful message or two. It is the perfect ending to the exciting Wild Ride to Love series that has kept me captivated and engrossed… Matt and Merilee’s story is one that will stay with me for some time to come. Fluid writing, absolutely unforgettable characters, Yours, Unexpectedly will touch you and provoke you to think about love and life. And like Matt, this book – the entire series – is a keeper!”
You can find an excerpt, behind-the-scenes notes, a discussion guide, other review quotes, and recipes (chocolate mousse, anyone?) at my website.
And now, looking ahead to 2012, I intend to take all those lessons I’ve learned – and my belief that we all need to keep growing – and challenge myself to create new love stories that resonate emotionally with my readers.
All the best for 2012 to all of you!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on my book, the concept of the series, lessons you’ve learned in the past year, or anything else you’d like to talk about. I’m giving an autographed copy of Yours, Unexpectedly to someone who comments.