Romance Trope Tuesday: Writing Enemies-to-Lovers

CoffeeCookiesBackdropToday concludes my look at the enemies-to-lovers trope in romance fiction as part of the Romance Trope Tuesday series. In case you missed it, check out  what it is and why it’s so popularhow it works within a film, and a suggested reading list.

This Tuesday I’m providing some best practices for writing your own tale with this trope. Please note that I’m not a writing expert; these suggestions are more what I’ve seen and learned from reading some awesome enemies-to-lovers romances and writing my own (i.e., mistakes I’ve made). I’m enjoying Romance Trope Tuesday so much because I’m learning so much about the genre, storytelling, and writing, so if you’ve got a tip to add here, please comment so we can learn from each other!

What should you consider when writing a story of two lovers who start out as enemies? Four things:

If you want to use this trope, embrace it. Don’t make nice too soon.
While a lot of romances have parts where lovers are quarreling or are upset with one another, enemies-to-lovers romances will have the main characters at pretty significant odds with each other, at least at first. If you’re going to do this, don’t shy away from conflict or try to ease the tension too soon–that’s what keeps a story (and pages) turning! Make the hero and heroine fight. Make them uncomfortable around each other if they’re forced to work together. Make them dislike each other, then have the hero steal a client from the heroine. Your readers will wonder how they’re going to get together, and that question will propel them forward.

But give them some common ground.
You don’t want to make the enemies aspect of the romantic relationship too easy to defeat, but you do want there to be some avenue for the couple to find their way to each other eventually. If they’re opposites, as some of these stories are, show them sharing a similar trait, belief, or even a quirky habit. Have them discover they both need to team up on a quest, because they have a common enemy. Make us believe that these two people who hate each other are actually meant to be, whether they know it or not.

Make the journey to love at least a little gradual.
Even the most abrupt shifts from hate to lust like the Slap-Slap-Kiss still offer little clues along the way to show two characters starting to see each other as more than antagonists. If they’re fighting, throw in a brief heated look. If they’re both stuck on a deserted island, have the heroine grudgingly offer the hero half the fish she’s caught. Show animosity slowly giving away to reluctant respect, tentative friendship, or fiery lust. One way to do this is to render one character vulnerable–sick, too drunk to drive, upset over a breakup–and their enemy in the reluctant role of white knight because no one else is around or able to handle it.

An HEA means their dukes should be down.
Once your story concludes and your enemies are now lovers, don’t have one of the characters keep disrespecting the other. If there’s a relationship there, that’s no longer sexy; that’s abuse. Show us they’ve learned and see their love interest in a new, kinder way. Of course, if they’re opposites or they are competing in the same field, there may be some tension in the union that causes disagreements or witty insults from time to time, but make these playful, or at least work-through-able. Respect is key. They need to be at a better place than when they started. Readers don’t want to have to worry that sleeping in the same bed means your heroes both have to keep one eye open lest they get a knife in the back.

But of course, until that HEA, which may be the end of the book (or run until the end of a seven-book series), all’s fair in love and war. Kiss, kiss, slap, slap.

For writers out there, what do you think about these tips? Do you agree? Any considerations I’ve forgotten?

Trope Tuesday (1)I’ll be back to Romance Trope Tuesday next week, where I’ll turn to a new trope for July: second-chance romance.

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Romance Trope Tuesday: Enemies-to-Lovers Reading List

In case you’re new to the Romance Trope Tuesday series, this month I’m focusing on the enemies-to-lovers trope. Earlier this month, I explained what it is and why it’s so popular in love stories, and last week I showed how it works within a film.

Today I’m sharing a reading list of recommended romances that follow this trope. This is by no means an exhaustive list–there are TONS of great romances that utilize this trope, in small and large ways. But it’s a list of books I’ve read or will read soon, and represents a sampling of enemies-to-lovers across many different subgenres, from paranormal to hot contemporary to historical.

Book covers and blurbs here are from Goodreads.

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

A mythic warrior who’ll stop at nothing to possess her…

After enduring years of torture from the vampire horde, Lachlain MacRieve, leader of the Lykae Clan, is enraged to find the predestined mate he’s waited millennia for is a vampire. Or partly one. This Emmaline is a small, ethereal half Valkyrie/half vampire, who somehow begins to soothe the fury burning within him.

A vampire captured by her wildest fantasy…

Sheltered Emmaline Troy finally sets out to uncover the truth about her deceased parents—until a powerful Lykae claims her as his mate and forces her back to his ancestral Scottish castle. There, her fear of the Lykae—and their notorious dark desires—ebbs as he begins a slow, wicked seduction to sate her own dark cravings.

An all-consuming desire…

Yet when an ancient evil from her past resurfaces, will their desire deepen into a love that can bring a proud warrior to his knees and turn a gentle beauty into the fighter she was born to be?

Love it: I read this steamy paranormal, the second in Cole’s Immortals After Dark series, last year. It also uses the fated mate trope to connect two creatures who would normally be enemies: a Lykae and a half-vampire/Valkyrie. It also has one of my favorite romance covers to date.

A Wicked Way to Win an Earl by Anna Bradley

A Wicked Way to Win an Earl by Anna BradleyA tantalizing new Regency romance filled with the most elegant society—and the most forbidden desires…

England, 1811. Delia Somerset despises the privileged ton, but her young sister, Lily, is desperate to escape their family’s scandalous past and join high society. Unwilling to upset her sister, Delia reluctantly agrees to attend a party at the Sutherland estate—and avoid the gossip at all costs.

Alec Sutherland is known as a hot-headed scoundrel, but nothing gets a rise out of him as much as the news that his brother desires Delia’s hand in marriage. She is, after all, the daughter of the London belle who soiled their family name. He’s determined to ruin her reputation as well, in the most delicious way possible. It’s only a matter of time before he can woo her with his irresistible advances.

As Delia devilishly plays along in Alec’s game, determined to prove the joke is on him, they inch ever closer to repeating history. And in this game of seductive glances, scandalous whispers, and old debts, the outcome might be much more than either of them anticipated…

Love it: I’ve had this historical romance on my TBR, and am looking forward to the witty Regency dialogue as Delia and Alec battle it out. This novel won the award for First Historical Romance at Romantic Times this year.

Apples Should be Red by Penny Watson

Apples Should Be Red by Penny Watson

Start with sixty-two-year-old politically incorrect, chain-smoking, hard-cussing curmudgeon.

Add fifty-nine year old sexually-repressed know-it-all in pearls.

Throw in a beer can-turkey, a battle for horticultural supremacy, and nudist next-door neighbor.

Serve on paper plates, garnished with garden gnome.

Tastes like happily ever after.

Love it: Two older main characters–including a curmudgeon hero and pearl-clutching heroine–made this a fun read! I really enjoyed the Thanksgiving setting, too.

Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren

Beautiful Bastard by Christina LaurenAn ambitious intern. A perfectionist executive. And a whole lot of name calling.

Whip-smart, hardworking, and on her way to an MBA, Chloe Mills has only one problem: her boss, Bennett Ryan. He’s exacting, blunt, inconsiderate—and completely irresistible. A Beautiful Bastard.

Bennett has returned to Chicago from France to take a vital role in his family’s massive media business. He never expected that the assistant who’d been helping him from abroad was the gorgeous, innocently provocative—completely infuriating—creature he now has to see every day. Despite the rumors, he’s never been one for a workplace hookup. But Chloe’s so tempting he’s willing to bend the rules—or outright smash them—if it means he can have her. All over the office.

As their appetites for one another increase to a breaking point, Bennett and Chloe must decide exactly what they’re willing to lose in order to win each other.

Love it: If you enjoy hate sex, this is pretty much the book you should be reading. Lots of animosity, lots of panties getting ripped. Lots of fun.

Get Real by Tellulah Darling

Get Real by Tellulah DarlingFrancesca Bellafiore comes from a nice Jewish family — one that happens to have magical powers. Underneath her good-girl exterior, though, she’s a wannabe badass with dreams of becoming a paranormal detective.

Party boy Rafael Muñoz does everything possible to publicly disappoint his high profile father. Privately, it’s a different story. His carefully crafted bad boy reputation masks the fact he’s a master illusionist, forced into solo covert ops. The role is wearing thin and Rafael longs to be part of a team.

When Francesca and Rafael meet, it’s love at first sight… For about five minutes. Rafael is spectacularly attractive—and, Francesca discovers, fully aware of the fact. Rafael knows from experience that girls like Francesca are more trouble than they’re worth.

So it sucks big time when they’re caught in a web of magic, minions, secrets, and enough sexual tension to power NYC. Their only chance to save the city and survive is to team up, trust each other–and maybe even fall in love.

Provided they don’t kill each other first.

Get Real is a romantic comedy, urban fantasy whirlwind with sass, sex, and swoon.

Love it: Tellulah Darling writes hilarious, witty rom-com, and this New Adult fantasy with a bad boy and nice Jewish girl who can’t stop arguing is no different.

Hot as Hades by Alisha Rai

Hot as Hades by Alisha RaiEnsnaring the ultimate bad boy has its risks…and its rewards. 

It’s not easy being Hades. Constantly guarding his world against other meddling and ambitious deities is stressful work. So when a naked goddess falls directly into his lap, along with the news that he has to shelter her for the indefinite future, he is less than thrilled. Particularly since he can’t help but lust after the beautiful female.

The Underworld isn’t the first place Persephone would pick for a vacation—who in their right mind would choose a dark palace over sunshine and flowers? Yet from Hades’s first touch, the dark, sexy ruler fascinates her and has her thinking a fling might be just the thing to while away her confinement.

But trust each other? Not a chance. Until the day comes that Persephone must leave…and they realize that trusting each other is the only way they’ll ever meet again. 

Warning: Contains an arrogant god, a stubborn goddess, horny deity nookie and enough supernatural friction to set the Underworld on fire.

Love it: I’m in the middle of this hot paranormal novella that retells the Hades/Persephone story, and it’s hot and funny.

The Preacher’s Promise by Piper Huguley

1866 – Oberlin, OhioThe Preacher's Promise by Piper Huguley

Devastated by her father’s death days after her triumphant graduation from Oberlin College, Amanda Stewart is all alone in the world. Her father’s unscrupulous business partner offers her an indecent proposal to earn a living. Instead, to fulfill a promise she made to her father, she resolves to start a school to educate and uplift their race. Sorting through her father’s papers, she discovers he had carried on a mysterious correspondence with a plantation in Milford, Georgia. She determines to start her teaching work with the formerly enslaved. However, when she arrives, the mayor tells her to leave. There’s nowhere for her to go.

Virgil Smithson, Milford’s mayor, blacksmith and sometimes preacher man with a gift for fiery oratory, doesn’t want anything to do with a snobby schoolteacher from up North. On top of everything else, the schoolteacher lady has a will hard enough to match the iron he forges. He must organize his fellow formerly enslaved citizens into a new town and raise his young daughter alone. Still, his troubled past haunts him. He cannot forget the promise he made to his daughter’s mother as she died—that their child would learn to read and write. If only he didn’t have secrets that the new schoolteacher seems determined to uncover.

To keep THE PREACHER’S PROMISE, Amanda and Virgil must put aside their enmity, unite for the sake of a newly-created community in a troubling age, and do things they never imagined. In the aftermath of the flood that was the Civil War, God set his bow upon the earth to show love and understanding for humankind. To reflect God’s promise, these combatants must put aside their differences and come together–somehow.

Love it: I bought this book a few months ago on a friend’s recommendation, and am looking forward to reading a story set in a historical period not common to romance, with a stubborn schoolteacher and mayor facing off.

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Have you read any of these? Or other enemies-to-lovers romances you’d recommend? Let me know–I love getting book suggestions, and this is one of my favorites tropes.Trope Tuesday (1)

I’ve actually written two enemies-to-lovers stories myself: a British graffiti artist and the American woman who hates him falling in love in Graffiti in Love, and a woman falling for her best friend’s ex that she hates by reputation in Somewhere Warm. They’re filled with fights and sexual tension, one of the reasons I love this trope so much.

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Romance Trope Tuesday: Something’s Gotta Give

Something's Gotta GiveIt’s Romance Trope Tuesday, and this week I’m looking at our trope of the month, Enemies-to-Lovers, in action in a film.

There are many movies that use this trope, but I decided to use the 2003 Nancy Meyers film Something’s Gotta Give, since it’s one of the few romances with older main characters.

Something’s Gotta Give works by forcing two opposites, Erica (Diane Keaton) and Harry (Jack Nicholson) together, as rom-coms often do, and having them gradually gain respect and affection for one another–which eventually lands them in bed.

Harry (Nicholson) is a notorious playboy and hip hop record company owner who only dates “sweet, uncomplicated” younger women like Marin (Amanda Peet). One weekend, when Marin takes him to her family’s beach house to consummate their relationship, her mother, Erica (Keaton), unexpectedly walks in and mistakes a pantsless Harry for a burglar. Awkwardness ensues, especially after Erica realizes robbery might be preferable to this older cad dating her daughter. But they all agree to remain at the beach house for the weekend, because of course they do.

Like many enemies-to-lovers stories, Harry and Erica are opposites in a variety of ways. He’s a carefree bachelor who wears loose-fitting shirts; she’s an uptight divorcée who speaks French and lives in turtlenecks. “Words have been invented to describe woman like you,” Harry tells her in one scene. “Such as?” she asks, and he responds, “Flinty…and impervious.”

It’s worth noting that not all enemies-to-lovers stories have opposites as the would-be lovers; sometimes the couple is at odds with one another because their families or cultures are warring, or they’re both after the same goal. But when the couple is as different as Harry and Erica, the conflict is almost built-in: there’s much for them to disagree on, from rap to Harry’s tendency to not date women over 30 to Erica’s buttoned-up lifestyle. “Have you always been like this, or do I bring it out on you?” Harry asks her. These early scenes of them arguing are some of the funniest of the film.

But like many stories of opposites and enemies who fall in love, romance blooms in the most unlikely way when Erica and Harry spend time together and realize they aren’t so different after all. After Harry has a heart attack and is forced to stay at the house to rest, all the remaining guests except for Erica leave. Harry and Erica, now alone under the same roof, discover their common ground. Despite their different approaches to life, they’re both older people who’ve achieved success, Erica as a playwright and Harry with his hip hop label. They both only get by on four hours of sleep a night, leading to many midnight meetups, amidst sexy plot contrivances like Harry walking in on Erica naked.

He's probably in red because he's the devil--or so Erica would say.

He’s probably in red because he’s the devil–or so Erica would say.

Like most stories, Something’s Gotta Give has more than one trope within its tale. Harry’s doctor, Julian (Keanu Reeves), has a May/December romantic subplot with Erica. Julian is a foil for Harry’s character: he finds older women, or at least Erica, attractive and fascinating. Unfortunately, his attraction in the movie feels pretty underdeveloped, his feelings of adoration and jealousy and (spoiler alert) eventual heartbreak shallow–so much that it made me question whether he was a robot at times. Thought it’s worth noting that since Erica ends up with Harry, there can’t be too much complexity or interest there to distract us (but I would’ve been happier with a tad more).

Despite this undercooked subplot, a somewhat sluggish last act, and our hero Harry getting neutered more than I felt necessary, Something’s Gotta Give shows us the power of love to make two people who initially couldn’t stop arguing learn from each other and change for the better. “I can’t decide if you hate me, or if you’re the only person who ever got me,” Erica tells Harry as their intimacy deepens, and he says, “I don’t hate you.” As their relationship progresses, Erica becomes more joyful and adventurous, Harry more aware and responsible with his behavior towards women. As I mentioned in last week’s post, these changes in relationship and character arcs are what make this trope so exciting to witness, and the end result so sweet.

There are many other movies out there that use the enemies-to-lovers trope, eitherTrope Tuesday (1) throughout the film or in certain scenes. Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Romancing the Stone, While You Were Sleeping, Leap Year, 10 Things I Hate About You, and part of The Princess Bride come to mind. (In fact, I’d argue that the success of The Princess Bride, as well as stories like Twilight, is partly due to them using several very popular tropes together.) Which are your favorite films with enemies who turn into lovers? 

Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll provide an enemies-to-lovers reading list of books to feast on!

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Romance Trope Tuesday: Enemies-to-Lovers

6D91714AAEI’m starting a series this summer on the blog. Called Romance Trope Tuesday, I’ll be highlighting a popular romance trope each month. One week I’ll introduce why it works; another week I’ll examine the device in action in a movie; and in the third week, I’ll provide a reading list of books that fit the trope. I hope you romance fans out there will join in and post what you think about these tropes, and your favorite stories that fit them!

June’s trope is the ever-popular Enemies-to-Lovers. This is when two characters who dislike one another start falling in love–or simply lust. They could show their animosity for each other by everything from witty bickering in a historical romance to being sworn enemies who’ve vowed to slay each other in a paranormal story. However their hostility plays out, by the time the final page is turned, they’ve fallen into each other’s arms.

Why are so many romance readers in love with this trope? Four reasons:

It’s exciting.
When the main characters move from hate to love, it’s a huge change–and transformation is what makes a story. So does conflict, which is piled on in an enemies-to-lovers tale, where the road to happily-ever-after is anything but smooth. Stakes can often be high, especially if the could-be lovers are mortal enemies. The arcs of the individual characters can be pretty dramatic as well, as they must evolve within themselves and in their relationship. All of this makes for an incredibly intense story.

It’s so sexy.
There’s an electrifying line between hate and lust. When the hero and heroine are fighting but subconsciously or secretly want to fall into bed, it adds tension and frisson to their every word–and an almost uncontrollable passion once they finally succumb.

It can be hilarious.
Assuming the story stakes are fairly low, an argument that turns into something else can be funny. Think of the sit-com where two yelling co-workers suddenly begin making out over a desk. It’s something we don’t expect–and neither do they–and what TV Tropes calls the Slap-Slap-Kiss.

It has the potential to be really sweet.
If two fighters are able to set aside their disagreements, large or small, and come together in affection, it shows the redeeming power of love–and perhaps even its power to unite warring tribes or families, solve a crime, or save the world.

Do you love this trope? Hate it? Used to hate it, but now love it? Sound off in the comments, and check out my examination of this trope within the 2003 film Something’s Gotta Give.


Trope Tuesday (1)

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SCARY, LOVESICK, FOOLISH out!

SLF_Cover3I’m happy to announce that my goth rom-com SCARY, LOVESICK, FOOLISH releases today!

SCARY, LOVESICK, FOOLISH is the sequel to CRAZY, SEXY, GHOULISH and continues the story of Nora and Brendan.

It was a question he had to ask…

Brendan Forrester loves his girlfriend, Nora. Like can’t-live-without-her, Gomez-to-her-Morticia-Addams loves her. But when he asks her for more, he can’t help but notice the look of fear in her eyes. Then a ghost from their past shows up at the horror festival they’re both in, and Nora starts to change. Soon Brendan is remembering things he’d rather forget–including the voice of a certain girl he thought they’d long since vanquished.

It was a chance she couldn’t pass up…

When Nora Travers is offered a part in a horror one-act directed by the daughter of a Hollywood bigwig, she knows she can’t miss the chance–even if it means competing against her longtime boyfriend and getting back in touch with the mean girl she swore she’d never be again. But the past doesn’t want to stay buried, and soon Brendan–her usually smart, adoring boyfriend–can’t seem to stop sneaking suspicious looks at her. Or spying on her kissing scenes with her new co-star.

It’s making them both wonder: do they have what it takes to make it through another Halloween?

Download it today, or check out an excerpt to see if it’s your thing. I’m also holding an Amazon giveaway for a free copy of SCARY, LOVESICK, FOOLISH here through June 10th. Enter for a chance to win!

CRAZY, SEXY, GHOULISH is also now free at all stores.

Get SCARY, LOVESICK, FOOLISH today!
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Writers Who Read: Athena Kildegaard

The Writers Who Read series continues this week with poet Athena Kildegaard.Athena Kildegaard

Who are you?
In summer I’m a gardener and a canner. In winter I teach and sometimes I shovel the front walk. In fall I walk and kick up leaves as I go and smell the must that they leave behind as they fall back to the ground. In spring I think about what I’m going to accomplish during the summer and in fall I mourn what didn’t get done. I’m the mother of two beautiful adults who surprised me even before they came out into this world, and I’m the wife of a man who balances me. I play the piano and I’m learning to knit. And I write poetry and some prose—including four books of poetry, Rare Momentum, Bodies of Light (a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award), Cloves & Honey (a finalist for the Midwest Book Award) and Ventriloquy, just out from Tinderbox Editions.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
Hop on Pop – that’s the first book I remember reading. And when my children were small I read it again, with pleasure. Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle was my first book of poetry, a gift from my parents when I was eight or nine. It’s an anthology of poetry for children that treats children as people with a sense of humor and serious concerns. I learned about the wide range of things poetry can do from that anthology. And another gift from my parents was The Wishing Tree, a novel for children by William Faulkner that I loved so much I read it every summer when we drove from Minnesota to Texas. It begins, “She was still asleep, but she could feel herself rising up out of sleep, just like a balloon: it was like she was a goldfish in a round bowl of sleep, rising and rising through the warm waters of sleep to the top.” How marvelous is that: “a goldfish in a round bowl of sleep.”

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
There are some great shows on Netflix, but I’ve started some shows and then abandoned them because the books I’m reading are more dense, more challenging, more surprising than most shows.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
Anthony Doerr because he has a big heart and he writes sublime sentences.

Lorna Crozier because she’s funny and serious and she touches what matters with both humor and gravitas.

Robert Wrigley because he’s got an amazing ear and a sharp eye and he makes you look.

Rebecca Solnit because she’s full of passion tempered by intelligence.

Caroline Bergvall because she really knows how to play and how to make it count.

What is your book kryptonite—those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
Novels of exploration or sea adventures or frontier life: Jamrach’s Menagerie, by Carol Birch, about an expedition to get a dragon, told from a boy’s perspective; The Voyage of the Narwhal, Andrea Barrett’s wonderful novel about explorers who get stuck in the Arctic; Fred Stenson’s The Trade; Guy Vanderhaeghe’s trilogy about settlement of Canada; Kate Grenville’s trilogy about early Australian settlement. I like to be carried away into the life of adventure, risk, and wilderness.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
Sunday morning early, before my husband is up, when I don’t feel as if I must read something, I can just turn the pages and be gone for awhile. Where do I read? My chair in the living room, early light streaming in, a cup of hot strong coffee beside me.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
I re-read poems and books of poems. Individual poems that I love I re-read for different reasons: to be reminded of what’s possible, to feel joy, to feel that this thing we do as human beings matters. I re-read books of poetry because they get better on re-reading. I’ve re-read novels, but not recently, though this summer I plan to read Tristram Shandy because it has been haunting me, but I want to wait until the semester is over so that I can really give myself over to the novel. I once re-read War and Peace to get the taste of a manipulative and cheesy best-seller out of my mouth. It worked!

Ventriloquy-Front-CoverWhich books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Elizabeth Bishop’s Geography III has been a big influence—for her attentive restraint. And Theodore Roethke’s Words for the Wind for his attentive exuberance. In my twenties I adored Ted Hughes, for his music—particularly his ear for the hard consonants—and for his love of mythology, something I admired but didn’t completely understand.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
Whatever the genre, a satisfying read contains beautiful writing. Sentence by sentence, or, if it’s poetry, line by line, I want to feel that I’m in the presence of someone who values music and syntax and words, but isn’t intent on impressing me. If it’s fiction then a satisfying read also creates a world in which things happen that matter and it contains characters that are complicated and strange and human. From non-fiction I want to learn in the company of someone who is passionate about the subject matter.

What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer, a novel that imagines E.M. Forster’s time in India. I discovered Galgut, a South African writer, when I was living in Denmark during a sabbatical eight years ago. The library in the town where we lived had a marvelous and eclectic collection. And I’m reading Creating Minnesota by Annette Atkins, for a new way of thinking about my home. And for poetry I’m lapping up Maureen N. McLane’s World Enough and Jane Munro’s Blue Sonoma and a gorgeous new chapbook of James Tate’s last poems, published by Rain Taxi, called The Meteor.

~

Athena Kildegaard is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Ventriloquy (Tinderbox Editions). She is the Poetry Features Editor at Bloom. Kildegaard teaches at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

You can find out more about her on her website.

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This will be the last Writers Who Read interview until fall 2016. Thanks so much to all the writers, readers, and others who’ve read and supported this series! Stay tuned for more interviews in the future, and, in the meantime, check out the interviews in the archives to see what other authors have been reading in your favorite genre(s).

Writers Who Read: Jane Carter Barrett

Jane-Barrett-FB-LI-5421The Writers Who Read series continues this week with Jane Carter Barrett.

Who are you?
My name is Jane Carter Barrett and I attended Duke University and the University of Texas School of Law. Although I was born in Maryland and raised in New York, I currently live in Austin, Texas with my family. I continue to dabble in the legal field, but strongly prefer to run, swim, write, play the harp and, of course, read a good book. In February, I published my first novel, Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore, which is a romantic comedy that mixes adventure and history with light-hearted humor.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
When I was very young, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series was one of my favorites to read. As I grew older, the English classics drew my interest, especially Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy, Catherine Cookson, Agatha Christie, and John Galsworthy. As for American authors, Margaret Mitchell, Edna Ferber and David McCullough are particular favorites. I also love anything historical (my major at Duke) and enjoy period pieces that blend fact and fiction.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
In general, I would rather read a book than watch TV, because I love words, especially the printed word. However, I adore the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries series put on by the Australian Broadcast Corporation. The story is set in 1920’s Melbourne and full of sharp-witted dialogue, marvelous acting, intelligent and well-developed characters, gorgeous scenery, and absolutely the most phenomenal costume designs I’ve ever seen—and I’m not even into clothes!  But circling back to books, any book with a really good story is the best reason to crack it open and dig right in! Oftentimes I find that biographies, autobiographies, and the “fact/fiction blend” genre provide the most riveting and compelling stories. I recently finished Lady Antonia Fraser’s autobiography and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
David McCullough, Lady Antonia Fraser, John Grisham (for the lawyer in me), and MC Beaton (the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series) are definite auto-buys for me. Scottish author Rosamunde Pilcher and the late great Irish author, Maeve Binchy, are also particular favorites. I miss Maeve terribly, but I’m grateful to her husband who somehow manages to find more of her material to publish!

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
Throw anything at me about Scotland or the Scots, and I’ll devour it, but I’m always drawn to a great story with strong character development, no matter the setting or topic.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
Nighttime is my ideal time to read and it helps settle me down, too. On the other hand, I have to be careful with certain books, like Grisham’s, and not read it immediately before bedtime or I run the risk of having vivid, disturbing dreams. I also look forward to traveling, because it affords me the opportunity to read with fewer distractions and limitations.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
Oh, yes! I re-read constantly. I recently re-read a wonderful book by Paul Harding called Tinkers that is one of the most beautiful and captivating pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered. I think re-reading is extremely valuable with regards to more complex, multi-layered books such as Tinkers. It’s taken me several reads to understand the story fully as well as to comprehend the depth of emotion experienced by the characters and the motivation behind their actions. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is another book I’ve re-read so many times I’ve lost count.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing? 9781632990389
The Princess Bride and Pride and Prejudice are the two novels which most inspired me to write Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore. I attempted to blend the outlandish and over-the-top humor of Goldman’s book with the language, subtle wit and romantic themes of Austen’s. I have no idea if I succeeded, but nevertheless gave it my best shot and had a lot of fun in the process.

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
Any book that is absorbing, thought provoking, and well written is a satisfying read for me. As I mentioned above, the confluence of a compelling story and solid character development instantly captures my attention and keeps me reading to the very last word. I know if it’s a good read if I think about the story throughout the day, even when I’m not reading, and look forward to immersing myself back into it at the end of the day.

What are you reading right now?
Currently, I’m reading Wings on My Sleeve by Captain Eric Brown and The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca by Anthony F.C. Wallace, both non-fiction. Next on my list is a novel by actor Sean Patrick Flanery called Jane Two. It was just released and I’m looking forward to attending his book signing at Book People in Austin next week!

~

Jane Carter Barrett attended Duke University and the University of Texas School of Law. She lives in Austin, and loves to read, write, and play the harp. Mary Queen of Scots and Jane Austen have been lifelong subjects of fascination for her. Antonia Barclay And Her Scottish Claymore is her debut novel.

You can find out more about Jane on her website or Facebook.

Writers Who Read: Tamara Lush

The Writers Who Read series continues this week with romance author Tamara Lush. Welcome, Tamara! MCP Tamara Lush-2 BW Small

Who are you?
I’m Tamara and I’m a journalist and romance writer. During the day I write news for The Associated Press. I’m based in Florida, so those stories you read about alligators, sinkholes and wrestlers? They’re probably written by me.

At night I’m a romance novelist. I’ve written three books: Hot Shade, Into the Heat and Tell Me a Story. The first two are with Boroughs Publishing Group, and they’re stand-alone novels set on a fictional Florida island. Tell Me a Story is my self-published novella about a bookstore owner who reads erotica to a billionaire at a literary event. It will be in an upcoming anthology called Sizzling Florida Heat. All of the stories in the anthology are set in the Sunshine State and are written by Florida romance authors.

Which book or series was your gateway into the world of reading?
I was a reader from a very early age, all because my parents read voraciously. My father has a graduate degree in history and was always buried in a book when I was a girl. My mother loved early 20th Century American literature. They encouraged me to read whatever I could get my hands on; there were never any banned books at any age (even when I started reading steamy stories like Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying as a young teen).

Probably the most instrumental book of my childhood was Harriet the Spy. It got me to write (I began keeping a journal when I was around eight) and after I read the book, I started to observe people, like Harriet did. So it’s probably no surprise I became a journalist.

Nowadays, what makes you crack open a book instead of pressing play on your favorite Netflix show?
I don’t watch a lot of TV or movies. I try to read widely both in and out of the romance genre, but I’m always looking for an interesting, well-told, sexy tale.

Which authors are auto-buys for you? Why?
Lisa Kleypas’ historical romances. Her writing is my catnip. I’m not normally a historical romance reader, but something about her turns of phrase and pacing make me want to gobble everything up at once. She also tends to walk a fine line between a hero who is wicked, and who also comes undone for the heroine. Kleypas writes the best complex, tortured heroes.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique settings, tropes, or character types that make you unable to resist reading?
If it has the words “Italian,” “rogue,” and “revenge,” then I’m one-clicking.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
Generally at night, when I should be writing. Usually I curl up on the sofa with one of my dogs and have a glass of wine or tea.

Are you a re-reader? Why or why not?
Usually, no. There’s a lot of books waiting to be read and there’s only so much time.

Tell me a Story GOOGLE PLAYWhich books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Stephen King’s On Writing was instrumental, both for my fiction and non-fiction work. For those that haven’t read it, he gives people the one key to good writing: read. My favorite quote: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

What makes a book a satisfying read for you?
A satisfying read leaves me with two things: overwhelming emotion (usually reserved for romance reads) or a larger, difficult truth about life and humanity. Sometimes I can only take so much of the latter, though, and need to escape into the fantasy of romance.

What are you reading right now?
I try to read a romance novel and a non-romance novel every week. My recent books have both contained the word “Secret” in the title. (I didn’t plan it that way, honest!)

First, I read Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig. It’s a novella written in 1914 and set in pre-WWI Austria. The plot: a rich baron at a resort sets his sights on a gorgeous woman with a 12-year-old son. He’s a rogue and she’s intrigued by his charm. The baron befriends the boy so he can have sexytimes with the mom. Sounds kind of like a Harlequin Presents, no? NOPE. Turns out the baron is a serial seducer and the woman is married. The son, initially thrilled at making an urbane and charming friend, realizes that the mysterious man and his mother want to be alone. He just can’t figure out why. The story is heartbreaking, really, because it captures the moment a child loses his innocence. This was a beautifully written story. I can’t stress that enough. Gorgeous prose that remained fresh and modern after 100 years.

For a romance writer, though, it was a somewhat toxic book — and it had nothing to do with the infidelity theme. I’m quite happy to read about the complexities of marriage and relationships. My issues were with the brutal honesty about the characters. Some of the descriptions made me squirm, which means the writer really did his job. The baron’s pursuit of women was described as “the stalking of the prey, the excitement and mental cruelty of the kill.” His character arc was never redeemed in the story. The woman’s “glowing sunset colors of her beauty offer her one last, urgent choice between maternal and feminine love.” Gah. That part made me think of Amy Schumer’s Last Fuckable Day skit, and also about how things haven’t changed much for women in 100 years. No, Burning Secret was a tad too lifelike, I guess, and it frankly depressed me.

So. From there I turned to The Dirty Secret by Kira Gold, which I’m still reading. I was inspired to check out this fairy-tale like romance because it’s set in Burlington, Vermont, where I used to live. It’s about a quirky architect who works with an interior designer to decorate his model home.

I realize my description makes this book sound fussy and twee. It’s anything but. The characters are original and fun, not overly angsty and not horribly broken. They seem like people I would know, and like. And the sex scenes, so far, are perfection. I’m a big fan of erotica that’s not crass. Gold’s prose is elegant and delicious. The hero, Killian, isn’t a filthy-talking alpha hole, he’s more like a smart, respectful geek who talks dirty at all the right times. The heroine, Vessa, is refreshingly open about what she wants sexually, and seduces Killian first with her decorating prowess.

Another reason why Gold’s book is so interesting: it contains lavish descriptions of interior design. The story is making me want to alternately redecorate and have sex. If you like house porn and erotica, this is the book for you.

~

Tamara Lush is an award-winning journalist with The Associated Press. She also writes fiction. Her debut novel, Hot Shade, was released in September 2015 by Boroughs Publishing Group.

When Tamara isn’t writing or reading, she’s doing yoga, cooking for her Italian husband or chasing her dogs on a beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Tamara is represented by Amanda Leuck of Spencerhill Associates.

You could find out more about her on her website, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Six Ways Sweet Valley High Lied to Us

Photo courtesy of Goodreads and the not-so-little part of my brain devoted to Sweet Valley trivia

Photo courtesy of Goodreads and the not-so-little part of my brain devoted to Sweet Valley trivia

I’m over on romance site Lady Smut today, talking about Sweet Valley High, like you do. Check it out:

Six Ways Sweet Valley High Lied to Us

Did you read Sweet Valley as a kid, too? I love talking about it. Pop over and comment what you think!

I also posted recently on Lady Smut about why I love novellas, with recommendations for the favorite short, hot stories I’ve read (or are sitting at the top of my TBR).

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