Look who we have visiting with us, you guys! It’s Sarah Mayberry!!! Hold on a sec – *squeeee* – okay. Just had to get that out. 😉 If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Mayberry before, you simply must. I read her Blaze books and was hooked. Whenever someone looked at me and said “Well I don’t read categories because they’re a horrible.” I’d respond, “Go read a Sarah Mayberry and come back and say that to my face.” (There are a
few*coughs* many other authors on that list too, of course.)
My Keeper Shelf
Before I start, a big thanks to Limecello for having me here today – I love talking to romance readers and readers in general. In fact, the love of reading is pretty much what I wanted to talk about today.
People who love to read have a lot of stuff in common. We all know what it’s like to be so entranced with a story that when life calls us away before it’s finished we spend the intervening time with one ear/eye on the conversation/event/job at hand while the rest of our brain is back in the story, wondering what’s going to happen next. We all have massive TBR piles (and we know that TBR means To Be Read without asking!) and Keeper Shelves. And we all have our own personal metric for what makes a book good, bad or awesome.
For me, that measure is whether it made my chest ache. Now, I’m not talking cardiac pain here ( at least, I hope I’m not!). I’m talking about the physical sensation of tightness I get in my upper chest when I am reading a book that has engaged my emotions so deeply that I literally feel pain for them. Usually this is because the writer has done a great job of showing me the characters’ inner pain – the conflict within them that stops the world (and the hero or heroine) from seeing who they really are. Well motivated, deeply felt emotional misunderstandings absolutely kill me and almost guarantee a book a place on my keeper shelf.
Don’t get me wrong, I love light and fluffy, funny stuff, too. That’s another way to make it onto my Keeper shelf – make me laugh out loud. Even better, make me laugh out loud AND want to share the relevant passage with my husband so he can enjoy it, too. But generally speaking, it’s a deep emotional engagement with the story that really hooks me into a book.
Because it’s what I like to read, it’s also what I try to write. I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters before I start in on the first chapter. I don’t do checklists like some ‘how-to’ books advise – frankly, I’m not too fussed about what my heroine’s favourite color is! – but I do think about their relationships with their parents and siblings, what their school years were like and how they view the world. I think about events that have shaped that view, too. Pivotal things like childhood trauma or a messy divorce or a horrible romantic break up. I want my characters to feel as though they have a life before the book came along and that that life will continue once the last page is read. I want readers to feel for these people I am creating, because I certainly do. I don’t consider my work done as a writer unless I cry at least once while writing a book. Sometimes it’s more than once. Some books, I cried every time I went over certain scenes or passages as the book made its way through the production process.
But I also try to make readers laugh in amongst all that angst and emotion, because that’s what I like, too. The ups and downs and absurdities. Life is like that, don’t you think? And that’s what I try to convey.
The heroine of my current release, More Than One Night, wound up being one of those characters who really touched me as I wrote. Charlie is such a staunch, solid person, so determined to do the right thing by everyone, but she has such a warped view of her place in the world because of a withholding father who never showed her that she was loved. Charlie has spent her adult life trying to be worthy, looking for connection and, when she fails to find it, blaming herself. I found her incredibly moving to write, because who of us has never craved the love and approval of a parent, and who of us has never felt unloveable on some occasion? (If you’re reading this and thinking “me” in answer to that question, I want your childhood and your self esteem!)
If More Than One Night makes it onto some keeper shelves because of the emotion I have invested in this story, then I will be a very happy and humble writer, because I know that means the story will be re-read and will live long in a reader’s memory, in the same way that my keeper books live long in mine. Whenever I want a guaranteed good read, I peruse the shelf for something that suits my mood and settle in for some good times. Because I know I’d be curious if I was reading this blog by another author, I’m going to share a few of my favourite keeper books with you. I adore Lisa Kleypas’ Blue Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger. Kristin Higgins Just One Of The Guys gets me every time. I adore Victoria Dahl’s Lead Me On and Mary Balogh’s The Secret Pearl nearly killed me I wanted the hero and heroine to get together so much. There are more, but I won’t bore you.
I’d love to hear what makes a book a keeper for you. Is it heartfelt angst? Smokin’ hot sexy stuff? Laughs? Silliness and escapism and fun? And what books are on your keeper shelf?
I’m giving away two copies of More Than One Night today. All you have to do is comment to be in the running. Looking forward to reading your responses.