Charmed, I'm Sure ~ Candace Havens

It’s difficult for me to believe that I just turned in my fifth book, “The Demon King and I,” in five years, and now “Charmed & Dangerous” is coming out in mass market on Dec. 4. I still remember sitting on my bed at two in the morning, the night before my very first meeting with an editor. Another writer friend told me I needed to have more than one idea to pitch to the editor, and I was frantically trying to make something up.

It was a strange feeling when I finally wrote about a character who had been dancing around in my head for some time. I’d just heard that “Buffy” was going off the air, and I was angry with creator Joss Whedon for not going one more year. In retrospect they ended at the right time, but back then I was mad. What would I do without my weekly dose of “Buffy?”

That night before the meeting I put pen to paper and created a character who had the attitude of Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) but the power of Bad Willow (Alyson Hannigan). She would use that power to protect important people, and to save the world. I can’t remember how I came up with the idea for the prime minister, but I wanted a really powerful, cool leader. So of course I had to make one up. (Smile)

That one-page synopsis became a book just a few months later, and crazy stuff happened along the way. A love triangle between Sam, Bronwyn and Sheik Azir developed out of thin air one day. Azir met the Prime Minister in what was supposed to be an information finding expedition, but as I described Azir, I fell for him. Funny how that happens when we least expect it.

The powerful wizard Garnout came from the need for Bronwyn to have some sort of mentor. I love Garnout. He’s one of my favorite people. I also wanted to create my dream town. A place where magic abounds, but overall people are friendly with one another. And of course, great food can be found on every corner in Sweet, Texas.

Even though I’ve moved on to new characters that crazy witch Bronwyn is still dancing around in my head. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever run out of stories for her, and I hope to write many more. It still freaks me out a little when I realize these funny stories have turned into very real books. I’m so grateful to Bronwyn and to all the adventures we’ve had together.


Ideas never die...they just get reincarnated

It took me nearly six years to sell my first book to Harlequin Superromance, which meant I had a lot of unsold manuscripts, beginnings of manuscripts, and scraps of story ideas lying around. I always thought that after I sold my first book, those unsold stories would be snapped up by my editor.
They weren’t.

Not because she read them and didn’t like them, but because I realized they were all deficient in some way—eighteen months later, I still haven’t fixed them up or submitted them. I did sell one of my previous stories, of which another editor at Superromance had already requested a full manuscript, but the rest are still languishing in the bottom drawer.

But I haven’t given up on those stories. They all had some good in them, and I want to use that. I’ve just reworked the synopsis of one of those stories to give it a more “Superromance” feel. If the editor likes it, it’ll mean a substantial rewrite of the book, but at least I’ll get to use all that fun dialogue and those emotional scenes that meant so much to me when I wrote them. Ultimately, I could do the same with all those stories—if I want to.

There’s another alternative, and that’s to take elements of those stories, and reuse them. Karina Bliss’ upcoming Mr. Irresistible (Superromance, Feb. 08), uses the hero from one of her earlier manuscripts. Like Karina, I have characters or starting hooks or individual scenes that I’d like to transplant from my older stories into new ones.

Then there are those scraps of ideas... I was talking to my Superromance editor about a story that would involve a cynical philanthropist who finds an abandoned baby and uses it as a media stunt. The heroine would be the vet who treated the hero’s dog, and didn’t think he was caring enough to look after either a dog or a baby.

My editor didn’t think a vet was the right character, and she’d just bought “a dog story”. So the dog disappeared, the vet became a pediatrician, and the resulting book, The Diaper Diaries, will be out from Superromance in March. Right after I abandoned the vet idea, my editor at Harlequin NASCAR invited me to write a novella for a Christmas anthology. My nimble mind (that’s a joke, my brain usually moves at the pace of semi-dry concrete), immediately thought about using the vet with a NASCAR driver. When my critique partner Tessa Radley (The Desert Bride of Al-Zayed, Silhouette Desire, out now), suggested the driver should run over the dog, thus involving the vet, and I knew the setup was perfect. The resulting novella, The Natural, is out now in the A NASCAR Holiday 2 anthology. Visit http://www.abbygaines.com/ to read an excerpt of The Natural, and see how an idea can transfer seamlessly from one story to another.

So my advice is to hang on to those ideas! You never know when they’ll come to your rescue....


Heroines Are People Too - Julia London

The DANGERS of DECEIVING A VISCOUNT, the third book in my Desperate Debutantes series, is about a twenty-two year-old woman in 1822. Her family’s funds have dwindled, she’s gotten herself into a predicament trying to keep up appearances, and ends up posing as a tradeswoman at the estate of a very handsome and virile viscount. Close quarters lead to a growing, mutual attraction and lots of lusty thoughts. My unmarried, virginal heroine is very tempted to give in to those lusty thoughts.

Who wouldn’t be tempted when presented with a handsome man in a mansion?

Historical romances, if they are true to the times and tone of early nineteenth century literature, usually include virginal heroines who are seduced, duped—or do the duping—into marriage. The typical happy-ever-after in an historical is when the heroine lands the handsome wealthy lord and all the attendant perks that go along with that. That’s why we love the books!

The heroines who succeed are clever, and they know how to give as good as they get. But they are conscious of their virtue at all times, for we have come to understand from nineteenth century literature that a woman who lost her virtue lost everything.

On the other hand, there are some lusty and interesting biographies of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century women—Georgianna; Caroline, Princess of Wales; the sisters of George IV, to name a few. These biographies tell another side of the historical heroine. Those documents suggest that women were human and were sometimes brought down by temptation. Adultery and pre-marital sex were not unheard of, and frankly, in some circles, while it was frowned upon, it seems like it was almost expected.

That got me to thinking—a twenty-one year old woman with no prospects and no beaus might view life a little differently than what we’ve come to believe. She might be sorely tempted when opportunity presents itself, because for all she knows, it might be her only opportunity. I’m not suggesting she would throw her virtue away…but I’m suggesting she might. She might at least consider it…especially if she’d assumed a different identity and knew no one would be the wiser. Especially if she’d fallen in love. And it helps knowing that if she gives into her desires, there are a lot of tricks that would make her at least appear to be a virgin if she should ever marry.

That is the romantic premise of THE DANGERS OF DECEIVING A VISCOUNT. My heroine is an unmarried woman who knows what society expects of her, but also knows what her adult body wants and needs. She is human. She is tempted. She’s in love. She weighs the consequences, but in the end, her heart rules, just as it does for every one.

This book was really interesting to write. I threw off all the characteristics I thought an historical heroine should have and built Phoebe from scratch. I hope you like the result.

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