Monday, April 14, 2008

The Bride Can't Cook

So, have I mentioned that I write? I do. Romance novels, mostly. I’ve titled this blog after my most recently completed manuscript, “Mistaken By Moonlight” since that’s the one that’s been getting all the attention lately. I’ve posted a blurb over there on the right side—check it out.

You’ll notice it’s set in Regency-era England. It is, and that’s my fave time period to read about. Obviously I enjoy writing about it, too.

But I’m not stuck in the past. I have also written a couple manuscripts with contemporary settings. Today I’m blogging about one of them, “The Bride Can’t Cook.”

This is the story of Marti and East, former Best-Friends-With-Benefits who must overcome Marti’s unfortunate knack for kitchen disasters to win a state-wide cook-off and save her Granny’s Diner.

Mixed in are plotlines involving Marti’s passion as an Environmental Biologist, Granny’s geriatric meddling, a married couple with a pyro-maniacal little boy, and our hero’s fried chicken phobia that would make even Colonel Sanders shudder. It’s a recipe for ruin but through it all Marti and East cook up a happy ending.

I had a lot of fun writing it. I’d spent a year writing two other historical romances that really weren’t all that great. An insightful critique partner said, “You’ve got a modern voice. You ought to try contemporary.” So I did. “The Bride Can’t Cook” was my second attempt at that. I learned some surprising things!

First off, when you’ve been writing stiff, historical language and plotlines that can involve no electricity or mass communication, the switch to modern language and familiar appliances is very freeing. Wow, I could be wittier and cleverer in my own native tongue! And it was sooo much easier to get into my character’s heads, since now I lived in the same would they did. I had a blast being back in my own lifetime and wrote two Single Title manuscripts back to back, “Thanks for the Mammaries” and then “The Bride Can’t Cook”.

But I also learned something unexpected. I thought there’d be less research writing contemporary. Heck I already know how we speak and what sort of clothes we wear. What is there to research? Ah, I learned. Writing these Contemporaries I was bound by reality. Ugh. I’ve tried so hard to avoid reality for much of my life, but now I was trying to profit from it? Not as easy as it sounds.

In both manuscripts, my heroines chose a career I was unfamiliar with so I had to hit the library and the internet, studying up to at least fake it believably. It dawned on me that what I wrote about with these Contemporaries was much more relevant to a wider range of readers. I’d really have to be accurate on the details since EVERYONE knows about modern day life, while those who might find the odd anachronism in my historicals are fewer. At least, I hope they are.

After “The Bride Can’t Cook” I returned to my first love and crafted another Regency-set Historical. It was nice to be back in that fantasy world. Sure, I had to re-learn the dialog cadence and re-remember if an Earl outranks a Marquise (he doesn’t, by the way), but it wasn’t that much of stretch.

Jumping back and forth between eras, I’ve learned one thing; people are people. The same emotions and fears that motivate my 19th century characters will just as easily motivate my modern ones. That much requires no research. In all my writing I try to convey the universal longings we all feel, the hopes and fears—and passions—that are common to everyman. Really, the only research it takes for that is living.

I’ve never been seduced by a Regency lord, but I have fallen in love in the moonlight. I’ve never been an Environmental Biologist, but I have been a bride. And I couldn’t cook, either. Some things are universal and timeless. Love and laughing are top of the list.


Ellen said...

Your new titles sound interesting. They remind me of the plays you used to write back in Louisville- modern and witty. You were so successful with those. I'm sure you will be equally adept at writing stories/novels in this style!


Susan Gee Heino said...

Thanks, Ellen. I live in terror of being dull! Some days I miss the theatre, but then I remember how much I enjoy sleeping and I'm happy to be in this genre now.