Today we have the lovely Liv Rancourt here to talk about contemporary romance! She’s been ’round these parts before to discuss the Southern Vampire Mysteries and steampunk (though not at the same time), so I’m always glad to have her back!
Hello, Liv, and welcome back! You’re a familiar face around these parts, but I think we’ll talk about contemporary romance instead of sexy vampires this time.
Thanks so much, Kristin. It’s great to be back, especially because your topic – writing – is something I love so much.
Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I was always a great reader and love telling stories, and writing down my own stories has been part of a natural progression. I write romance because of the happy endings. If I want messy, complicated drama, I’ll go work at my day job as a nurse practitioner. I also enjoy a good joke, so while my stuff isn’t slapstick romantic comedy, I do try to keep it light. I’d love to be Janet Evanovich when I grow up, you know?
Me, too! She was a big influence on the voice of Mitzy Morgan, one of my protagonists!
What made you decide to write contemporary romance?
Last year I wrote a couple short stories that (gasp!) didn’t involve vampires in any way, and found I had fun trying to work out how people love in the real world. Now I’m easing my way into contemporary novellas and novels. For me, the biggest challenge in contemporary romance is coming up with interesting conflict. I mean, you drop in a vampire, and there’s an automatic life-or-death factor. I find it harder to make the risks compelling when neither of the main characters is a potentially murderous entity and the Big Bad is a cranky boss, not an Evil Genius Who’s Trying To Take Over The World. Challenge is a good thing, though, so I’m sticking with it.
What types of stories does contemporary romance make possible?
By definition, contemporary romance stories are set after 1945. There are a number of standard tropes (friends become lovers; enemies turn into lovers; a couple gets reunited after a long separation; a marriage of necessity becomes something more) that all pose the same basic questions. Are both the heroine and the hero willing to risk opening themselves up to pain by falling in love? And when they do fall in love, do they have what it takes to keep it going, and what are they willing to do to make it work? The fun is in how you dress those ideas up. You can tweak the plot in all kinds of different ways, as long as you get at the heart of it, which is the relationship between the hero and heroine.
What audience do you think contemporary romance attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?
Hard question, and one I should have a better answer for. In general, romance is growing faster than any other genre in publishing, and contemporary romance is the biggest subgenre of romance. Romance readers come from all across society, and there are enough sub-subgenres in contemporary romance (gazillionaires and the women who love them, hospital/medical stories, vacation love that turns into more) that there’s pretty much something for everyone.
Given that background, I think it’s important to write what you love, because readers can tell if you’re just phoning it in. There are some basic requirements for the genre, like the ending MUST involve a happily-ever-after or happily-for-now, the love story MUST be the main storyline, and the hero CANNOT mix it up with any other woman except the heroine. There’s a safety factor at work here. If a reader chooses a novel with a half-naked guy with six-pack abs on the cover, they have certain expectations. If you vary too far from the standard framework you’ll hear about it (or you won’t because you won’t get published). But there’s a lot of room to color within the lines, and a huge audience for your work.
How does romance affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?
The romance is the heart of the story, and while the stakes might not be life-or-death, like in paranormal or urban fantasy, it should feel that way for the characters. They have to be completely invested in the relationship in order for readers to be invested in them. This isn’t a place to explore the grey areas (thank you, Emmie Mears).
Why do you think people love to read romance? How do you think the genre affects its audience?
I think the majority of people who read romance do so because it’s fun. They’re not looking to dive into the existential vortex that we all know is there – that’s for black-clad twentysomethings with literary pretentions. They like knowing there’ll be a happy ending, they like living vicariously through a heroine who gets to do stuff they never would, and quite a few of them also like the naughty bits. I’m just sayin’…
For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?
Hmm…does she practice what she preaches? Yes! I read urban fantasy, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and some erotic romance (don’t tell my mother). I also love mysteries, and hope someday to have the chops to write one. It’s a good thing you didn’t ask for a list of my favorite authors, because I could probably fill the whole page with it.
How can readers track you down?
I can be found on-line at my website & blog (www.livrancourt.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt), or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LivRancourt).
Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you, Kristin. It’s always fun to be here…