Monday, January 7, 2013

2013: A Heartwarming Year!

Congratulations on the launch of this new site, and happy New Year! Each editor on the Heartwarming team at Harlequin is going to pop by on Mondays this month to introduce herself, and as senior editor I get to go first, yay. (For new writers interested in knowing more about our books, please feel free to check out the writer’s guidelines at www.harlequin.com.)

I’m so glad there’s a place where Harlequin Heartwarming authors, aspiring authors and readers (not to mention the occasional editor!) can share their love of good stories, and some of their personal experiences in reading, writing and publishing romances. I plan to drop in now and then and, despite being a bonafide crazy cat lady, I’ll try not to turn this into a forum for cute cat anecdotes….

….Although, having said that—knowing our authors’ love of animals—I suspect more than one beloved pet (probably a horse) makes a poignant appearance in this month’s lineup: For the Girls’ Sake by Janice Kay Johnson, New Year’s Baby by Jodi O’Donnell, Alex’s Choice by Carol Steward and A Place to Call Home by Cynthia Reese. Okay, no more about animals. For now.

It’s hard to believe I’m almost at my first-year anniversary as senior editor of this wholesome feel-good line, and what a year it’s been! Our team of editors—still working hard on refresh edits—began acquiring and editing new material from scratch for the launch of Heartwarming originals in July 2013, as you all probably know (thanks for your pitches!). And we can’t forget the two lead-off books we’re premiering in June 2013, Marie Ferrarella’s Innkeeper's Daughter and Ingrid Weaver’s Winning Amelia. At least, we can’t forget them in the Toronto Harlequin office because we’re already neck-deep in editing them and developing the cover copy and images! You can’t help but get excited when you’re faced with the reality of immediate deadlines…even if the books don’t hit the shelves for another five months.

We like to say that Heartwarming stories are emotional, satisfying romances that readers can feel comfortable sharing with their daughters or granddaughters. I look forward to working with established and new authors to figure out when attraction tips too far away from emotional and too far toward the physical, and also to identify (and steer clear of) profanity that in a million years you might never have guessed was profane!

Above all, I look forward to helping Heartwarming writers communicate the stories they want to tell as effectively as possible. At 70- to 75,000 words, these are wonderful “hearty” romances, and I know we’re going to have a lot of fun telling them!

It’s my wish that writers don’t feel intimidated by the PG rating of our books, but that the guidelines free them to dig deeper into character motivations and possibly secondary romances and other storylines to tell an emotionally richer romance. I put it to you writers: Do you see the no-sex romance as a challenge or an opportunity? Let me know!

Best,
Victoria

17 comments:

  1. Victoria, Waving to you from a chilly Monday in Tucson. I'm happy to see that all of the editors will post on this site once in a while. After all, aspiring writers would far rather get information from editors than from other writers. Regarding your question--as a writer who has struggled to put at least one sex scene in my other books--scenes that aren't overt but tuck into my stories, I have to admit I found it a challenge to craft a love story while leaving out that aspect. But I have long-time readers who search for books they call light romance when they write to me, and I know they'll love this line. Roz

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  2. Hi, Roz--waving back at you! It's a beautiful day in Toronto. The sun is out and there's just a little covering of snow on the ground but the roads are clear. Lovely.

    It's interesting, the idea of "light" vs. "heavy" romance... I think of Heartwarming as being similar to Superromance as far as deep, complex storytelling goes, but the word "light" or the word "sweet", which oftens gets used to describe a romance without sex, can be confusing. I've had submissions that were more on the fluffy story side, but that's not really what we're looking for. In fact, in a bigger book without the sexuality, writers have to dig even deeper into a hero and heroine's relationship, not sweeter as in fluffier or lighter, you know? Words! They can mean so many different things. Don't you love being in the word business?

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  3. Hi Victoria. So far the books I've had published do not have sex scenes. I've never had a problem doing without. There is attraction and tension between the hero and heroine, for sure, but I've never felt I had to take the relationship further. I enjoy drawing on the deep emotion between the characters and find that readers enjoy this. Readers have different tastes and I've been able to fill the niche for those who prefer books without sex scenes. As writers, we are always stretching and growing in our craft, so the Heartwarming line is a perfect place to do just that. I hope readers love the books as much as we enjoy writing them.

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  4. Hi, Tara! Nice to see you here and very glad to have your story in our lineup. Tension--that's the word. Romance light, okay, but high romantic tension and stakes. That's what we're looking for. What do the hero and heroine want more than life itself? How does falling in love put them at risk of losing or having to give up that thing they want so badly. If the story has that deeply personal situation at the heart, you'll have a lovely, deep romance a reader can't put down.

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  5. For me it's easier to write a no-sex scene than to write a story without saying the D-word or possible the S-word.
    The last story I wrote had no sex - it's not like I intended to write it that way - but it fit the characters. Unfortunately, not having one swear word is problematic because it seems it's the natural way of speaking nowadays.

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  6. I did a booksigning once where I sat next to a writer who wrote very sensual books. We got in the grove of telling the people who passed our booth, "She (Pam) writes snap and crackle and I (other author) write the pop."

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  7. Hi Victoria :) Great post! Personally, I love a romance that comes straight from the heart. It has a purity to it that is simply beautiful. While the physical aspect of a loving relationship is important, it is a meeting of minds and hearts that forms the ultimate attraction. Heartwarming is such a deeply romantic line for that reason because it is our main focus. Our line reminds me of one of my all time favorite books, Catherine Marshall's Christy. It has stayed with me all of my life for the couple's true love and devotion. I've never read a more intimate romance and I don't believe they exchanged a kiss until the end of the story(see also- Jane Austin's Pride and Prejuice :)

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  8. Hi, Marcie, Pamela and Karen! Whew, just got off the phone after an hour and a half of revision notes with an author. My mind's racing--you guys must all feel that way after a particularly fruitful brainstorming session. (I wonder how many of you have critique partners, formal or informal, to bounce ideas off...)

    I will never forget one scene Superromance author Ellen Hartman wrote that put her hero, in a tux, on the dance floor with the heroine at a wedding. It was just so emotional and intense and romantic without any of the naughty bits! Love it when writers weave their magic.

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  9. Hi Victoria! I'm so glad to see you here! You can add me to the list of people who are happy to have some no sex books coming up. I'm starting to feel gypped for all the books I buy and have to skip so many pages!

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  10. Danica,
    yeah! you're here.

    Victoria, now I'll need to google Ellen Hartman and find the book.

    Years ago I read a historical where the hero pulled the heroine into the alleyway between two businesses and soundly kissed her. I remember sighing and immediately going back and rereading about three pages.

    All it was was a kiss.

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  11. Pamela - It's 'His Secret Past'. LOVED that book.

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  12. Danica! Lovely to see you out of the Harlequin realm. About time you submitted some story ideas to Heartwarming...!

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  13. Hi, Victoria! How nice to see your face after just hearing your voice - with that accent we Americans all wish we had. Now that everyone knows how old I am - I'll shock, or at least startle - by telling you how much I enjoyed writing sex scenes for American and Superromance. While it's certainly true that deep love can be expressed without those scenes, I think they create a level of connection between hero and heroine that's hard to portray any other way - done well, of course. But, then, I've had readers tell me they skip over those parts. Apparently, we all feel differently and want different things to read.

    I loved writing my first Heartwarming, but was always pulling myself back from giving hero and heroine sexual thoughts and feelings. I'll try hard to learn to be better at our guidelines. You explain so clearly what you want.

    Have to share parts of a letter I once received from a woman in a nursing home. "We love your books," the woman said. "I highlight the good parts (she underlined good, and I took that to mean sex scenes), give them to my aide, and she passes them around to the other ladies in my book club. Keep writing."

    Proof that love and romance and those naughty feelings never die.

    Muriel

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  14. Thanks, Marcie, that's the one: His Secret Past.

    Karen, Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite stories. Period romances like that have such high stakes built into them because of the strict social mores of the day. It seems to me (just an editor, not a writer), that authors who write contemporary romances have to work that much harder to create the same kind of high stakes for their heroes and heroines. Am I crazy?

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  15. Hey, Muriel, happy New Year! I am so anxious to read your book...it's sitting on my kitchen table at home. There are simply too many deadlines between me and it at the moment. I expect to have the pleasure, though, very soon. And I trust you didn't feel your Heartwarming story lacked anything without the naughty bits? (I hope the nursing home ladies don't feel cheated, either.)

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  16. Hi, Victoria. No, I didn't feel my Heartwarming story lacked anything because I tried to plot with that in mind - just had a little trouble dealing with myself! The ignition of attraction is definitely sexy - anxious to see how all my fellow authors in the line deal with it. I've got to buy some books!

    I can only imagine the pressure you're under - am plotting new stuff, so have all the patience in the world.

    Happy 2013!

    Muriel

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  17. Thanks for stopping by, Victoria! I look forward to what you and the editors have to share with us.

    I decided that Heartwarming was the fit for me because I struggle with writing sex scenes. I always think of my grandma reading what I write and tend to shy away from it (though she admitted that she occasionally enjoyed reading a sex scene LOL). I don't mind sensuality, and I think Victoria is right: sometimes the tensest and sexiest scene takes place in a crowd of people. And dancing is a perfect example of that (just another reason why I watch "Dancing with the Stars" LOL).

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