Another year, another RWA. It’s always so much work, but also so much fun and packed with challenges and accomplishments and brilliant women (writers and agents) sharing great ideas. Inevitably I come back refreshed and ready to figure stuff out. Best time to catch me: post-RWA. Until the tsunami of deadlines and workload sucks me back under. I warn you, though, that window of opportunity is very short! I already feel the tide pulling at my calves.
While I was in one of the Marriott’s ballrooms to help mentor HW editors Claire and Dana through their inaugural editor pitches, I realized that our executive editor, who had to pull out of the RWA last minute (she’s fine, no worries!), had overlooked telling the pitch organizers. So I took some of her pitches, and a couple were actually better directed at me than my boss, which was a lovely surprise. It helped me see, though, that we’re in the middle of a trend in storytelling at Heartwarming AND at Superromance. Everybody, unpublished and published, equates our heroines’ journey toward love and family and community with small towns, the return to hometown and ailing parents and/or grandparents…with lots of home renovating and cupcake baking for good measure!
The home renovation/cupcake baking trend is something we’ve been growing aware of over the past few months, but the return to hometown to care for an ailing elder really struck me just before RWA when I was approving two sets of back covers in one sit-down: four Heartwarming books and four Superromances. I think three or four of the eight books had a hero or heroine returning to care for somebody.
I am of two minds on trends. Clearly, these storylines work for our series or they wouldn’t be trending. But, how do you make the story fresh and unique within the trend? If you can do it, by all means, go for it! Otherwise, maybe readers would like to read more diverse stories with more high-stakes drama than a home renovation? (I’m generalizing here, lots of writers accomplish incredible drama in the domestic setting!)
I was chatting with one author who made the move from Superromance to Blaze fairly recently and asked her how that went. She said her new editor suggested “more sex, less renovation”. I had to laugh. Of course, at Heartwarming, that would be “more relationship mess/emotion/stakes, less renovation”.
Anyway, what is it that you, as romance readers and authors, like to read? Is the cupcake baker and home renovator truly the story that speaks to you? Or are you more apt to reach for a romance if the hero is an undercover FBI agent and the heroine the smalltown physician? Or maybe she’s a firefighter and he works in animal rescue… The world is our story oyster! What stories make you sit up and go, “Yes, please”?
PS: Congratulations to our four August authors, Melinda Curtis, Roz Denny Fox, Shirley Hailstock and Syndi Powell. You guys each bring something unique to Heartwarming storytelling, and we couldn’t be happier to have you!
On a personal note, Shirley, it was such a pleasure to get to know you a tiny bit at RWA, when we sat beside each other at the Heartwarming pub crawl. I can’t hear very well, so I was straining, but you are such an articulate, thoughtful person—glad you’re on our team!
And Roz and Syndi, next year: RWA in San Diego, promise???
Finally, Melinda, you are the author I rely on to keep me honest AND keep me hopping. I don’t know what we’d do here without you, Ms. “Don’t tell me I can’t write an amnesiac twin story”! Enjoy your summer while you can, everybody.