My latest book, Falling Like a Rock, thrusts the heroine, hero, even the entire small town of Falling Rock into danger from a Colorado wildfire. But now I wonder if I should have placed them into the situation. From my quick overview of romances ranging from series sweet to mainstream women’s, many novels appear to rely too heavily on the stereotypical approach. A couple meets, has a few misunderstandings, then fall into each other’s arms. Life’s not that easy.
Are romance readers inclined to avoid depressing reality, or can they appreciate how good times become even better when characters live through hard knocks? Just like real life, without the comparison of health to illness, wealth to poverty, and love to antagonism, surely readers gain more from their reading experience if stories reflect some glimpse of real life.
I spent years writing and publishing nonfiction, and I got fairly skilled at it. I also spent years writing fiction, most of it not published, but I learned as I went along. The process for fiction writing is simultaneously more challenging and more fulfilling. For me, it depends heavily on intuition and serendipity, along with incorporating incidentals from life into stories. Whether these incidentals happened to me or are the topics of headlines, they provide nuggets I hope make my fiction more true to life.
For example, years ago I broke my ankle big time. This was such a major occurrence that the impressions and feelings proved indelible. In my current novel, Falling Like a Rock, I needed a scene to expose the heroine as vulnerable, as well as show the hero’s sensitivity and growing attraction. Out of the dim recesses of my memory crept my broken ankle. I didn’t plot the incident into my manuscript from the beginning, but it served the purpose as the plot developed. Kudos to my unconscious!
Although I love small towns, and Falling is set in one, another stereotype I frequently see is an idealization of small town life. Truth be told, only 20% of Americans live in rural areas or small towns, and many of their residents are battling to escape their low employment rates and sometimes rigid views of life. Why set so many novels in them?
The stereotype that irks me the most is the tendency to isolate characters within a group sharing a particular background. Get with it, I want to spout. Most Americans have friends and colleagues of all different ethnicities, as well as associates who have various disabilities. (Really, aren’t we all disabled in some fashion?) While I don’t believe in beating a drum or raising a fuss, I make it a point to include diverse characters in my work. The more everyday fiction features mixtures of people, the more we’ll see similarities among all humans as normal in our daily existences.
My blog, “ordinary people, extraordinary lives,” articulates the same approach as my fiction. None of us needs to be flamboyant or rich or aggressive, on television or splashed over the Internet, shrieking foul language or parading in flashy clothes, or even simply annoying, in order to be interesting. Many of us have fascinating, productive existences, packed with creativity and good will, and are thrilled with the pageantry of life. We’re curious. We’re thoughtful. We’re generous.
Does that attitude grab your attention? What do you think?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bonnie McCune credits tenacity for the successes in her life. Since fifth grade, she’s been determined to be a writer. Thousands of rejections along with some acceptances taught her the craft, and after decades, she decided to follow her passion, fiction writing. Her recent novels are proof of her persistence.
Her interest in writing led to her career in nonprofits focusing on public and community relations and marketing. She has worked for libraries, directed a small arts organization, and managed Denver’s beautification program. Her civic involvement includes grass-roots organizations, political campaigns, writers’ and arts’ groups, and children’s literacy.
Simultaneously, Bonnie’s been a freelance writer with publications in local, regional, and specialty publications for news and features. A secret love—live theater, and had she been seven inches taller and 30 pounds lighter, she might have been an actress. For years, she entered recipe contests and was once a finalist in the Pillsbury Cook Off.
For reasons unknown (an unacknowledged optimism?), she believes that one person can make a difference in this world. McCune lives in Colorado with a regular assortment of relatives. Her entire family is “book mad.” Her books include Fallling Like a Rock (2014), Heart-Strong (2013), Irish Episode (2012), and A Saint Comes Stumbling In (2012), all of which have received rave reviews. She’s collected awards for her short fiction. For more information and her blog, see her website at www.BonnieMcCune.com, facebook.authorbonniemccune, www.twitter.com/BonnieMcCune
BLURB FOR ‘FALLING LIKE A ROCK”:
Unloved and unemployed. That’s Elaine Svoboda, after she’s sacked, then flees across country to her boyfriend who drops her flat. Teetering on the abyss of disaster, she calls an old friend who invites her to a tiny mountain town with fresh prospects. There she meets rugged, hunky Joe Richter-Leon, mayor of Falling Rock.
Maybe he can help her find a job. Maybe they can become friends, even share romance. Sparks fly immediately, but major obstacles make a new life on the ashes of the old appear impossible. Joe’s consumed with challenges like the dismal local economy and an impetuous sister. Elaine butts heads with him at every turn in the rocky road. Are her bungling attempts to help the problem? Or does she remind him of a greedy, selfish ex-wife?
Before they can build a new life on the ashes of the old, she must overcome a few obstacles like a broken ankle, an eating disturbance, his stubbornness, and her own fears. She’s smothering her hopes when a battle with a forest inferno illuminates their true feelings and desire.
Funny and frank, poignant and perceptive, when two people are “Falling Like a Rock,” they learn surrender sometimes means victory.
Barnes & Noble paperback http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/falling-like-a-rock-bonnie-mccune/1119907983?ean=9781500386474