My Author Philosophy for Writing Romance Novels
Twenty years ago, if you’d asked any of my friends if I would ever write romance novels (let alone have a philosophy for writing romance), they’d have laughed you out of the room. Honestly, most of them were shocked when I got my first contract job writing catalogs for a big outdoor company.
I was usually the only woman in groups of men whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, and skiing. I’d lived in a tent and a car and a pickup truck. I was probably best known for being competent in the outdoors and fairly bawdy. A real guy’s girl.
Hell, if you’d asked me back then, I would’ve laughed, too. In fact, I did laugh when my husband first suggested it back in 2011 or 2012. It took me until almost 2015 to decide it was a good idea myself. Then a few more years figuring out how to write good romantic fiction before I published my first novella.
Since I’d already spent decades writing marketing copy and magazine articles, I had a well-developed, unique voice. What took a while was figuring out what I wanted to say, and how best to say it.
Slowly, I developed my personal philosophy writing romance, and what my books should be and do.
- I’d set them in the outdoors. Why? Because it’s my favorite place to be and to read about. If I’m going to spend hours and hours writing about something I want it to be something I enjoy. I also hopwt to inspire people to value nature and wild places. And because putting people in difficult situations in the wild tends to bring out who they really are at their best and worst, it’s ripe for you in a romance novel.
- I’d write smart, independent, badass heroines. And I’d make them as good or better at their outdoor sports, and/or have them rescue the hero. Why? Because I want to see more women like me and my girlfriends finding love and adventure in the great outdoors. And because I believe woman are capable of all that and so much more, and we should be celebrated and loved for it.
- I’d write cinnamon rolls not Alpha-holes. Why? Because I love a hero who’s in touch with his emotions. One who isn’t afraid to set his ego aside. And one who thinks a strong, smart, independent woman is sexy as hell and deserving of love, respect, support, and great sex.
- I’d show people ending up in healthy, functional relationships with good communication. Why? Because too often the relationships the media glorifies are ones where it’s hard to believe the partners actually even like each other, and/or ones where the woman falls into a maternal or subservient role. I’ll always write flawed characters, and they’ll have to work hard and make changes to have healthy relationships, but in the end it will be worth it.
- I’d describe amazing sex in graphic detail. Why? Because our bodies are beautiful, and sex is natural and healthy. It’s also a part of most modern relationships. It’s not gross or dirty and women who enjoy sex aren’t sluts or somehow less worthy of respect any more than a man who enjoys sex and gets laid often. Besides, if I’m trying to give you all the feels, I can’t skip horny. 😊
- I’d show more women who are childless by choice. Why? Because I’m childless by choice and I get tired of all the various baby-related tropes in romance. Having children is not the only thing women should be valued for. Which is why I’ll also show abortion in my books in a positive light. Not that every childless woman has had an abortion, but both are valid choices.
- I’d write stories that hopefully inspire more women to play in the outdoors. When I got my first job as a whitewater raft guide, I was one of less than twenty women out of around 500 guides on that river. These days, the percentages have changed a lot, but I’d still like to see more women out there who are competent and confident and treated as equals. The best way to do that is by showing more examples of exactly that.
The bottom line is, I write the romance novels I want to read.
I do my best to write stories that are layered and have real heart and a sense of humor. Stories that show people. Stories that have an undercurrent of feminism, environmentalism, and anti-late-stage capitalism but don’t beat you over the head with it. And stories that show people making choices that are outside the norm and figuring out how to live the life of their dreams—or something even better than they ever imagined possible.