Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Contemporaries Aren’t As Easy As You Think

This month, in celebration of my new release, I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of an interview of one of my favorite authors, I’m going to talk to you all about a something that’s been bothering me for a little while.

A few weeks ago, a friend who writes time travel romances, was discussing how difficult it is to write a believable way for one character to travel into another’s time. While I believe that probably does take an extra bit of finesse, the next words she said made me grit my teeth. It would be so much easier if I wrote contemporaries.

All I could think was, how are contemporaries easy?

Over the last several years the paranormal genre has exploded, taking over more and more of the market. Alongside it, newer genres have been created and expanded due to its success. Several years ago no one even knew what urban fantasy or steampunk was. While I love these genres, and have read some amazing stories in each sector, it appear the rise in paranormal fiction may have caused a few people to forget just how much work a contemporary novel is. So I thought I’d take this moment to articulate all the difficulties of contemporaries that seem to have been ignored during this new supernatural boom.

--Everything’s been done before. Since the contemporary genre has been around for so long, and many of the stories have already been told and retold, it’s much harder to come out with something unique in the contemporary genre. Not impossible, but it takes a lot more thought and research to get there. Certain storylines, such as the secret baby or forced into marriage, have been told so many times, most of the ground has been covered. To find some new land, to find a spot to plant your flag in those classic storylines, is very difficult. While I can quickly think of several ways a paranormal troupe has been reenvisioned to positive results (who knew vampire’s could sparkle), and new ground discovered.

--Takes more work to have out of the box thinking. While paranormal authors can change a few ingredients and you’ve got a whole new subgenre (think of all the different types of shifters out there, bear shifters, snakes shifters, wolf shifters, puma shifters, bird shifters, I even know of one book that was written about someone shifting into a Yorkshire terrier). Contemporary is not that easy to think outside the box. The basic principles need to stay the same, so there’s not as much room to play. There are some amazing authors, which even against all these challenges come up with some very original work, but it takes a lot of hard work to accomplish that feat.

--Not as much suspended disbelief. To some degree every novel takes a little bit suspended disbelief. If the situation in the novel weren’t a little out there, it wouldn’t be interesting enough to tell. But I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that contemporary readers felt that the characters feel in love too quickly, or they have trouble believing the heroine could win the lottery twice in one story. I don’t hear that very often around paranormal stories. Since there’s already such a need for suspended disbelief to accept the paranormal aspects of the story, rarely are authors questioned about how quickly their characters fall in love. After all, it’s natural to fall in love with your comrade when you’re chasing down evil zombies together. Contemporary authors have to be very careful about how far they push that disbelief and carefully construct their characters and interactions to make every aspect of their relationships as truthful as possible. While many paranormal authors do that as well, to great effects, making their created worlds all the more real to the reader, it appears that the contemporary author has to work harder at to keep the reader and story going against the weight of doubt.

--You have to work within a defined world. Unlike my paranormal sisters, I don’t get make the world up as I go. While that often makes my thought process and research minimal (I know the rules of the contemporary world very well, because I live in it) it can lead for many difficulties to get a new and complex story across. Take my most recent release, Midnight Mirage, which is my second novel in the Naughty Holiday List story. To create a way for two men and one woman to happily have a relationship in the modern world was difficult to comprehend and to justify to the readers. After all, how many times have you seen a happy ménage relationship in the real world. Maybe I’m sheltered, but I’ve never seen one myself. However in a paranormal setting such an unorthodox religion can be easily explained or justified by changing you’re world building. Anya Bast has made a career in this fashion, devising religions, biological or mystical reason for these connections. However it wasn’t anywhere near as easy for me. (Shameless plug—to see how I do create a loving ménage relationship, head over to http://www.bookstrand.com/midnight-mirage and buy Midnight Mirage, today is the last day of the preorder sale, discounting the value by 10%).

To be fair, I do realize there are many things that are more difficult about paranormals than contemporary. The world building is intense, the possibilities endless and the need to maintain some semblance of credibility and truth can be difficult. But each genre has its own difficulties and advantages, and I’m sick of my contemporaries being thrown under the bus as easy. No genre is easy. Writing is hard work.

I hope you all enjoyed my little knock at my paranormal rivals. This was all written in good fun. The truth is I have tremendous respect for anyone who writes a novel. Whether it’s paranormal, contemporary, nonfiction or science fiction, it takes extreme dedication, perseverance and drive to complete something as difficult as a novel (and that’s before we even get into submissions or rejections).

Furthermore I want to say, I love all the ladies on this site and they’re work. We have some amazing talent here. While we may write different genres we’re still fighting the same fights, battling the same demons and yet have found a way to foster and support each other. Thanks guys, for all your help and support, and encouraging me to be the best writer I can be.

Now here’s the blurb and a small snippet from my new release, Midnight Mirage, book two in the Naughty Holiday List series, available now for preorder and officially released tomorrow.


Lincoln and Gabe, best friends and the hottest new alt-rock duo Mirage, only want one thing. Mallory. They’ve been waiting a year for Mallory to open her heart to both of them and accept the alternative relationship they wish for.

Mallory’s flattered by their attentions but can’t believe they’re any more than sweet words. They’re rock stars, surrounded by beautiful woman. They can’t possibly want a plain-Jane reporter like her.

When a crazed fan forces their hand, their protective instincts take over. Gabe and Lincoln aren’t willing to wait for their woman any longer. They initiate her with intense pleasure, ringing in the New Year in the naughtiest way possible. But when they whisper words of love and forever in her ear, she runs away.

Will Mallory be able to open her heart and return their affection, or will insecurity keep her from the men who love her?

Buy Link: http://bookstrand.com/midnight-mirage


“Is tonight the night?”

His best friend’s voice invaded his thoughts, distracting Lincoln from the round hips and long black hair of the woman bouncing in front of them. Her body swayed as she made her way through the crowd toward the backstage area where they stood.

“I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on, mate,” Gabe continued, unbidden, as always. “My bollocks are turning blue waiting for you.”

Lincoln cast his eyes to the side, catching a glimpse of his best friend in the semidarkness. From Gabe’s firm stance, his focused eyes, and the bulge in his pants, he was just as interested and desperate as Lincoln was.

Lincoln turned away from his friend, staring back to where the woman bounced to the music. It would be much better if she were dancing to their music, instead of the Mötley Crüe wannabes onstage, but her passion and interest were intoxicating regardless of the drivel ringing through the air.

“God, she’s gorgeous,” Gabe smirked as his eyes scanned her temptress form. “How can you stand waiting?”

Gorgeous didn’t even start to describe her. She was beautiful, sexy, vulnerable. She wore tight dark jeans that molded to her ass, a golden corset spread across her chest, pressing her breasts high, ready to greet him like the New Year. In the past year they’d known Mallory, they’d learned a lot about her. They both knew her looks were only the beginning of her beauty.

And Lincoln wasn’t doing any better at waiting than his friend was. He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from telling her exactly what he wanted to do to her. And he’d gotten in the habit of fisting his hands at his sides any time Mallory was near, just to stop himself from reaching for her, or accidentally touching her, which he knew he wouldn’t be able to stop once he started.


Tina Donahue said...

I am so with you, Willa. Every novel, if done correctly, is difficult to write. I've been pubbed in contemporary, historial, romantic comedy, and now paranormal. None of them were easy to write. They all had unique difficulties.

Your new book sounds awesome - here's to a ton of sales! :)

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I love contemporaries and contemporary romance-suspense. Publishers say they're looking for a good contemporary but so far I see them staying on the paranormal bandwagon.

Really, I love nothing more than a well-written contemp!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Hey there Willa. I may be the time traveling author who made you grit your teeth. LOL
I have written one contemporary though--just so ya know.
I agree that, if you care about your skills as a writer, all books are difficult to execute. Plot and character development are of the utmost importance. If readers don't care about the characters or the plot is weak or uninteresting, the readers won't care if it's contemporary or historical--they just won't care. But put in some characters with depth and something to lose and put them against impossible obstacles, you'll have a great story whether contemporary or historical.
I wish you all the best, Willa, and sorry if I made you grit your teeth.

Fiona McGier said...

I write contemporary erotic romance. Contemporary because sex without birth control is problematic and scary. Erotic because love involves sex, and to me books without sex are boring. And romance because how two people find each other and realize they belong together is such a wondrous adventure that I never get tired of telling the stories, or reading them either.

Great post, and you go girl!

Willa Edwards said...

Thanks Tina. You're always such a great supporter of every author.

Julia I completely agree with you. I've heard editors say their looking for good contemporaries, and that contemporaries are over half the romance market but when I look at the new releases each month I almost always see lots of paranormals. That's not to say I don't like paranormals and fantasies to, but I don't want us to loss the craft of the contemporary story.

Sarah, you are the author I mentioned but I say it all with love. You know what a big fan of yours I am. Besides you just sparked the idea, but there we many on the bandwagon before you. And I completely agree without characters we want to route for and conflicts that pull at those characters and make them face their demons, it doesn't matter if they have fangs, horns, fur or computer science degree, readers simply won't care.

Very well put Fiona, I should write that down for the next time some asks me why I write erotic romance. That's my least favorite question of all the writing related questions I get. Right in front of, you write porn? And is Fabio on the cover of your book? Thanks for stopping by Fiona.

Janice Seagraves said...

I agree with you, writing a Contemporary is a challenge. My first book is a contemporary erotic romance. It was hard for me not to turn it into a paranormal. I almost made the hero a merman. But I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could write contemporary.


Willa Edwards said...

I agree, sometimes trying to tell a certain story in a contemporary setting is difficult. I had a similiar situation with midnight mirage, but I came to the thinking from the otherside. The contemporary aspect of the story was immovable (its part of a series) but I thought a menage would be a good challenge. In contemporary society, with contemporary morays, a menage is hard to justify. The only way I could think to do it was by using rockstars. Who else would be in such a outragious relationship and we'd accept it.

I'm glad you tried to challenge yourself Janice. The result speak for themselves. And thanks for stopping by, I so appreciate your support.

Janice Seagraves said...

Aw, you make me blush.

Good luck with your release. I wish you many sales.


Delaney Diamond said...

I'm coming late to the party, but I wanted to let you know this was a well-written post that touched on a lot of truths.

When I write a contemporary, I always try to think of a way to make it different so that it doesn't sound like the same ole-same ole. As you pointed out, there are challenges in writing all genres.

Roz Lee said...

Amen! Thanks for speaking up for the contemporary genre. I've been known to push the envelope, but when you're dealing with the physical restrictions of our world, there is only so much your characters can do! It's tempting to give them super powers, but to remain in the genre, that's not possible.
As for falling in love too fast - we've all heard of couples who say they fell in love at first sight, so why is it so hard to believe when we read a similar fictitious story? I don't get it. I don't think falling in love has a specific timeline - it depends on the people involved.
As for non-traditional relationships...they're out there. Society isn't very accepting, so most are kept well hidden.
Thanks again for speaking up!
Roz Lee