Romancing the Reader

This month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re talking about romance. I’m a romantic at heart, I love the happy sigh when my couple get together. I love the tension and the payoff. I’d probably see a romance in a book even if there wasn’t one.

But, I think there’s a special romance in reading and that’s between the book/author and the reader.

I’ve felt it myself, for the Harry Potter series for example. I have pop figures and a wand and socks and more because that world holds a romance for me that I’ll never lose. I’ve read criticisms of the books, even agreed with some but it doesn’t change the romance for me.

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As a reader and writer it makes me wonder what it is that creates the romance.

First there is the courting. The reader needs to be wooed and for that there needs to be an initial attraction. The cover and title help with this. Who hasn’t fallen for a beautiful cover? Then there’s the author themselves. Thanks to the internet a reader can feel they know something about the author, through their social media and also other books they might have read. There’s word of mouth and advertising too.

That’s all well and good to get you on the book date but what keeps you there and gives the reader that love affair with a book?

I think it’s different for everyone but for me it’s a little like a relationship with another human. Keeping me entertained, following through on promises and mixing things up enough I don’t get bored.

Anyone had a great book romance recently?

(you’ll know cos you’ve gushed to your friends and stared lovingly at it more than necessary)

 

 

🙂

Beck

beck nicholas_ bec sampson

I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

Four Times I Got on the Wrong Ship (aka Unlucky in Love Triangles)

Featured image source: Shutterstock

Ship noun (in fanfic) 1. a relationship.
— verb (t) (shipped, shipping
2. to create a relationship between two characters in a work of fiction, as in the genre fanfic.
[shortened form of relationship]

— Macquarie Dictionary

Love triangles* are one of the biggest tropes in modern YA and in speculative fiction more broadly, usually of the two-guys-one-girl variety.

(The geometry nerd in me has to point out that it usually isn’t a triangle but two lines with one connecting point. Gale never snogged Peeta in The Hunger Games … though it’d be the work of a few seconds to turn up a fanfic where he did. Anyway, moving on…)

For a writer, they are loads of fun and a great source of romantic and dramatic tension. For a reader, love triangles can be the ultimate in wish fulfilment. But I have another game that I play when I read books with a love triangle, which is “pick my favourite love interest and watch them lose”. If love triangles are a race between the (usually) two guys for the (usually) one girl, don’t back my bet, people. I almost always get on the wrong ship. Part of that is because I tend to go for the best friend character, the boy next door, rather than the brooding and enigmatic one, and in urban fantasy (my favourite genre) Mr Enigma always wins. 

Four times I got on the wrong ship

Katniss, Peeta and Gale (The Hunger Games) — I was pro-Gale in the beginning, though I did have a soft spot for Peeta (as the boy next door) as well. It just seemed obvious to me that Katniss was hung up on Gale from the start. Of course, then she got broken and he couldn’t deal. By halfway through the third book I had changed ships, but for the first two? I got it totally wrong. 

Hermione, Ron and Harry (Harry Potter) — It’s been a while since I read the books, but I don’t remember JK Rowling inserting much in the way of a love triangle into them. It was more that I was on the Harry ship from the start, and I could never quite deal with the whole Ron thing. Sorry, Ron. 

Clary, Jace and Simon (The Mortal Instruments) — This was a textbook case of me liking the nerdy, normal best friend over the brooding and arrogant Mr Enigma. Given the allegations that Simon is based off Harry from Cassandra Clare’s fanfic-writing days (and Jace is Draco), that shouldn’t be a surprise. At least I’m consistent!

Alyssa, Jeb and Morpheus (Splintered) — This was a race to the bottom between the boys for me. Jeb was the literal boy next door but I hated his domineering attitude even more than I hated Morpheus’s manipulations. At least Morpheus had playfulness going for him, but I wanted neither of them to end up with Alyssa — which, again, was the opposite of what happened. (I only read the first two Twilight books, but I felt the same way about Edward and Jacob. Hard pass on both.) 

Do you play the “who will win” game when you read books with love triangles? Are you better at picking the ship that wins out in the end? Or do you go your own way, fanfic style, and create a ship outside the parameters of the original story — such as Draco and Harry, or McGonnagall and Snape? Leave a comment telling us about your favourite ship!


Cassandra PageCassandra Page is a speculative fiction writer who has used used love triangles a couple of times, in her Isla’s Inheritance YA urban fantasy trilogy and her Lucid Dreaming adult urban fantasy duology (the second book of which comes out later this year). Mmm, triangle-y. 

 

The Best Aussie (YA/NA) Romance Reads

We’re talking about romancing the reader this month and today I want to mention some swoonworthy Aussie books that well and truely romanced me.

Summer Skins (Kirsty Eager) — the best traditionally published aussie NA I’ve read. Set on campus at an aussie uni, it’s a boys vs girls prank-fest and so much fun.  Get on it!

Words in Deep Blue (Cath Cowley) — so much more than a YA romance. This book is emotion and feeling and friendship and grief all rolled into a ball that isn’t contained nor repaired by love. Just beautiful.

Pieces of Sky (Trinity Doyle) — another book about grief and friendship and love and loss. This book is an amazing aussie YA with a gorgeous aussie beach setting.

On the Jellicoe Road (Melina Marcetta) — My goodness. Perfect is one word I’d use to describe this read. It moved me in ways that no other book has. It’s a romance and a mystery and so well written I had writer-envy.

Grafitti Moon (Cath Crowley) — It’s quirky, it’s gritty, it all takes place in one single night. And it’s home to amazingly unique characters that I just want to befriend.

 

The AO&R crew have also written some Aussie romance. Check out the Our Books tab or Goodreads list for more details. I’d suggest Lauren’s Emerald Cove Series, Stacey’s Oxley College Saga, Beck’s Fake, Kaz’s Reluctant Jillaroo, Sharon’s Open Heart Series, Cass’s Lucid Dreaming, or Katie’s Cadence. All are vastly different, yet common in that they hold a romance and an Aussie setting. The rest of the crew have their debut books releasing soon!

What’s your favourite Aussie YA/NA romance read?


Stacey Nash writes aussie YA / NA. Her Oxley College Saga is a series of romances based in the fictional Oxley College on a university campus.To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries not to only romance), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

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What is the appropriate heat level for YA romance?

We’re loving the monthly themes here at AO&R and we really hope you are too. If you have a suggestion for a topic you’d like us to cover, please suggest away in the comments or on our facebook page. We’re always open to ideas. Anyways, the month of June is all about romance. So hold on tight so as not to get swept away in the swoon-fest!

It’s a widely known fact that many readers of YA are more ‘young at heart’ than actual young adults. Not speaking for myself of course … 😛 Okay, okay, so I’m totally a mum to one, almost two, real young adults. My little bookworms’ emergence into teenhood has brought with it an unexpected element and a new way of looking at YA books. Where I once devoured anything with so much as a sniff of romance, turning pages until I reached that happily ever after, I often now evaluate as I read. Thinking about books in terms of heat levels and other age appropriate issues. I know, I know. It totally ruins the reading experience.

Many people (including some parents) don’t see the sexiness of a book as an issue when it comes to young readers. In fact, they don’t know that there are different heat levels. They believe that if the book is in the YA section of a bookstore or library then it’s suitable. But as a reader / writer of this category I’ve realised that there is a rather large heat difference between publishers, individual libraries, and especially online bookstore categories (think Amazon and iBooks). Not easy for the cautious parent to navigate.

My teen is thirteen, the other twelve, and although they both know all about the birds and the bees, reading about it in a novel setting is a whole other thing. Neither of them are ready for that. One isn’t even ready to read a make out scene. Eww — girls. 😛  You see, when we read an image plays out in our heads, and it often has more impact than watching a scene that is ‘told’ via a screen. This is because we create the visual, using pictures familiar to us and becoming the main character. Essentially living the scene with them. So, these images are lasting and on a developing brain can have a psychological impact.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I guess that is why most traditional publishers recommend YA for 12+ and most have restrictions on levels of sexiness within their books.

I’ll never forget the first sex scene I read. I was sixteen. It was in John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began and barely lasted a few paragraphs. At the time I felt so naughty and grown up, but looking back now those scenes are very tame and very age appropriate. That book was written before YA was a thing, but it still holds the familiar depth of romance we see in many traditionally published books for the young adult market.

Since becoming an author I’ve learned that most of the big 5 publishers love romance in their YA books, but their kissing and make out scenes are restricted to far less detail than we’d find in a new adult or an adult book. Sex scenes, likewise are okay, but generally not in a blow by blow account. As a parent, this is a relief. It sure makes vetting appropriate books far easier.

I know not all children are the same and some may not need censoring, but my precious, empathetic souls do. Being advanced readers doesn’t make it easy to choose books, but we’re stumbling through this together.

Stay tuned for part two — a more in depth look at YA in libraries — coming up later this month.

What about you — what heat level to you think is appropriate in YA books?

Stacey Nash writes YA and some sexier books that fall under the NA banner. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries not to only romance), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

 

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Does romance need a HEA?

This month on the blog, we’re talking all things lovey-dovey. Here, Lauren K. McKellar discusses the ending of a romance novel–does it have to follow a formula?

For many people, romance novels are a great source of escapism, providing an emotionally packed story that transports the reader away from the humdrum of everyday life. Perhaps that’s why when a romance novel doesn’t end with a HEA (happily ever after) it inspires such controversy. If a romance novel doesn’t have a HEA, is it truly a romance at all?

Let’s consider the alternative. If a romance novel doesn’t have a HEA, it usually has a HFN (happy for now). This means that while the hero and the heroine aren’t perhaps together, the immediate threat has passed and the characters are happy for now. Their future isn’t clear, though–we don’t know for certain whether they’ll end up together or not, and in some cases, when one character passes away, it’s not even possible.

In recent times, however, many readers are questioning whether a romance novel needs a happy ending to truly be part of this category. Here’s why.

man hold his girlfriend up above the city

Photo: stock.adobe.com

Many people read romance looking for the feeling that comes with a HEA. They’ve found the book in the romance category and while they’re ready to go on an emotional journey, to watch two characters go through hell to be together, they expect them to be holding hands at the end of the story (or making love, depending on the heat level of your novel). They want that sense of emotional fulfilment–they want to close the book and have the “ah” moment that comes when two people get together and everything is set for the perfect future.

In a book with a HFN, you don’t get that. I mean, sure, we could put a warning in the blurb (“at the end, I’m going to kill the hero, so don’t read this one if you’re after a wedding and a baby”), but obviously, most authors don’t want to do that, and I’d argue that most readers don’t want to know that sort of detail before they start a book, either.

That then begs the question: does all romance need a HEA, and if an author doesn’t offer one, are they breaking the reader’s trust?

The Romance Writers of America defines romance novels as having:

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”

To me, this implies that a HEA is required to fall into the category.

What do you think? Do you need your romance to have a HEA?

lauren k mckellar_ms
Lauren K. McKellar is the author of several romance reads, and some not so romantic ones. She loves torturing her characters and playing Russian roulette with their lives. You can read more about her books on her website, or come say hi to her on Facebook.

Tell Me Why? Villainous Motivations

As readers we are eternally curious about the characters who populate stories. But it’s not the surface stuff that intrigues us, is it? It’s the stuff underneath that has moulded them, formed their perspectives – the stuff that drives them. These deeply buried things are what makes a character intriguing.

Villains by definition often top that ‘intriguing character’ list.

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Villains do bad things and sure, we want to know ‘who?’ and ‘how?’ but that fades to insignificance beside the question ‘why?’. Why did he poison the cat? Why did she try to destroy Anya’s reputation? Why is he determined to terrify her to the point that she believes she’s insane? The answers to those questions are what will allow us readers to sleep well after closing the last page. We will be sated, satisfied, content.

So, is it ever enough for an author to brush that question away with a cavalier: ‘He/she is just a bad person’?

Short answer? No. Long answer? Never, nil, nada. Hardly ever. 🙂 

Why? (See? You wanted to know ‘why?’ 😉 ). Short answer: Readers want more. They’ll feel cheated. And, just quietly, be really, really ticked off with the author.

villain 3Long answer: True psychopaths are the scariest people ever. And yes, successful books have been written featuring them. But, at the risk of lighting a fuse under any psychopaths reading this, in the literary sense they’re kind of boring. Kill or torture for the sake of killing or torturing? Not going to hold my attention for long. If I’m not wondering ‘why’ then I’m out. You see, very few people are born bad, so the whole psychopath thing can often be a bit unrealistic and harder for the reader to relate. In fact studies back from the 1980s to the present all agree that a fair equation is that around 1% of western world people are true psychopaths – people who act without empathy or conscience.

Okay, so a more favourable equation would be nil%, but I’ll still take 1% over anything higher. Relatively speaking, it’s a low number. (Actually it’s terrifying if I say it in numbers – but it IS low really. Like 13 million psychopaths in 1.3 billion people. Whaaat!!! No, wait. Honestly, rest assured, despite that scary figure you’re unlikely to meet one walking down the street today. Or maybe not. Feeling lucky? Um, excuse me while I just nip out & lock my doors.)

So, what about all the other people – let’s call them villains –  who continue to star in our villain 2news reports or populate our gaols?  The non psychopaths. These people weren’t born bad. For the vast majority, things happened in their lives that affected their perspective and culminated in poorly made decisions to cause havoc and break laws (sociopaths). Or regular people who’ve got some kind of issue that burns them or has turned them.  These ‘things’ are called motivations. I.e,  a motive or reason for their decisions or behaviour.

Like everything else in life, villains come in all shapes and sizes. Moreover, they come in all manner of villainy from the sneaky troublemaker to the morally bankrupt multi murderer/serial killer. Some are charming (in their own evil way). Some slip into the shadowy background and exist in that disregarded no man’s land ‘under the radar’. And some will make our skin crawl. As authors and readers, we’ve met them all because fiction has an unfathomably higher percentage of villains of all kinds than real life. Thank goodness, yeah?

To recap that: In real life, ordinary people will do bad things. Just as in fiction, ordinary people will do bad things. The one thing these non psychopathic villains have in common is motivation; the reason that drives their actions.

Let’s look at some. Caveat: The list below is not comprehensive and there are heaps of lists on the net. However these are all motivations – and all open to your own twists and interpretation –  that I have either used or read, where used successfully, in YA novels.

  • Romance/jealousy.
  • Revenge for a perceived injustice
  • Repayment of past treatment.
  • Desperation
  • Peer acceptance
  • Peer domination
  • Need for Power (based on villains own suppressed power by others in his life)
  • Rivalry
  • Grief/Loss
  • Fear of Discovery
  • Fear
  • Pride
  • Greed

Don’t forget your villain can also have noble motivations – or motivations that began as noble. Most superhero villains were once good guys with noble motivations who somehow got off track. A villain with a noble/likeable side is most intriguing.

villain superheroes

Mix up your villains motivations to add more interest. Maybe your villain can’t help being a villain because he’s trapped?

Motivations are one of the major keystones to your story. They:

  • Reveal & distinguish character
  • Drive plot
  • Build drama
  • Give your story authenticity
  • Provide the impetus for character growth arc.

Motivations apply to every character, not just the villain. They drive the story. Dare I say they are the story. Every action and every reaction of your characters will be the result of their reasoning. And all reasoning is tempered by motivation.

Good Luck and Happy villaining!

kaz-profiles-022Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.

Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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Anything can happen once upon a con…

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Let me first start out by saying, Disney’s Cinderella isn’t my favourite. I enjoyed it, but it was no Beauty and the Beast, or Aladdin.

That said, for some reason Cinderella retellings are my weak spot. A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff—yes please! Ever After with Drew Barrymore—LOVE! Cinder by Marissa Meyer—absolute favourite! Cinderella Live Action with Lily James—be still my beating heart!

So, yeah. I was kind of excited for Geekerella.

And I got through it in around 24 hours. With two little ones to look after that’s no easy thing.

Ashley Poston writing really draws you in. Told from alternating the POVs of Elle and Darien, the story unfolds to a deliciously addictive romance. Both characters are so full and imagined it was easy to work out who was who even without the chapter headings, and I fell for them both instantly.

This story uses the ‘anonymous text’ storyline where the downtrodden girl doesn’t realise she’s actually texting a heartthrob movie star. It may be an overused plot device but I still seriously love it. And when it’s as well-executed as in Geekerella, it helps to propel the story forward.

The chemistry was all there. The giddy kind that pulls a smile onto your face and makes you feel what the characters are feeling. And while Elle and Darien totally stole my heart, this book wouldn’t be what it is without the subplots and side characters.

Firstly, Sage. I heart her so much. Literally every scene with her in it was a joy to read—she was one hell of a fairy godmother. Jess, Darien’s co-star was fantastic, and the Frank the dog was described so perfectly I could have reached through the pages and scratched that chubby puppy’s head.

Then there was Starfield. I love books about fandoms because they throw me back to my teen years, scouring the Harry Potter forums and writing (bad) fanfiction. I felt all that and more through Elle’s passionate love for the cult series, and how it united her with her father, and later, with her fellow cosplayers at ExcelsiCon.

And, while a separate note to the writing, the quality of this paperback was off the charts. Thick paper, and a gorgeous cover. When you pick up a thin book with a bit of heft to it, you know the book is worth the money.

I would rec this book to anyone in an instant. You like a bit of cute romance? Geekerella. You like Cinderella? Geekerella. You like quirky characters? Geekerella. Books with fandoms? GEEKERELLA.

Do yourself a favour.

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary