I learned to stop pulling my punches by writing romance novels.
Seriously. I teach writing classes, and spend a lot of time talking about pulling punches in your story and how not to do it. Don’t be afraid to hurt your characters, I’d say. Don’t be afraid to really wade into all that pain and make it worse, I’d say—because that’s the only way to make it better. And I meant it. I’d written four chick lit/women’s fiction books, and a whole bunch of YA work-for-hire books, and I thought I knew what I was talking about. But it was not until I tried to write my first romance that I discovered I’d been pulling punches all along.
Because the romance demanded MORE. More pain, more joy, more confusion, more certainty. As a longtime romance reader, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. Here’s what a romance novel does that other books don’t: it makes the reader feel the way she felt when she was falling in love. Remember that? Everything was that big, that desperate, that encompassing. I remember driving home from my then-maybe-boyfriend’s house, crying uncontrollably, because it was all too much. That story is only cute (in a psychotic sort of way, I grant you) because I married the guy. A romance novel captures that feeling, and makes it even bigger. The fate of the world hangs in the balance, and it feels real to the reader, because that’s what love feels like. The stakes really are that big. Will you stay together? Will you marry, have children, build a life? Will it all fall apart? Will you have to rebuild? Every answer to every question is a different life. A writer who takes the easy road, the safe road, in a romance novel will find herself without readers—because love is about not feeling safe, about being outside of your comfort zone, in order to feel safer with someone else than you ever imagined you could alone.
In my latest book, due out in just a few weeks from my alter-ego Caitlin Crews, I really played with those punches, and tried my hardest not to pull any of them.
Majesty, Mistress…Missing Heir is a very special book for me, and I hope I managed to tell the story without keeping to the safety zone.
Will Jessa tell her recently returned-ex-lover Tariq about the child they made years ago, before he became the king of his far-off country? What will he do when he finds out he has a blood relative--an heir? What are the consequences to the choices Jessa made at the worst time in her life? And who will she protect—Tariq, who she never stopped loving? Herself? Or the child she's always wanted to give the best life possible, no matter the cost?
I hope you'll agree that the punch is worth it!
Majesty, Mistress...Missing Heir will be out October 1, 2010.
USA Today bestselling author Megan Crane has written five women’s fiction novels, many work-for-hire young adult novels, and five category romances (under the name Caitlin Crews) since publishing her first book in 2004. Her third novel, Frenemies, was a BookSense Notable in July 2007. She teaches various creative writing classes both online at mediabistro.com and at UCLA Extension's prestigious Writers' Program, where she finally utilizes her MA and PhD in English Literature. Megan lives in Los Angeles with her comic book artist/animator husband and too many pets. For more info visit her at www.megancrane.com or www.caitlincrews.com.