Having coffee with Kessy and the gang this morning I was thinking of a conversation I had over the weekend about novels written today and years gone by. We were having breakfast at a lovely bed and breakfast where friends were staying for the big weekend here in Appomattox and I’d been invited to join them. I was asked about We’ll Have The Summer, “Is it a romance?”
|A true romance, We'll Have The Summer - available HERE on Amazon|
To me, yes, We’ll Have The Summer is a romance, a true romance—not a lustomance as I call most that are seen today. By today’s standards my novel does not qualify as a romance, as there are no graphic scenes of frisky action. I remember while in the search for an agent the requirements for romance included “graphic” scenes of “love” (or other terms) for manuscripts to be even considered. Gosh ...
So why did I write We’ll Have The Summer? I’d first written Tom Named By Horse, —(which now has just been released and is available everywhere, and easily HERE on Amazon,) and had set about querying agents. That was 8 years ago and of course I had no idea how much I didn’t know. Tom Named By Horse is an historical fiction, and a love story too, so I queried dozens of agents who represented both. I’d been doing my homework on websites and blogs that are devoted to helping writers and had a pretty good handle on writing query letters, my manuscript writing ability though was a far different story as I would soon learn.
|Tom Named By Horse, written 8 years ago, polished today, now available on Amazon HERE|
As is the case when “shot gunning” queering agents I received no replies from most, even though we’d moved into the age of email queries already. I received a large array of standard replies, “Thank you, but your work does not fit our needs right now. Good luck with your writing endeavor.” So standard and plentiful were those replies I can still remember the root phraseology!
A few wrote back with tidbits of advice, which I took to heart, even though shocked to learn I had not written a world changing novel. One of those rejections did however change me and my writing forever. It came from Tony Hillerman, then an agent at Curtis Brown Literary Agency. At the time I hadn’t even known he was an author! His querying request asked for submissions to include the first 5 chapters. I remember that as one reason I’d selected him. His reply was very brief, “Loved your story, the topic and how you tell a story. My advice to you is to read books published recently to learn today’s writing styles and techniques. Your manuscript reads a bit like Louis L’Amoure and Zane Grey." Which makes sense since I’d read all their books! He went on to suggest a few successful authors of today (never suggested himself), one of them being Nora Roberts, who of course I’d not read but Ravishin’ Robbie had and had some of her books.
I promptly set about reading 5 of her books. Loved very much the first, the second and began to fall into the rhythm of her voice, her style and methods of her writing by completion of the third. Of course I have no way of knowing if she influenced my “voice” or style, but my sentence structure and a few other important things I know she taught me much about.
She also taught me the formula for what is considered today’s romance writing, for which I’ll admit I hold no fondness. I’ll add I did further research to understand that formula, and it is a fact, to be considered a romance today by the publishing world a manuscript must have spicy scenes, well written and graphic. I still see this at the writer’s group I attend when romance writers read their pieces for critique, I sometimes have a tough time sitting through the scenes ... Romance or lustomance, I wonder. For me it feels not much like romance.
Nora Roberts stories are beautifully written, great stories that carry a reader away, but after reading 5 of hers and a number of other modern authors, I felt cheated in that they felt too fast, too shallow (for me) and all about meeting so the bedroom, beach, barn or anywhere that works, romp can be graphically described. A means to an end, not a romance leading to an enduring love. They almost all left me wanting.
This caused within me a strong desire to write a story of an uncommon, enduring love.
Sitting on the porch, watching hummingbirds at the feeder, We’ll Have The Summer came to me. I realized to tell their story I needed to start at the end, not the meeting. How else could a lifelong romance be told, understood, felt? I wrote the first draft in 60 days.
For me romance is about love, true deep love that endures happy, sad ... and forever. No need for graphic descriptions of spicy scenes, those are too tender, too precious to cheaply give away to meet any formula.
If you’ve not yet read We’ll Have The Summer, and love stories of true love, please treat yourself and feel Mary and Sam’s story. If you have read it, perhaps it’s time to visit them again. HERE on Amazon ... If you’re up for an adventure you’ll long remember, head out and ride with Tom Named By Horse. HERE on Amazon.
Gitty Up, Dutch Henry
P.S. Sadly Tony Hillerman passed away before I was ready to query agents for We’ll Have The Summer. But now I have read most of his books, and I will forever be grateful for the time he took to give me advice that changed so much for me.