Friday, September 11, 2009

Heroines & Life Lessons

First off, I’d really like to thank the Damned Scribbling Women for having me today. I love stopping by this blog for a laugh or a thoughtful blog post and am thrilled to be here today.

When I was getting my MFA in creative writing, my fiction professors always told me that a good short story or novel must make its readers think. It must have a message and characters that transcend time and race and culture and creed. It must be real. These are, of course, many of the same professors who scoffed at me when I told them I wanted to write romances. The same ones who told me writing genre fiction was a waste of my talent—little did they know how little their advice was going to end up meaning to me.

Well, here I am a number of years later, writing romance novels and loving every second of it. And while their advice about romance novels was complete idiocy (I’ve been reading love stories since I was in fifth grade and I certainly have no plans to stop anytime soon) a lot of what they taught me has stuck with me—including the fact that a reader should be able to learn something about the human condition from the books she reads.

Now, I write two very different types of books—erotic suspense and family oriented contemporaries, both of which will soon be joined by paranormals when my first novel of dragon shapeshifters hits the shelves next year. And though my books lend themselves to very different plotlines, language and heat levels, one of the things I’ve found has remained the same between my NAL Heats and my Harlequin Superromances, is my characters—and what I (and hopefully my readers) learn from them. Whether I’m writing a kick-butt police detective (my September 2009 release Tie Me Down) or a surrogate mother on the brink of emotional collapse (my June 2009 release From Friend to Father) I tend to gravitate to the same kind of heroines—strong, smart and self-assured. Heroines I can respect and heroines I can learn something from. So, with no further ado, here’s a quick look at some of the life lessons I’ve learned from the women I’ve written in the last year.

Genevieve Delacroix (Tie Me Down—September 2009) A tough-as-nails homicide detective, Genevieve survives the violence of New Orleans’s streets by staying in control at all times. But when she meets her hero, Cole Adams, she learns that some of the most important things in life—friendship, passion, love—can’t be controlled. Genevieve has taught me the value of spontaneity and that coloring outside of the lines is often more rewarding than doing the same old thing.

Sarah Martin (Heroine of From Friend to Father—June 2009): Mother of twin boys and surrogate mother for her best friend’s baby, Sarah has taught me the importance of hanging on to my sense of humor. No matter what life throws at her—from overflowing toilets to a deadbeat husband to falling in love for a second, scarier time, Sarah never forgets to laugh.

Serena Macafee (Full Exposure—January 2009) Serena’s been through the emotional wringer—when she was seventeen, she survived the brutal attack that ended up killing her twin sister. Ten years later, her sister’s murderer—and her own assailant—is being released early from prison and Serena must deal with the emotional and actual fall-out. With her past, she is scared to death of being vulnerable—to anyone, including her lover, Kevin Riley. But as the book unfolds, Serena realizes that being strong doesn’t mean doing everything alone. So from her, I’ve learned the importance of standing on my own two feet—and of asking for help when I need it.

Vivian Wentworth (A Christmas Present—December 2009) Vivian reminded me of the importance of keeping an open mind. An attorney who’s spent her career fighting for women who can’t fight for themselves, Vivian is shocked and upset when she ends up defending a seventeen-year-old boy accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend. But things aren’t what they seem in the case and Vivian must work with her client’s mentor and guardian to keep an innocent boy out of jail, even after he’s given up on justice and himself.

So, have you learned anything from a romance heroine—one you’ve written or one you’ve just liked reading about? Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of my June release, From Friend to Father.

The winner will be announced on Friday, September 18th, so be sure to check back!


Mary said...

I hadn't really thought about what I've learned from a herione but I would have to say the woman in Christine Feehan's "Dark" Series have made me think that we are all alot stronger than we think we are until we are faced with something that makes us face our fears and show how strong we can be.

Mary G said...

Hi Tracy I already have all your wonderful books so don't enter me.
I've learned that I seem to love the best, strong alpha heroes that can be vulnerable enough to need a strong heroine.

Armenia said...

Nice post, Tracy.

Once in awhile one reads a story in which a character really touches your life in a certain way, for me it was Robin Schone's SCANDALOUS LOVERS. Francis Hart's needs were always defined by her status in her family; as wife, mother, and grandmother. Newly widowed, she finally embraces life in her new found independence and learns passion and sensuality with a new relationship.

From her I learned that finding my inner happiness and fulfilling those needs I can better serve the ones I love better. I should never lose sight of myself.

Kate Diamond said...

Tracy, we're so glad you could post with us!

I consistently appreciate heroines who find balance in their lives--perhaps because this is a skill that continues to elude me! But when a heroine can put things in perspective, I appreciate that.

Vivi Andrews said...

I love this post. I generally find that I consciously learn more from the heroines I write than those I read, but the difference is probably just in how aware of it I am. When reading, I get sucked into the story so deep I'm not thinking about the fact that there are life lessons around me, subtly influencing me.

I've really been wondering lately whether people who read stories about people doing the right thing even when it's hard are more likely to make that choice to do the right thing in life. A lot of romances have such positive messages underlying those of love and lust. That's one of my favorite things about them.


flchen1 said...

Hi, Tracy! Following you here from your blog :) I think that what I like being reminded of by romance heroines is that we're worthy of love. And sometimes we have to be willing to take a risk to get what we want (or who, as the case may be ;)) And Kate, balance is definitely a goal, but elusive, as you said!

Anna Richland said...

I have to agree with Vivi. I believe growing up reading stories about people doing the right thing, both the heroes and heroines, creates a baseline of expectations for your own behavior.

Romance heroines have taught me to be optimistic - if I read those "deep" books all about overcoming addiction or lots of people you love dying, or if I read serial killer books, I would be down or freaked out all the time.

Kaye Chambers said...

What a good post!

Let's see...what I learned from Romance heroines? I learned that idealism isn't a bad thing and it's okay to believe in happily ever afters. :)

In life, we have to be practical and realistic. Fiction let's us dream a little and indulge that fairy princess we buried when we were six and still believed in Prince Charmings.

Vivant said...

What a thought provoking post and comments.

I agree that if we open our minds we learn important lessons from the examples we read in fiction, just as we do from the people we encounter in real life.

My favorite lessons come from people or characters I respect and admire. But sometimes I learn important things from negative examples too -- the "when I grow up I won't ever..." sort of epiphany.

This is an aspect of romances that I hadn't really thought about before, but now that I'm aware of it I will be interested to see whether I'm more consciously attuned to it as I read.

Tracy Wolff said...


You've won a copy of my book, so drop me your snail mail at:
tracy @ and I'll get it out to you.