When I woke up this morning, I was in the mood to cook. No, not really, but some returning complaints about my style of writing the Grover Beach Team series or about my totally epic plot ideas (LOL) made me think of a way to explain to you why I write what I write and why I can’t write what you want from me.
For better understanding, let’s cook a book. Better yet, let’s cook a romance! :-)
I’d like to break the process down to you with a simple recipe. What do you like? A pumpkin soup? Okay, let’s roll with that because it’s just the perfect day for it and find some basic ingredients first:
A toad for good measure
And a pot of double cream
Now, how to put all that together and create an edible and actually interestng dish of it? I’ll tell you.
First, we need to find a name for our two pumpkins.
For my book soup, which carries the byname Grover Beach Team, I picked average pumpkins that could be you and me. I’m not a big fan of exotic names like Aaliyah, Bayard, or Caleb, where you sometimes don’t even know how to pronounce them right. I like my pumpkins bland, like Ryan, Lisa, Susan, and yes, Chris.
Okay, what’s next? Right, the vegetable stock.
This is basic. And so is the stock for a romance. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. You cannot brew a soup or cook a romance without that basic stock.
A vegetable stock alone wouldn’t make our soup taste delicious though. We need spice. Here you can go down various different ways. Eastern, Italian, French, American, Texan, Asian… I like to compare these to the different genres in reading and writing: Contemporary, Historical, Western, Fantasy, Horror (okay, horror in romance would be like Thai curry thrown into an apple strudel, but still). You see, you cannot really throw them all in one pot, so you have to choose one flavor. I chose YA contemporary, which is the alleviated version of Italian spice.
Since I picked this particular spice and also want to add a pinch of humor, I have to go by certain rules with my writing. I cannot bring in a werewolf, a leprechaun, or a mass murderer. For the lightness, neither can I bring in a death, nor too much trouble like severe illness or handicaps. And certainly can’t I make my pumpkins slide down a rainbow. All these things limit the outcome of my soup pretty much, but I must never forget that I have already added the vegetable stock. So how can I make one pumpkin fall for another, make him do something that will result in losing the other at one point, and still have a happy end?
Oh, I know. Let’s add the onion now.
This will be the one ingredient that makes the whole soup flavor go in a certain direction, so pick your onion well. There are white ones, red ones, sharp ones, small ones… For a contemporary YA romance that should be light and fun to read and still go with the veggie stock, I can think of only a few things that would work:
- The hero is a jerk and it takes some time for him to change and get the lady pumpkin.
- The pumpkin girl is in love with some other veggie and the hero has to fight to get her. We call this a food triangle.
- Our pumpkins live in different gardens and have to deal with a long-distance relationship.
- Social difference has to be overcome, as in the hero is a cucumber and not a pumpkin at all, but this will lead us right back to option 1, where either the hero or heroine is a jerk for even letting these differences be an issue.
- Both hero and heroine are together with other pumpkins. Guess what? It’s an altered version of option 2, only called a food quartette.
- A holiday flirtation. We have that covered with option 3.
- The Fault In Our Stars. That book has been done and it’s way too heavy and angsty for one of my light pumpkin romances.
- The hero sees his heroine, falls in love, wins her heart the very same day and they live happily ever after in pumpkin paradise. Eeeeh. Mayor fail. It’s not a romance. Remember the veggie stock? Yeah, you have to have that—all the ups and downs. Otherwise the soup tastes boring.
I dare those of you who keep telling me they get bored by my choice of onions to find a plot line that isn’t somehow covered by options 1, 2, or 3 and post them as a comment. But beware, you have to go with the veggie stock and keep the tone light. ;)
Now, that we chose the onion, we need something to fry it with. Oil.
Whichever type you pick, remember that it gives the onion “character”. I like frying my things in olive oil. Basically, that means, I like brewing a certain brand of hero. The bad boy. I can’t help it, I just like the taste. And since I’m the cook, I can pick whichever I want. Yeah, ha ha, chew on that one. ;) So admittedly, not all of them but most of my male leads smack of bad boys, playboys, arrogant dicks, or simple jerks. I like it because when those guys fall for someone, it has so much more impact to me.
But if you come to this particular restaurant and order my soup, you cannot go to the cook in advance and complain about the flavor. Sale as seen. That’s it. If it doesn’t look tasty to you, there are a thousand other chefs out there who may or may not cook you a better soup. ;)
What else has to be added in every good Halloween dish? Exactly. The toad.
We also call it a twist. There’s one in pretty much all books, but if you don’t have a trained eye for it, aren’t a writer, or not familiar with the term in the first place, you might not even recognize a toad as such. It may just jump out of the pot at some point and surprise you with a croak.
All right, enough about onions and toads, let’s get to the cream part.
This is my favorite in a romance. It’s when you smooth things out in the end, find a lovely solution, and yes, there’s even a happy ending for a love triangle, as I think I successfully showed you in one or two of my books. I might pick up that theme in alternated versions again in future books, but they will always be different enough to make you not even care while reading.
If you don’t believe me, however, that’s okay. You’re always welcome in my restaurant, and I won’t lock the doors once you’re inside. You can easily walk away at any given time. Promise! Like I said… Thousand other restaurants, thousand other pumpkin soups, so go ahead and take your pick. But, by all means, don’t ask me to change my recipe for my very own book soup, just because you’re looking for something else.
That won’t happen.
For one, because countless other guest in my restaurant like my soup. And two, I’m not going to tell you how to cook your spaghetti either. ;)