Monday 24 September 2018

The Ethics of Writing

by Tory Hayward

Ethics and writing seems straightforward enough at first. Do not plagiarise, and that is about it. Don't take the work of others and pass it off as your own.

But if we dig a little deeper it becomes much less simple. Writing a story produces a 'truth,' or as Judy Nunn said in an interview on the Morning Show on the ABC the other week, "Reading is always a learning experience." Even when the reader knows they are reading fiction, they still learn from what you have written.

So does that then behoove writers to write meticulously researched novels? To produce some educational tome? Well of course not. It's fiction. Real facts can be woven into our stories, but in some instances there are no real facts. Our stories are imaginary worlds, and it's perfectly acceptable that our facts are imaginary too. How can the writer who has her romance set on a planet in a distant galaxy be writing something based on an accepted fact? Neither she nor her reader expect it.

Which brings us to the issue of context. Can the Aussie-born writer with no Asian heritage write an Asian heroine? And if not, where is the line that a writer cannot cross? Can an erotica writer write a story that romanticises a taboo relationship?

As we all know, a writer can write whatever they like, and in these days of self-publishing can find somewhere to publish it. And this is how it should be. Imagine for a moment a world where there were rules about who could write what. It would be a grey, dictatorial world at the very least.

I like to subscribe to Oscar Wilde's view:
Books are well written or badly written. That is all.
So go forth, my writerly friends. Leap into our uncensored world where it is ethical to write unethically. Twist facts, push the status quo, and let truth in your writing simply be your truth.  Everything is possible.

Monday 17 September 2018

You’ll Never Know It All

By Valerie Parv AM

I’ve been asked many times why I still buy books on the craft of writing at this stage of my career. “But you have nearly a hundred books published and you write how-to books yourself. Don’t you know all that by now?”

I do write how-to books. My Art of Romance Writing is still out there in print and ebook, revised and updated and going strong. Giving lectures and masterclasses for writers here and overseas keeps me busy. I was even co-opted onto a panel of “legends” at the Romance Writers of Australia national conference last month, although I don’t feel especially legendary.

It’s true that I know a lot more than when I started out. But writing is a slippery customer and we have to keep up. In my first romance novels, exotic settings were the norm, lovingly described to take readers on a journey along with the hero and heroine.

In the Google and Netflix era, most people have visited or can picture a castle in England, a ranch in Texas, or life aboard a space station. Book lengths have reduced significantly, too, keeping reader focus firmly on the lives and loves of our characters with the setting used as spice, with a light touch.

The rise of indie publishing has led to the creation of hybrid sub-genres where romance is combined with sci-fi, with paranormal elements, time travel, history crossovers, you name it. Love scenes can be as adventurous as you’re comfortable writing. In the #MeToo age, sex is evenly balanced with the heroine taking the lead as often as the hero, thank goodness.

These are the big-picture changes. Subtler changes include the style of dialogue, to the relationship itself. Reflecting modern mores, being a single parent is a lifestyle choice rather than a source of conflict. Heroes are no longer gruff authority figures who know what’s best for the heroine. Or if he pulls that one, she soon sets him straight.

I’m using him and her as defaults, but they can just as easily be M/M or F/F or any combination. Diversity is the keyword, not used as tokens, but as real people who reflect the diversity of our society.

As well, my characters tweet, Insta their meals, post on FB and live on their phones. I love that one of this year’s Valerie Parv Award finalists used a hashtag as her book title. Reading blogs and watching podcasts and my Kindle stocked with the latest craft and psychology info keep my writing senses honed. If I gain one new insight or piece of information from them, I consider the time well spent.

You can never know it all – and I’m delighted. It’s what keeps my writing - and me – excited by what I do.

How does that work for you? What changes are you most aware of in your writing? How do you keep up? I’d love to know what you think.

My new workshop, 'Romance Writing Rebooted', is on October 27 at the ACT Writers’ Centre, Canberra. I look at these issues and more with the aim of taking away a synopsis of your novel by day’s end. Please click on the link above if you'd like to know more.

Valerie Parv AM was made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the arts as a prolific author, role model and mentor.
With more than 34 million copies of her books sold and translated into 29 languages, Valerie is an Honorary Life Member of Romance Writers of Australia.
She loves connecting with writers and readers on Twitter @ValerieParv, and Facebook and is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd, Sydney.

I love to love…real-life relationships where the love stays strong no matter the years.

I love to laugh…at daggy jokes and puns such as the medium who writes best-selling séance fiction.

I love to learn…obscure bits of trivia like the Mandelbug computer virus I used in my sci-fi romance Beacon 3: Homeworld.

Monday 10 September 2018

Romance Books VS Romance Movies/Miniseries?

Miranda's September Musings

Big Question, darlings. How many of your favourite romance novels have you seen on screen...and which do you prefer? The book? Or the movie/miniseries?

Do you know what? When I started to think about it, I was hard pressed to remember if any of my favourites have hit the big screen. Maybe onto DVD, though, or buried at 3am on the Movie Channel. 

The biggie that instantly comes to mind is Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, a timeless classic. Oh, I do love reading it. And rereading it. Jane Austen's prose is still fabulous after 200+ years. But, wow, seeing Colin Firth - ahem, Mr Darcy - on the screen was totally worth the 327 minutes (5 hours 45 minutes) it takes to watch this miniseries. It's also possibly the time it takes to read the book if you're a fast reader. To answer my own question: I like both, book and miniseries. I think it depends on my mood which one I turn to.

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How about a more modern romance, like Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan? Apparently it's been called the 'new' Pride & Prejudice. Anyone read it? Anyone seen it on the big screen? Which version do you prefer...or is it both? I haven't read the book, although it's hovered on my radar for a while. Anyhoo, I snuck off to see the movie and absolutely loved it. It is truly a Cinderella romance, and the lead actors are gorgeous and incredibly lovable, as are some of their friends. It showcases Singapore at it's very best and OH MY GOSH WAIT TILL YOU SEE THE WEDDING (not theirs)! So OTT it is ridiculous - but I bet you sit there and think, gosh, wow, why didn't I have a teeny tiny bit of that razzle dazzle at my wedding? Cough. Or not. A very fun film, with lovely romance, family and true friendship at its core. 

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Moving on. What about the (sometimes controversial) blockbuster Fifty Shades Trilogy by EL James, vividly transported from book to big screen? I have yet to finish watching the trilogy...and I confess I've yet to finish reading it... But I have read and watched the first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, and I preferred the movie. You?

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There's obviously demand for romance on film. A 'Chick Flick' night at the local cinema usually features something romanc-y and feel good. I love those nights! Meanwhile, Passionflix and Hallmark continue to film favourite romance novels that might not hit the big screen but are accessible in your lounge room.

I still remember being blown away when I watched these four Nora Roberts books on film. I totally adored the books, especially my favourite Montana Sky, but the films were fabulous too, they brought the books to life. 

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So... Your thoughts? Romance book? Or film? Or - BOTH!? 

Love from Miranda xx

Love to love: 
Romance movies. Always have, always will. 
Love to laugh:
at all the memes Mr Darcy inspires. A lot, I've discovered.
Love to learn:
if anyone subscribes to Passionflix? I'd love to know how it works in Australia. Please?

Monday 3 September 2018

Romance Novels and the Empowerment of Women

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

Smart, savvy, articulate and empowered women read and write romance books that reflect cultural shifts, and arguably contribute to cultural shifts. Some "feminists" argue that romances are harmful to the empowerment of our gender, while others say romance novels have helped women evolve. I guess it depends on how one defines feminism and feminist values. I assert that the heroine's happiness is pivotal to the modern romance novel and her needs - whatever they may be - are prioritised and supported and that this is a feminist ideal.

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I believe the huge popularity of the romance genre, written mostly by women for women, stems from the values in the novels resonating with female readership, being a fabulous platform for promoting open discussions about love and relationships and because they celebrate feminine power and success in a way that's very culturally relevant.

Romances focus on issues that are important to women. Our stories deal with all sorts of hard-hitting issues that modern women face - rape, abuse, loss of children... Name a problem and there'll be a romance book which features a heroine who's faced it. The message to female readers is that we're strong and capable of determining our own futures. We possess inner grit to endure and prevail over hardships.

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Romance novels define what women and men expect of and will accept in a romantic relationship. Important messages are sent to female readers, not least of all is that a woman deserves a partner who'll respect and value her and what's important to her, and who'll treat her well. Messages in our romance novels seep into the very fabric of our society - that career women can still be attractive to men, that women can have a work-life-family-love balance and that there are plenty of men who appreciate the strength women have to balance different facets of their lives in order to achieve their goals.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay
Then there's the whole issue of sexuality. Romances promote sexually liberated heroines who seek sexual pleasure without hang-ups or fear of judgement. Gone are the days when nice young women didn't know or talk about sex. Modern romances don't rate the heroine's chief virtue as being her virginity. The sexual revolution hit and romance novels began to portray women as having sex outside marriage. This validated the choice many had already made, and perhaps broadcast to other women that it was okay to follow suit.

Heroines in modern romances are unapologetically sexual creatures who know how to communicate their needs and find a partner who can fulfil them. Social stigmas and traditional relationships are being overturned in place of new models of relationships including menage, BDSM, lesbian romance and more.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Love to Love: Living in this time and embracing my feminism.

Love to Laugh: At the ridiculous, ill-informed commentary written by those who call romance novels "trashy".

Love to Learn: What do you think? Have romances impacted upon the empowerment of women, is it the other way around or is it a two-way process?