Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Writing on Stage

My guest is Isabel Sharpe. She writes both romances for HarlequinBlaze and women’s fiction for Harper/Collins.

Her topic is an interesting one for a romance author. We many times assume that romance authors are writing happy, sexy romances from happy experience—and sometimes they are. But how do you write romantic comedy when your life is anything but romantic or funny? A good question and one that Isabel addresses.

Imagine you are writing a romantic comedy. Light, funny, a farcical romp. Now imagine that while you’re writing it, you’re going through a separation and divorce, and that a few weeks before your deadline, the date September 11, 2001 rolls around.

Light! Funny! Romp-y!

Now imagine you’re writing again, years later (with many books in between), a sexy, sassy and very hot read (I have affectionately nicknamed these boinkathons). You’re nearly at the end, when the supposed-to-be love-of-your-life you waited too many lonely years to meet, dumps you. You are a bawling miserable snotty mess of a person.

Sexy! Sassy! Hot Hot Hot!

It can be incredibly hard to push away life’s pain and concentrate on the page. So hard to write “I will love you forever” when you’re thinking, “Yeah, good luck with that.” Because for all our optimism about love, we romance authors are real people living real lives which sometimes dump on us hard truths that would never make it into our books.

So how do you keep on? You take on those characters like a professional actor takes on a role, you become them and you make writing a performance that isn’t about you. Actors create backstories, do their research, and come to inhabit their characters the same way writers do. And while an audience pays money to see an actor pretend to be someone else, a reader buys your book not to hear your story, but that of your characters. You owe them the same genuine intensity of experience.

So you blow your nose, turn all mirrors to the wall, sip hot tea for comfort, then leave yourself and your moods and become whoever it is you’re writing about. I would love someday to mount a camera on top of my monitor to record my facial expressions during particularly intense scenes. I bet it’s a hoot (and maybe a little frightening.)

If you’re wondering how I did, the second book I refer to above is the third book in an online dating trilogy (Dating E-Males) called Hot to the Touch, out in June 2011 from Harlequin Blaze. The first two books are Turn up the Heat, out this month, and Long, Slow Burn, out in April. Hope you enjoy them!

Turn Up The Heat

Vibrant and multifaceted party organizer Candy Graham is looking to forget her dating past, even if it means joining a dating website. But creating four different e-profiles to suit her personality could land Candy in hot water…or better yet, in the arms of her scorchin'-hot neighbor!

Journalist Justin Case suspects he has the scoop of a lifetime—women hired to lure men into online dating. Could Candy be part of some kind of e-romance scam? But try as he might, even he can't resist the temptation of sexy, sweet Candy…and one taste is definitely not enough! Excerpt


Isabel Sharpe was not born pen in hand like so many of her fellow authors. After she quit work in 1994 to stay home with her first-born son and nearly went out of her mind, she started writing. Yes, she was the clich'd bored housewife writing romance, but it was either that clich' or seduce the mailman, and her mailman was unattractive. After more than twenty novels for Harlequin, and the exciting new direction of women-focused stories for Avon/HarperCollins, Isabel admits her new mailman is gorgeous, but she's still happy with her choice.
You can find Isabel on Facebook and on her Website


~Sia McKye~ said...

Isabel, welcome to Over Coffee. It's nice and toasty here and plenty of hot coffee, tea, cocoa, and lots good homemade scones and cinnamon buns.

I have to applaud your sense of dedication to keeping the right tone for your characters regardless of what is happening in your life. I know it was very hard for me to write while dealing with some serious grief issues when my brother died. Looking at the characters like they are actors on the stage would be a help.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Sia, Hi Isabel,

Isabel, I agree with Sia. I applaud your professionalism. A deadline is a deadline. Thank goodness you have the ability to write through it.
This is a great subject...and important to talk about. Thanks for sharing. Cheers~

Stephen Tremp said...

Hi sia, thanks for stopping by. I often stop by here but find it difficult to leave a comment due to the content LOL! Some of this stuff could make a sailor blush.

Kat Sheridan said...

Isabel, I love your take on things (and I, TOO, would like to hang a mirror to catch my expression at times!) You've given great advice about moving into our character's lives and putting our own aside for a while. In fact, I think that's one of the most appealing aspects of writing. After all, we read to escape from real life sometimes--why not write to escape it! Wishing you all sorts of success in every aspect of your life!

aries18 said...

Sia, Another great author for us to meet and greet. Thank you.

Isabel, It sounds to me like you've taken some awfully sour lemons and made lemonade for yourself and your readers! You're truly a professional and you make me proud to even aspire to writing. Great story of your dedication to your craft.

Thanks for visiting with us on Sia's fabulous blog.

Other Lisa said...

Isabel, what a great post.

I had kind of the opposite problem with my second book — my real life started mirroring a certain painful aspect of it. I so did not want to go there. Did not. I wrote every which way but the way I needed to go.

Finally I figured out what the problem was, realized that, yes, I did have to go there, and to all of the dark places that led to. And that was what made the book work.

The funny thing is, the process was about the same as what you've described...becoming someone you are not.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Stephen, you blush? Who knew? lolol! (psst, don't read the excerpts)

While I do feature predominately various sub-genres of romance, most of my content is topics all writers face. Things they had to overcome, victories, things learned to go forward in their writing career.

Congrats on your new amazon author page!

Helen Ginger said...

I sort of think anyone who can look back at a really terrible time in her life and see a bit of humor in it is probably a person who could indeed write romance in books when the romance was gone in her life. And an author I'd like to read!

readwriteandedit said...

Another great article, Sia.

Isabel, you had me laughing at "Yeah, good luck with that."

One of the great perks to writing is that we get to pretend. So no matter how we feel, we can create something totally different for our characters. I'm guessing that the pain of rejection actually allowed you to create depths in your characters they might not have experienced had you not been in a crisis of your own. Strong emotion--positive or negative--gives us an awareness of all emotions. Why not put what we learn about emotion to work?

Isabel, I have the feeling that you've done exactly that with all your books. Thanks for the encouraging article.

Isabel Sharpe said...

Argh. I typed a huge long post then realized my son had been on my computer so it was going to show up under his name. Sorry! let me try again, but send this first as a test.


Isabel Sharpe said...

That worked! Okay, apologies first for taking so long to show up today. We were snowed in (and in and in and in), couldn't even open the back door because of the drifts in front of it. Then my snowblower broke 15 minutes into the job and we had to do the whole driveway and sidewalk et al by hand, and then my son had a Dr. appt. and . . . so on.

Officially: One Of Those Days.

And now I'm trying to remember what I typed the first time. I do remember saying it's very hard when the emotions in the story are painfully familiar, as Other Lisa mentioned. Understanding them, gaining perspective, which sometimes only time can provide---all those help. But I do think some things are just too close to write about.

I don't think that was half as pithy as my first attempt, but I will send anyway and see if something more brilliant occurs to me.

Sorry again for being MIA before now! Great to see so many comments.



Elizabeth Loupas said...

Great post, Isabel. It's all so true. I do the same thing-- "method-act" characters. I applaud you on your success in putting the painful experiences of daily life aside and creating genuine, intense and satisfying experiences for your readers.

Sia, thank you for showcasing another fascinating guest!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I do have some excellent authors.

One of the things I love about most of the authors I do have is they share such great suggestions and ideas in overcoming problems in their writing. So many of us think, "I'm the only one who feels like this or has this problem." Seeing someone having a similar problem and they overcame it is both encouraging and doesn't make you feel as alone.

Speaking of another good author, I'm really looking forward to your visit next month.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Isabel, I'm giving you a gold star for stopping by despite the problems. I hate those kind of days. Been having a bit of one too. Me and Murphy have been dancing way too much of late.

We couldn't even use a snow blower if we had one. I think we need a jack hammer to get through this stuff.

Hope tomorrow is nicer for you.