One of the things I love about writing romance is the feel of community. People who read and/or write romance seem to enjoy being with others who have a similar love for romance. Whether it's online or face to face or even (yes, still) via snail mail, the contact is real and fun and so encouraging.
Over the years I've come to expect other writers to be supportive. Not that I take it for granted, but I know so many fabulous women who write romance, that their enthusiasm and generosity seems normal to me now.
What I didn't expect when I started out was how much I'd get from readers. I love reader feedback on my books. I adore it if someone recommends one of my books to their friends or takes the time to post a review. But in addition to that, I've also learned a stack from readers about things that are invaluable.
Damaso Claims His Heir is a case in point. I decided to write a Brazilian hero, a self-made man who grew up in the slums and turned himself into such a successful entrepreneur that he'd never again be touched by the things that haunted him as a kid, like hunger and danger. Of course, jettisoning his past isn't quite so easy, but that's what makes him so interesting.
Why he had to live in Brazil I don't know. Sometimes these things just lodge in your brain and you know they're right. In this case, it was Brazil, nowhere else. One small issue though - I'd never been there. The closest I'd come was TV docos (and soapies!) and lots of travel books.
So, not only did I need to research a setting and culture in lots of detail, I also needed to make Damaso sound Brazilian. Do I speak Portuguese? No. Did I consider a boxed set of Teach Yourself Portuguese CDs? Yes. But I figured by the time I even understood the pronunciation it would be time to hand in the book.
Fortunately I came across a romance reader whose native tongue is Portuguese. Would she mind advising on language? 'Delighted' came the reply! I suspect she didn't quite realise how many questions an author could ask about the minutiae of a single point... Over the next several months she and I corresponded about swear words and endearments, slang and formal language. I learned a few phrases in Portuguese, which I guarantee I can't pronounce properly - it's a gorgeous language but I can't do it justice.
Without her help I doubt I'd have had the courage to submit this book. I knew that whatever gaps there might be in my research, I had to get the language right. Her advice was crucial. What still amazes me is her willingness to help, even when she was busy with things of her own (funny that) and her patience (this wasn't just a one off query). Her good humour and support throughout were marvellous. It's one thing to call up a foreign consulate and quiz the staff about murder laws and conviction rates in their countries (yes, I've done that). Those staff are there to answer even such bizarre questions. But again and again I've had romance readers put up their hands to advise on things I need - the personal perspective on a particular medical treatment, the intricacies of aristocratic titles in their country, regional food, the state of the roads and travel times in a given area, some everyday detail from their job and yes, more language details.
To all those people who've been an advisor along the way - thank you! Speaking with an expert makes all the difference to a writer who's chained to her desk (sometimes it feels like it) and hasn't experienced what you have. It helps to feel I've tapped into what's real, not just what I've imagined to be real.
Have you ever found your knowledge or experience unexpectedly useful?
In the interests of shameless self-promotion, I'll mention that DAMASO CLAIMS HIS HEIR is out today in Australia, New Zealand and Britain and already available in North America. Here's the back cover copy:
When opposites attract!
Damaso Pires should have known better than to get involved with Marisa, the scandalous Princess of Bengaria. Yet soon he sees her true beauty and flawless virtue, which touches a place in him he’d thought had been ruthlessly destroyed by his childhood on the streets of Brazil.
But their brief affair becomes permanent when Marisa reveals she’s pregnant.
Damaso knows the sting of illegitimacy and, having fought tooth and nail to claw his way up to the dizzying heights of international success and financial infamy, he won’t let his child slip from his grasp. There’s only one way to claim his heir – and that’s marriage!
Here's a link to read the first chapter.
Readers are the best aren't they Annie? Not being a gardener, I've had help with plant identification and the like from readers. Very helpful.ReplyDelete
Congratulations on the new release! I've just started it and it's wonderful. :-)
Michelle - you too? I learn so much from readers, and not just when I set out with a specific research questions.Delete
Thanks for the congrats. Chuffed that you think Damaso is wonderful!
Oh, how lovely, Annie! So glad your reader was so helpful. That's wonderful. She'll feel a real sense of achievement over the book too! I've read your Damaso and it's a corker! Congratulations!ReplyDelete
Smiling, Anna. A corker? Yay!Delete
I always feel a sense of achievement when some project I've helped out in some tiny way succeeds, so I imagine it's the same. She was such a help.
I already had the opportunity to read this book and knowing that I helped in some way made me really happy! It's an amazing story, with amazing characters...It was a great pleasure to help you, Annie! Anna Campbell, you are so right! I really feel that sense of achievement and it's a great feeling. :DReplyDelete
Lovely to hear from you here, Ana. I didn't name you on the post but of course it was you I was thinking of. It was such a boon having you available to advise. Makes me want to write another Portuguese speaker! So glad you're enjoying that sense of achievement - you deserve to.Delete
You're so right, Annie. People can be so helpful and I don't think they realise just how much we appreciate/need that help. When I was writing a book about a firefighter I had a pretty good idea about what happened in the fire station, but I had a long chat with a recently retired firefighter from the very same station I was using for my setting, and learned so many tiny little details that helped me fill in the picture. Very helpful indeed.ReplyDelete
Hi Claire! Absolutely. It's always wonderful to hear direct from a person rather than read about something in a book or online. That would have been fun, chatting with your ex-firefighter. I find, as you say, it's often the small details rather than the big picture stuff that often gives me a feel for what I'm researching.ReplyDelete
That's so lovely of your reader! As a reader myself, I'd love for an author to ask me to help out with something I'm good at! At work, I've only been unexpectedly useful when I could speak enough Japanese to communicate with a patient (I work in a hospital). Other than that, I'm quite good at fixing printers and photocopiers!ReplyDelete
Sam, you're so talented! Wow! Japanese and fixing those darned copiers - skills that I'm afraid are beyond me.Delete
I've had reader input to quite a few stories now and it's always been so helpful. Wish there was a register of who's an expert on what. Wouldn't that be good?
Annie. that's awesome. It's wonderful for readers to be such a part of the process. I love it when I find people have the most unexpected knowledge on subjects that I'm hopeless on - most things:)ReplyDelete
Absolutely, Sue. I'm always amazed at the interesting things people do have expertise in. So often it's surprising - just goes to show people are more complex than we suspect.Delete
And the other thing I've noticed is how readily people will give their time to assist! I often feel guilty because I can't use all of the information they provide.Delete
It is so lovely to get help from people and I have to say I love to help where I can it always makes me feel good :) and again can I say how much I loved this story ao ao good
Isn't it beaut when people give you a hand? It always makes me feel very privileged. Such a special feeling.
I'm chuffed that you enjoyed Marisa and Damaso's story.
Hi, Annie. I just bought this book, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. After reading your post, I'm looking forward to trying to spot where your reader helped out on language.ReplyDelete
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Hi Kim, I'm thrilled that you've snaffled this story. Hope you have fun with Marisa and Damaso. I sure did. Think you'll have no difficulties at all locating the bits where I got expert help. You just need to imagine them spoken by a sexy man with a voice like dark chocolate...Delete
Annie, how absolutely fabulous of Ana to help you (and waving to you, Ana - how wonderful of you to lend your special knowledge to Annie's story!)ReplyDelete
Rubbing my hands in glee and adding Damaso Claims His Heir to tomorrow's shopping list!
Knowledge is always useful and as you say, sometimes unexpectedly so. Several years ago, a friend of mine was describing some chronic and painful symptoms she'd been having and I suggested she ask her doctor if she might have endometriosis. Sure enough, one laparoscope later, it turned out she did. It's a much under-diagnosed condition even though it's estimated that up to 10% of women may have it.
Sharon, wasn't it lovely of Ana? The internet is such a wonderful tool. We're on opposite sides of the world but could still swap ideas easily on this.Delete
Hope you enjoy Damaso!
Sorry to hear about your friend's endometriosis. I hear it's a very painful condition. How fortunate she got it diagnosed quickly. Good on you for helping out!