ROMANCE REVIEWS TODAY Q&A with the Editors of Avon
How to Write a Romance
1. What prompted the AVON editors to write HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE?
Elle Keck (EK): Our brilliant colleague Emma Brodie, who runs the Morrow Gift imprint, thought of the idea! In the office, we’re always saying how we wish authors did such and such or knew this, that, and the other. With this journal, we tried to create prompts that address the issues we see most in the submissions we get.
Nicole Fischer (NF): The idea came from our colleague, Emma Brodie, who works on gift-y journals and things like that. She asked us to help her come up with the material and we went from there.
Tessa Woodward (TW): It’s the brainchild of the fabulous Emma Brodie. She has such an eye for gift books, journals, and other non-fiction and she thought this would be a great addition to our list.
2. How did you become an editor?
EK: I have always loved romance novels and in college, when I thought about what kind of career I wanted, my mind kept going to publishing. Three internships and a graduation later, I was thrilled to be offered a job at Avon Books!
NF: I started as an intern at a literary agency and then got a job as an editorial assistant at Avon. Began editing my own authors in the first year and worked my way up from there!
(TW): I was always a reader and I ended up getting a publishing internship in college. After that, I knew this is what I wanted to do.
3. What sort of stories/genres catch your eye both as a reader and as an editor?
EK: I’m definitely drawn to fun, light, witty stories. When I pick up a romance, I want to be transported into another world and leave some of my worries and cares behind. If I read a submission where I forget that I’m sitting at my desk and I can’t hear the noises from the open office, I get really excited.
NF: I read most subgenres: historical, suspense, fantasy, paranormal, contemporary, etc. So the thing I look for is a story with sass and humor, and I love characters with sarcasm and dry wit. I gravitate towards humor and wit in an author’s voice when acquiring projects and when picking books to read for pleasure.
(TW): As an editor and as a reader, I always want a satisfying love story, even if what I’m reading/editing is not a romance novel. I’m a sucker for a good historical romance – especially if there’s a governess involved!
4. Are there any plots, tropes, characters, etc. that you find aren’t currently working in the romance market?
EK: Paranormal romance is still a bit of a sticky wicket. I’ve been burnt out on small town romances for a while and I think a lot of readers feel the same. I also feel a lot us are tired of “the evil ex” or “the mean mistress”.
NF: I think alphaholes and characters that seem controlling or have toxically masculine traits are not as popular as they might have been in previous years.
(TW): I hate to say that something isn’t currently working because every single time I do, they start working again! (Rom Coms, anyone?) Though I believe that billionaires might be on the wane…
5. What is the most unexpected advice you might give to someone looking for a career as a romance writer?
EK: What I would say is to read a lot in the genre, to investigate why you want to write and what you think you’ll add to the genre, and to make sure you love writing or you won’t last.
NF: If you want to write romance... READ ROMANCE. If you aren’t aware of what’s currently happening in the genre or assume you can write a romance without having read any romance, buyers will notice. And they won't be happy about it.
TW: You don’t have to have been a lifelong romance reader (I wasn’t one) but you do have to have a respect and love for the genre now.
6. What is the best way, in your opinion, to get a manuscript in front of an editor?
EK: Get an agent. Agents are your biggest advocate and they are incredibly important to the growth of your career. I know many authors who don’t have them and have successful careers, but for a new writer starting out, it’s a great lifeline.
NF: Honestly, a really good way that doesn’t require much effort is to follow us on twitter and if we tweet about things we are looking for, reply and tell us about your book!
TW: Strictly follow the directions online! Things that don’t work: trying to pitch your book to me on LinkedIn or Facebook, sending a print copy of the full manuscript to my office, trying to bribe me with gifts (sadly!), getting your husband/mother/cat to pretend to be your agent.
7. What is your editing process like?
EK: It honestly varies book to book and author to author. Typically, I will do 1-2 rounds of edits on each book. I do line edit but I do it at the same time as the content edits so everything is sent to the author in one big scary word doc.
NF: I read the manuscript and make line edits (comments and insertions/deletions) in the file, and write big picture thoughts about the plot, romance, character arcs, conflict, etc on my phone. Then I write an edit letter expanding on everything—occasionally with suggestions on how to fix certain things—and send both the file with track changes and the edit letter to the author. Depending on how they work, sometimes we have call to talk about the edits and brainstorm ideas, other times they go forth and revise with everything I’ve said in mind. When I get the revisions back I cold read it (don’t look at the comments or track changes) and see what jumps out at me. Sometimes everything is good to go after that one round, but usually we do another round or two of notes and tweaks in track changes.
TW: It really depends on the book and author. But I like to ask a lot of questions as I’m reading – what’s the motivation here? How does this tie back in with the heroine’s past?
8. Do you have any funny stories or anecdotes to share from your time as an editor that might surprise people?
EK: A fond memory I have from last year’s RWA is when I had the chance to have dinner with Meg Cabot, a huge idol of mine. I kept having to pinch myself that Meg Cabot was laughing at something I said! I called my sister afterward and we had a good squee about it.
NF: One time I printed out some pages from a manuscript and then completely forgot about it, so it sat in the printer most of the day. When I finally remembered and went to go get it, someone had left it on top of the printer where everyone could see it... and the chapter was a graphic sex scene. The page was covered in “cock” etc etc. Whoever went into the supply room that day got an eyeful!
TW: One time, I was editing a book for a colleague who was out on maternity leave. It was a paranormal romance and at the end a dog (a paranormal, ghost dog!) dies and I let the author keep it in. Afterwards, I found out that she knew that her regular editor wouldn’t let her keep it in but since she knew I was relatively new, she thought I’d let it stay. I didn’t know there was an unspoken rule not to kill dogs in books!
9. Are there plans to continue writing guide books or expanding HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE?
EK: There isn’t at the moment but if people really enjoy the journal, maybe that will change!
NF: Not at the moment! If it seems helpful and people buy it... maybe? We had fun coming up with the prompts and advice, but I think we may run out of advice!
TW: We’ll see! What other genres would you readers like to see included?
My review of HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE
HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE –AVON Editing Team
HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE is a new tool from the editing team at AVON Books, a longtime fixture in the publishing world. This is set up in workbook format, with plenty of exercises for writers at all stages of their writing career. It is promoted as being for beginning romance writers, but I can see it being used if an experienced writer is wanting to freshen up their writing skills with the included scenarios. Plus, there are quotes from several established authors to act as an inspiration.
You will find pages that are like “worksheets,” where you fill in information about your characters, traits, black moments, etc.
Included are what I call “writing prompts.” These are scene setups that describe a scenario and you are supposed to write a scene or dialogue around it.
Interspersed every few pages are the writing inspirational quotes from authors, such as Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Lisa Kleypas, Ilona Andrews, Beverly Jenkins, and others.
There is plenty of space to write in your HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE workbook if you want to, or grab a notebook and write your responses down. Or even better, get on your computer to record your responses in your writing software program, because you’ll want to use this workbook over and over.
HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE is a fun and educational book for any writer to have in your writing library, whether you’re a newbie writer or if you’ve written several romances.
You can purchase a copy at Amazon LINK