The Potted Version
As an imaginative child, Sue was often in trouble for telling stories. As an adult, she calls them fiction, and sells them by the thousands. Jack-of-all-trades, she trained and worked as a UK English teacher, energy assessor, a MS Office desktop expert for a multi-national company, and PA to a famous actor and actress couple. From successful mainstream sales in romance and erotica, she went on to achieve an MA(hons) in Creative Writing at Cork College University (UCC). She has had short stories published in mainstream and literary magazines, and a 12-part fictional soap in a national newspaper. When her own magical second-chance romance came knocking at the door, she didn’t hesitate, but threw away the latest job, and chased the dream half way across the globe. Now, from a small-holding in Southern Ireland, she is sharing her experience with thousands of enchanted readers.
So, why write romance?
I don’t solely write romance. I write stories. I have published erotica (under a pseudonym) and have experimented in various styles and genres, including fantasy and thrillers with larger-than-life characters and some nasty bits. These works might contain an understated hint of romance, but that would not be the driving motivation. My other novels can be found at chrislewando.com.
My romance novels explore the collision between two compatible minds and souls, in a contemporary setting. Happy endings are the name of the game, but intense emotional conflict between the protagonists, right to the not-so-bitter end, provides the essential ingredient: story. How the couple reach that enchanted moment when all becomes clear, is the point of pure romance. When you read a favourite story to a child, the child knows the ending. The child enjoys knowing the ending, and repeatedly enjoys following the path that leads there because it’s safe and satisfying. That beauty of clarity is what I strive for in my romances.
As a young adult I devoured Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances over and over. In a confused and challenging world, they gave hope that no matter how bad things seemed, how misunderstood your needs, they provided the fairy-tale possibility for a girl on the brink of womanhood that true romance existed, in a time when their male peers largely thought of girls as a means of getting a bit. It’s no surprise that, despite Georgette Heyer’s own disparaging comments about her lighthearted regency romances, they continue to sell today, so many years later…
As a young adult, I tried to write a Regency Romance myself. I suspect I’m not alone in thinking this was the easy option for a budding novelist. I was, of course, proved wrong. Georgette Heyer’s apparent simplicity of style was not mine to emulate. I discovered my own writing style over the following years, achieving many mainstream publications in the contemporary markets of both romance and erotica. Although initially they would appear to be inseparable concepts, copulation is largely a mechanical need, nature’s wickedly amusing imperative, that does not need to encompass love. When the physical bit cuts in, the brain is scarcely required. In the classic erotic novel, The Story of O (which I found tedious in the extreme), the oft-repeated phrase she did it because she loved him was a giveaway that the writer felt the need justify her heroine’s motivation, which wasn’t apparent in the story. Sure, there has to be physical attraction for the romance genre to work, but it’s not necessary to detail it. In fact, descriptions of the sexual act can be overblown, making them amusing or tediously seedy. What is essential – as with all novels that grab the reader – is the story element underlying the romance, which should be believable within its own parameters, coupled with some kind of emotional impact (fear, rage, hatred, etc). Within the romance genre, that is love, pure and simple.
So, why did I go Indie with these works, when I could clearly sell mainstream? There are various reasons, but the main factor is the market shift towards digital media and print on demand. Self-publishing wasn’t a true option for novelists when I started writing, because of the cost involved, and the lack of possibilities for distribution. But the internet opened a new world. A writer can sell directly to readers. There are minimal set up costs, no agency percentages, word counts, house requirements, or print runs to consider. The writer is truly an independent agent of his or her own creative skill. With traditional publishing, my novels enjoyed a brief lifespan, then vanished without trace. With Indie publishing, my novels will continue to find new readers year after year.
Me, Myself: The (Slightly) Longer Version
As a child, in Essex, UK, I glutted on fiction. My mother worked at the library before becoming a teacher, so we had an endless stream of books at our house. The word ‘genre’ didn’t penetrate my consciousness. I read anything that came my way: Alan Garner, C S Lewis, Arthur Ransome, J T Edson, T H White, Tolkein, Dickens, Delderfield, and the list goes on. I liked the idea of writing a novel myself, but didn’t have a clue how, so the idea festered for many years. My first novel, written longhand when nursing my first child, was Mendip Moon, a Young Adult time-slip adventure, which delved into the romance of a past era, with its legends, monsters and heroes. (I still love magical worlds, and am planning a huge saga set in Iron Age Ireland).
Then, hoping to give up the day job (usually work of no particular interest to me), I wrote several romances and erotic novels, all of which were accepted for mainstream publication. This exercise undoubtedly strengthened my writing muscles, but neither provided a livable income nor opened any fictional career doors, so life went on the same way for a long while. Seeing my published work enjoy a brief lifetime then disappear was heartbreaking, which is why I decided to join the entrepreneurs of self-publishing, and take up the challenge of the whole on-line process.
When possible, I partake in writing-related activities to keep in touch with trends and technology, which recently included an MA in Creative Writing. I continue to tutor fiction for the London School of Journalism, and provide constructional editing for full length fiction.
I now live in rural West Cork and have discovered the time and space to enjoy both writing, and my love of Irish traditional music.
Here are some other things I enjoy:
The polytunnel, where I grow grapes and hops, and start off the veg for our garden. Almost a necessity in Ireland, where the growing season is short.
Traditional Music sessions with a drop of Murphys to swing things along…
The stunning coast of Ireland, with its many rocky inlets and bays to explore.
An ongoing project… We fell in love with this 1956 Bedford bus conversion in New Zealand, having lived in it for over a year. It was sadly neglected while we were renovating our old farmhouse, but is finally being given the full treatment. The front windows are now in, the major rust is dealt with, and a reconditioned engine has arrived! Watch this space.