JAR: I am so pleased to welcome my longtime friend and fellow writer September Adams to this blog for a Q&A about romance, writing, and a few of our other favorite things. September is the author of the WIP Jaded, a smart, sexy m/f romance about a woman who swears off men following a bad breakup, and the smoldering construction worker who’s tapped to renovate her house and ends up laying more than new floor tiles. Thank you for being here, September.
SA: There’s nowhere I’d rather be.
Was that an inappropriate plot summary of Jaded?
No, I find it to be one of the more accurate summaries I’ve read.
At sixteen we tried to register pseudonyms with the USPS so we could publish romance novels. The postal worker looked at us like we were crazy. What would you say to her if you saw her now?
I’d probably say much of the same thing, which was an uncoordinated and sloppy attempt to avoid the fact that I needed the pseudonym in order to publish my romance novel. The only difference would be that these days, I didn’t just receive my driver’s license within the past three months. So I’m really feeling a bit more confident about life in general. I might even offer her a first look at the manuscript.
Maybe also hit her with a snide remark about how the USPS is going bankrupt, and if she’d just registered our damn pennames we’d have published brilliant romance novels and received enough fan mail to sustain the USPS for years to come. She really shot herself in the foot there.
I’d definitely make her feel the sting of the current economic situation. There’s nothing like pinning the hopes of a floundering organization upon the success of a teenager’s poorly-outlined and barely coherent first-attempt at a romance novel. That’ll teach them.
Let’s jump right into it. What makes a great romance?
There are several important – well, non-negotiable – requirements for a good romance. One is sexual fusion between the main characters. And yeah, I mean fusion in a scientific way. Another requirement is forced proximity. I read that in a romance novel how-to once, so I can’t claim that one for my own. The last requirement is a fair amount of romantic/sexual adjectives. And when I say fair, I actually mean excessive. I saw a great list once in a “How to Write Erotica” book and it’s been the closest thing to a Bible I’ve ever owned.
Can you give an example of one such adjective?
Thank you. You write hetero romances, which – hey, whatever your characters do behind closed doors is your business. I’ll tolerate it. Describe the perfect romantic hero and heroine.
The perfect romantic hero and heroine must exhibit some key traits. For example, the Perfect Hero must be riddled with imperfections -- character flaws that he realizes over the course of the narrative that change him from Gross Guy to Holy Shit Marry Me Man. He must have an ideal ratio of muscle to brains to wit. And he must, in all circumstances, have an abdominal area that can be described multiple times without it ever getting old.
The Ideal Heroine must be beautiful, intelligent, scathing if necessary, and she must have curves that inspire lustful thoughts. She needs to have a job, and she should aggressively pursue her goals outside of love. Ideally she will have a particular weakness for the aforementioned hero’s physical attributes, which will lead her to compromising situations in which she breaks some previously-held belief or promise to herself. She must also have a vagina.
That might be a plot hole in my next book. Or plot lack-of-hole, I guess. Let’s talk Jaded. What gave you the idea?
My unending thirst for romantic drama, pining hearts, unspoken sentiments, making the bad boy turn into a good boy, and an inevitable happy ending. I love it when guys get their hearts broken and spend their days in agony, just waiting for a chance to see their beloved. I can’t get enough of it. Also I’ve always had a thing for blond beach guys with muscles.
Who would play Isabella in the Jaded movie?
Maybe Sandra Bullock, but only if we time traveled back to 2005. Since time travel is still in the final stages of development, I might suggest Zooey Deschanel or some other up-and-coming toned brunette actress, someone slight and quirky and cute who could be thrown around a little without making it seem abusive.
If you get Zooey, I might finally be okay with that shower scene. She seems tough, under that girl-next-door sweetness.
Yeah, that’s all the rage in heterosexual romance novels these days. Are you going soft, Rock?
Never. I need to talk to my doctor about that. Are you an HEA or HFN girl?
Explain your acronyms and we’ll find out.
I thought they were venereal diseases until I Googled them. “Happily Ever After” and “Happily For Now.” I think you answered this above.
I assumed they were elaborate acronyms like the ones used in the gay personals world. SWM4BHFNNSA. That’s barely a language, but it still means something. I’m a HHEA girl – Hopefully Happily Ever After.
What’s your writing process like? Are you an outliner? A music-listener? A revise-as-you-goer?
I’m a freeformer, which is just a polite way of saying I have no real method, make it up as I go, and fret endlessly along the way. Statistically speaking, the Plot Crisis occurs about 43% of the way through the novel, which is followed by the Hurried Attempt to Finish the Damn Thing. The process is terminated with a Discouraging Sense of Fruitlessness as I look back on the completed version.
Then the revision process begins. And then things unravel even further from there. Often, throughout the course of one novel the Plot Crisis will attack several times, which is a fearsome and awful thing. The Plot Crisis is where I realize my novel actually does not have a plot. Recovering from that is about as hopeless as surviving the Black Plague in Medieval England.
I heard that the people who survived the Black Plague actually had something within their genetic code that made them resistant to the Plague. So in the course of a novel, I hope desperately that my words are laced with the genetic code necessary to withstand multiple Plot Crises. Or else my story will turn into a shriveled hull of flesh and adjectives that will eventually be tossed into the public grave that is my Writing Folder. But sometimes, my words will emerge victorious from the genetic pool, mate with other strong and fit words, and go on to spawn great things like the Renaissance or Modern-Day America.
For someone I happen to know is not particularly skilled at math, I’m impressed by your use of a percentage. And I feel your pain. Nice Plague metaphor, BTW. Few people can pull those off.
Most are scared to try. I fear not the Black Death.
I once gave you feedback on the manuscript for Jaded. Where would you say my strengths lie as an editor?
You have a skill for discerning meaning where the author intended none. And that is a high compliment. You tend to explain my overarching themes and plot lines to me, as though I were merely the reader and not actually the creator of the piece. I thank you for that. Without you, I would find my own work quite bland.
You’re welcome. Have you read By His Rules?
This interview is over.
I thought it was about that time…
Unless you promise to read it in the next two weeks.
Titanic: Great romance, or the greatest romance?
Great romance. Can we just say “Jack Dawson” and be done with it? He can sketch me anytime.
I remember the media made a big deal about about Kate Winslet’s nipple. It was a big deal to me, too, but I didn’t understand what those feelings meant until years later when I watched an in-flight documentary about Shakira and my heart suddenly became as compulsively honest as her hips.
As they say, Hips Don’t Lie. Nor do your loins.
So true. I’ve enjoyed sharing Titanic with you ever since we saw it in the theater back when. When I watch it, it’s 98% to see the ship sink. But I also see its appeal as a timeless vanilla hetero romance. Are you aware it’s being re-released in April?
I thought I’d heard that but I wrote it off as hopeless folly. Can we go?
We should go.
Yeah let’s go.
Leo in Titanic, Leo in Inception, or Leo in J. Edgar?
Leo in All of them. He doesn’t stop. He is relentlessly good.
I’m working on my next book. Give me a description of my hero’s upper body.
His nipples looked like shrunken heads taped loosely onto a graying and haggard washboard. Timid and pale, there was often no movement of his chest, even when breathing deeply or coughing. He looked distantly rheumatic – nervous, as though worried about where the next punch to the abdomen would come from.
I am drooling. Is this description copyrighted?
Make me an offer while I shop agents. Then we’ll talk.
Most romantic song of all time. Here are your choices:
1) "Everlasting Love" - Gloria Estefan
2) "Love Gun" - KISS
3) "E-mail My Heart" - Britney Spears
4) The Clay Aiken version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
“Love Gun.” Without a doubt. I would like to ask Britney Spears the following question: How can one even send an email to another person’s heart? That is more ludicrous than, say, quarks, or linear time, or the idea of an outline before a novel is written.
I agree. I love “Love Gun.” It has that 80s way of getting right to the point. “I really love you, baby/I love what you’ve got/ Let’s get together/We can get hot.” Thesis statement, claim-support-warrant. I’m sold.
That’s really the lyrics? I’m more of a Rush fan.
I f***in’ hate Rush.
Complete the following to make them potential romance novel titles:
Her Unexpected ___ Bowel Movement____
Rancher’s ____ Delight______
_____Freak ____ in a Cage
A Spanking for ____ Suzanne and her Mother_____
Saving ___My Lover from the Ravenous___Mathews
_____Bound and Gagged and Soldered____ to a Chair
I would read any of those. Except 6. Soldering is one of my hard limits.
Limits, schlimits. Whose rules are we playing by, anyway – yours, or His?
Good one. Danielle Steel. Thoughts?
None. Okay, just one – that time I compared you to Danielle Steele. I’ve regretted it ever since. Oh, and that woman has a serious knack for dramatic portraits on the back cover.
Seriously. That one where she’s in the convertible on the pier with diamonds in her ears? Stunning.
I was flabbergasted.
You’re a gardener. What’s the best thing you’ve ever pulled from the ground?
A demonic compost plant that actually haunted me in my dreams.
I remember it! Or your description of it. Or you showed me some shriveled version of it you’d put on a pike after killing it.
I had to burn it to rid my plantation of the spirits.
Will you submit Jaded to a publisher? Please say yes. Don’t hang me out to dry like that guy who proposed to his girlfriend on the basketball court at halftime.
Totes McGoats! I gotta finish editing this thing first, okay? I’m halfway through a Plot Crisis at the moment, but it’s looking like I might actually pull through this bout of metaphorical tuberculosis in my journey through Illnesses as Storyline Complications.
Halftime is what they call it in basketball, right? Or is that just football?
I’m pretty sure all sports have a halftime. Even plays and musicals have a halftime. It’s a safe term to use in any circumstance.
As a theatre geek, I happen to know plays and musicals have intermission, and that’s automatically what I call the breaks in sports games. As in, “Bruce Springsteen will sing at the Superbowl intermission.” My dad doesn’t know where he went wrong.
I think “intermission” is a better term anyway. It’s fancier. Also, isn’t halftime a musical signature? What’s the Superbowl anyway?
A day in February when someone inevitably demands I make guacamole.
I’ve heard brass knuckles are great for mashing unripe avocado. You might try that sometime.
Who in their right mind would use a semi-illegal weapon to make guacamole? (nervous tug on shirt collar). Thank you so much for doing this interview. And thank you again for giving me Build Your Own Stonehenge for my birthday.
I appreciate the chance to participate in your interview, and the chance to thoroughly bamboozle your brain with thoughts of physics and historical impossibilities.
You know, it wasn’t the Stonehenge itself that was hard to set up, it was the cardboard puzzle mat. Which is weird because it’s only nine pieces.
Well, it’s a puzzle. And a puzzle is like math. Enough said.