Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Theory on Thursday with Loretta Hill

After my Christmas and release hiatus, Theory on Thursday is back in 2012 and first up in the hot seat is fellow WA author Loretta Hill. Her book The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots released only this week. I cannot wait for my Kindle to arrive (hopefully today) so I can download Loretta's book. I don't want to wait until I head to Perth next week :) 

But what I'm really excited about is Loretta's topic for Theory on Thursday. So I'll stop rambling now and hand over to Loretta. I do hope after you've read Loretta's post, you'll stick around to discuss!

Firstly, thanks for having me on your blog Rachael. It’s a real pleasure to be here.  I wanted to talk about an issue that I stumbled over in the last couple of years and had to really nut through before I could move forward with my writing.  My question was, “What’s the difference Between Mainstream  Commercial Women’s Fiction and Genre Romance?”

I happen to be a reader of both these genres and since forever I thought they were one and the same thing.  They’re not. If you’re a reader this shouldn’t really matter to you. But writers need to distinguish them so they can figure out which publisher they’re supposed to be targeting.

I’m an engineer by day and for that reason I tend to like to deal in absolutes. Yes, I know - with writing there are no rules. So let’s just call this table below a loose guide. J There are no hard and fasts here.  I’ve just found these characteristics to be the case (in general) and it has helped me figure out where I fit.

Mainstream Commercial Women’s Fiction
Genre Romance
The story is all in the heroines POV
The story is in the hero and heroine POV
The main plot can be anything but a romance. Ie. suspense, mystery, family saga, coming of age, science fiction, fantasy, historical etc.
Romance is the main plot
Romance is a subplot
Sub plot could be in a secondary genre. Eg. suspense, mystery, family saga, coming of age, science fiction, fantasy, historical etc. But it can also be another romance (between a different couple)
The heroine’s journey is the focus of the story. Her character must achieve growth by the end of the story.  
Hero’s journey and Heroine’s journey is given equal importance in the story.
The hero’s journey doesn’t matter, except in how it affects the heroine’s journey. His growth is optional. He can be constant through the book if you like.
Both hero and heroine must have grown and/or achieved change by the end of the book and their love for each other must be the catalyst for that.
Secondary characters are important. Some may be given equal page time as the hero.
Secondary characters are not so important.

To illustrate, how you can stretch these rules, or push the envelope, I thought I’d talk about my debut novel with Random House, “The Girl in Steel-CappedBoots” freshly out in stores this month! J  

This novel fits under the category of Mainstream Commercial Women’s Fiction. It is all in the heroines POV, the main plot concerns my heroine’s struggle to prove herself as a good engineer while living and working in the outback. There’s a lot of resistance to her goal from the people she works with, her own troubled past and her lack of knowledge. The genre for my main plot, I would actually say is comedy more than anything else.  It’s a light hearted tale of personal growth and driving yourself to the absolute limit and just praying it works out. Here’s where I pushed the envelope on the rules: the romance in this story is more than just a subplot. When I think sub plot, I usually think maybe 30% of the novel. I would say I gave Dan and Lena’s romance about 50%. Lena’s journey is definitely the focus of the story but Dan’s love helps her to realise her own strength as a person, so it’s valid to my main plot too, if you know what I mean.  My secondary characters are also very important. Like Dan, they too contribute to Lena’s self realisation, so I gave them plenty of page time.

While “The Girl in Steel Capped Boots” is all in Lena’s POV, I have seen commercial women’s fiction with many POV’s. However, usually they are other female secondary characters POV  rather than the heros. Sometimes there are even double or triple heroine stories. The focus is always on the female’s journey.

Anyway, I hope my blog has helped somebody else asking this same question. And thanks again for having me, Rach. 

Thanks Loretta. That was VERY interesting and informative. I know this post has been really helpful for me and I can see I most definitely write genre romance!

I'd love to hear from readers about whether or not you agree with Loretta's take on Women's Fiction vs Romance and if you have anything to add. 

BLURB - The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots
'Let me burst your city bubble for you. This is the Pilbara. And it's the Pilbara that makes the rules' Lena Todd is a city girl who thrives on cocktails and cappuccinos. So when her boss announces he's sending her to the outback to join a construction team, her world is turned upside down. Lena's new accommodation will be an aluminium box called a dongar. Her new social network: 350 men. Her daily foot attire: steel-capped boots. Unfortunately, Lena can't refuse. Mistakes of the past are choking her confidence. She needs to do something to right those wrongs and prove herself. Going into a remote community might just be the place to do that, if only tall, dark and obnoxious Dan didn't seem so determined to stand in her way ...


Helene Young said...

Fascinating post, Loretta (and Rach).

Loretta, I love the way your analytical mind has drawn up a table. Being an OCD pilot I can appreciate the need for order:)

My first two books were published as Romantic Suspense, which in Australia is a relatively unknown genre - Bronwyn Parry is about the only other published Aussie in the genre and she blazed the trail! My third book, Burning Lies, is being published as commercial women's fiction because my new publisher believes it has much broader appeal than the genre tag is allowing it.

I've just done a quick scan of my shelves and you've certainly identified a trend of single or female only POV. So now my fingers are crossed that there are readers who enjoy multi POVs as I use up to five POV - heroine, hero, antagonist, anti-hero and sometimes another female character!!

Being 'categorised' is certainly one of the difficulties that face a new author. I'm reading Di Morrissey's latest book - The Bay - and she breaks a lot of the so called rules, but in her own charming way succeeds.

All the best with Girl in Steel-Capped Boots. It's on my TBR list, which is growing at an alarming rate!!

Fiona Palmer said...

Very interesting. For my second book I had more pov's but the publishers wanted me to cut them out and we went down to three. Heroine, her father and the hero. But I always have both the heroine and hero. I like to see both characters and what they think of each other.
I guess its like trying to write a book. There are no set rules and we all get it done in different ways. Also it depends on what the publishers are after at the time, and how well our work reads. Thanks for the blog Rach & Loretta. Food for thought. :)

Rachael Johns said...

Helene - your books are awesome no matter HOW many povs there are!

Fiona - like you, I ALWAYS have the hero and heroine. I had the old godmother in Jilted too but she's been edited out. Well, not her, just her pov :)

Fleur said...

Loved this girls. Interesting isn't it, with Red Dust, the publisher edited it so there was mostly only the MC's POV, where as in Blue Skies, I got away with the female MC's POV, plus a couple of others (but NOT the main love interests.) in Purple Roads there are atleast four POV inc the mian love interest! I guess we'll see how it goes! Rules are made to be broken...!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. This is certainly 'food for thought' ~ I bought Loretta's lovely book today, and I can't wait to read it.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that my take on the differences between the two genres are similar.
I am hoping to read The Girl With The Steel Capped Boots this month!

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Juliet Madison said...

Thanks for the post, I like tables like the one you've created! It helps to see things at a glance.

I write contemporary womens fiction, and my first ms has three POV's, all female main characters.

My second ms has three POV's also, but this time with the MC, hero (if he can be called that in this genre!), and an 18 yr old girl, as all three people have an affect on each other's journey.

My current WIP has just one POV this time (I think I needed a break from all the voices in my head, lol!), and is written in first person.

All the best with your book!

Suzanne Brandyn said...

Informative post, Rach and Loretta.

I was having trouble defining my last three novels.(unpublished) I kept coming up with, Suspense/Thriller with Romantic elements. They are Mainstream Commercial Women’s Fiction. I had a feeling they were but couldn't define them.

It was the same with Thriller. When we think of Thrillers, we think gory, blood and guts, but actually, a Thriller is when the main characters life is in jeopardy from the beginning of the story. There are so many genres lately, it's hard to keep up with them all.

I've already have 'The Girl in Steelcapped Boots' on my Kindle with a heap of more novels on my TBR list.

Hopefully I'll get to it soon. :)

Rachael Johns said...

Hi Fleur - I think it'll go fine. As you say, rules ARE made to be broken :)

Carol - thanks for stopping by. Am sure you'll enjoy Loretta's book!

Hi Shelley - great to see you here!! I think Loretta's spot on with her definitions, don't you?

Juliet - eek first person!! I like reading it but it never seems to pan out for me. Good luck :)

Suz - good definition of thriller there!

Loretta Hill said...

It's really great to see other people have been thinking about this question too. And I'm glad you guys liked my table. Wasn't sure whether to put it up there because I didn't want it to seem like hard and fast rules - because they certainly are not! That's definitely demonstrated in some of the comments here too. Thanks for having me on your blog Rach! I really enjoyed being part of Theory on Thursday!

Helene Young said...

Another wonderful discussion on Rachael's blog! Thanks to Loretta and Rach for initiating it.

So reassuring to know I'm not alone in pondering the rights and wrongs of writing :-)

Jenn J McLeod said...

I'm late coming in. But I have to say "WHERE WAS THIS BLOODY TABLE TWO YEARS AGO" LOL For years I was in a muccdle. My msss fuctuationg in and out of both genre - neither one nor the other until a rejection letter told me to take a good look at what I wnated to write - romance or CWF. That and NANO had me write two CWF novels in two years that toatally flowed. I can't write a 'real romance' to save myself and admire all the RWA members who manage to get all that emotion into so few pages. I admit, I don;t think I could write a single POV though. And based on this I think I have broken lots of 'rules' but the other day a publisher told me I was a 'brave' writer for being different!!!! Hmmmm :) I do love the sound of your story Loretta. All the best.

Amanda said...

WOW - Rach and Loretta... this has been fabulous - I too have been wading the murky waters of where I sit! Fabulous help... look forward to reading your book Loretta (Rach - yours is on the TBR pile!!!)


Anna Jacobs said...

Interesting post, and good luck with your book. However, I have to disagree about mainstream women's fiction being all in the heroine's point of view. I've been writing and reading it for a long time, and it's not only in both hero and heroine's POV, but also brings in other POV characters, because in 80-100,000 words you can fit in two or three major subplots.

Really, you're not restricted. If you want to write in only heroine's POV, go for it, though.

Margareta Osborn said...

An interesting post. Not sure i agree on all things in the table but they have provided food for thought. I can't wait to get my hands on your book, Loretta. I've heard some rave reviews. Congratulations :)
Thanks Rach for another great post which has provided such interestiing discussion.

Rachael Johns said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by. This has been REALLY interesting!

Jenn - HUGE congrats on that awesome publisher comment. Hopefully it's the start of big things :)

LOL on wading murky waters Amanda. Sometimes I reckon you just have to write what feels right!

Hi Anna - I think you're right about the povs, but I reckon Loretta's table is pretty spot-on for everything else :)

Romance Book Haven said...

Thanks for sharing this informative post, Loretta and Rachael!

Faye/Serenity said...

Thanks for that post - it was hugely helpful as I'd often wondered exactly what the difference was between the two. Thanks and nice to meet you Loretta!