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How to Write Your Own Love Story

Tips from a local romance novelist

When Cupid flings his arrows next week, will love be in the cards for you? It can be, if you make his arrows your pen and write your own love story.
    Romance novels are hugely popular, according to the Romance Writers of America Association. Certainly for self-publishers that’s true, as 40 percent of the e-book market share on Amazon is romances. Among mass-market paperbacks, romances are top earners.
    What makes a great romance novel? Bay Weekly turned to New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Laura Kaye, an Annapolitan.
    Kaye, who makes her office in a corner of Panera Bread in Edgewater, entered the romance writing game in 2008.
    “I wrote my first novel after a brain injury left me with this strong creative urge to write,” says the 42-year-old mother of two. “I wrote it in 12 weeks and immediately started submitting it to agents.”
    Literary success was not as direct as Cupid’s arrow. “The story was a mess, but of course I didn’t know it at the time,” she reflects. “I got a lot of rejections. So I took that message and started studying the craft and going to workshops and meetings and doing a lot of rewriting.”
    The former United States Naval Academy history professor says a good romance novel offers more than coupling. Kaye, who tends to contemporary romance and romantic suspense, calls the genre one of the most hopeful. “There’s this inherent message that there is someone out there for everyone. No matter what you’ve gone through in your life, you can overcome that and find happiness.”
    To try your hand, Kaye advises starting with characters and letting them define circumstances and plot so that the story “springs from a real-world, real-reaction basis.”
    The romance formula will help you out, as it demands specific elements. There’s almost always a main couple facing challenges to being together. There’s the meeting and, eventually, the happily ever after. The romance comes in between, flowing from the author’s interpretation of the characters and the tension that’s natural between them.
    Don’t write anything that makes you uncomfortable, Kaye counsels. Sex isn’t a necessary ingredient; it depends on the characters you’re writing about.
    “An erotic romance means the story is defined by the sexual journey of the characters,” Kaye says.
    At the other end of the spectrum are inspirational romances that may have very little, if any, sex. “Inspirational romances,” she says, “are driven by spiritual hunger. The stories are going to look very different, but they are still romances.”
    Don’t be afraid to stretch your imagination, Kaye counsels. One of her most popular series, Hard Ink, features five ex-soldiers who run an unlikely renegade operation against an organized crime ring out of the back of a tattoo shop.
    Their operation may be improbable, but their characters are authentic.
    “These guys talk like salty military guys, like the ones I would overhear working across the hall from the mess room at the Naval Academy,” she says.
    Whoever your characters, she says, “you have to stay true to them. They can’t be straight-laced in every aspect of their lives and really different in the bedroom. That’s not authentic.”
    When a story comes to its happily-ever-after, characters also dictate its terms.
    “For many it might be marriage or a proposal,” Kaye says. “For others it might be happy together for now. For some it’s just being happy without a definitive commitment to the future.”
    Kaye’s 30th romance novel, Mastering Her Senses, hits shelves later this month.
    Hungry for more romance? Check out Rebels & Readers, a multi-author signing event at the Crowne Plaza in Annapolis, Saturday, February 11 from 1 to 5pm. Ticket options include a Friday night showing of the film Fifty Shades Darker with admission to the signing event on Saturday; or a general admission ticket for the signing only: www.rebelsnreaders.com.