Evangeline Holland

Sweeping Drama ⚜ Larger than Life History ⚜ Exquisite Romance ⚜ Diverse Perspectives
April 7th, 2013

On Completing Mine Is The Night

 "Dancing In Party Club" by photostock

“Dancing In Party Club” by photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At approximately 2:30 AM I typed the final word on my WIP, Mine Is The Night! I’ve been writing off and on since 2010, but this is the first MS completed after my interesting and thought-provoking experiences of the previous year.

Lessons Learned

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Push through even when I think I’m pounding out dreck. – Nine times out of ten, I will re-read what I’ve written and find that it’s not as bad as I thought.

Recognize the times during the drafting process where I easily lose focus and enthusiasm. – I get wobbly and impatient around the ends of each act when my brain jumps ahead of my story.

Don’t be afraid to write when I’m tired. – Discovering that I’m nearing midnight and have 1-2k left in my word count goal did much to suppress my internal editor because I just wanted to finish for the night!!

Read more in the genre in which I write! – Many dips in my confidence occurred when I second-guessed whether I was writing historical romance the “right way.” I spent most of the past 12-16 months reading non-fiction and historical fiction, with dips into contemporary and paranormal romance, but there was a sharp decline in my historical romance reading. So I must fill up the well.

On that same note: trust my voice and storytelling instincts in spite of my reading. – I took a break last Monday & Tuesday to devour Sherry Thomas’s Fitzhugh Trilogy, which I absolutely adored. They gave me a huge boost of confidence in my WIP, but then I fell into the dreaded trap of comparing my first draft to those revised, rewritten, and professionally edited books! So though I was fully immersed in three great books and found them fun to study from a craft perspective, I had to pull back and realize those were uniquely Sherry Thomas stories, just as my MS is uniquely my own.

I must be my first and best cheerleader. – Pessimism and self-condemnation are easy emotions to wallow in, especially when I approach something as creative and uncontrollable as writing. Since rejection (and bad reviews!) are an inevitable part of this gig, why indulge in the negativity before and during the process of writing?

Know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em. – I used to psych myself out by jumping in to discuss the writing, my word count, my goals, my plans, my plot, etc etc because I was so excited by the WIP. Then I realized I’d hyped my emotions to such a fever pitch and piled on expectations to the point where all I could think about was All The Work!! This time around, I mentioned things casually and briefly, thereby giving myself permission to tell the story to me first.

Never underestimate the feeling of having written! – I didn’t realize how grouchy I could get when I couldn’t get back to my laptop at my appointed time to write each day. I think some family members were on the receiving end of the evil eye when they disrupted my schedule, LOL.

YAY!

So I have an 80,000 word manuscript and oddly enough, I can’t wait to dig into revisions!

What say you? Any lessons learned during your writing process? How do you feel after completing a novel? Any advise for tackling revisions?

March 28th, 2013

Writing In The Here and Now

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A good book is essentially about action, whether it be the heart-pounding type of The Da Vinci Code or the subtly-wound type of Gone Girl, or even how and when the protagonists are going to reach their HEA moment. Though it’s easy to think action=murder, explosions, whodunnit, sex, war, death, etc, action is also part of characterization–why does a mousy, conscientious librarian waive the overdue fine of a handsome, mysterious stranger? How does she react to her decision, and what comes of it?

Mine Is The Night is probably the first truly character-driven book I’ve ever written. My past MSS have been quite plotty, wherein I would set up a bunch of characters and scenarios and let them scatter across the place like marbles until they braided back into one another at the end. The novels ended up slighty episodic–rather TV series like–but with such a large cast of characters, as well as a lengthy time-line in which to develop them all, I could hold things back, tease secrets for a little while, and play the action with a sleight of hand.

This MS on the other hand takes place over a period of ten days and is all about my protagonists, Huw and Leonore. Since I’d grown accustomed to having lots of room in which to play with various characters, conflicts, and plots, whenever I experienced an Ah Ha! moment for my protagonists, I was tempted to save it for later in the book–or for the next book in the series. During my attempts to hold onto plot twists and character revealing moments, I would meander from the main plot–Romance Writing Don’t 101!–and accidentally set up dynamics that muddled with the characters and the plot. Quite frankly, I also bored myself, and if I’m bored, everyone else is going to be bored.

When I caught myself doing this for the umpteenth time, I just threw what I thought I should hide into my book, and what do you know: it ramped up the tension and conflict and it made my characters move, which in turn moved the plot. And my Ah Ha! moment was in finally understanding the mechanics of the character-driven novel. It also helped me see the pitfalls of writing connected books!

What about you? Plot-driven or character-driven author? Have you recently experienced an Ah Ha! moment in your writing? What are some of your favorite techniques for coaxing the book/characters into action?

March 18th, 2013

To Mustache or Not To Mustache

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The physical attributes of historical romance heroes bear more similarity to male beauty standards of not only the decades in which they were written, but the author’s personal preferences. Then we have the covers, where the male models are sculpted, tanned, and chiseled–and manscaped within an inch of their lives. I recall seeing a few covers where the male model had chest hair, but I’ve never seen one with hair under their armpits or on their arms!

Readers also bring their own preferences to the table, which is possibly why the Regency setting is so popular: no facial hair, no heels, powder, and velvet, or anything else that *gasp* threatens to strip the hero of his masculinity (this is an issue for another day!). It’s also probably why publishers say blonde and red-haired men on covers don’t sell. Nevertheless, there’s been a small backlash, so to speak, against the ubiquitous of the Regency in the historical romance genre, and a few authors have braved their way into the Victorian era. Yay!, except for the fact that these 1840s, 1860s, 1880s heroes lack the key component to superb Victorian masculinity: the mustache (and beard).

From Unlacing the Victorians

There’s an old saying that “kissing a man without a mustache is like eating an egg without salt,” and in Anne Sebba’s biography of Jennie Jerome, there are hints that a sign of male virility was attached to the *ahem* size of his mustache. This thread on Paradox Interactive also assigns political meaning to the existence of facial hair (e.g.,”the typical bushy Marx-esque beard tended to be associated with political radicalism prior to the mid-century”; “growing a moustache and large sideburns was a fad of the pro-war with Russia people pre-Crimea. They also wore outlandishly coloured shirts with odd patterns.”). According to the Daily Mail, the mustache rose in status with the Empire–its crown jewel India in particular, since the highest and warrior castes sported fierce facial hair, and to assert themselves as the superior race, British gentlemen grew mustaches and beards just as fierce. “By the 1890s, the moustache was the mark of every successful dandy. As far away as Hong Kong, it was said to be social death for a man to forget to curl the ends of his moustache. At home, Edwardian gentlemen rebuked servants who aped the ‘fancy hairdressing’ of their betters.” To cement this source of social preeminence in stone, the Queen/King’s Army regulations made it compulsory for officers in the British army to grow a mustache between 1860-1916.

From Today I Found Out:

Command No. 1,695 of the King’s Regulations read:
The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and the under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip…

“Although the act of shaving one’s upper lip was trivial in itself, it was considered a breach of discipline. If a soldier were to do this, he faced disciplinary action by his commanding officer which could include imprisonment, an especially unsavory prospect in the Victorian era.”

Archive_Officer_12th_Lancers

“Poignantly, that edict was revoked in October 1916, because the new recruits were so young that some could not rustle up more than a thin, mousey streak.” — The Telegraph

Knowing this, I chose to give my hero a mustache despite its seeming unpopularity within the romance genre. For the most part, I did not have a fixed image of Huw Towyn (hero of Mine Is The Night) until being wowed by Matthew Goode’s performance in Dancing on The Edge. It was truly a light bulb moment, and the funniest part is that I had this image of Matthew Goode in WWI uniform and drove myself crazy wondering where it came from until I remembered that he was in Birdsong! Light bulb moment followed by a dim bulb.

Ignore the following picture if you’re one of those readers who hates authors fixing their characters to real people 😉

matthew goode in birdsong

 

So what do you think? Should more Victorian heroes have mustaches and beards? If you read a romance where the hero was described as having a mustache, would you recoil in disgust? What does the popularity of buffed and polished romances heroes–in spite of our own real life preferences, or even the physical appearance of our past or present SOs–say about us? (sorry, sorry, I know I said it was a topic for another day…but I couldn’t resist!)