Skyhe Moncrief on Writing Romance Novels
Romance author Skhye Moncrief spoke with us about writing romance novels, what it's like to work with Druids, and her thing for kilts.
A Conversation with Skhye Moncrief
Q: What advice can you give new authors on writing romance novels?
A: Aside from the costly expense for annual membership, the Romance Writers of America
is the best source of information out there. Writers from every genre nucleate to the information RWA offers, including men! I used to kill myself researching the market. Not after joining RWA. And the information they provide on craft cannot be beat.
Otherwise, I’d say read everything you can get your hands on to understand the craft. Use every criticism of your work as a springboard for understanding what your problem areas are... If someone says your scene sounds contrived, find out what contrived means.
Q: Could you also give some advice for new romance authors on getting published?
A: Keep submitting and writing. They say that those who never get published gave up… I didn’t give up. But I’m stubborn.
Find free information online: I blog about writing and research books at blog.skhyemoncrief.com. Find blogs like mine that offer information on how to write and query stories.
Create a web presence: set up a website, blog, and Yahoo group for readers interested in your work. When you finally get that contract, you’ll have most of the promotional work set up with these three aspects of your writing personality. And you won’t be hopping around online communities creating pages to express yourself. Instead, meet readers at Yahoo reader groups!
Q: What mistakes should new authors avoid when writing romance novels?
A: Thinking you’re doing everything right. I did that.
But a little bit of stubborn goes a long way in ensuring your voice remains your voice. Then again, make certain you understand what voice is. Style is method of delivery.
Q: Your novels include mythological and paranormal elements. What special challenges do these present to you as an author?
A: I live for world building because of my fascination in geology and anthropology -- where my formal education lies. When I find an author who writes incredible worlds, I buy all his/her books I can get my hands on. This included 22 books on a backlist two months ago. Thank goodness the books were 64% off in Nook format! And I just purchased twelve of Gena Showalter’s novels. I read three of hers in the past four days. That’s challenging considering I need to write! But I’m managing to deal with critiques of two manuscripts as well. So, I’ll just call reading the Lords of the Underworld series market research. If you love dark romance, read The Darkest Night
The biggest challenge in world building is finding a balance between the reader who doesn’t want to know everything on every page and the reader who needs to know anything and everything in a world I’ve whipped up. For the author of paranormal elements, continue to seek the great balance that pleases all by rationing out information you deliver! I haven’t found the secret formula. You can rely on your editors to force you to cough up more information later…
As for mythology, I just have way too much fun twisting and bending legends. Alas, readers aren’t as comfortable with too much twisting in that arena as I. So, my challenge is controlling my creativity and going with what’s there, only twisting a little. That’s what editors of large publishing houses say they want -- a small twist. Apparently, I twist and twist and twist.
Q: Could you talk about your process for writing romance novels? Do you do a lot of research? Do you make a novel outline? Do you know the ending when you start out?
A: My first series (Time Guardians
) required endless research. I set up cultures in the future to travel through time and protect human history. This involves derelict gods and two Celtic orders that intermarry to time travel with fairy magic. The male sect studies Post-Modern Alchemy (I created the science based on cultural evolution where scientific study pursues the study of magic) and the female sect deals with Druids who study everything associated with myth and literature. Then there’s time travel involving numerology and an understanding of Earth’s constellations as well as another planet’s constellations for dead reckoning…
See, that’s a lot of research and world building. I spent a lot of time researching everything from prehistory to Tarot. Since my specialization in graduate school was in Pre-Columbian peoples, I literally switched continents on this series and leapt into the unknown. Well, I’ve always had a thing for kilts. So I did have a starting place. To write the Druids, I took junior and senior-level college courses on Medieval and Renaissance/Reformation English literature for research. Those Druids were pretty intimidating to work with.
My lastest series (Feral Fascinations
) didn’t require much research because I was such a strange child… I admit it. I was into everything paranormal, including extraterrestrials. So, I just went with everything I knew and wrote my werewolf space opera. "Psychic werewolves are saving the universe. And they’re recruiting!" Because of the story world, the books have more sex than the standard story I write. So be warned!
As for the writing process, I didn’t outline anything on paper when writing Feral Fascinations
. I had a few major turning points decided in the romantic growth and sci-fi plot. But even then, that meant nothing with any pre-story details. I was ten pages from writing The End and completely changed the last scene. Well, that’s before I decided to write about thirty more pages for a happily ever after scene. Dare I confess I rarely add the HEA [Happily Ever After] scene before I’ve revised the rough draft? But my ending changed with a sudden epiphany, and I wrote what I consider to be something nobody saw coming…
I did a little research for dates and such because the series revolves around end-of-the-world winter-solstice 2012 theory. And for the record, the anthropologist in me had no trouble weaving all the theories together into this series. I don’t know what readers will say. But I might have twisted legend too much?
As for the rest of the series, I wrote Book Two in a month and am working on preparing it for submission. Let’s just say I had to look up details on one of Saturn’s moons and information on mysterious crystal skulls. But I really didn’t do much research. I just finished Book Three and winged it all except for the information on tigers to simply make my story-world’s population of tiger folk as interesting as possible on a planet far far away.
Otherwise, I usually write a novel in a month, then print it out, scrawl a synopsis with my blood to analyze my external and internal plots, then tweak the manuscript until I feel I’ve eradicated the potholes in my synopsis. Do not fear synopses. Synopses save my life. I think writers need bumper stickers that say Synopses: a writer’s best friend. The process of bleeding yourself in writing a synopsis pays off by helping you mold your baby into an acceptable adult. As for writing synopses, find a few at Sparknotes.com and analyze how they’re written. You’ll find great examples there!
I usually have 4-8 scenes ready to go in my head so I’m always ready to write something when the opportunity arises. With a five-year old, one must grab the bull by the horns and type to get anything written.
Should I add I have health issues that wake me up early in the morning? So, I write at night. Otherwise I’d get nothing done with a five-year old demanding things around the clock.
Q: What are you working on currently?
A: Today, I’m starting a new story that deals with bringing dragons to Earth. It’s a dark futuristic romance taking place in about sixty years. I think most of the drive to write this piece comes from all of the post-apocalyptic movies I’ve seen over the past year. Boy, what a theme Hollywood is feeding the masses, eh?
I haven’t researched a thing for this tale because the story takes place on Earth. I’ve already worked up most of six main characters, the basic plot, and how the romance will pan out while writing a novel last month.
This story doesn’t follow standard romance criteria. There will be four mates for the heroine by the end of the story. Why? It’s a challenge to write four romances tastefully and reach The End. This type of story breaks traditional romance rules. Drat! But I’ve been reading really awesome futuristics that are anything but erotica where the heroine has multiple mates by the end. That’s called polyandry in anthropological circles. So, today I’m breaking rules!
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