On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Readers' Expectations -- Pushing Buttons and Crossing Lines

For those of you who didn't read the comments yesterday...it prompted this blog.

Oh Robin, I just picked up Heart Duel. Again. I started this book a while ago, felt ambivalent about Holm and put it down somewhere.


Well, while cleaning my house, I FOUND the book and picked it up again. I went back a few chapters and now things are rolling along.

Uh, I guess I'm glad you found it?

Now that I have given you a heart attack about the whole "she put down the book" scenario, let me explain something.

Putting it down had nothing to do with the writing. I have read all your other heart books and loved them. It had to do with these two characters. As a reader now a little more than halfway through, I realize that these two cut reeeeaaaallly close to the bone of my psyche. Holm is a pushy alpha. Pushy in a different way than T'ash. Holm treds the thin line of dominant v. domineering and in the beginning I was not liking him at all because I thought he was crossing the line.

I know exactly what put you off and why, and probably the exact scene. I liked writing the scene and liked the scene, but had several very negative comments by my first readers. I finally left it in because I was too far along in the book and the scene was one of those blocks I couldn't take out. Just couldn't wrap my mind around how to achieve the same effect and write it in a different manner.

I also had a VERY rough scene in Heart Duel that I rewrote. It was (for me) way over the line, and I think my readers would have found it disturbing and never have trusted me again. So it's something I've kept to myself and will never see the light of day, but I can't really bear to delete it from the computer...yet.

I, myself, have a very hard time with any scene where the heroine asks the hero to leave her home and he doesn't. A hero staying after the heroine insists he leaves will not happen (unless she's too sick to take care of herself, and even then I think I'd have him transport her to somewhere she'd get care and not be solely with him).

Lark is very similiar to me. She is a closet romantic and extremely practical. I'm that way which is odd for a romance writer cause you would think a RW would be proclaiming this stuff from the rooftops. So not so.

Anyway, this book had a very VERY rocky start (for me) but as the story progresses and the characters change I am seeing this book, which hits a visceral note, possibly becoming my favorite of all the heart books.

So, what a reader brings to a story can be just as important as the writer's words.

Thank you for the lovely words, and you're right, if something pushes my buttons, it's harder to read. If my expectations aren't met, it's worse.

Some readers can fall into the story because the characters are different from their personality and some readers struggle with those same characters because they identify so strongly that it hits uncomfortably close to home.

I have a reader who closely identified with the Romeo/Juliet situation as her own many years ago and she loves this book best.

OTOH, Holm is not as smooth in this book as I'd set him up to be, so that irritated other readers...

Either way, it's darn good storytelling, Robin.


Thanks Moonhart/Terri, I appreciate you sticking with the book. It is all too easy to leave a book lay, especially with all the other entertainment possibilities surrounding us.

And usually an author knows when something is going to push certain buttons and/or alienate readers and only hope that they'll hang on for the ride, or won't throw the book across the room and vow to never buy you again.

Re: Writing and Publishing. Watch the lines you decide to cross. Weigh them. Do you want to continue to write or are you willing to give up your career? Is the character name, title, scene, book worth fighting for against all odds? Take chances, but know when and what you are doing and accept the consequences.

May the muse be with you today,


Blogger Jeri said...

It's a tough line to walk, not offending while not being bland. Just curious: how do you balance the reactions of your first readers (I assume by that you mean those who read it pre-publication and give you feedback)? What if 9 out of 10 say a scene or plot development is fine but the remaining one has a strongly negative reaction? I've been on both ends of that, as the reader and the writer. In both cases changes were made.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous a reader said...

..now the curiosity is killing me, wondering about that scene in your computer!
I must say that most of the "heroes" in romances are little more that good looking stalkers. Frightening sometimes to think these macho types are hold up for admiration, when they only deserve contempt. If a woman met one of these in real life, if she was wise, she should ran away as fast as possible!!!
However you cannot please everybody so you have to be true to yourself, as they say.
Thanks for trying though.

10:27 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

This is good advice. The scene that starts my second book has been lamblasted by a lot of people. I agonize over this because to me it shows the character so well--who and what he is becoming. It forshadows the depths to which he will sink. On the one hand, I take it as a compliment that my readers care, but on the other, there must be some hope to keep them reading.

I agonize over this scene every couple of months.

10:42 AM  
Blogger moonhart said...

Robin I don't doubt that you know the EXACT scene. I would send you the page number but I am a chicken and don't want to read that scene again. LOL! It was tough. Tougher still because unlike so many readers, the uber-alpha male doesn't appeal to me to begin with. That probably means that I am old. Way old.

When I see a man pushing and a woman refusing and the man ignoring that request, I wonder if this man is hero-material. Having now finished the book, I can see his reasons in a slightly different light, but still wrong IMO. I did feel quite satisfied as the story progressed and his character developed into a better person. Holm had a bit of that Hubris thing going on. ;)

So, what really tipped the scales when I rediscovered the book? Robin Owens, the author. I read your other books and prayed that that scene served a specific purpose. But talk about taking a chance! Had Heart Duel been the first of your books that I picked up, I might have made the decision to cross you off the buy list.

It is a chance every author takes with edgy writing. Edgy writing is made edgier because your readers all bring something different to the table.

I did like the book a great deal. Not my favorite of the heart's, but very strong storytelling.



12:30 PM  
Blogger Crystal Jordan said...

I enjoyed all the Heart books. There were a few times I wanted to give either a hero or a heroine a swift kick, but I assumed that the author/fate would make that happen for me. "Heart Choice" was my fave though.

PS- Teri uber-alpha males are not that attractive even to those of us in our twenties.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Robin D Owens said...

Jeri, I have one reader that I know is very sensitive to the same things Terri is and I take that into account. If I possibly can, I'll try and slant a scene, put in more emotions or warm fuzzies or something. I trust my buddies. If even 2 have a problem with a scene I'll rewrite, but I'll have to figure out how. If I can't figure out how, then I think that I must need it to be the way it is, or I scrap it.

Reader -- Holm did not show well in the scene...I think I'd best delete it, I'd hate to have it out...and I'm lucky that I don't have any work (new, beginner, raw) out there that I could possibly be ashamed about -- hmmm that's a blog topic...It's often discussed that you may want to write about Alpha (or sometimes fantasize -- I could do with a take charge guy in some areas of my life right now so I wouldn't have to deal with Stuff), you really want a partner and a Beta in real life...

Sex, using something edgy at the beginning of the book is a real challenge! I wish you the best with it!

Thanks again, Terri. It's been a while since I wrote Heart Duel, and like the other Heart books, I worked on it so hard and for so long (I was half done when I sold HeartMate), I haven't really reread the whole bit. Usually, if I read it, I read the end, or the solar sailing scene. I still like the scenes with Clam...

Crystal, thanks for telling me you like Heart Choice best -- it's always good to hear which books people like...if only I pull Heart Quest off, too.

Thanks for the comments all!


7:07 PM  
Blogger moonhart said...


REALLY! And a man who loves a mollusk...I guess he =is= special.



7:53 PM  
Blogger moonhart said...

Oh and I can't wait for Trif and Winterberry, but I still want Tinne's story. And of course...Vinni.


8:19 PM  
Blogger Robin D Owens said...

Yes, Clam was one of a kind and really excellent for comic relief and a touch of poignancy.

Well, Trif and Winterberry's story should be ok for you, he's too d**n gentlemanly. Tinne's story is still a couple of books in the future, though I usually skip a year or two, Things Must Happen off stage for Tinne's lady before that's ready to happen, and until Heart Quest, Tinne's marriage is solid. (Teaser here)

As for Vinni. I think he's 11 in Heart Quest...and yes, we hear of his HeartMate in Heart Quest, too. (more teasing).


6:28 AM  
Blogger moonhart said...

Oh, dear. Robin now thinks I am a wussy reader.

I am not a wussy reader.


But you, Robin, are most definitely a tease.



9:19 AM  
Blogger Crystal Jordan said...

Just for the record, I love Tinne and want to read his story, but I absolutely fell in love with Cratag in Heart Duel. I want his and Marigold's story. (Please, please!)

And, huh. I always assumed Vinni's heartmate was Avellana Hazel and that's why he was so concern about reading her medical file privately in Heart Duel. (I know you won't really say, but can we have a teaser on this one?)

9:30 AM  
Blogger moonhart said...

Oh yes! I agree. I loved Cratag!!! And Marigold obviously was taken with him!!

I will like Winterberry, I know just because he is such a d**m gentleman. I like seeing the pairings of characters who are not the family patriarch/matriarch. The stories of those lower branches are equally important.



10:44 AM  
Blogger Robin D Owens said...

I wanted to put Cratag in, but thought one more character would be too confusing, so he didn't make it...got some new ones in...set up the next book and Vinni's -- and yes, he spills who his HeartMate is...

Love Robin

7:15 PM  

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