"The first manuscript, to be perfectly honest, is now in the category of “That Which Shall Be Forever Unnamed.” It was awful. Really, truly awful. So much so, in fact, that I knew I was in trouble when halfway through the book the hero and heroine couldn’t find anything to talk about except what their favorite color was. (There, I said it! Eek.) I was so traumatized by my utter failure that I gave up writing. I made myself finish the story, but decided that perhaps writing wasn’t for me, after all."
She changed her mind, of course. And we're glad she did. One lucky person who leaves a comment today will receive a copy of Ashley's first novel, Seducing the Duchess.
Discovering Your Author Theme by Ashley March, Guest Blogger
Thank you for inviting me to the blog today, Pat!
A few years ago a critique partner of mine went to a conference and came back with news to share about discovering your “author theme.” As a fairly new writer, I had no idea what this meant or even how to determine what my theme was. I may have written three books, but I was still a fledgling in my own eyes, trying to learn everything about the writing and publishing business that I could in the least amount of time possible.
Author theme? Bah! I just wanted to get published.
However, after I received my first publishing contract, I suddenly became victim to a case of “seconditis”—I knew my publisher loved the book which got me the contract, but I doubted I would ever be able to write well again and was convinced that my second book in the contract would be a disaster. As a result, I returned to the fundamentals. I ignored the business side of writing (as much as I could) for a while and went back to craft: plots, characters, and the like. Surprisingly enough, I discovered my author theme as a result.
I write romance. Historical romance set in Victorian England, to be exact. Some might think this means my author theme is about love (the obvious conclusion) or about sex (a common prejudice). However, after reviewing my first unpublished and unworthy manuscripts (I like to call them the those-which-we-shall-never-speak-of-again manuscripts), and after comparing them to the book which sold my first 3-book contract, I realized that each of the stories had something in common.
My characters are flawed. I tend not to write the goody-two-shoes heroine who gets all the sympathy, and neither do I write the wounded and battle-scarred hero who only needs the tender love of a woman to help him get past his demons. My characters aren’t unfortunate or tormented; they’re people who’ve made mistakes, and the only way their love story can end with a happy-ever-after is if they can find forgiveness and healing.
This is evident in my debut, Seducing the Duchess, where a duke who married his wife for revenge three years earlier now realizes that he’s in love with her. Although he might try to woo her in various ways, the future of their relationship depends on her forgiveness and the healing of her heart before she can trust him again.
Armed with this knowledge of my author theme, I set out to write my second book. Flawed characters? Check. Forgiveness and healing? Check. My critique partner had said writers who knew their author theme could use this to their advantage, and I was determined to take this knowledge and provide greater depth to my characters and the story as a result.
As so often happens, though, the characters in my forthcoming second book would not cooperate. Yes, they were flawed, and yes, they needed to forgive and to be healed in order to have a happily-ever-after. But instead of being the perpetrators, the hero and heroine in Romancing the Countess were the victims. In short, the story ended up being about an earl and his best friend’s wife who were drawn together after it becomes apparent that their spouses who died in a carriage accident were having an affair.
I’ve learned from the experience in discovering my author theme two things. 1) It’s true that an author theme can help you understand your own writing better and help you delve deeper into your plot, characters, and their motivations. 2) Don’t be afraid to let your author theme take different directions; your creativity will often surprise you in wonderful ways.
Now, on to the third book! Although nobody told me there was such a thing as “thirditis.” :)
Do you already know your author theme? What do you think it is? Is it a common thread throughout all of your writing?
Ashley, thanks again for being here today and for this thoughtful post.
Remember, everyone, if you leave a comment here today (up to midnight Mountain Time), you'll be in the running for a copy of Seducing the Duchess.
To learn more about Ashley and her books, visit her website or join her at her blog, Ashley March: Historical Romance Author. She is also on Facebook, and can be found on Twitter as @ashleymarch34.