I'll pause while you all reflect on how incredibly jealous you are about that.
I heard Susan Elizabeth Phillips speak. In person.
<cue the awe>
Are we recovered?
One of the many incredibly wise things SEP said when I was listening to her speak in person, was that most romance authors have a theme...some element of story...that they touch on in all of their books.
Mine is beer.
And now my mom is shaking her head and wondering why I can't ever behave nicely.
Okay, fine. My theme is characters who want to be seen for who they really are. My characters want to be loved for their authentic selves...the person they really are behind their cover, their disguise, their defenses. (The hero of my first book goes on the lam to maintain his secret identity. It's not hard to suss out my theme from that clue, is it?)
If you asked any one of my characters to name their favorite movie line of all time, they'd quote Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones's Diary, "I like you very much. Just as you are." Yes, even my guy characters have this as their favorite line. They're beta guys--evolved and in touch with their feelings. But don't tell them I told you or they'll feel compelled to fix a faucet or punch something just to prove they're not wimps.
I was incredibly shy when I was a kid. I used to go to parties in high school and never say a single word. Even at family parties I was really quiet. When I was a junior in high school, I applied for a summer service program and was selected. At some point during the trip, one of the other girls asked the moderator why he chose the people he did. He explained what he'd seen in each person's interview that he thought would be valuable to the group. When he got to me, he said he'd chosen me because I was funny.
I was shocked. No one had ever said that to me before. (Probably partly because I rarely opened my mouth. It's hard to see a person's sense of humor if they aren't willing to open up.)
He was the first person who'd seen past the walls I had up to realize that I really, really love to make people laugh. Somehow, having another person appreciate my sense of humor validated it for me. That one guy and his feedback on my interview changed my life. It gave me the courage to start talking, to start writing funny things, to go through sorority rush, and job interviews, to tell stories at parties and trust that they'd be appreciated. It was as if he'd given me permission to be a person I hadn't been sure would be welcome.
|Here I am, experimenting with my sense of humor on that high school service trip.|
I don't always hit the mark with this theme, but I think in my September book, Out of Bounds, it really worked. The hero, the heroine, even the Schnoodle are misfits in some way. They don't fit the space they think they should and aren't sure if they're allowed to try to break out. I loved writing this book. I love the dog, the larger-than-life heroine, the hero who's tormented by his devotion to his family, and the humor.
Here's a quick excerpt...Posy Jones is visiting her mom's store, The Wonders of Christmas Shoppe, and feeling out of step, as usual.
Her mom bustled toward the office at the back of the store. "I'm unpacking a shipment. Come on back and I can tell you the news," she said. "Watch that garland!"
Posy stooped to duck under a rope of gold, spray-painted eucalyptus leaves and pine cones. She turned sideways to edge past a display of the beautifully detailed handcrafted papier-mâché mangers her mom commissioned from an artist in Pennsylvania.
Wonders didn't have aisles so much as narrow alleys between displays crammed full of Christmas glitz and glitter. From the hand blown glass ornaments hanging on color-coordinated trees to the loops of beaded crystal garland Posy ducked through as she passed the register, the store carried anything and everything Christmas and delicate.
Her mom's real specialty was miniatures. Wonders was the best-stocked retail outlet on the East Coast for holiday decorators who took verisimilitude in their train displays or light-up Christmas villages to the extreme. Every inch of horizontal space inside Wonders contained tiny, detailed, uncannily realistic miniatures and scene scapes.
Posy ran a hand over the thick nap of an ivory velvet tree skirt. She'd worn more than her share of velvet Christmas dresses when she was in elementary school. Each one had been beautiful on the hanger, but the heavy fabric and childish styles had exaggerated Posy's large frame, making her feel even more self-conscious. Trish had exquisite sewing skills--she just didn't have any gauge to tell her when enough was so much more than enough.
Okay, your turn. I don't think you have to be a writer to have a theme--it's the thread running through everything you do. So what about you? What's your theme? (If it's beer...or pancakes...or Mark Darcy/Colin Firth, feel free to say so. All themes are welcome.)
I'm giving away 3 copies of Out of Bounds to people who leave comments!