By MB Partlow
The Romantic Fiction Bootcamp is just one of the three-hour workshops offered as part of the Thursday Prequel to the 2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. The instructor, Barbara (Samuel) O’Neal, is an award-winning author who agreed to give us the inside scoop about what to expect in her bootcamp, as well as why anyone would want to write Romance in the first place.
PPWC: Why would anyone want to write romance? Isn’t the market flooded?
Barbara: We are living in a society that values a cynical, sophisticated view of the world. We’re so world-weary and knowing and sophisticated about everything that a romance sometimes seems impossibly quaint. We’re overrun with divorce and “hooking up” and texting break-ups and social mayhem of all sorts, after all.
We tell ourselves that we know what really happens to a lot of romance in the real world. Divorce, we say with sour faces. Affairs. Peter Pan men and disenchanted women and nobody cares about the long term.
And yet, romance novels continue to be incredibly popular.
Even as we are spouting our cynical statistics and bemoaning the state of love in the world, people are desperate to connect. For all of our social media, for all the shallow texting and chatter that goes on, we all long to be seen by others, to really know and be known. We yearn for union and happiness, so much so that people will pay for professional huggers to come over and lie down and hold them.
Human beings need love. We want love and sex and happiness and families. Finding love is a dizzying, heady, life-transforming power. Finding the right partner is also one of the most important contributors to long term happiness, which makes choosing that partner one of the most powerful decisions you will make in your life.
Romance novels are hopeful in a world that often seems to be full of crashing doom and despair.
And no, it is not a flooded market by any stretch.
It continues to outsell every other genre by hundreds millions of dollars every year. Nothing, nothing, nothing sells better than romance.
PPWC: How will this workshop help me if I’m new to writing romance?
Barbara: It will give you a clear, easy framework of the elements of writing romance, along with some of the most important elements that many workshops overlook, including the importance of authenticity and finding your own voice and passions. Writing a romance has some specific elements that are less important than others, such as the emotional arc of the story, the beats of attraction and consummation...and yes, a discussion of how to deal with sex (hint: it is not as challenging as you might think).
PPWC: I've already got a romance or two under my belt. What can I expect to get from this workshop that I don't already know?
Barbara: There is a lot here for everyone--beginner and experienced writer alike. The writer with a few credits and some understanding will take more away from the discussions of voice, depth of theme and the embroidery of grace notes and sense of place than a new writer will. All will be able to adapt the exercises to his or her own level.
PPWC: The romance market has undergone massive changes over the years. How is today's romance market significantly different than the past?
Barbara: Mainly, there's just MORE. More variety, including Young Adult and New Adult, spicy, spicy erotica and erotic romance (there is a difference), romantic women's fiction, vampires and historicals and everything in between. There are also more markets, dozens and dozens of them, and a dedicated writer who is willing to learn the craft and keep working will eventually find her way to publication.
PPWC: Paranormal romance. Romantic suspense. Erotica. Historicals, time travel, contemporary, inspirational, YA…can you help me figure this out?
Barbara: Yes, we will definitely talk about all the sub genres in romance novels.
PPWC: What do you love the most about being a writer, particularly a romance writer?
Barbara: As they say in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, "If it is not yet all right, it is not yet the end." I love a happy ending. I love writing about people finding connection and happiness and partners. It's a joyful part of life. We all want to fall in love, don't we?
The 2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference takes place on April 24-26, with extended Prequel workshops on Thursday, April 23. The Prequel can be added to registration for the conference, or can be purchased as a stand-alone day.
Barbara O’Neal sold her first novel in her twenties, and has since won a plethora of awards, including two Colorado Book Awards and seven prestigous RITAs, including one for THE LOST RECIPE FOR HAPPINESS in 2010 and HOW TO BAKE A PERFECT LIFE in 2012. Her novels have been published widely around the world and she travels internationally, presenting workshops, hiking hundreds of miles, and of course, eating. She lives with her partner, a British endurance athlete, and their collection of cats and dogs, in Colorado Springs. Her most current works are The All You Can Dream Buffet; Going the Distance, a series of New Adult novels written as Lark O’Neal, and Writing Romantic Fiction as Barbara Samuel.