Now that my major control freak is satisfied for a while by telling Richard Armitage what I think he ought to do :D, I want to leave you with a little treat for Christmas. At the end of my last piece, I said I was emphatically not against Richard being cast as a romantic lead. But what kind of romance? A period drama? An epic? Yes, he could do those well, but what I’ve been thinking is a little more down to earth. It’s called the sweet romance which I’ve been rediscovering through Beverly Farr, a fellow blogger and RA fan who is also an author. She’s been schooling me about it through her contemporary books, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the education.
She says of herself and her writing:
I love stories. I love romance. I write sweet stories about how love should be.
When I first read that, I wasn’t sure what to think, but I took a chance and read one of her books, and it was hard to deny the grin on my face when I finished. Then I read another one, and then I knew I wanted to talk to Beverly.
ME: Some truth. I didn’t expect to like your stories. I was biased about the “sweet romance” in a contemporary setting. It’s not that I like lurid writing for itself, but I just didn’t have great expectations of a good, modern story that didn’t have something explicit in it. How jaded am I?
BEVERLY: Unfortunately, a lot of people think sweet means stupid or boring. And maybe my stories aren’t sweet. I don’t know. I just don’t know what word to use. I think my stories are like Jean Arthur. Sweet because of content, but with the occasional sting or snarkiness.
ME: I love that mixture, and yep, you’re right. The word sweet has been perverted into something boring.
BEVERLY: Like in my fairy story where the heroine’s brother was eaten by a cat. That bothers people, but makes me laugh.
ME: I bought that book but haven’t read it yet. I’ve read Her Ex Next Door and The M Word. At the risk of sounding offensive, I was stunned at how much I liked these stories.
BEVERLY: Thanks for the comment. I like the “stunned” idea. It gives me hope. My stories are difficult to market because they’re not what some people think of as “sweet” but they’re not the basic contemporary novel, either.
ME: No, they’re not. They are in a class by themselves from what I can tell. I haven’t read romances in years, so I may not be the best one to make an analysis of that.
What got you started on the “sweet romance?”
BEVERLY: When I was younger, I read nearly every romance novel I could find, sweet and otherwise. Over the years, however, I realized that I really don’t want to know the details of what the characters are doing in the bedroom. I prefer to leave that to my imagination. I love the romantic movies — drama and comedy — of the 1930s through the 1950s. The good movies from that era are romantic and sometimes very sexy, without any details on screen. For example: Clark Gable was incredibly sexy and I don’t remember him being in any on screen love scenes. My other favorite actors are James Stewart, Cary Grant, William Powell, and Ronald Colman. All beautiful and brilliant.
So basically I write books that are like the movies I enjoy — sometimes sweet, sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic, but with no detailed love scenes. I had a reviewer who said one of my books was technically “clean” but there was still a lot of talk about sex (it was necessary for the plot). My response to that is that grown-ups in a romantic relationship are going to talk about sex eventually. I want to write books that grown ups enjoy, but I hope that whatever I write will be honest and respectful enough that it will be appropriate for teenagers to read as well.
I’d like to be the Frank Capra of romance writing. But that sounds pretentious.
ME: No, it doesn’t. I think you’re making a good start. I need to think about The M Word characters and which Capra characters they remind me of. Did I mention that I loved The M Word? :D What gave you the idea of using La Traviata as a framework for the story?
BEVERLY: I adore Marriage of Convenience stories, so The M Word started as a twist on that familiar theme. My hero Marius loved opera, but I knew little about it other than liking Carmen, so I started researching. I skimmed books on opera, on Placido Domingo, and watched a film version of La Traviata. At that point, I saw my story had parallels to it, so I expanded on that theme, which made for a deeper, more interesting story. I often start a novel with an interesting premise or character and start asking, “What if?” questions. I know I ultimately want a happily-ever-after ending, but I can write half a book before I figure out how to get there.
ME: Maybe it’s just me, but I pictured Richard Armitage as Marius.
BEVERLY: Well, he looks a little like Thorin, but he’s more like John Standring, and there is one scene that reminds me of Lucas North. Marius is also a little like Monet, because he’s European and likes good food. The more I look for similarities, the more I find. :)
But to be honest, those are afterthoughts. As much as I love Richard Armitage, the character of Marius was created before I first watched North and South and became an addict, so he was his own person earlier. Of course, if Richard Armitage wanted to play him on film, I would be thrilled.
ME: I would pay to see that!
And I understand Richard Armitage has inspired you. How so?
BEVERLY: First of all, he’s beautiful and beauty has a way of inspiring people. But he’s intelligent and that’s even more inspiring. He is a detailed actor who gives the viewer a glimpse into his character’s thoughts and feelings. His performances are carefully crafted, but there is a sense of honesty, sincerity and depth in his portrayals. For me, he makes me think about the characters, then about human nature, and finally about what is important in life. That prompts me to write. And watching his creativity, taking the words of the script and putting it into action, inspires me. I want to have the same detail and dedication in my work. When I write, I imagine a movie in my mind. What do the characters look like and how do they move or sound? I try to add the descriptive details that I would notice in a film, but then I add the emotions that I’m guessing they feel. Watching Richard Armitage has helped me see the complexity of characters and has helped me find the good in my bad characters and the bad in my good ones.
ME: I can’t wait to see what you have coming.
Do you mind if my minor control freak throws an idea at you? Maybe a contemporary story based on Gary Cooper’s character in Good Sam?
Okay, I think my control freak is fully satisfied — at least until after Christmas. ;-)
I haven’t said this to Beverly but what I most admire about the male leads in her books is their steadfast love for others and of course including their love interests. The stuff of only Jane Austen’s and Elizabeth Gaskell’s days? Maybe, but I can tell you without hesitation SO is one of those males, and as I sit here on the morning of Christmas Eve 2012, I’m remembering 30 years ago today right around midnight that he asked me to be his mate for life. Should I mention we were watching It’s a Wonderful Life at the time? Or would that sound too sweet? :D