Note: This month, we’re focused on sexy romance writing. Katharine Grubb stopped by to talk about writing chaste romance. Can sweet romance still charm the heart and capture the soul? We think so!
I have a confession to make. I’m not a real romance writer. I did write a romance (if you want to split hairs, it’s a romantic comedy), and for it being my first self-published book, from a complete unknown, with no marketing budget, it did pretty well. I’ve sold 400ish copies. It was a quarterfinalist in the 2014 ABNA contest, and it opened a door for me to get a nonfiction writing contract (and subsequently, an agent!)
In fact, this could be the only romance I write. I’m okay with that. I didn’t write it to become a romance writer; I wrote it because I wanted my kids to have a fun story to guide them their relationships. That’s code for: it has a moral. The moral, though, is far bigger than “Hey kids! Save yourself for marriage!” Rather, it’s about self-respect and seeing ourselves as valuable and worthy of being treated well by the opposite sex. The lesson comes from David, a tall, tweed and wool clad literature professor who proposes a counter-cultural relationship with Laura. He insists they meet in public three times a week, he never goes to her place, he never gives her his phone number, and he insists that she is in complete control of the relationship. Only Laura can move them from friends to sweethearts, to an engaged couple. She’s amazed by his good manners, his endless poetry, and pots of tea and his fake English accent. But when she finds out why he has these rules, she has to decide is he the most respectful and chivalrous man she’s ever met or is he completely insane?
My characters talk a lot about why there isn’t any hanky-panky. They had reasons. Good ones. I’ll admit, very exaggerated ones that no one will ever really have that involve English literature, a mysterious Nehru jacket wearing chauffeur, and Oxford University, but reasons nonetheless. Laura, my heroine, changed the way that she thought of herself by the end of the book. She saw herself as a lady, not just a girl. This little change prompted her to expect more from the young men around her and take relationships seriously.
I didn’t write a love story because I thought the world needed another romance. Admittedly, I created a very exaggerated character with a fantastic back story to prove a point. When my children start dating, I want them to have wisdom about relationships. I don’t want them to go into any relationship without tools. I want them to be confident. I want them to be steadfast in their standards. I want them to be able to identify red flags in unhealthy situations. I want them not to depend on alcohol and drugs to improve their attractiveness to others. I want them to view members of the opposite sex with respect. I want them to hold their head up high and have an expectation for the way that they should be treated. I want them to reject the idea that an active romantic life defines your self-worth. I want them to be content in being alone with themselves. I want them to view a relationship with a boyfriend or a girlfriend as one that can enhance their soul, can inspire them to greatness, can be foundation for raising a family. I do not want them to look at members of the opposite sex as one would an amusement park ride — a chance to have fun, get a thrill, and then move on to the next one.
Those who dismiss me as a prude will not bother me in the least. Go ahead and call me that. I’m not writing for you. I’m writing for me first, my family second, and my readers third. I didn’t sit back in the summer of 2012 and say, “Hey! I’ll write a clean romance because they’re so HOT, right now!” (Can you say clean romances are “hot”?) It turns out that there is a big market for wholesome romances that are done well. My success was almost entirely word of mouth. Falling For Your Madness found a niche among conservative mothers who wanted their teens to read it. In fact, Catholic Digest got wind of FFYM and tracked me down in the fall of 2013 and asked me if they could feature it in their December issue. (The answer to that question would be YES!) I have over seventy reviews on Amazon, averaging 4.5 stars. I’ve had people buy multiple copies for their adolescent children. I had one 26-year-old single woman come to me with tears in her eyes and say, “this book changed everything about the way I viewed dating.”
We will never lack for stories about people who fall in love. We will never lack for stories of love triangles or mistaken identities or he was a jerk to her in the beginning but later he grew on her. There’s something in us, specifically in women, that yearns for the unpredictability and thrill of new love. There’s something in us that finds satisfaction in stolen glances and first kisses and secret trysts. But the hot and heavy beginning of a relationship isn’t enough to keep a relationship going. I know I’m not the first one to say this. And as much as I love reading about how Elizabeth and Darcy finally got together, or watching how Ted Mosby finally met his kids’ mother, or even telling my own story about how I met my husband on America Online back when I had to explain email to people, relationships are so much more than that.
Stories have a power to change and inspire. I didn’t write Falling For Your Madness so I could be a romance writer. I wrote it to change my little corner of the world. If I succeed, that will be all the happy ending I need.
About Katharine Grubb
Katharine Grubb, her husband, and her five children all live in Massachusetts, where, like David and Laura, they cheer for the Patriots, eat a lot of Mexican food and recite poetry. Her romantic comedy, Falling For Your Madness, is available on Amazon.