Interview Transcripts

Interview Transcripts

Kelly McClymer: The Wide World of Romance 9/8/05

Mary Rosenblum

Hello all and welcome to our Professional Connection live interview tonight!

 

Kelly McClymer is the author of seven historical romances and one young adult romantic comedy. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, regularly judges in romance writing contests of all sub-genres and keeps up on the latest deals. Last, but not least, she has read romance for thirty years. http://kellymcclymer.com

 

Kelly, I enjoyed your website. :-)

 

Of course, now you'll have TONS of contest submissions!

 

For a box of Godiva chocolates, I may submit myself. :-)

Kelly McClymer

Oh, my website is woefully outdated, but I welcome contest entrants anytime.

 

My older son is revamping to give me a new, YA look, but his client (me) is a little slow supplying content.

Mary Rosenblum

Are you going to focus on YA fiction from now on?

Kelly McClymer

I'm not going to focus on YA only. I will also do adult chicklit, and maybe historical again in the future.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, chicklit...now there's a topic I'd like to touch on. But let's begin at the beginning here! I'm getting ahead of myself. How did you get started writing? And did you begin with Romance?

Kelly McClymer

I got started in writing in high school. I worked on my school paper and on my school magazine.

 

In college I took writing courses in fiction, and began writing short science fiction.

 

I didn't turn to romance until I decided to tackle a novel length work (very daunting idea to me at the time!...)

 

I thought, as long as I knew the couple were going to end up together, I could write a long book. And I did!

Mary Rosenblum

How cool! (I'm a SF writer, mostly). And of course, SF and Romance are now blurring!

 

I was delighted with your breadth of experience in Romance. It is such a HUGE genre. I'm looking forward to your help in sorting it out for our audience. I see a lot of  confusion among novice writers who want to write Romance but aren't sure what the 'limits' are.

Kelly McClymer

My heart will always belong to SF, but there's a wonderful place to blend the two, as you say.

 

There is only really one "limit" in romance--the story needs to focus on the couple and their romantic relationship.

 

For example, I can cite an older example of a time travel romance--Knight in Shining Armor.

 

Jude Devereaux threw in history when her modern day heroine travels back in time, but the focus was on love.

Mary Rosenblum

So how much research must you do before you write your historical romances? How critical are your readers?

Kelly McClymer

Historical readers tend to be a picky bunch!

 

While a historical romance (or time travel) may not be as gritty as the historical reality, it needs to capture the time,

 

the realities of the setting and time period, because that's what makes the readers enjoy a good historical romance.

Mary Rosenblum

Where do you do your research? And do you intentionally pick a time and place that can be easily researched? Or is there a 'formula' for periods that Romance publishers expect to see?

Kelly McClymer

Almost every author I know who does historical romance or mystery has been doing research since birth.

 

Okay, not birth, but since they could read :-) There are great novels and biographies to start with.

 

I, myself, love personal journals because they help capture the feeling of the people without as much formality.

 

And everyone I know who writes in a historical period choose that period because they love it.

Mary Rosenblum

So I’m curious. You wrote an historical series for your publisher. Were they all set in the same time period?

 

My historical series is set in the very early Victorian era.

Kelly McClymer

That is one of my favorite times, with the battles women fought to be recognized as individuals.

 

So much changed, for women and men, during Victoria's reign--industrialization changed everything!

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding. It was indeed a time of change. So how much do you know about household furnishings, clothes, habits, manners, etc? Tons?

Kelly McClymer

Ack! What kind of household? Upper class? Nobility? Someone from rural America?

 

That's the danger-you can do so much research you feel you need to cram it all into the book

 

but really what you need to do is use enough to make your setting real to your readers without

 

giving them a mini history lecture. This is not an easy skill to master.

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding. I keep telling my students that those details are like an iceberg...only the tip shows in the story.

Kelly McClymer

Excellent way to put it! I probably use about 10% of my research...maybe.

 

I try to choose details that will stand out and reflect the time and place, as well as the characters.

Mary Rosenblum

How do you decide what belongs and what does not? That is a frequent question from new writers.

 

And it's pertinent to all fiction, for that matter!

Kelly McClymer

Whether I'm writing historical romance, YA, or science fiction, I ask myself three questions:

 

Am I using this research to show something important to the characters?

 

Is this a fact or detail that will provide a sensory moment for the reader, to make them feel the time and place?

 

And, last, if I left it out, would the story suffer?

Mary Rosenblum

Those are good criteria, Kelly! Especially the last...it's so easy to put it in because it's a cool detail, not because it NEEDS to be there!

Kelly McClymer

I learned that last one writing science fiction :-)

Mary Rosenblum

Oh yes. J SF is a great way to learn 'detail triage'.

carla

I'm writing from a journal that scans many time periods. Is this doable?

Kelly McClymer

I'm not sure what you mean about a journal that scans many time periods--is it research?

 

If the shape of your novel is a journal that covers multiple time periods that could be interesting.

Mary Rosenblum

Carla is having trouble with questions...but she is writing the story as a journal to give us peaks at the character's life.

Kelly McClymer

Ah! As romance, that would not be doable. As women's fiction--yes!

 

I should explain--romance tends to focus on the romance and is usually a relatively short period of time, several years.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah...so the journal form is not the problem?

carla

Could there be a romance entwined in the diary?

Kelly McClymer 

 

  I have seen other books written in journal form (Bridget Jones leaps to mind). folks, but something

 

Mary Rosenblum

Aha...there you go, Carla. Good research.

 

But even so, you suggest that she keep the time period short?

Kelly McClymer

My take is there should be romance entwined in every story :-) But there is a difference between

 

a romance, and a story with a romance element or two in it.

 

As to time frame with a journal--there was a wonderful movie (I'm dating myself) called...I can't remember

 

that followed a young black woman from birth to very old age...it may have been a TV mini series.

 

It was told in diary/journal format...The Diary of Miss Jane Pittman!

Mary Rosenblum

Ah!

Kelly McClymer

That covered many eras--and had romance, tragedy and a bit of mystery too.

Mary Rosenblum

You mentioned women's fiction. Can you talk a bit about that that genre covers? It includes chick lit, right?

Kelly McClymer

There's a funny thing happening in the romance world--we're spawning sub genres right and left.

 

But we're also breathing life into sister genres, too.

 

Women's fiction tends (and it is all fuzzy, keep in mind) to be more uplifting and serious.

 

Chicklit has recently begun to introduce the insouciant heroine.

 

The heroine who is not perfect hair, perfect heart--and thought she may strive for the perfect shoes.

 

She doesn't worry as much as romance or women's fictions heroines about not being perfect in other ways.

 

This seems to be a response to more women putting off marriage and not being tied to family duties.

 

Women's fiction, for example, might have a widow fighting to feed her children, where chicklit

 

has a woman fighting to keep her job and find the right hot guy.

Mary Rosenblum

MST asked what genre Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear be? Would that be historical, do you think?

Kelly McClymer

I class Auel's work in historical fiction

 

and really, it is epic in proportion because it takes several huge novels to cover one woman's life.

 

I also love it--that's one example of where all the research is in the book, and most readers don't mind.

carla

How important is it to know the genre you are looking to write for when you begin? Can you write it then figure it out?

Kelly McClymer

Oh, Carla, that's a hard question.

 

If your book crosses genres, you can have a hard time selling it. For example, Laurel Hamilton's books.

 

She has a vampire hunter in love with a vampire and a werewolf...solving a mystery.

 

But once the books were published, they took off...Same with Diana Gabaldon.

 

But it is much easier if your book does not cross genres or break more than one rule at a time.

Mary Rosenblum

Although I think today, you're better off if you happen to cross genres with Romance.

 

Mystery, SF, and Fantasy are all doing romance crossovers.

Kelly McClymer

Romance is over half of the market right now.

Mary Rosenblum

We have discovered there are a HUGE number of readers who love romance out there! LOL

Kelly McClymer

Romance subgenres allow for the crossover without risking losing the reader.

 

For example, in Hamilton's series, the violence makes men enjoy the books more

 

but also turns away some of the core romance readership who are looking for something lighter.

Mary Rosenblum

And I think...I may be wrong...that Laurel Hamilton started out years ago in the SF/Fantasy universe and then moved into Romance.

Kelly McClymer

I think Laurel Hamilton started out in fantasy, but her strong core romances called to some romance readers.

 

She is an example of what kind of novel has strong romance but would not be classified, formally, as a romance.

carla

Something along the lines of Mists of Avalon ... would that be one particular genre or crossing lines? I have not read Laurel Hamilton's books.

Kelly McClymer

Great book, Carla! I loved the Avalon books. They are definitely high fantasy, but they call to romance readers.

 

The Arthur myths always call to romance readers, but they are more epic, and not strictly romance.

Mary Rosenblum

And Marion Zimmer Bradley was already very thoroughly established in the classical fantasy universe with a strong readership.

Kelly McClymer

There is a chicklit in the Arthur universe out--A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur's Court.

 

Not a romance, a chicklit, but the focus is on the modern woman time traveling back, not on romance

 

or on Arthur, either...that's just one world that writers and readers love to read about.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, it sounds like a FUN book, Kelly. I haven't really looked at chicklit and I think I need to. :-)

Kelly McClymer

That's something I like about chicklit, it is fun.

 

With chicklit you can have more than one possible right guy.

 

And some writers have suggested that in chicklit it is less about a right guy than a right-now guy.

 

I think there is no subgenre of romance (or any literary fiction, actually) that couldn't mine the Arthur myth.

Mary Rosenblum

The protagonists are younger, aren't they? Isn't the appeal to the 'twenties' readers in chicklit?

Kelly McClymer

Chicklit heroines are usually in their mid twenties to mid thirties (the pre marriage/pre kids).

 

But since the genre has really just begun expanding, there are exceptions--single moms (mom-lit),

 

older women (hen-lit), etc. It is the snarky tone, and the somewhat self centered characters that make it chicklit.

gwanny

I want to concentrate on Hen lit...it's not all romance and silliness as chick lit...you familiar with the genre?

Kelly McClymer

Hen lit is finding an audience (Julie and Romeo, Ball Step Change, etc).

 

It is harder to sell it to the twenty something editors, but there is an audience for it.

tkat_2

Does a chicklit story have a happy ending? What if there is no "right now guy"?

Kelly McClymer

A chicklit story does not have to have a happy ending--although the ending should be appropriate for the

 

story you're telling, and the tone. For example, The Nanny Diaries.

 

Many readers liked the breezy insightful nanny, but weren't too fond of the rather realistic and less than upbeat ending.

 

Oh--and definitely not a problem if it turns out there is no right guy right now J

Mary Rosenblum

Let's talk about happy endings for a moment here...aren't they pretty much 'required' for most romance lines?

Kelly McClymer

Most romance requires that the couple be looking at a future together--whether they tie the knot by the end or not.

 

This is what makes romance romance. This is the expectation that romance readers have when they pick up a romance.

 

There are always exceptions, but not many. I can't think of one off the top of my head.

carla

So is there is a difference between crossing a genre and just calling out to another genre?

Kelly McClymer

The books that cross genre are pretty well known--Diana Gabaldon with her Outlander series.

 

The question to ask yourself is: is the book more about the heroine's journey (or the hero's)? Or is it about the couple?

 

If it is about the couple and the focus is on how they get together, then romance publishers are interested!

 

I should add, this is less true of mystery and SF publishers--they are still a bit squeamish about too much romance

 

despite the fact that Janet Evanovich's Plum series is a wonderful romance-mystery hybrid.

 

Although Stephanie Plum can't make up her mind about a man, so it falls short of a romance.

 

There's a historical mystery series written by Amanda Quick that does fall within romance, because the focus is

 

on the couple's relationship as they solve mysteries.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah that is changing. :-) I just sold a romance to Asimov's, the top short SF market...and Tor Books has a SF romance line now. Mystery is less romantically inclined, I think.

Kelly McClymer

I wonder if Laurel Hamilton's success had something to do with that?

 

Or perhaps they are tired of losing good female writers to romance (which happens quite a bit).

 

I can't wait to see what Tor puts out in their romance line.

Mary Rosenblum

I think sheer numbers have to do with it...lots of Romance readers read romantic SF.

 

I think Catherine Asaro's books came out with Tor.

Kelly McClymer

Asaro is an interesting case.

 

She is a physicist and began with hard SF, but was asked to tone down her romance.

 

Now, she's worked hard to get romance readers reading her books, and I guess the SF publishers are paying attention.

Mary Rosenblum

And...she is also president of SFWA, Science Fiction Writers of America and calls herself a romance writer. :-)

Kelly McClymer

The one thing to remember here--romance is a primarily female market. SF and mystery are used to catering to men.

 

The publishers are scrambling to re-draw lines they thought were firm.

Mary Rosenblum

And those flexible lines are to the benefit of all writers who do NOT fall neatly into a category!

Kelly McClymer

Well, yes.

 

And no.

 

Because I know of writers who are told they have too much romance by other publishers.

 

And are then told ‘not enough’ by Romance publishers! Frustrating--but persistence pays off.

Mary Rosenblum

This has been the case...I've had that happen to me before...but I think we're seeing a change in how 'romance' is perceived.

 

It was kind of sneered at by other genre publishers

 

but Romance readers are getting MUCH more respect now... that is what I think I’m seeing. What do you think?

Kelly McClymer

I think the numbers in the marketplace garner respect.

 

I also think it causes head scratching from the male-types.

 

The questions are probably along the lines of "Who wants so much kissing in their books?"

 

But the numbers at least convince them that readers like romance

 

and not all romance has a lot of kissing, either. But there has to be that couple relationship building thing.

bud

From the male perspective...what about a thirty something guy who discovers his wife of ten years may be cheating a bit?

Mary Rosenblum

ARE there any 'male romance' lines?

Kelly McClymer

There is a type of lad lit.

 

It is not considered romance, per se.

 

The movie About A Boy is cited as an example (I love that movie!).

 

But from what I hear, it's a very small niche.

 

The man who finds out his wife might be cheating sounds like a little older variation of lad lit.

 

Could definitely fit in, but romance publishers might be wary of introducing it to their female readers as romance.

 

I think it would come down to whether or not it was something women wrinkle their noses at, or nod their heads at.

 

Waller is one of those authors who perpetually kills off his hero or heroine--and that's not generally going to lead to a good future

 

and romance readers want to close the book thinking the future is just a bit brighter for the characters.

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, killing your MC does dim that future just a bit! :-)

 

Kelly, I'd like to ask you for a

 

rundown of the subgenres covered by that blanket term: Romance. Some novice writers find it bewildering.

Kelly McClymer

Okay.

 

Historical romance--covers a romance in one historical era.

 

Timetravel--covers romance that spans two (or more) time periods.

 

Paranormal--has elements of the paranormal, like witches, vampires, ghosts, etc. (occasionally one of these is part of the couple)

 

Regency romance--this is a subset of historical romance with its own tight rules, set between 1796-1819.

 

Romantic suspense--this is romance blended with danger, the couple is usually on the run, and the stakes are life and death.

 

Romantic Comedy--this is usually a lighter romance, where the couple can be as slapstick as Lucy and Desi, or witty and dry

 

Romance with Mystery--there is often an element of mystery in romance, so this isn't technically its own subgenre.

 

All of my historical romances have a hint of mystery, as does my YA coming out in the spring, and the series I have coming out in the fall.

 

The secret is, romance readers--and writers--love a splash of mystery in every book  J

 

 

 

 

 

Futuristic Romance--this is the sf subgenre of romance, other planets, earth in the future, space colonies, etc.

 

Inspirational romance--this is for those who also want an element of faith, and a little less sex in their romances.

 

Erotic romance--this is for those who want more sex and less "other stuff" and this one I don't know a lot about

 

except that it is a growing market...

 

And that's part of the interesting thing about romance--both inspirational romance and erotic romance are growing markets.

 

Last, but not least, is contemporary romance--happens in the here and now and focuses on the romantic relationship

 

without many other complications.

 

Most everyone knows of Harlequin as a romance publisher, and they are the masters of the contemporary romance.

 

But a single title contemporary romance writer is someone like Susan Elizabeth Philips (some of her books slide into romantic comedy)

 

And a sister genre is women's fiction--stories about women surviving divorce, cancer, broken friendships, serious and funny.

 

And I mentioned chicklit already (which is spawning its own subgenres of mom-lit, hen-lit, lad-lit).

 

I think that's it for a thumbnail sketch of the subgenres--but if there are questions on what's what, please ask!

 

sallyk

How do you do your market research?

Mary Rosenblum

How does a novice find out who publishes what?

Kelly McClymer

The right publisher (in my definition) is the one who believes in your book and buys it. You can find that publisher

 

more quickly by taking the stack of books you've read that are like yours (I'm assuming we're all avid readers).

 

Check the spine or the copyright page for the publisher's info. That's the first place to start.

 

Of course, if you haven't heard of a book like yours, then you have to go to the library, or the bookstore and

 

read a lot of cover blurbs in various sections.

 

You're not looking for something exactly like what you've written (which would just be depressing!)

 

You're looking for someone who, say, publishes time travel romance, or "issue" fiction that deals with cancer/death etc.

 

Of course, getting an agent is a great shortcut--but finding the right agent can often be as frustrating as finding the right publisher.

 

Again, if you want to write romance mixed with science fiction, you need to look for an agent who handles both.

 

That's the person who will understand what you're trying to do.

Mary Rosenblum

Do you have an agent and did you acquire one before you sold your first book or after?

Kelly McClymer

Oh, agent stories! I'm on my fourth agent right now (I love them all, but things happen).

 

My first agent did not sell anything for me. My second agent made my first (3 book) sale.

 

My third agent sold books 4-7. My newest agent sold books 8-10. I believe in agents.

 

What my agents did, always, was make things happen faster because they knew the right people to get my books to.

 

And they also helped me navigate the fun contract stuff too.

 

Oh! I forgot one romance genre that is hot right now--YA romance!

Mary Rosenblum

I was intrigued by your series...and you have a new one starting soon, too, right? Did you propose a series to your publisher? Or did they ask for it?

Kelly McClymer

For my first, historical series, my agent sent one book in to the editor.

 

The editor said to my agent, "Can she do a series with the sisters?" My agent asked me. I said "Yes!"

Mary Rosenblum

cool!

Kelly McClymer

The second series I'm doing (a teenaged witch-cheerleader YA series, starting with THE SALEM WITH TRYOUTS).

 

My agent pitched as a series, since that was how I envisioned it.

 

She could have pitched it as a stand alone, if she thought that would make it more interesting--but because of the premise

 

the pitch worked better as a standalone. One thing I've learned, it is tricky to pitch a series, unless that's what the publisher is looking for.

 

Most publishers don't like to contract for more than three books at a time, and usually they prefer two.

 

They are wedded to their numbers, and since it takes a year to get a book out, and then another six months to get

 

sales figures, that actually does make business sense.

 

Also, as my agent said, when she advised me she wasn't going to try to lock in a three book series, if the series goes well

 

the writer wants to reap the advance benefit in the next contract negotiations.

Mary Rosenblum

What about short fiction markets for Romance?

 

It seems to be mostly a novel genre?

Kelly McClymer

There used to be many outlets for short romantic fiction, with the women's magazines. Nowadays, not so much.

 

There are magazines like True Confessions (that pay well!) and Woman's World (very short stories), as traditional avenues.

 

There are also some on-line romantic fiction magazines that will accept longer stories. The two I liked the most just went out of business a few months ago.

 

But for subgenre stories, there are always the science fiction (Isaac Asimov and Analog), mystery (Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock)

 

and fantasy (Fantasy and Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy)...

 

I'm not sure why romantic story magazines don't do well. Pure speculation, plus my own reading preferences

 

suggest that it may be that romance readers like to immerse themselves in a story, and that is difficult to do in 10-20 pages.

Mary Rosenblum

There's also a very nice new online magazine: Romance Rendezvous, edited by Jean Lauzier. She has done a great job.

 

www.theromanceplace.com

 

She is even paying.

Kelly McClymer

Romance Rendezvous? I haven't heard of that. I'm going to check it out. I was desolate when Wax Romantic stopped accepting.

Mary Rosenblum

Jean was editor for WR and started the new site.

 

Do check it out. Nice magazine.

Kelly McClymer

Wow! That's the thing about the short markets--and the long ones--you have to keep your ear to the ground!

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding. The name is new, so do pass it around. She publishes good stories, too.

 

Before we run out of time

 

I wanted to find out what you have coming up. A new series, right?

Kelly McClymer

Before the series comes out in the fall of 2007, I have a YA romantic comedy coming out in March.

 

GETTING TO THIRD DATE is not part of the witch cheerleader series, it is a stand alone romantic comedy.

 

The editor who bought my YA series liked one of my adult proposals and asked me to turn it into YA. So I did.

 

Since the original premise was adult, I had to re-envision for a college freshman age young woman. Katelyn Spears was born

 

and given a challenge--give a third date to all the boys she'd given up on by the second date.

 

Katelyn's motto is that everyone deserves a second chance, but the third date is only for those who have more than a little potential.

 

And then, in October, SALEM WITCH TRYOUTS comes out. This is a book that came to me because I overheard

 

something said and got it wrong (they said Salem Witch Trials...and that's not what I heard and a book bloomed in my mind.

Mary Rosenblum

It's a great title!

Kelly McClymer

So I have a character who is something like Tabitha from Bewitched, with a younger brother who is getting into trouble.

 

The family moves from Beverly Hills to Salem and my perfect cheerleader heroine has to take remedial magic classes.

Mary Rosenblum

Sounds like a LOT of fun!

 

I will look for it. J  Kelly, thanks so much for coming. You have been a great guest and very informative.

Kelly McClymer

It was a lot of fun to write (I'm working on the second book in the series now--and envisioning more of how witches cheerlead.

 

Thank you!

tkat_2

It was great to have you here Kelly, Do come back.

Mary Rosenblum

It was indeed, and I hope you're willing to come back!

Kelly McClymer

Of course! This was fun!

Mary Rosenblum

Maybe when your next book comes out? Talk to us about YA?

Kelly McClymer

Sounds good--I'm learning a lot about it as we speak  J

Mary Rosenblum

I bet! Sounds as if you're on a roll!

 

Thank you so much for spending the evening with us!

Kelly McClymer

Thank you for asking me.

Mary Rosenblum

We'll let you go rest. We've worked you hard!

 

I will definitely ask you back!

 

Have fun with the new books!

Kelly McClymer

Okay! Great! Bye

Mary Rosenblum

Good night!

 

Thank you all for coming!

 

Do join us in the morning for our open chat.

 

No topic, we just get together to talk writing.

 

It's right here, at 10 AM Pacific time, 11 MT, 12 Central, and 1 PM east coast.

 

I'll post the transcripts in the usual place: Surviving and Thriving: Interview Transcripts.

 

Good night all, and I'll see you in the morning!

 

 

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