Romancing the RWA Conference

 

 

 

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Kathleen Harrington                                   

Our Writing Something Romantic team attended the Romance Writers of America’s National conference in San Diego this July We enjoyed wonderful workshops where we learned new ideas and brushed up on old skills. We listened to a marvelous keynote speaker, Beverly Jenkins – who shared what it was like breaking into the field of romance as an African American novelist. At a buffet breakfast, Dr. Valerie Young explained how the “imposter syndrome” keeps many women from achieving their full potential.

Some famous writers you’ll no doubt recognize were in attendance at the conference: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn, Cathy Maxwell, Kristan Higgins, and Tessa Dare – to name a few.

For our Writing Something Romantic group, listening to Michael Hauge share his experiences in the Hollywood world of screenwriting proved both delightful and empowering. Michael is well-known as a story expert, author, and lecturer among fiction writers. Yet for all his fame and expertise, he’s very warm and personable.

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WSR Team with Michael Hauge

The RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony on the final evening honored excellence in romance fiction. Robyn Carr gave a gracious acceptance speech when she received the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Her husband and grown children watched proudly from the audience.

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All dolled up for the Awards Ceremony

However, the conference wasn’t all business and no play!

The Marriott Marquis is located along the waterfront of the Port of San Diego. My sister, Carol, and I toured the USS Midway, which has an impressive history. Our Writing Something Romantic team enjoyed each other’s company sightseeing, dining at the Harbor House in Seaport Village, sharing buffet breakfasts in the hotel, and celebrating together at a special dinner at Roy’s Restaurant overlooking the harbor.

It’s hard to put into words just how much listening and talking to our sister writers stirred our creative juices and made us ready to get back home and write, write, write!

 

Creating My Worlds

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My sister and I at an Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America Meeting

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Our Writing Something Romantic Sisterhood

Someone once asked me how I create a world for whatever book I’m writing at the time. Since I write historical romance, you’d think the answer would be simple – research. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

While I do spend a considerable amount of effort studying the history of a particular time and place, I also must create fictional characters who have a backstory which shaped them. Every important character has a family. Fathers and mothers leave their imprint on their children, for good or bad. Brothers and sisters play an important part in each hero or heroine’s childhood. Qualities – positive or negative – instilled by parents or mentors become lifelong traits.

Let me give you an example.

In Promise Me, a story set in the Regency time period, Court Shelburne nearly loses the love of his life through his unreasoning jealousy. His lack of trust begins early on, when his mother is too involved with her current lover to return home to the bedside of her dying son – Court’s older brother. That traumatic event is the catalyst for everything that follows.

Now, I don’t start out by telling you, the reader, that’s why Court feels unworthy of love. Or why he’s so quick to believe that Philippa has betrayed him with his best friend. All we know for certain at the beginning of the story is that Court believes he holds the moral high ground – while at the same time he’s plotting his coldhearted revenge on his faithless wife.

However, things are not always what they seem.

When first creating a story, I ask myself: What secrets are they (hero and heroine) keeping from each other? These secrets often stem from incidents in their childhood.

But not always.

In Lachlan’s Bride, set in the reign of James IV of Scotland, Lady Francine is keeping a secret belonging not to herself, but to her sister, who’s died five years before the tale begins. Yet at the time of the story’s events, the concealment of the past becomes pivotal to the continued safety of Francine and her daughter.

Once again, I don’t tell the reader at the beginning of the romance that Francine is boldfaced lying to Lachlan MacRath (and everyone else).

But in the end, of course, all will be revealed.

Kathleen Harrington

Somewhere in Time – Kathleen Harrington

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Someone once asked me, if I could visit any time period and location, when and where would I go? I felt pulled in, oh, so many directions, just envisioning the possibilities.

Even today, I find that a hard question to answer. Every epoch has its allure, and I’ve visited many exotic locales in my books. If you’ve ever seen Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, you can understand my dilemma. The hero, played by Owen Wilson, yearned to be in Paris when it was the literary playground of such greats as Hemmingway and Fitzgerald. But in the film, a young woman from that era longed to live in the Paris of Toulouse Lautrec and the Moulin Rouge.

One of the first choices that come to mind, for me, is London during the Regency. Of course, I’d want to be the daughter of a wealthy duke with handsome suitors surrounding me at a grand ball. And my dance card would be absolutely full. Yowza!

I love the thought of elegant carriages pulled by matching chestnuts, morning rides around Hyde Park, town mansions lit in the evening with brilliant chandeliers, and spacious country estates. No wonder I cherish Jane Austen! Ah, to be Lizzie Bennet, Mr. Darcy’s beloved spitfire. Sigh.

Another place I can envision visiting is the Scottish Highlands during Scotland’s Golden Years under James IV. On the brink of the Enlightenment, the country remained independent from English rule. Clansmen in their tartans, with great claymores on their backs, met in the Scottish Court at Edinburgh to woo their sweethearts with song and poetry. Who can resist the sight of a brawny Scot in a kilt? Hmm. Not me.

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I think, however, the place and time I’d most like to visit is the American West in the 1880’s. Women wore the most fantastic costumes, fitted tightly through the bust and waist, and adorned with buttons and bows and perky bustles perched right on top their you-know-what. They carried frilly parasols over their feathered bonnets and button shoes on their dainty feet.

But the men, oh my! They were anything but dainty! Wearing leather chaps and wide Stetsons, pistols strapped to their sides, the broad-shouldered fellows simply oozed muscular, masculine charm. Add to that, horses with tooled leather saddles, ropes hanging from a saddle horn, and riding with your darling in a surrey with a fringe on top! Doesn’t get better than that!

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Hmm. Guess I’ll let you choose which place and time sounds the best to you.

Kathleen lives in Southern California with her American Bulldog, Auron. Her latest release, BLACK RAVEN’S LADY, Book 3 of the Highland Lairds Trilogy, is now on sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kathleen’s Writing Space

Readers often ask about a favorite author’s daily schedule – and where she spends most of her time writing. Sometimes finding the right spot isn’t easy. I moved my writing space all over the house I used to live in, searching for an area where I could see the outdoors whenever I looked up from my keyboard. I started in a small bedroom where the window looked out over the garage roof revealing a patch of sky. No tree branches, no leaves. Sigh. I began to feel overwhelmingly confined and started to search for a more open and airy space. I moved downstairs to the dining room where I was surrounded by large windows overlooking the front and back yard. This seemed perfect – at first. However, typing on a keyboard placed at the height of a dining room table eventually proved to be very unsatisfactory. I then moved to a downstairs bedroom, set my desk to face the doorway so I could look out onto the family room. Sort of okay, yet still confining. And no vista.

Today I’m in a different house and I have the luxury of an office that faces the front of my home, with corner windows to let in the light, a view of palm trees, and a wide swath of sky.  I can watch the neighborhood children going to and coming back from our nearby grade school. And I get to watch the weather and the seasons change. I love to listen to classical music while I write. I can enjoy the beautiful sounds, while not being distracted by any lyrics.

Have you noticed how many authors post pictures of their pets? There’s something so special about having an animal you love close by while you work. My companion is an American Bulldog. While I’m tapping away on the keyboard, Auron curls up on his bed beneath the corner windows and waits patiently. Well, patiently until it’s mealtime. (He has an inner clock that rings at dinner time.) This is only one of his beds. Others he moves around the house at will. At nighttime, we move his biggest bed next to mine. And when my alarm clock wakes us up at 5:00 am, he’s right there with a good morning kiss.

I’m not usually posed so formally in my office. These photos were taken at the request of my publisher, Avon Books, and were included in their promos. But here I am, looking very serious, in front of my desk. And here is Auron, looking up and wondering why I’m taking his picture instead of going into the kitchen to fix his dinner. You got it – his inner clock is ringing!

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