I don't know if anyone else is this way, but I always enjoy when my favorite authors talk about their motivations and thought processes in relation to their various projects. Because Keep You is labeled a "contemporary romance", and because I know that tells a reader a whole bunch of nothing about the type of book it is, I thought I'd take today to talk about my own motivations.
I'm not historically a romance fan. As a pre-teen, I was all about Jurassic Park and The Lord of the Rings. Then I moved onto mystery and thrillers. Horror and fantasy. I'm a literary omnivore - I'll read anything so long as it's executed well and holds my interest.
But, I'm a girl, and I do love a good love story. When I delved into romance, I began with the contemporaries and the paranormals. And I always felt like something was missing. Then my mom suggested I borrow some of her historical romances from the 70s and 80s. All my favorite music comes from those decades, so I thought, why not? I'll give them a go. And that was when I made a surprising discovery.
The romance classics, if you will, were long, sweeping, heavily detailed and satisfying in an emotional way. Most of the contemporary romances I'd read boiled down to two hot people falling powerless to one another's said hotness and turning lust into marriage in a matter of two hundred pages. "I'm hot, you're hot - let's hook up and then get married even though we don't know each other." As a reader I was getting a physical plot - sex, action-adventure sequences, hijacked helicopters, shootouts and corporate takeovers. Every protagonist was, at his or her core, a profession: a doctor, lawyer, ex-military specialist, corporate tycoon, teacher, judge, child advocate, former male underwear model...etc. But as these neurosurgeons, actors and models saved president and country alike, there was never an emotional plot. The things I love about a romance - the conversation and chemistry, the connection - those were missing. I started to realize that I never laughed or even cracked a smile while reading, I felt no sympathy for the characters, nor did I believe that the central protagonists were "right for one another".
If you visit the general "Fiction" section of Barnes & Noble, there's plenty of great, emotionally-charged human stories. But why was I not finding that in current romance? What I wanted, I realized, was a contemporary romance in which the characters felt like real people, with real issues, who were genuinely connected to one another. I wanted them to feel like old friends. I wanted to root for them. And then I decided to write that for myself.
Keep You is a romance - it has to be; it's a love story - but it's about a family too, and the ways families hurt one another and lift one another up. I took out all the things that make romances feel cliche or improbable (think "smoldering" and "predatory") and put in the reality I wanted to convey.