It's my pleasure to welcome award-winning author Katie O'Sullivan to talk about her new book release, QUINN'S RESOLUTION.
Hi, Katie! Would you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write QUINN’S RESOLUTION?
Hi DK and thanks for hosting me on your blog today! I’ve been writing for several years now, and have published with a number of small press publishers. I’m currently a “hybrid” author, writing for a publisher (or two) as well as self-publishing some of my own books.
A little about me… I live year round in a vacation destination, Cape Cod. Most of the year it’s a quiet, quaint place to live but for about ten weeks in the summer the population explodes with summer people and tourists. It’s fun having neighbors to do things with and more choices for restaurants and activities, but I think I prefer the quieter months when I have the beach all to myself… even if it’s too chilly to actually swim. My kids have finally all “launched” and I’m getting used to the empty nest thing, hoping it translates into more writing time.
I was invited last fall to participate in a group series with seven other indie authors. I’m the newbie of the group and felt a little insecure about it since the rest of the authors actually earn their livings writing books. (I still have a day job as a technical writer for a California-based software company.) But I signed up anyway and participated in discussions as we decided on the series focus. Each book is a standalone, set around a central tragedy, a hurricane event that devastates the island of Bali, killing hundreds.
My hero Quinn was in Bali with his rock band right up until the weather turned, so he survived while the other band members perished. Each of the other authors in the series has their own take on how their hero was devastated by the tragedy – some of them were there at the time, and some of them lost loved ones in the event. The central theme running through all the books is how these eight guys deal with their losses and go on with their lives.
I’ve wanted to write a “rock star romance” for a while now, because it’s an interesting New Adult genre. I guess I like to try a little bit of everything, lol. I had fun with it. My middle child is currently on a “gap year” working at becoming a punk rock star in Chicago, and my kids have been involved in “rock band classes” since they were in middle school, so I know a little about the music and band dynamics. My youngest son took pleasure in schooling me about making my hero more likeable (not his exact words) before the tragedy, so there was more arc to his character’s fall and subsequent rise. Like I said, it was fun to write.
QUINN’S RESOLUTION is Book 5 in After Hurricane Nina—Hot Hunks-Steamy Romance Collection. Are there any caveats to writing for a collection?
This is my third “collection” or series I’ve written for. The first was the Candy Hearts series for The Wild Rose Press. For that, you had to choose a saying that you can find on a candy heart, and keep it under a certain word count. I was one of the last people to submit, and my editor didn’t think I’d make it, but I did. SAY YES is another Cape Cod-based novella of a second chance romance, and although it’s not as light-hearted as many in that series, I really love that story.
The second “series” I participated in was an anthology called HUNKS TO THE RESCUE, which I was invited into by an author I knew from my original YA publisher (who went out of business and left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.) The only guidelines were the one in the title – you had to write about a hunk who rescued someone… some authors took it more literally than others, but we had 18 stories in the anthology and mine was the only undercover detective. Again, the setting was Cape Cod, and when I got my rights back the story became my first self-published novella, Breaking the Rules, which is available for 99 cents on Amazon, and which I’ve turned into a trilogy with the last novella set to come out this summer as well as all three stories bundled into a paperback, Cape Cod Dating Rules.
The HURRICANE NINA series had only eight authors involved and felt a lot more close-knit. We have a private Facebook page and take votes on just about everything. We’ve already decided to put out another joint series later this year, which I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to talk about or not, so I won’t. But it’s a great group of successful, USA Today bestselling authors who are all really nice and really helpful when I don’t understand something or need to ask stupid questions.
On one of those Facebook threads, someone mentioned that they planned to tie their story in with another series they were already self-publishing. A lightbulb went off in my head, and I decided to make my hero – Quinn MacDonald – related to my Cape Cod Dating Rules series. Which gave him an automatic backstory, since I’d already written a youngest cousin into the series. Quinn is that youngest of eight MacDonald cousins, the one who screws up Dylan’s high school romance in Bending the Rules, and the annoying little brother to Brian MacDonald who first appeared in Chapter One of Breaking the Rules. Which gave him a reason to have to leave Bali before the bad weather hit, because his cousin’s wife died of breast cancer. (Cancer sucks. My mom died of cancer, both my in-laws died of cancer, and it’s a sentiment made clear in several of my books now.)
Learning from my peers in this new series, I think this might be one of the keys to getting readers to follow you and buy your other books, even when they’re not a “real” series. I’ve had plenty of feedback on my Wild Rose Press secondary characters that people want to read more about.
Since you’re an author of steamy contemporary romance and young adult paranormal novels, do you have a favorite genre?
LOL, I haven’t even mentioned my Young Adult stuff yet, have I?! Big Oversight, since I absolutely ADORE reading Young Adult books and writing for young adults. It’s a very freeing genre, where anything is possible, and readers are open to new ideas and actually like it when you push boundaries.
I write the Son of a Mermaid series for Young Adults that I liken to the Percy Jackson series, good for ages 9 and up. Young teens, mostly, but older kids and adults also like them. My hero is a 15-year-old boy who didn’t know until recently that his mother was a mermaid. And that he has the gene that makes it possible for him to transform his legs into a tail. Last summer I did a big push for the series with lots of events on the Cape with another author from Wicked Whale Publishing, and met a whole bunch of really enthusiastic and invested readers. Readers who drew manga versions of my characters. Readers who vibrated with excitement as I signed their book and talked about the relationships between the characters. It was SO COOL for me as an author. I even have one young man who lives in Mexico City, who emails me through my website every few months to give me ideas on what the characters should do in the future, or on what prequels he really “needs” to read.
YA readers are the best.
Except, I have to say this – some of the adult readers got a bit judge-y for me. Telling me that 15-year-olds never say “I love you.” (Having been there with two of my three kids, umm, yes they do. They might not mean it the same way a 30-year-old does, but they say it and mean it.) Or telling me the young people in my story had too elevated a vocabulary. (Nope. Again, mother of three. Lots of kids in and out of this house. Maybe your kids aren’t as smart, but…)
As to what genre I like to write, if I had to choose just one? I’m really not sure.
Thanks so much for hosting me today! Happy Reading (and writing) to you all!
Please drop by anytime. Best of luck, Katie!
About the Book:
Eight Strangers. Eight Unique Stories. All Stand-alone Novellas.
On November 30, 2016, Hurricane Nina hit Bali, Indonesia. In the aftermath of death and destruction, eight strong sexy men will realize it’s time for a change in their lives. A resolution of sorts. A contractor, a personal trainer, a millionaire, a stuntman, a rock star, a thrill-seeker, an army veteran, and a trust fund prodigal will all find a way to conquer their loss and learn to love.
This is Quinn’s story. Resolution: To find his way back to the music.
Quinn MacDonald had it made. With a record label deal and their first single skyrocketing up the charts, his indie punk band is finally getting a taste of rock and roll fame. Bikini-clad women and bottomless bottles of booze fill endless days… until their hotel collapses during a hurricane. He’s still under contract but as far as he’s concerned, the music died along with the rest of his band.
Life has never been easy for Phoebe Snow. Working three minimum wage jobs barely keeps a roof over her head while she and her band struggle to get noticed. But on stage, nothing matters but the music in her heart.
When her band plays a cover of one of his hits, Quinn is blown away. Can Phoebe be the inspiration he needs for more than just writing songs?
About the Author:
Katie O’Sullivan is an award-winning writer, whose dozen published works include My Kind of Crazy, Ghosts Don’t Lie, Crazy About You, and the Son of a Mermaid series for young teen readers: Descent, Defiance, and Deception. A recovering English major, she earned her degree at Colgate University and now lives on Cape Cod with her family and big dogs, drinking way too much coffee and inventing new excuses not to dust. She writes YA and romantic suspense novels, as well as working as a full-time technical writer. Which explains all the coffee.
Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon Author Page
Short Excerpt from QUINN’S RESOLUTION:
On the open-air stage in Times Square, Quinn MacDonald was making a very different resolution for the fast-approaching new year. As he stood there with a fake smile plastered on his face, listening to Wiz Khalifa spout on about some after-party, Quinn vowed he would never sing on stage in public again. No matter what the fucking studio executives said, they couldn’t make him do this. Rock stars don't cry on national television, for fuck's sake.
He felt raw. Exposed. Alone.
And the duet with Demi Lovato? Someone had to have planned that ahead of time without telling him a thing. There’s no such thing as spontaneous singing for television cameras. Certainly not on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. So let's add feeling "used" into the mix.
He didn’t like it. It was… wrong.
Sure, he’d promote the album. It was part of the contract he signed. He owed that much to the memory of his friends, and to their families. But as far as Quinn was concerned, the music died in the hurricane along with the rest of his band.
Writing Romantic Love Scenes from Sweet to Steamy Hot
Writing romantic love scenes—and doing it well—can be challenging for any writer. Aspiring novelists, especially, struggle with how much to tell and how to tell it.
Even a “sweet” or mildly sensual scene isn’t easy. And unabashed writers with no qualms about “open door” encounters are likewise challenged to get a blazing-hot situation exactly right.
Writing any type of love scene takes skill, practice, and an understanding of the elements that make the good ones work. And setting a goal for the type of scene you want to portray is half the battle won.
Romantic Love Scenes Are Expected in the Romance Genre
By definition, romance centers on relationship development. And that means some degree of physical attraction is present, no matter how chaste or intimate.
Other genres such as science fiction, fantasy, young adult, and speculative fiction—any genre or hybrid, really—often highlight a romantic relationship, but it’s not required.
Scenes Range in Degrees of Intimacy and Detail
I think of romantic scenes as sweet, sensual-spicy, or hot with varying degrees on the scales. Most authors and publishers categorize novels and specific scenes in similar terms.
Sweet love scenes
In the strictest sense, “sweet” means profanity isn’t used, and physical intimacy is limited to hand-holding and perhaps a stolen kiss or two. At the other end, a few mild swear words, a long kiss, warm hugs, or a subtle suggestion of deeper involvement may be included, but the relationship’s development in a sweet novel depends on emotional rather than sexual bonding.
Other terms for sweet include “clean” and “wholesome.” I don’t prefer them, however, because they suggest that normal human sexuality is dirty, unclean, or unwholesome.
Sensual-spicy means romance may be passionate, but it relies more on metaphors or hints, after-the-fact evidence, and emotional reactions rather than graphic details. On the tame end, if the lovers head for the bedroom, it’s a fade out, and the doors are closed. On the spicy side, the relationship’s consummation might be lengthy and explicit, but such a scene isn’t repeated.
The Twilight Saga is a good example of a sensual-spicy love story, especially in several scenes that take place in the final book of the series.
On Bella and Edward’s honeymoon, they hold hands on a beach under a full moon, and Edward leads her to “deeper water.” The next morning, we find that Edward has destroyed the furniture and pillows, while Bella is “totally and completely blissed out” albeit a bit bruised by Edward’s superhuman strength. She’s pleased by how they “fit together like corresponding pieces, made to match up.”
Later, Bella begs Edward for sex, though not in so many words. He’s refused to touch her after the first time for fear of hurting her. But he gives in, it’s a fade-out, and the next morning Bella’s shredded black lingerie and more destruction are evidence of exactly what took place.
Another scene takes place near the end. This scene is explicit, but the tame language makes it easy to miss without a close reading.
Hot sex scenes
These can be explicit but tasteful, detailed but restrained. The doors may be wide open, and specific acts and body parts might be mentioned. The scene may be erotic, but unless similar scenes exist, the novel itself is simply a hot romance.
Erotica and porn
Briefly, erotica exists within the same framework as any romance novel, but the sexual aspects of the relationship drive the character’s development and move the plot forward. Shades of Gray fits into this category.
Porn, on the other hand, places the emphasis on the sex with a plot that simply provides a framework and timeline.
Writing an Effective Romantic Love Scene
Less is more, even if you’re writing a super-hot, wildly sexy story. According to Jessi Rita Hoffman, a writer, editor, and writing coach, one of the most common problems is “the flaw of excess.” That’s a typical issue for many new writers, but it can mean disaster in a love scene.
Skip the adjectives and adverbs as much as possible.
Rough draft: “His big, deep-blue eyes bore right down to the very deepest sanctuary of her soul as his warm, full red lips pressed against her own and caused a shiver to spread over her skin.”
This might be what you see in your imagination as you write, but let your readers imagine, too.
Revised: “His dark eyes penetrated her soul as he pressed his warm lips against hers. She shivered.”
Think reaction more than action.
Focus on the emotions, the sensations, and the characters’ thoughts for more impact instead of describing the action in detail. One short, sweet kiss becomes a lengthy passage that builds suspense and keeps the tension going when the focus is on the emotional response.
Here, from Eclipse, the third book in The Twilight Saga, is a good example.
“His golden eyes were smoldering, just inches away, and his breath was cool against my open lips. I could taste his scent on my tongue.
I couldn’t remember the witty response I’d been about to make. I couldn’t remember my name.
He didn’t give me a chance to recover.
If I had my way, I would spend the majority of my time kissing Edward. There wasn’t anything I’d experienced in my life that compared to the feeling of his cool lips, marble hard but always so gentle, moving with mine.”
Your characters are human with all the flaws and imperfections that everyone has. Romantic love scenes aren’t perfect in real life, and they don’t need to be in fiction, either. Awkwardness, embarrassment, hesitancy, humor, worry, and silliness are all a part of life.
When it suits the characters or situation, don’t hesitate to let someone get a leg cramp during a first kiss, burp accidentally, fall off a sofa while things are heating up, or spill wine accidentally (or not) on someone’s lap. Misunderstandings happen, too, and how they’re worked out (or not) reflects the characters’ personalities and relationship growth.
Think simple language and choose terms carefully.
I enjoy reading well-written, interesting novels—romance or otherwise—with almost any intimacy level. And as a young adult, I read countless historical romances, but at one point I thought, “If I see the term “male member” one more time, I’m done!”
If you want to use euphemisms (here’s a list), make sure they fit with your characters’ personalities, attitudes, and normal vocabulary.
Don’t choose vocabulary that you, as the author, are comfortable with or the style you would use. Choose what your characters would use. For practice, try writing a scene in which a character describes the intimate experience to his or her best friend. Would they use specific terminology or only hint at what took place? Follow their example.
Think detail and what the story needs.
How far do you want to go? What kinds of details? If you’re writing a sweet romance, the rules keep you in check. But sensual-spicy and hot love scenes offer plenty of leeway, so write what the story needs.
In my own novel, Colors, the relationship and physical attraction between Autumn and her chef, Jory, is only slightly less important than the main plot. And although Autumn has filed for divorce and she’s separated, they’re avoiding physical intimacy until her divorce is final.
Despite a few slips, they maintain their agreement, and as their relationship deepens, tension builds. And when they finally come together, it’s a big deal. It has to be. With all the suspense that leads up to that moment, a fade-out would be out of proportion and a disappointment to readers.
A Final Note: You Don’t Want to Win the Bad Sex in Fiction Award
The best way to learn how to write well is to read what good writers have written. That includes romantic love scenes whether they’re sweet or blazing hot.
Take a close look at love scenes in popular novels and best sellers that match your preferred intimacy level. Take notes on length, details, language, realism, emotions, and reactions. What makes it good? What doesn’t appeal to you?
And take a look at some of the winners of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Most are explicit, but they demonstrate what to avoid in your own love scenes. Make sure your novel’s a different kind of winner.
Leah McClellan is an editor, author, and non-fiction writer who champions strong female characters and their male counterparts: men who live outside the traditional man box. Originally from the snowy hinterlands west of Philadelphia, she enjoys travel, reading, and long bike rides on sunny Florida trails.
Leah, thank you for being my guest. Please come back again!
BENDING THE RULES opens with investment analyst Dylan MacDonald facing insurmountable danger when he's detained in the South Sudan by a hostile militia. (That's enough to give me goosebumps.)
The author quickly introduces Bella Costa, Dylan's high school crush. Smooth flashbacks layer the couple's complicated emotions and define the moments that challenge their wishful romance.
I read this gem in a couple of hours. The pacey action kept me absorbed in the story. Written with wit and humor, Ms. O'Sullivan also shows heart and sensitivity. Love a story with second chances! 5 Stars
P.S. Please join me for an interview with Ms. O'Sullivan on April 18th. She'll be talking about her latest release Quinn's Resolution.
Katie O'Sullivan's Author Links:
Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon Author Page