Posted by Laurie Kellogg Nov 9 2012, 12:01 am in Laurie Kellogg, new release, sisters, surrogate mothers
Have you ever wondered where the idiom, sticking your neck out, originated? Some believe the saying is a metaphorical reference to turtles, which become vulnerable when they poke their heads out of their shells. If a turtle remains inside, it’s safe from predators. However, a turtle also can’t locate food from within its shell, so if it doesn’t ever risk its neck, it’ll starve.
There’s a lesson in this for writers. Publishing is a risky business, and editors pass up wonderful books all the time because they’re unwilling to take a chance on stories that don’t fit the current trend. On the other hand, the books that are given the biggest advances and the most publisher support are also frequently novels that are different enough to grab readers’ attention. That’s why acquiring editors constantly say they want something different—but not too different.
Negotiating that balancing act can be really tough, but if a writer always plays it safe, chances are she’ll go the way of a turtle who refuses to stick his neck out. She”ll starve as an author. If your keeper shelf is anything like mine, the authors of your favorite novels broke some so-called rules. One of the reasons LaVyrle Spencer’s and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s titles dominate my bookcase is because they aren’t afraid to tackle tough subjects that some might consider taboo or unpopular. They take risks.
For example, in Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s novel, Ain’t She Sweet, the heroine, Sugar Beth, did something most readers would consider unforgivable. And, yet, SEP managed to instill sympathy in her audience for this character, who by rights, everyone should hate. In The Fulfillment (which helped inspire my holiday release), LaVyrle Spencer managed to write a compelling romance involving infidelity and still managed to keep all of the characters heroic.
These authors’ ability to craft such irresolvable conflicts and to find ways to, not only keep the characters likable, but still give them a happy ever after, has always left me in awe. It’s books like these that reinforce my belief that characters can do anything in a story and still remain heroic if the author gives them sufficient and proper motivation.
My newest release, No Exchanges, No Returns, is this kind of risky story. It received a lot of mixed opinions and scores in contests. Judges either loved it or hated it. And, yet, this book got closer to selling than any of my other novels, which I believe is because its surrogate-mother plot pushes the boundaries.
At the same time, this à la Jerry Springer story defies the romance genre’s conventions enough that I feared it would incense some of my audience. Therefore, I considered leaving the manuscript under the bed for my pet dust-bunnies to feast on. In the end, however, my alter ego, L.L., refused to let me leave it unpublished. Any regular visitors to the Ruby blog have undoubtedly met L.L in my past posts and know what a bully she can be. I realize there are other, more fitting adjectives for my alter ego than bully, but this is a PG-rated blog.
Anyway, L.L. kept screaming in my ear, “Grow a pair, you wimp! So what if the heroine ends up with her sister’s ex-husband. Things like that actually happen. This is a great story about sisterly love and sacrifice. Even if some people don’t enjoy No Exchanges, No Returns, a lot of readers will love it. It’s touching, it’s funny, it’s real, and it’s hot—what’s not to like? Do you think E.L. James didn’t worry her Fifty Shades of Grey would offend some readers? Her book has over four thousand 1-star reviews. Name a book that’s hit the New York Times Bestsellers list that doesn’t have something a little different or offbeat in it.”
Don’t tell my alter ego I said this, but she made a valid point. I was being a coward. So I stuck my neck out and published the book—mostly to shut L.L. up. Now I’ll just have to wait and see what the readers’ response is.
No Exchanges, No Returns
A new twist on O. Henry’s classic tale, The Gift of the Magi
There were never such devoted sisters…
Dr. David Lambert and his wife, Brianna, received the ultimate Christmas gift from her fraternal twin. They gratefully accepted it, of course, because everyone knows you can’t return a baby like an itchy sweater. Yet, that’s essentially what Brianna does when she has a meltdown and unexpectedly divorces David. She runs from their home in Redemption, Pennsylvania, and leaves their surrogate—her sister, Casey—pregnant with his little bundle.
When David chose her beautiful twin over her, Casey McIntyre hid her hurt behind a wall of sarcasm. Now that her sister has divorced her husband, it’s increasingly difficult to remember why the hunky pediatrician is supposed to be off limits—especially since Brianna doesn’t seem to want him or care if Casey and he get involved.
David always liked and admired his selfless ex-sister-in-law—despite that the sassy preschool teacher is always busting his chops. Consequently, after his wife bails on marriage and motherhood, it’s only natural he turns to Casey for sympathy. Unfortunately, the exasperating pixie becomes more irresistible with each day she carries his child. He already mistook lust for love once and jumped way too fast into marriage. He’s not about to botch up his life that way again.
Casey wants whatever happiness she can grab, whether it’s temporary or not. The only problem is, if she lets herself love her baby (or David), what will happen to her when her sister inevitably realizes her mistake and returns to Redemption?
To celebrate my holiday release of No Exchanges, No Returns, I’ll be holding a random drawing for a digital copy of the book from the list of commenters.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!
Now it’s your turn to share. In which of your favorite novels did the authors take chances and how? In what way are you sticking out your neck in your current WIP? What concerns do you have about pushing the boundaries of the romance genre?