Posted by Anna Campbell Apr 10 2012, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Inspirations, Leap Year, movies, My Life in Ruins, romantic comedy
by Anna Campbell
Are you a romantic comedy fan? I am
I must admit to being disappointed with a lot of the recent romantic comedies I’ve seen. They just don’t have the zing of something like ROMAN HOLIDAY or BRINGING UP BABY or PRETTY WOMAN.
But then my faith in the genre was restored by two films I really enjoyed and have since watched multiple times with increasing pleasure. Now, that’s saying something! So I thought I’d talk today about MY LIFE IN RUINS from 2009 and LEAP YEAR from 2010.
What’s interesting is that neither film received a particularly favorable critical reception in Australia. Both were criticized because they didn’t do anything original with the rom com formula. Which makes me think the po-faced critics are missing the point. I don’t watch a good romantic comedy to be surprised. I know where it’s going – that happy ending with a big sigh of satisfaction from me, if I’m lucky. It’s a bit like people criticizing romance because it contains the tried and true elements of the genre. These silly peeps don’t realize that one of the reasons we read romance is that we know there’s a guaranteed happy ending after all the trials and tribulations. That’s not a fault of the genre. That’s one of its greatest attractions.
Both of these films are very heroine-centric, particularly LEAP YEAR. Both films have clever, dynamic women on the verge of making huge mistakes in their lives. And when love hits our heroines, it comes from unexpected directions and it takes courage to follow where love leads. I always love that theme – finding happiness where you least expect it.
Actually now I think of it, these films have other things in common. Both of them succeed on the charms of the cast. Nia Vardalos is lovely in Ruins (snort, I’m sure she’ll be even lovelier once she’s restored and habitable, too!). I liked MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, especially the first half. I found the second half too close to some of my own family occasions to be completely comfortable with all the mayhem, but I enjoyed MY LIFE IN RUINS more. Amy Adams is such a wonderful actress and she does a convincing portrayal of the heroine in Year who changes from brittle self-sufficiency to someone you would love to have as a friend. Both girls end up matched with quite gorgeous heroes. Declan (the extremely yummy Matthew Goode) in Year plays a more dynamic role in his film than Poupi (don’t ask) in Ruins, but I must say I watched Poupi’s transformation with awe, and at the end, couldn’t get over how much Alexis Georgoulis looked like a Harlequin cover model.
Both films are road movies, covering a journey that turns out to be life-changing for our heroines. Georgia, our Greek-American heroine in Ruins, feels she’s wasting her education and her talents by working for a two-bit tour company in Athens. She agrees to escort one last tour group around the sites, determined to return to her academic career in U.S. after that. Anna, our Boston Irish heroine in Year, recklessly sets out for Ireland to propose to her self-centered surgeon boyfriend on 29th February, an old tradition. Both women find their journey takes them in surprising, occasionally uncomfortable, new directions and leads them to people (not just the hunky heroes) who will change their views of the world. And finally, the journeys lead to true love. Awwww!
Both these stories have so much heart and charm, they’re the sort of films that leave you with a big smile on your face at the end. Both have lovely love stories, appealing characters, glorious scenery and lots of eccentric secondary characters to add spice to the mix. If you want a couple of feel-good movies, I highly recommend them.
So have you seen LEAP YEAR or MY LIFE IN RUINS? If so, which hero would you rather leap into the local ruins with? As a sucker for a British accent, I’ve got to say for me it’s Matthew Goode by a nose, although I wouldn’t kick the other guy out of my Parthenon either. Any other rom coms you’d like to recommend?
Posted by Suzanne Ferrell Jun 21 2011, 5:32 am in Black Ties and Lullabies, Jane Graves, romantic comedy, Suzanne Ferrell, twins
interview with Suzanne
Jane Graves is the author of eighteen contemporary romance novels. She is a seven-time finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Rita Award, the industry’s highest honor, and is the recipient of two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Booksellers’ Best Award, and the Golden Quill, among others. And I’m honored to call her my friend.
Suz: Welcome back to the Bandit Lair, Jane. Pull up a barstool and have a glass of wine while we catch up. It’s been a while since you visited us here. What have you been up to?
Jane: Thanks for the wine, Suz. I’ll have this glass of Cabernet while you sip your White Zinfandel. We do know each other well, don’t we?
For personal reasons, I took a break from writing for a few years. Fortunately, when I was ready to get back in the game, my editor was very excited and wanted to buy more books. Black Ties and Lullabies will be out on June 28, and Heartstrings and Diamond Rings will hit the shelves on September 27.
Suz: Black Ties and Lullabies is your third Romantic Comedy for Grand Central Publishing and it’s once again set in Plano, Texas. This time your hero is billionaire businessman, Jeremy Bridges. Many of your readers will remember meeting him in Hot Wheels and High Heels. How did he come to be the hero of this book?
Jane: I got more mail from readers wanting his story than any other character’s I’ve ever written. He was actually somewhat of a villain in Hot Wheels, but there was a scene at the end of the book that hinted that there was more to the womanizing multimillionaire than met the eye, and I think that was what readers picked up on. I’m so happy they did, because I wanted very much to write his story.
Suz: I fell in love with your heroine of Black Ties and Lullabies, Bernadette Hogan, on page one. She is a very unusual heroine and has a unique relationship with Jeremy at the beginning of the book. I’ll let you tell the Banditas and friends about “Bernie”.
Bernadette Hogan is a bodyguard, ex-military, who never met a firearm she didn’t like. It’s rumored that she once killed a man with a Popsicle stick, but she insists that’s absolutely untrue. It was a Q-Tip. She’s been Jeremy’s bodyguard for two years, and he aggravates her so much that if it weren’t for the outrageous amount of money he pays her, she would have quit a long time ago. If you read chapter one at http://janegraves.com/blacktiespage.html, you can get a sense of their rather unusual relationship.
Suz: Throughout this book, you had me chuckling frequently at both the internal thoughts of the characters and their dialogue with each other. Do you find it easy or hard to write the witty/snarky banter between the characters? Does internal dialogue come easy for you?
Jane: Writing snarky banter is second nature to me, because I’m a pretty snarky person. But in real life, even I have to draw the line somewhere. I can’t always say what I think. But my characters can, and oh, man, is that ever fun. It’s a blast to let them say things I couldn’t say in real life without getting slapped silly or arrested.
Suz: Since we’re on the subject of writing, you have a rather unique approach on writing a book. I know of only one other writer who does the same process as you. Care to let everyone in on the Jane Graves way to write a romance novel?
Jane: Okay, but I feel obligated to issue a disclaimer up front. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME. It’ll make you certifiably crazy.
I begin writing a book by tossing down a whole bunch of dialogue, bits of scenes, exposition, whatever, that I can see possibly being part of the book somewhere in the 400 or so pages I’ll eventually end up with. Then I expand on those pieces at random until the characters start talking and the story comes to life. Then I try to zero in on page one, because I can’t sell the book until I can get proposal chapters written. Or if I’ve already sold the book, I can’t get paid for the proposal until those chapters are done. I like to get paid. But getting three consecutive chapters down in the very beginning? It just about kills me. Fortunately, the more I get to know the characters, the easier the writing becomes. Still, when I finally write The End, I invariably have at least fifty pages of excess stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor.
I hear other writers say they see the story in their head and just write it down. Consecutively. One chapter after another. I’m so jealous of people who can do that. It would make my life SO much easier. Then some of them go on to say that one of the reasons they can write so many books is that they type fast. Well, I type over 100 words per minute, but when I spend an hour working on a three-sentence paragraph until my eyeballs bleed, typing speed doesn’t really come into play.
I’ve been told many, many times that my writing seems smooth and effortless. That’s hilarious. If those people had any idea of how much I consider every freakin’ word that goes onto the page, they’d think twice about saying that. I’m actually not a very good writer. What I am is a pretty good rewriter. I just have the persistence to hit it over and over and over again until I get it right.
Suz: (Boy just hearing about that process exhausts me!) The next book in your future is Heartstrings and Diamond Rings. Can we have a little peek into that story?
Jane: The heroine is Alison Carter, Heather Montgomery’s best friend from Tall Tales and Wedding Veils. In that book, Alison’s dating disasters were well documented. In her own story, she’s still determined to find her Mr. Right, but she’s losing confidence in her own ability to find him. So she hires a matchmaker. But when it turns out that the matchmaker isn’t the kindly old lady she expects but her sexy young grandson, the fun begins. Heartstrings and Diamond Rings will hit the shelves on September 27.
Oh-I also want to let everyone know about a promotion my publisher is running for the month of June. They’re discounting the price of the e-book versions of Hot Wheels and High Heels and Tall Tales and Wedding Veils to only $1.99! That’s 75% off the cover price, so if you haven’t read those books yet, I hope you’ll consider picking them up! Check out the deal at http://www.janegraves.com/
And now a question for you. The original cover of Black Ties and Lullabies (the blue one shown here) was much more cartoonish in nature, a follow up to my two previous covers that were the same style. Then my publisher decided to go with a different look. They did a photo shoot and came up with the cover with the red dress.
Which one do you like better, and why? Also, there are a whole bunch of covers these days with headless characters. How do you feel about that? If you see hero’s and heroine’s faces on the cover, does it screw up your ability to imagine them for yourself? Personally, I feel a little sorry for the models-I wonder if their contracts include the fact that they’re going to be decapitated?
Those who comment will be eligible to win one of two copies I’m giving away. I have two sets of advance reading copies-one set for each cover-so the winners can specify which cover they’d like on the autographed copy I send!
Posted by Nancy Northcott Feb 6 2008, 6:00 am in Dee Davis, romantic comedy, Romantic suspense
interview by Nancy Northcott
Dee Davis joins us in the lair today. Dee is the author of fifteen novels and three novellas and has made a name for herself writing time travels and romantic suspense. She has won the Booksellers Best, Golden Leaf, Texas Gold and Prism awards, and she’s been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award, the Holt, two RT Reviewers Choice Awards, and an RT Career Achievement Award. Last year, she published her first romantic comedy, A Match Made on Madison. A sequel, Set-Up in SoHo, is due out later this year. And her newest romantic suspense series will begin in 2009. Welcome, Dee!
Tell us how you became interested in writing.
I’ve always written, pretty much from the first time I had a blank page in front of me and the power to wield a pencil. I always talked about writing a book, but I never seriously considered doing it until I had a sort of mid-life crisis just before I turned 40 and realized that if I wanted to write – it needed to be now.
We have tremendous interest in call stories in the lair. Would you like to share yours?
Well first off, I have to say that I had a very Cinderella beginning. I wrote my first book Everything In Its Time in 1998. Got an agent six months after finishing and sold the book seven months after that. EIT was published in June 2000. So much about this business has to do with right thing, right time.
As far as the call itself is concerned. I was actually asleep. And was so excited by the news that I hung up on my agent before I realized that I had no idea who I’d actually sold the book too. Had to call her back to find out for sure. And then I spent the rest of the day literally shaking with amazement and excitement (and running around screaming like an absolute loon). Here I was on the verge of reinventing myself at almost forty. It was, and still is, as I approach fifty, absolutely fabulous.
Everything in Its Time was a Scottish time travel. You followed that up with a western time travel. What drew you to that sub-genre?
Interestingly enough, the three time travels were actually published out of order. I wrote EIT, and then Wild Highland Rose(a second Scottish time travel), and then The Promise (the western). All three books stand alone but are loosely related. After EIT came out, I actually sold my first romantic suspense, and then since I thought The Promise was more suspenseful, I decided it should come next. Hence the out of sequence publishing.
As to time travel, I’ve always loved time travel romances. Particularly Diana Gabaldon’s first book in the Outlander series. I think it’s something about a love so strong it transcends even time. Sappy I suppose, but there you have it. Anyway, Katherine and Iain’s story had been hovering at the back of my mind in various forms I think for a long time, so it was almost therapeutic to finally work out the details and put it on paper.
After your second time travel, you turned to romantic suspense with your fabulous Last Chance, Inc. group. How did you go about developing the concept?
The Last Chance Series came on the heels of a couple of related romantic suspense novels I’d written – Midnight Rain and Dancing in the Dark. Characters from the first continued (one of them as the hero) in the second. I really enjoyed having more time to develop these characters and wanted to explore the idea of writing about a continuing group of people. Last Chance itself was born from the idea of bringing together the best of the best from different expertise without the bureaucratic red tape of the various organizations they worked for. Cullen Pulaski, the head of Last Chance, was based loosely on H. Ross Perot. And also, I loved the idea of three men who had shared a horrific wartime experience and the bonds it created between them and the residual affect the event continued to have on their lives.
Match Made on Madison makes superb use of New York City. How did you research that book?
I have dreamed my whole life of living in Manhattan, and now that we actually do, we spend a whole lot of our time exploring the city. So the research, if you want to call it that, came easily. Vanessa’s favorite places are, for the most part, mine!
How did you come to have such an eclectic career?
I like tackling different kinds of projects. Although to be honest, both my time travels and my paranormal novellas are romantic suspense at their basic core, which means that it’s not as much of a departure as one might initially think. And Match was a lark. I read an article in the New York Times about matchmakers and combined it with my love of Jane Austen’s Emma and Vanessa was born. I think writing different kinds of things stretches a writer’s wings and makes her a better at her craft. Or at least I hope it does! Anyway, my first love will always be romantic suspense, but it’s fun to write something else, as well.
How do you create romantic conflict and integrate it into your plots?
Well, Nora Roberts always says that if you need to raise the level of conflict: kill someone. (My apologies to Nora if I’m misquoting-but I’ve always loved that.) Seriously, I think the romantic conflict must be integral to the story or you’re not writing a romance. The trick with romantic suspense is that you have two sets of conflict – the romance and the suspense. And for the book to work, I think that the two have to feed off of each other. At the most basic level, one should not be able to exist without the other. And that’s probably the trickiest part. So it’s not so much a matter of creating the conflict, typically that just happens as the story goes along, it’s more about balancing the romantic conflict against a backdrop of escalating suspense.
Your books have a variety of settings. How have you drawn on your own experiences in creating them?
Well, definitely places that interest me. And usually some place I know and love. Although I recently set a book, Chain Reaction, in Idaho and I’ve only been there once, but I have family in Montana and have spent time there and the culture is similar I use Creede, Colorado a lot, as I spent my summers there growing up. I also lived in Vienna for three years and so it seemed natural to set a book there. I’ve traveled extensively in Ireland and Scotland, so it was with love that I set books in those countries. And the same is true of Atlanta in Dark of the Night. I lived in Austin a number of years and also Corpus Christi (and all over Texas for that matter), so it’s natural to set books there. I think you do draw on places you know. I also think that books are a marvelous way to travel around the world. I still remember reading Mary Stewart’s books as a teenager and the joy I got from traveling with her to places all over Europe. My love for Vienna came from Airs Above the Ground and I still yearn to travel to Greece because of The Moon-Spinners and My Brother Michael. So I guess, I hope that my readers enjoy the same ‘traveling’ with me.
What’s the most fun about writing for you?
Creating a world and the people that inhabit it. And honestly, the moment when you reach ‘the end’ and it’s actually all come together. And most of all—when someone talks about one of my characters as if they’re real. Truly, there isn’t a greater compliment-even when they’re trying to explain to me why the character should have done something different from what they actually did.
What’s the hardest part of writing?
The middle of the book. To quote A.A. Milne: ‘you’re neither up nor down’. And usually I’m ready to just blow everyone up and be done with it.
Tell us about Set-Up in SoHo and your next romantic suspense.
Set-Up in SoHo is the second book in the Matchmaker Chronicles. When Andrea Sevalas’ long time boyfriend announces he’s seeing someone else, Andi’s Aunt Althea (the infamous Manhattan matchmaker) figures a little manipulation is in order. Things are going charmingly until truth is revealed. But, with Althea at the helm, Andi will discover that love comes in all kinds of packages, and that sometimes all it takes to recognize the fact, is opening your heart to the possibility.
Now available are Chain Reaction, Match Made on Madison, and Hell in Heels. Next up on the romantic suspense front, a dark, sexy new series about an off the books black ops division of the CIA. Look for the first books in ’09.
Readers can learn more about Dee from her website, http://www.deedavis.com/. Dee is giving away a copy of Chain Reaction to one lucky commenter.
So, dear readers, what kinds of settings do you like? Of romantic comedy, romantic suspense, and paranormal, what’s your favorite?