Saturday, July 08, 2006

Why do I write those "issues books"?

I've been asked if I'm not afraid of getting labeled an "issues writer"?   The thing is, I am an issues writer because the characters who populate my imaginary world have issues.  So, um...I don't see getting labeled for what I am as a bad thing.  But maybe it can be.  Certainly if readers think my stories are more about issues than romance, that would be a problem.  But they're truly not and that's the way it's going to stay.  Like I said in a recent interview for the Romance Writers of New Zealand newsletter:
I never set out to write about an "issue".  The challenges my characters face are part of who they are.  If the book was about the issue, I don't think it would work in romance.  But it never is.  It's ALWAYS primarily about the relationship between the hero and heroine and *everything* stems from that, impacts that or is impacted by that.
But the answer to WHY I write what some consider "issues books" is more complicated than that.  It's true that I write my character's stories and if my characters come physically challenged or emotionally scarred, then that's the way they are and all I can do is try to understand them better and tell their story as it needs to be told.
But there's another reason...the reason I'm drawn to these particular characters in the first place.  Because I believe that a person does not have to be physically or emotionally "perfect" to be worthy of love.  I also believe that no matter how hard life is, there is always hope.  I want others to believe this too.
Every book written, but particularly in romance, has the potential to touch lives and change hearts.  I want my stories to fulfill that potential by giving a message of hope, one that I have good reason to believe in.
When I was a little girl, I had debilitating asthma.  To the point that I was not allowed outside to play with the other children at school recesses and such.  I don't remember when I said enough was enough, but I do remember going out during recess and playing on the monkey bars.  Scared my mom to death.  My asthma was that serious.  I also remember the change in my life after that moment of inner truth.  And though I've never been super physically confident, I've done things...fulfilled my dreams even when they pushed my limits.  I still have asthma, but it's not nearly as bad as it was and I believe that a lot of that has to do with attitude and strength of will.  I refused to settle...I keep fighting.  I hope my readers do too.  Since reaching adulthood, I've had other physical and emotional challenges that could have been debilitating.  I *still* refuse to settle.  Life may not be easy, but it *is* GRAND!
Two of my sisters have an ultra rare type of scoliosis.  One was told she would be in a wheelchair by the time she was twenty-one and could never have children.  She is the mother of three adult children and while she lives with daily pain, she is not in a wheelchair.  My other was told she had to have a surgery that had a as much chance of leaving her paralyzed as it did to heal her, but if she didn't have it, she would end up paralyzed or worse.  She chose not to have that surgery.  She too has three children.   Her pain isn't as constant, but life isn't as easy for her as the average person.  Neither of them have ever given up...not on themselves or on life - even though it wasn't easy.  Then there's my mom.  You all know how much I want a "Scooby Doo" ending for more pain, healing...strength.  Well, she hasn't gotten it, but she *is* alive and blesses her family so much with her presence.
I write the books I do because while I believe with all my heart that the HEA is something real, I don't believe it's always easy.  I don't believe it's always without cost, nor is it static.  I don't write bittersweet books because for me, as long as you're willing to fight for the happy ending, there doesn't have to be anything bitter about the sweetness along the way.  Every HEA is really a happy beginning and while there may be rough times ahead, there are good ones too.
Whoever said that true pleasure can only be experienced after knowing pain was right.  I write romance because I believe in goodness, I believe in hope in the face of adversity and I believe in taking risks, sacrificing and working for what you truly want.  I write characters with major challenges because maybe if a reader sees my characters overcoming and fighting those challenges...they'll fight too and maybe even believe they can overcome.
Does that ruin the fantasies for some?  I suppose.  But for a whole lot of people *not* affected by the "issues" I write about, they actually enhance the fantasy and take the reader one level deeper into a world she's never experienced.  And the reader letters I get are from those who have been touched personally or vicariously by one of my books.  Readers whose lives are just a little different since they glimpsed inside the life of someone else.  I write for those readers.
Ultimately I write the types of books I do for the same reason that I write romance in general, because I believe in hope and want to share that hope with as many people as I can through my books.


Holly said...

Hey Lucy,

Personally, I'm glad you're an "issues" writer. Your stories are so much more believable because of the challenges they face, and their Happy Endings all the sweeter.

Some authors have the ability to touch on delecate issues without making a reader feel preached to, or taken out of the story because of them. You are one of those truly talented writers who can do so. I'm very thankful for that.

Because I believe that a person does not have to be physically or emotionally "perfect" to be worthy of love.

I couldn't agree with that more if I'd said it myself. We, as humans, are flawed. So why shouldn't flawed characters get their happy endings, too?

You offer hope, and I, for one, am very grateful.

Thank you.


Lucy Monroe said...

Thanks, Holly! I seriously dislike "preachy" writing myself so I'm uber pleased you don't feel my stories get that way. I don't know...I think storytelling should be just that. And as long as I'm as caught up in my characer's lives and hopes and dreams as I want my readers to be, I think I have a chance of telling their stories...not an issue's story...but theirs. :)

Holly said...

Oh, that was something else I meant to mention...

I've never felt like I was reading a story about an issue with you. I always felt it was about the H/H. There are some books (mostly non-romance) that I've read for the issues they address, but when I read a romance, I read it for the love story. I want an element of drama to keep me interested, of course, but I don't want the story focussed on the drama, I want it focussed on the H/H. You do that very well.

*sigh* I'm rambling today. LOL I think I had too much coffee this morning or something. Hope I made sense.


Kelley said...

Lucy you are truely a special person. So many of your books are special to me and I connect with all your characters. I feel their pains and their joys because you put so much feeling into your writing. I love the fact that when I pick up one of your books I know it will be a passionate love story, but also will have real "issues". Issues that we face every day, or one of our friends, or sisters, ect. I don't know anyone who has had a perfect life so I believe to really connect with characters in the books I read I need to feel their imperfections. That is very important me as a reader. I agree with Holly that your happy endings are much sweeter because of what they had to overcome to get there.
I believe that your books give hope to people who may feel unworthy of love becuase of what society or others say. If Claudio realizes he love Terese despit her "issues" maybe so and so can still love me? We all need that kind of hope in our lives.

Brandy said...

No one is perfect. I adore your books because you make the characters feel "real". Not a plastic one deminsional(sp) type f character, but one that has foibles. One who seems to have to fight at some point for their HEA. That's what life is like for a "real" person. And that is what your characters portray.I for one, appreciate having characters with "issues" in your books. They are not put out there as a huge thing, but rather almost a personality quirk. Thank you, for making HEA believable.

Judy F said...

Lucy I adore you and your books. The issues just make the characters all that more real to me. They touch my heart and stay there long after I am done reading. Don't change a thing.

Caffey said...

Lucy, when I read this, I said to myself, 'don't change a thing' I love the way you are. And what inspires you in bringing about their stories, is their stories I want to read! Keep believing in you, I do. Hugs, Cahtie

Vivi Anna said...

Yup, I agree with Cathie. Don't change a thing doll. You are a beautiful soul!

Jen said...

I think writing about people with "issues" is writing about real people. I'm much more likely to relate to a character that has to overcome personal fears and struggles than a character with no problems.
I, too, write about people with issues. Grief, childhood damage, fear of rejection. These are real issues that everyone I know has to deal with. Otherwise, I would be writing two dimensional characters in denial!
I like your characters, Lucy. You give them real feelings. How could a writer connect with readers if they wrote about "perfect" people? Even people who look "perfect" often have inner struggles. Please don't stop writing about these characters, no matter what "they" label you.

Jennifer Y. said...

I love your books and I wouldn't change a thing about them!

Stacy~ said...

Vivi Anna stated you have a beautiful soul, and I have to agree. I am someone who loves strong emotional level you maintain in your stories. It's what makes them stay with me. Never do your stories come across condescending or preachy, but rather open our eyes to what's out there and show people, especially women, that they are valued and worthy of love, whether it's due to a physical condition or an emotional one.

Too often we see women who have been victims because they believe they are unworthy of love. I think you are trying to make a difference and show them that's not true at all. Instead of "telling" them they are wrong, you are "showing" them what real love in a healthy, respectful relationship is all about. You are giving women choices, and allowing them to decide. You are not trying to take anything away from them, but rather you are empowering them.

So for stories about characters I can relate to and understand, I turn to your books. Your characters react how I believe I would. They make mistakes and act impulsively sometimes, but it just shows us that love, even in a romance, isn't always an easy path, and you have to work at it. But you also show that it's definitely worth all the effort.

Thank you, Lucy, for being who you are and how you are. You are a blessing to us all.

Michele said...

I can't expand too far on what was already said. Everyone beat me too it, including Brandy and Stacy, LOL.

My two cents:

As I've said when I've written to you before, your stories HAVE touched me because you've shown women who perservere through adversity.
That no matter what, women are loveable, even when they have to overcome incredible odds (which sometimes comes from their own self-image) to reach their HEA.

You write in ways that explore our strengths as women - and sometimes in the storytelling, show us a way, an idea that we'd never considered before, and that gives us hope as well as romance.
And since hope is something you mentioned in your post, I have to say, you've suceeded.

I adore your writing and for those that try to pigeon-hole you, haven't they read, Ready ,Willing, And Able?
Those were fun and a bit grittier.
You have various styles that appeal to us on many levels.
I'd say you are doing fine and the only changes I'd ask of you is that you continue to grow in your craft, because when you do, we do too.

((HUGS)) to you and your courageous family!!
They sound very inspirational!

Lori said...

Lucy, that is one of the wonderful things about your characters. We can always relate to them because they are not perfect. Who is? I would hate to read about 2 perfect someones getting together. How inferior would I feel then? How could I relate to them?

No, keep on writing just as you do. I agree with everyone else. I never feel preached to, or feel like you are writing about "issues". Just writing about people.

Lucy Monroe said... all said it better than me. LOL THANK YOU so much for believing in the kind of books I write. Without readers who do, I'd be so up a crick, if you know what I mean. LOL

Big, huge, warm hugs to you ALL!!!

Lucy :)

Michelle B said...

I have learned so much about life through romance novels! I love it when they include "issues," foreign languages, and other things that help me learn about myself and others.

And I love reading about imperfect characters because I am more able to identify with them and picture myself in their place.

I feel like I can't quite articulate some of what I want to say. I'm still a bit out of it after a long drive yesterday and an early morning today. I'll just end by saying I second everyone's comments here. You're a wonderful writer, Lucy. Don't change a thing!

Lucy Monroe said...

Thanks, Michelle. :)