Sunday, October 21, 2007

Guest Blogger - Michelle Buonfiglio

I'm so excited, I'm seriously dancing around my office! Michelle Buonfiglio, a woman who has done amazing things for the romance genre is here! On my little blog. I wasn't sure until the last minute if Michelle would have time to chat with you all, but she *made* the time and I'm oh so happy about that. :) Hers is one of my favorite blogs and her "Romance B(u)y the Book" channel on LifetimeTV.com is just plain amazing. Not only is she uber smart, but she's a very generous lady as well. She's running a contest on this blog post - the lucky winner (drawn from comments) will receive a 'Ciao Bella" t-shirt from Firenze, Italia, plus a six-pack of romance novels. Cool, huh?

Welcome, Michelle!
++++++++++++++++++++

Buongiorno, Lucy and Friends, and thank you! I’m really thrilled to be here with you for two reasons: This is my first official guest blog as LifetimeTV.com’s new romance columnist. And, at the risk of waxing all fangirl, I kinda dig Lucy’s books.

Lucy’s novel, “Ready,” crossed my desk when I was pretty new to writing “Romance: B(u)y the Book,” and still at WNBC.com. I was excited to feature “Ready,” “Willing,” and “and Able,” as a way to introduce folks who didn’t necessarily read romance to Lucy’s brand of hot and emotional.

It’s funny how I kind of absorbed those two qualities – sensual heat and emotional dynamics – as sort of “imprints” I’ll always associate with Lucy’s novels. And I find myself doing the same each time I read a new author. I’m miserable at remembering characters’ and writers’ names. But I rarely forget how a book made my body feel, or how deeply I hurt or fell in love along with the characters.

Beginning Tuesday, October 22 at Romance: B(u)y the Book/LifetimeTV.com, we’re paying tribute to Kathleen Woodiwiss (1939-2007) and her final novel, “Everlasting.” I first read Woodiwiss because I kept hearing everyone say things like, “’The Flame and the Flower’ changed my life,” and “I devoured and loved ‘The Wolf and the Dove’ in college, despite the fact my best friends thought it was single-handedly holding back women’s struggle for equality.”

So I picked up “The Wolf and the Dove” and was knocked out by the dark atmosphere, the conflict, the shocking challenges the heroine masters, and the hero I found wildly attractive in his quintessential bastardlyness. (It’s a word if I say it is, right)?

The impressions I absorbed and retain to this day about Woodiwiss’ novels are: deliciously over-the-top, dynamic passion; button-pushing sexual scenarios and “gender politics;” fantasy that speaks to women on a very elemental level; love stories truly romantic in their depiction of a monogamous couples’ journey toward happily ever after.

How about you? What makes you remember an author’s novels: Impressions/imprints? Characters? Something else? And feel free to visit “Let’s Talk Romance” today to share your “impressions” of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ novels.

Oh! Lucy’s GuestBlogging November 27th at “Let’s Talk Romance,” the blog that’s part of my “Romance: B(u)y the Book” channel at LifetimeTV.com! Join us as we celebrate the release of “Deal with This.” (Oh, how I’d love to, especially when I look at that cover)!

32 comments:

Stacy~ said...

Queen Bella! What a lovely surprise to find you here at Lucy's place. Isn't she just a doll? Well then, so are you :) I'm thrilled Lucy will be visiting over at Lifetimetv soon.

I have never read Woodiwiss, but recently I bought 4 of her most well-known books. I felt I owed such a romance icon the courtesy of reading what made her so legendary.

I think Judith McNaught (and to a lesser degree Jude Deveraux) was my Woodiwiss in a way because I devoured her books and was completely caught up in them - they were incredibly romantic, with tons of emotional intensity and strong, fiesty heroines, not to mention heroes that weren't afraid to be vulnerable to the woman they loved. "Whitney, My Love" and "Almost Heaven" and "Something Wonderful" just blew me away, not to mention her contemps - "Paradise" and "Perfect". Those books are permanently on my keeper shelf. They are some of the ones that made reading so memorable and enjoyable to me.

Amy said...

Welcome Michelle!
I really liked Catherine Woodiwiss's books. Shannon would have to be my favorite out of them all.
What keeps me coming back to a authors books is the emotional content. When I read a book I want to feel what the character's are feeling and get pulled into the emotions of the book. To me Diana Palmer, Lucy Monroe, Sharon Sala, Judith McNaught and Christine Feehan are among the very best at this and are automatic buy's for me.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Good morning! What a nice way to begin the day. I've been so busy with the transition to Lifetime that I haven't been able to spend much time trawling romance blogs or blogging with anyone. So I'm really pleased I can get back in the swing with Lucy!

Amy, you and Stacy both bring up an author I love, and who left the same impressions with me as Woodiwiss; that would be Judith McNaught. Her "Whitney, My Love" and related novels have the same old school fire. It's a shame, really, that they and books like them got tagged with the term "bodice ripper," because it marginalizes them. It also makes it seem like they were just about sex or nasty, unfeeling heroes, or women out of touch with their sexualities.

Teresa Medeiros wrote a great piece about "The Flame and the Flower," in which she reminds us that after the initial scene in which the hero mistakes the heroine for a dockside lightskirt, they don't have a sexual encounter til almost the final third, I think, of the book. That made it not about sex, and all about Woodiwiss' showing "character arcs." So, maybe some folks don't get how that heroine could fall in love w/that hero. But for some women, that was the ultimate fantasy: turning him around, bringing him to his knees. Co-dependent? In real life, sure. But it's fiction, not an Oprah how=to manual. Sheesh.

Stacy S said...

I've never read Kathleen Woodiwiss before. I keep saying I'm gonna try her but haven't yet. For me it's the characters & the emotions in the story. Some of my favorites are Judith NcNaught, Julie Garwood, Lucy's books & Erica Spindler.

Kate Davies said...

Hi Michelle!

You've touched on two of the reasons a book or an author lands on my keeper shelf -- the emotion, and the characters. (Though I think the two are so deeply intertwined it's hard to tell where one starts and the other leaves off.) If I care deeply about the characters, I go through what they go through emotionally.

Who are my keepers? Lucy, of course, Suz Brockmann (Force of Nature just about *killed* me -- so of course I had to read it again immediately!), JoAnn Ross, Susan Andersen, Lisa Kleypas...the list goes on!

It's that emotional depth paired with memorable characters that keeps romance at the top of my genre favorites.

ruth said...

Welcome, Michelle,
When I read a romance novel I become enthralled with the characters, and their lives. The emotions throughout the story grip me and I become involved with their trials and tribulations. An author whose books I enjoy and whose character portrayal is wonderful is Judith Henry Wall. Many others including Emilie Richards and Jill marie Landis.

Susan said...

The interaction between the characters is what makes the story for me.

Cole said...

Hello Michelle! I think you picked a perfect author in Woodiwiss to depict 'impact' an writer has. I fell in love with the first book I read of hers, The Rose in Winter and have to some degree measured every book on an emotional level to her books ever since. She didn't short change one on things, or simply go for shock value(though some things might have been considered shocking ;-) ) Everything was derived from the characters, and who they were. With 'real' emotions. As such I love stories which carry on this tradition--books which make you feel.

Cole

kim h said...

i do like the charcters, they get to me and their sexual chemsitry.

Jennifer Y. said...

Hello!!

I have to say for me it is characters and their relationship/interactions. I have read many books where the characters seem to stick with me for a long time afterwards. I find that when I talk about a book to someone else I tend to talk more about the characters and their relationship first, and then the plot and other aspects of the story.

Ashes in the Wind is probably my all-time favorite Woodiwiss books...once again it was the characters then the plot that really got to me with that book.

jenna said...

Hi Michelle! Great to have you here.
It is very meaningful to me when I discover a book that is so appealing in everyway that I just read it in one sitting. This occurs when there is an exceptional storyline of course, but it must be combined with unforgettable characters whose lives are deeply felt within their emotions. So many exceptional authors and a current one that hooked me immediately was Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.

Lucy Monroe said...

Michelle...one of the reasons I love your blog is *because* it gives us a chance to discuss romance as an agent of change - in both our personal lives and culturally. Romance bucks the belief the people cannot change...it flies in the face of pop psychobabble that claims we cannot influence that change in another person. Of course we can, just as *we* are impacted by the people around us. If we could not influence the development of another person, parents might as well just let their kids run wild and do whatever they want.

Woodiwiss showed in book after book that men were capable of growing - becoming something more than what they were at the beginning of the book. Is that a realistic life model? I have to say from personal experience and nearly 20 years counseling women (and sometimes men - and yes I *am* 40 - time zooms by, doesn't it?) that it is. Can *I* change another person? No. Can they change out of their love for me? Can I be an agent of that change? ABSOLUTELY.

One of the reasons that Woodiwiss' books and so many stories that deal with such big character arcs continue to impact us personally is that they reflect a truth that exists outside the fantasy factor of romance, but one which carries all the emotional drama of any well written book.

In a romance novel - the hero *will* change. Thus our happy beginnings at the end. In real life, our personal *hero* may or may not be capable of doing so. But to automatically believe he can't or that we can do nothing to effect that change is to say we have no impact on the lives around us and that simply is not true.

Like any strong romance heroine, modern day women need to know when to let go - when to accept that someone can't or won't change - but they also need to be willing to work for their personal happiness.

Oh, my gosh...you did it to me again, Michelle...I always end up going on like a loon when I comment on one of her blogs, which is why I've been refraining. LOL

Mega hugs to everyone!

anne said...

Hi Michelle,
What makes a book special and compelling to me is the author's ability to portray the characters in a realistic manner so that I can relate with them. That and the emotional content will definitely make the book a winner. I know that the story resounds with me when I think about it long after I have finished reading an unbelievable story.

Minna said...

Good evening from Finland!
Well, characters are definitely one thing that makes me remember authors books. For example J.D. Robb's Eve Dallas and Roarke are definitely memorable. Also the way the author writes makes me remember some author’s novels.

Estella said...

For me it is the interaction bertween the characters in the story,
I have read most of Kathleen Woodiwiss books. I loved the way she wrote with lots of emotion and passion in her books.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hullo, Minna! Nice to see you! Characters are so important. Now, that sounds like a no-brainer, right? But I was just chatting w/ a friend, and we were talking about reading a novel and at the end saying, "the author never made me care about the characters." I agree with what you're saying, that the opposite is what keeps us coming back.

Wow. I can't get used to having actual paragraphs! At LifetimeTV.com, our temporary blogs have none, so we have to write _________ to indicate paragraph breaks. This is so niiiiiice...

Stacy, you said earlier:I felt I owed such a romance icon the courtesy of reading what made her so legendary. Brava! Those "old school" authors -- and the readers, too -- deserve so much respect and praise, and don't always get it from the very women who benefit from their work. Although maybe that's the mark of having arrived, the young'ns can just bask in the rewards w/out having to fight for the respect. Hmmm...sounds like I'm talkin about feminism, but I'm talkin romance. hee hee!

Ah, Anne, you hit the mark for me. Those little snippets of novels that float into your head and you say, "wow, that was a great scene," or "that was just the most touching moment," or even, "how'd the author manage to write that?"

JennY, hi! You said something similar. And I just started reading "Ashes," and am intrigued.

kim h: here, here!

Cole: great point about Woodiwiss not going for shock. Don't you always get the sense that she was sitting at her lonely table, writing freehand (when she started and was living on a base in Japan)and just pouring out her heart's fantasies and romances? Those "books that make you feel" are the best. i often think that's why some folks can't enjoy romance: they're afraid of the feelings, which is very common, and awfully sad.

susan! yes! I think we're all onto the "characters" thing today.

hi, ruth: funny you mention Emilie Richards. One of her novels (oh, surprise, I can't remember the name, but I think it's got Chain in the title) still pops into my mind. The preacher hero's such a gentle but attractive hero, and the way he and the heroine fall in love and commit has a particular imprint for me. I actually remember the weather during the scene...Richards is a lovely writer.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Kate: you're right. It is hard to separate characters and emotion, and I guess it should be that way. I love your list of keepers,and enjoy that they're so varied in style.

Hi, estella! So nice to see you here. Nice to see so many familiar names! really fun to be back "in the trenches," having a great time with fellow readers, and not just goin crazy with administrative stuff. Although, I love my job and am thankful every day for it. :)

Hi, stacy s: See? That's how I was with Woodiwiss, too. Then I heard her name so many times, I had to try her. You know, i've only been reading romance about 3-4 years, and there are so many authors I've yet to discover. Just today, i've seen new names w/in all your comments; I'll have to look out for them.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Lucy, I waited a while to come back and comment on what you wrote, because it's so meaningful to me at this point in my life (42!). And I believe reading romance for the last few years really helped me understand -- or at least reinforced -- my understanding of the things you've mentioned.

Women deserve to have their "heroes" in real life acknowledge their -- the women's -- needs. So asking a man specifically for what one wants is the right thing to do, rather than feel, "well, I can't change another person, so I'll just love him w/ his faults." Sure, we all have faults our mates need to "love around." But when we learn we do things that hurt our partner, things that we have control over, if we're really invested in the rleationship, we make the effort to learn new skills, to "change."

In romance, the heroine and hero usually learn things about themselves that they can adjust that may have been harming the other. So does the bastardly hero "change?" Maybe he just learns to compromise, to reign in bad behavior, etc., because he knows it affects negatively the woman he loves. Perhaps it's like alcoholism; the hero may just be controlling, respecting and living w/ his bastardliness for the rest of his life, so he can have the heroine's love. But just cause he's a recovering bastard, doesn't mean he doesn't deserve to be loved.

In real life, I think you said something that is easier to realize now, than maybe 20 years ago. It takes a lot of strength and wisdom for a woman to know when to let go. We can affect the behavior of the people we love. But everyone has limitations. If their behavior's making us unhappy, we've got to make the choice on whether we'll live with it, or whether we value ourselves enough to live without the person making us unhappy.

In romance, you don't usually have an ending where the heroine says, "he's a jerk, but he's my jerk, so I'll love him forever just as he is." We can learn a lot from that. :) Now you made me go and get all philosophical! sheesh

Lucy Monroe said...

I love what you said, Michelle...especially when you commented that just because someone's a recovering bastard doesn't mean he doesn't deserve to be loved! One of the themes I see in my books after writing them (it's so much easier to see stuff after the fact, isn't it?) is that a person doesn't have to be perfect to be worthy of love. But neither does a person have to be perfect to be worthy of happiness and that is I think a tie-in to what you said about knowing when to let go and whether you think enough of yourself to do so when it becomes necessary. I know too many men and women who use their own failures as an a reason to excuse the painful behavior of their partners. Yes, there is a certain amount of "loving someone where they are at" in every good relationship, but to say a woman (or a man) should tolerate some level of abuse in a relationshp because s/he themselves are imperfect is so not what healthy living is all about.

Talk about getting philosophical...I could go on forever on this topic. No wonder I love to counsel others. LOL I think I'll mosey over to your blog and check in on the conversation going on over there. :)

Nathalie said...

It is great you are doing a special day for K. Woodiwiss... I love all her books... and Shanna was my fav.!

robynl said...

I've never read Kathleen Woodiwiss before. I keep saying I'm gonna try her but haven't yet. For me it's the characters & the emotions in the story that keep me remembering it.

Lily said...

I love Woodiwiss books... And The Wolf and the Dove is m y favorite because it is set in medieval times :)

Amy said...

I think the imperfections in the characters are part of what makes them real to us readers. I personally love to read a book where the hero has been "crule" to the heroine. I am one of those people who love to cry when reading a romance.

Pamk said...

Oohh Kathleen Woodiwiss was amoung some of the first really spicy romance novels I read. I think I was about 12 or 13 at the time lol. If my mom had known hehe. I just remember devouring any of her books that I could get my hands on. My grandmother was my coconspirator and she helped me with my fix. lol.

Jen in WA said...

The only Woodiwiss stories I've read were short stories in anthologies. I've meant to read more, but the one time I tried, I just couldn't get into the story (I'm thinking it was my mood, but who knows).

The stories that stick with me touch me in some way. Characters who weren't cookie-cutters, plots that haven't been done a million times. Patricia Grasso is the first author that really stuck with me and I recommend her books whenever possible.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, pamk! I'm smiling at the thought of your grandmother hooking you up with the spicy romance. What a priceless image. :)

Amy! Hooray! I am SO with you, and I applaud your honesty. I like it when the hero is cruel, too. My girlfriend and I love to talk about our fave parts in novels with bastard heroes, and we're all like, "and then, remember when he told her he only slept with her to get back at her for loving his best friend? And she was heartbroken because she loved him and was carrying his child from the one time they had sex when he took her virginity?" And we giggle and fall over groaning and are all, like, "yeah, man, that was awwwwwsome." Cause we're all like, "oh no he di'nt." It just feels so good to get that pinch-y, achy feeling when you're experiencing the heroine's or hero's pain right along with them. Cause, the you gotta be able to feel the bastard hero's pain while he's doin the stupid bonehead stuff; he knows he's being a jerk, he just loves her and can't handle it.

I'm with you, lily!

Hey robynl. long time no see! :)

Glad you're enjoying it, Nathalie. I'm re-reading Shanna right now. There's an example of a heroine who had a lot to learn about herself; she couldn't see what she was putting Ruark through cause she was so into her own needs and kind immature. And Ruark? He stayed in slavery just to taste the crumbs she tossed his pitiful way.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

hi jen in WA: I've liked her anthology selections, too. And I'm like you,sometimes i start a book and just can't get into. I start it again at a later date and, wham, it's likethe best thing i've ever read. I've not read Grasso, but I'll try her.

KimW said...

Hi Michelle...nice to see you over here.

I tend to remember the books that have heroes who I really liked. Mostly the bad boy type. lol Or, a heroine that really stands out like Eve in the J.D. Robb series. I also remember the stories that are set in places I've been to.

I read the blog posts on lifetime tv, but for some reason I can't register to post. I keep trying each month and it just doesn't take. It keeps saying "Fields marked with an asterisk * are required." and I have them all filled in. So, I'm with you in spirit. lol

Brandy said...

I, too, haven't read a Woodwiss book. I will eventually get around to it, and it is heartening to hear of the love romance readers usually have for her books.

As for books I read, I remember characters and plot lines. But, out of everything, I remember the emotions the book evokes; sadness, anger, love and passion and sometimes humor. I know some authors works by "oh, she does snark" or " I'm in the mood for a strong heroine so I'll pick up a book by...." . I guess it doesn't matter so much as long as we keep reaching for whatever touches us and pleases us as readers.
Thanks for post!

Annie West said...

Hi Michelle,

Thanks for a thought provoking post. It's so hard to put a finger on exactly what makes me come back to a romance again and again. Characters I believe in are a must - ones that behave realistically given their circumstances (however strange those may be) and their characters. But beyond that, I suspect there's a quality of energy that some writers tap into which just carries me along for a terrific ride. Sometimes that can be sexual energy, more often emotional energy, or even just a rip-roaring plot that grabs your attention and won't let you go. I think too, that writers really pull me in when they push their characters (as Kathleen Woodiwiss did) into situations that call on them to use every resource and strength they have to keep going.

Gee. I'm not asking much, am I? (G).

Annie

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, kimW! Good to see you, and thanks so much for following me over to LifetimeTV.com. I really appreciate your continuing to try to register at LifetimeTV.com. It's such a pain! And we're working on the tech (the site relaunched two months ago and there are still some tech glitches). The biggest disappoinment for me is I know people are showing up, but I also know that when they get to the blog portion, they're not commenting cause registering is SO unbelievably frustrating.

The first tip is to "not" leave spaces in the user name you choose. If that doesn't work, email me at mbuonfiglio@RBtheBook.com, and I'll help you out. Same goes for anyone else who might need help. :)

And, I'm SO with you on the bad boys! Confession: I stillhaven't started the In Death series, even though I hear Roarke (sp) is the absolute sexiest, best hero ever in romance. I'm afraid to start, because I'm a series addict, and there are so many to read, I'll never get any work done.

Hi, Brandy: that's exactly what I'm talking about; you see an author's name, and you just get an instant impression about what you know you'll experience when you read her books. Like imprinting, I guess.

hullo, Annie! you wrote: Characters I believe in are a must - ones that behave realistically given their circumstances (however strange those may be) Yes! When person gets crazy cause characters "don't act realistically," I often ask whether they mean those characters didn't act a)as that individual would have, or b)as we think people would act in our century (if it's a historical or futuristic). If reviewers carry that thinking into their work, they can end up discrediting or "marking down" novels that just "don't work for them," as opposed to respecting the author's choices, and reading with an eye to the "reality" of the environment, scenario, period of time the author's created/showed.

And I think you're asking for only what you deserve as a reader, when you want writers to give you stories that test the mettle of their characters, and in doing so, make you care about them (the characters and the authors).

Thank you, grazie mille, Lucy, and everyone here at Lucy's Place! This has been a real treat, and something I've dearly missed in the past months of craziness. And, gosh, I never thought I'd say this, but I kinda miss Blogger.com!

Thanks for this fun. I appreciate your checking out my stuff at "Romance: B(u)y the Book" at LifetimeTV.com. I feature a new author/novel each week, and content often changes daily. Plus, every day there's something new at "Let's Talk Romance," the new blog home of our old "Romance: By the Blog." Same fun blog, new, cheesy name!

Hope you all have a great day, and enjoy your romance reading! Feel free to write me to let me know about any great new books you've read, authors you've discovered, or just to say hi!

Ciao, Bellas!

Joyce said...

Kathleen Woodiwiss was definitely a must read for me. The Wolf and the Dove set a high standard to compare all other novels.