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At one point in most romance writers’ careers, typically early on, there comes a point when they have to decide…formula or no formula?

For those unfamiliar with the romance publishing world, many traditional print publishers, especially ye olde stalwarts like Harlequin, have strict and inflexible “rules” about how book plots in their different romance lines must go.

Some publishers’ romance guidelines are so specific as to tell you the hero and heroine can never be apart (must be interesting in the bathroom—err, garderobe), and must consummate the relationship by Page “X.” I just can’t write, or at least not well and happily, under such a stranglehold.

I ran into this hurdle myself. Harlequin Historicals was keen on Sea Raven, but the editor there said I’d need to whack word count way down, get rid of a lot of secondary characters, and not have quite so much dashing about and derring-do. That pretty much defeated the whole point of the book.

romance-formulaIn the end, I went with a different publisher. I’m glad I didn’t sacrifice Sea Raven to a formula. Some writers find such constraints and limits comforting, but I’m not one of them. As my first editor told me, “You just need a really big canvas for your writing.” Fortunately, she was cool with that and gave me free rein.

I think my true calling has always been more of historical fiction vein. Romance is part of the tale, but history carries equal weight. Even my historical romance novels have real historical characters and events in them. I didn’t realize this until fairly recently. For the most part, I didn’t consciously set out to insert real people in my fiction, it’s just the way my mind works and my pen flows.

In a future post, I’ll explain how I weave genuine history into fictional plots. Or, rather I’ll try to explain…it sort of happens like breathing for me!