P. Dangelico takes readers behind the scenes on how she found a new voice and kept things real with her brand new Malibu University Series. Kicking off with the first book Nothing But Trouble.
A Guest Post by P. Dangelico:
I hear voices. Well––some people call them voices. I call them the characters in my novels. They speak to me all the time. These voices follow me into the shower. They whisper while I’m driving. And harass me when I’m ready to drift off to sleep––the last one particularly vexing. Many a sleepless night, I have suffered. And resistance is most definitely futile.
I’ve learned to keep writing paraphernalia on my nightstand. Because, as any writer knows, when the muse visits, you open the door, invite her in, and offer her some of your best liquor. Otherwise you run the risk that she may not come again for a long, painful while. Which, for any writer, is a fate worse than a computer crash without having backed up any of your files.
You might be wondering what the voices in my head have to do with the craft of writing a romance novel, or more specifically, writing in different genres of romance. And the answer to that is a lot actually.
See, I’ve always written adult contemporary romance. My characters were of an age where life had already taught them a thing or two. It was easy for me to identify with them. Armed with this hard-won wisdom, they avoided obstacles created through no fault of their own, jumped through some hoops, and eventually found true love. My characters were either already responsible, mature adults or well on their way. Easy, peasy. I could write those stories in my sleep
Now back to that finicky muse. When she showed up last year and dumped an entire New Adult series in my lap that starred a group of college athletes, I couldn’t refuse. I smiled, thanked her for the gift, and I waited for her to leave before puzzling over said gift.
College students? Student athletes? Not my forte. All I remember from that era of my life was always feeling one step behind. Every decision seemed monumental. The insecurity and self-doubt were no fun either. Needless to say, I was not excited to revisit those days. But the voices wouldn’t be silenced. These characters had a story to tell. So I went about exploring how best to do that.
Switching genres meant that I had to pay closer attention to intentions and motivations. I had to allow these young characters leeway to err in situations that wouldn’t typically trip up someone older and more experienced. The Malibu University Series stars the men’s water polo team and the young women they fall for. And let’s face it, sometimes young men make foolish choices. So it was a delicate balance of letting the characters speak for themselves while tempering the story with the reality of what it’s like to be a college student in a world filled with so much pressure to succeed. Added with the burden social media places on young people today––something I never had to contend with when I attended.
Tailoring my characters thoughts and behaviors specifically for a college athlete took research, the backbone of any good story. Observation. And yes, drawing from my own experiences. If I hadn’t, the story would’ve suffered from a lack of authenticity and authenticity is extremely important to me.
Each writer has a set of self-imposed rules they live and die by. I’m a stickler for authenticity. I expect it of my characters and plots, and in turn, my readers have come to expect it too. Switching genres does not mean switching audience as well. It means bringing more into the fold. Thus began the painstaking process of taking everything I’d learned and building an authentic plot while retaining my original style of writing.
There was a fair bit of writing and rewriting. More than usual. I didn’t let it bog me down, however. If the first commandment in storytelling is always pay attention when the muse speaks, the second should be Just Write It. Credit goes to Nike for that catchy phrase.
I’m not great at outlines. I tip my hat at my author brothers and sisters who meticulously chart their daily word count and map every character arc. I’ve tried, I have. I’m just not any good at it. My stories have a tendency to spring forth mostly completely formed. And if I mess around with them by forcing them into a neat box, they tend to get confused.
In that, I am not alone. Plenty of inexperienced writers get stuck when they can’t make their story conform to their outline. Some remain in limbo for months, the story floundering, because all they can do is fixate on one seemingly insurmountable hole in the plot. Pivot. Start another chapter, another scene. Clean up your dialogue. Just write it. There will be plenty of time later to sort it out. But first, get the story down on paper or computer.
That’s how I tackled writing Nothing But Trouble, the first book in the series. I let it be. Then I sat at my desk and tapped away on the keyboard without thought to how it would come together. I let the muse guide me.
Writing in different romance genres is not an easy task. I marvel at my fellow authors who can do it easily. And there are quite a few who do it brilliantly. For me, it was like asking a marathon runner to become a sprinter. The basic process was the same, but it did take some time to acclimate my brain to speak in an authentic younger voice.
The finished product, I’m happy to report, is even better than I had anticipated. These characters stole my heart. I’m hoping they steal yours too.
P. Dangelico loves romance in all forms, cuddly creatures (four legged and two), really bloody sexy pulp, the NY Jets (although she’s reconsidering after this season), and to while away the day at the barn (apparently she does her best thinking shoveling horse crap). What she’s not enamored with is referring to herself in the third person and social media so don’t expect her to get on Twitter anytime soon. Oh, and although she was born in Italy, she’s been Jersey Strong since she turned six.
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