For more about Allison and her books visit her website at For now, please relax and brace yourself for the occasionally coherent ramblings of Allison's mind.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Expectations: My Approach to Romance

Don’t worry. This isn’t a dating column. Although that would be fun. I’d love to have a “Dear Prudence” like advice column where I can offer my thoughts on random questions. The less I know about the topic the better.

Anyway, back to the post. We’ve discussed what inspires my books and characters. We’ve also discussed the motivations of my villains. Now it’s time to address another literary minefield (and gold mine): Romance.

I’ve already disclosed that I write primarily about humans and human nature. It’s a very short leap then to the fundamental human behavior of seeking, forming, breaking, nurturing, and thwarting relationships. If you’ve read the earlier posts about characters and villains, it shouldn’t be a shock that I approach relationships (romantic and otherwise) with a similar complexity. Just as I don’t believe a hero or villain is purely good or evil, I also don’t believe relationships can be one dimensional, are sole driving forces in our lives, or are entirely healthy and predictable. They certainly aren’t static.

And let’s be honest, no one believe that. A lot of us don’t read because we want reality and that’s ok. There are plenty of good books and authors who know many people read their stories to escape life and be captured in a fanciful whirlwind of passion, promises, and longing gazes. Isn’t that essentially the definition of romance? I think so, which is why we’re having this conversation (ok, monologue.)

I’m just saying that I’m not one of those writers, and I think it’s only fair to tell my readers what to expect from me. Don’t expect romance from my books, but be prepared for the exploration of relationships on a profound, beautiful, and infuriating level. There may be love, but it’s not unconditional, and sometimes doesn’t overcome the odds. There may be passion, but it’s rarely indulged and frequently one-sided. Consequences are considered, poor choices are made, life happens.

I want the reader to fall in love with the characters, even if those characters struggle with each other. My goal is for readers to understand even if they don’t agree. To offer hope to the extent that we all hope even in the face of disappointment. To explain resignation, acceptance, errors, longing, joy, compassion, and jealousy. I try to capture the many facets of human relationships and confront the gamut of corresponding emotions. I know that doesn’t appeal to everyone.

“Case Study” probably spends the least amount of time on the topic of romantic relationships, though Jesse and Michael certainly face their fair share. “Franklin Academy,” however, centers on the mystifying, frustrating, magnetic, and intense connection between the two main characters. The relationship between the leads in “302 Johnson Hall” is so complex and intriguing, it anchors the entire book in one room with the spotlight on two characters.

“The Caracalla Trilogy” comes the closest to escapist “romance.” Since it’s basically a romanticized imagination of a fantasy world at its core, everything about the characters and themes takes on a surreal sheen. Even so, the relationships among the key players are as intricate as the twisting plot, and leave plenty of room for speculation.

I’ve used a lot of words to say that I’m not a romance writer. I do, however, like to explore love and passion, and it’s a frequent theme in my books. Sometimes, the central one. As always, I’m not declaring that a right or wrong approach, it’s just what I do. I’m a psychological spelunker and a character creator. Romance for me must follow the same rules as everything else in life and my writing: complicated, unpredictable, subject to whim, bias, delusion, and hope.

So yeah, if you’re looking for a juicy love scene, you will be disappointed. I’m a lot more interested in what’s going through their heads to inspire the choices they make than, ahem, describing the mechanics of choice.

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