I straddle the line. Since we’re here to promote romance, and aside from being the truth, I thought the word lent itself to the occasion. My novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, lives on the edge between women’s fiction and romance. Though, sometimes, I do feel lost in my own middle-earth. The hope, agent, editor and author alike, is that the book finds a cross section, readers who crave a love story, as well as those who seek the more grounded concept of women’s fiction. I was even given an elevator pitch when it debuted: BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, women’s fiction with a heavy thread of romance. In theory, the novel caters to both book clubs and beach reads.
I suppose your next question is, “So how’s that workin’ for you?”
So far, so good—to a point. Our wonderful host, Maggie Marr, initially thought my book too women’s fiction oriented to be part of a dedicated romance blog. Hmm, therein lies a little of the problem. Romance readers, who tend to stick with tradition, don’t naturally gravitate toward my novel, or my half of the bookstore. I can, however, promise lovers of romance that there is plenty to be had in BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Writing Mia and Flynn’s love scenes was a knack I stumbled upon, never having written one before they took to the page… bed. Suddenly, there I was, a bit of a voyeur, hovering in their moment. Some readers have suggested this is why it works; I put a different spin on the customary bedroom vernacular and vision. In my own head, I think it works because I never set out to write a love scene. It (they) grew organically out of the moment, and in my experience that’s where the best writing comes alive.
On the other hand, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER will take women’s fiction purists on a journey they may not have anticipated. During visits with book clubs, I found gentle shock to be a common reaction. After we get past the throat-clearing angst, generally facilitated by a glass of wine, come the questions: “Was it difficult to write those scenes?” “Have your kids read the book?” “I admit, I happily read them twice.” I thought the last comment was high praise, considering it came from a woman with PhD in a church-run book club. With Fifty Shades of Gray currently crashing through the glass ceiling, those may seem like tame observations. Admittedly, I have not read that book, though I feel the need to pay homage as it appears to be resetting the bar.
Interestingly, the blushing responses I’ve received are exactly what drove me to write BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Why couldn’t romance be a serious part of women’s fiction? I couldn’t find what I wanted on the bookstore shelf, so I wrote it myself. I’d tired of books where the first chapter was an ode to motherhood, starting off with the main character reflecting on the joys of breastfeeding. While I might be able to relate, I wasn’t interested in stories that could be happening across the street. For me, the various concepts had exhausted themselves, relying on the husband who died, vanished or otherwise fell from favor, thereby challenging the woman/mother to reinvent her life. The alternate women’s fiction scenario seemed to center on the deliriously depressed female character, the narrative dissecting the minutia of their lives. What I wanted was a deliciously layered plot with exciting but relatable characters who stepped slightly beyond the boundaries of everyday life or even suburban disaster. I didn’t want love scenes whittled down to a cursory mention. And, I don’t mind saying, I wanted a happy ending.
So my novel is a departure. It’s not traditional romance in the sense that more is at stake than the fate of the hero and heroine, though their story certainly drives the plot. It also cannot be defined as true women’s fiction, as it steps too far from the themes so prominently associated with the genre. I like to think it’s a hybrid, a book that strives to satisfy the widest range of readers, sharing in the single idea that we all love a good book.
Beautiful Disaster is women’s fiction with a heavy thread of romance (see above) that asks this of the reader: What would you risk for a love that is greater than honor or friendship or the passing of time? Beautiful Disaster was voted Best First Book, 2011 by New Jersey Romance Writers of America. It was also named A Favorite Book of 2011 at SheKnows.com. For more information on Beautiful Disaster, visit Laura’s site, www.lauraspinella.net