When I first started writing romance (a very long time ago) publishers wanted stories about powerful and wealthy men! Or very macho men! The heroines still had to be the main focus of the story but their attitudes were very different. It wasn't unusual for them to be an ingenue, or at the very least someone who had very little life experience. This type of romance wasn't something I aspired to and because of this I received a pile of rejection letters. They were mostly positive with regard to my actual writing but said that my stories had too much plot! That the reader just wanted to know about the relationship between the protagonists. I could never get my head around that. How could the hero and heroine get to know one another without a decent plot? Needless to say, at the beginning I wasn't very successful.
I kept going though, and slowly things improved. As more publishers began to concentrate on romantic fiction the genre expanded and by the time I was first published, in the early eighties, heroines had more spark. Nevertheless my first book 'Golden Girl,' (now republished as a Vintage Romance by Books We Love) still had a flavour of those original heroines because the main character was a 1960's secretary looking after her man! I held true to my beliefs though. There was a plot with several twists and turns, and although at the beginning of the story she was somewhat innocent, she wasn't needy and she was a fast learner.
Since those days, needless to say, things have changed. Contemporary Romance can be about anyone and anything, and although the 'happy ever after' aspect of the books is still there, the main characters are much more equal, and rightly so. Also, the settings are often far less exotic. Once upon a time in romance, luxury was a bit of a byword. As were the clothes the heroines wore. Now it is all very casual. In fact clothes and appearance are barely touched upon. It is much more about the plot and how this plays out in inner thoughts of the characters, their emotional connections, and even the mundane aspects of their lives. In fact you could say it is all more real life...except in the case of my Mapleby Memories series, it isn't quite!
Although the romantic genre eventually caught up with me and what I wanted to write, it has of course influenced my writing style over the years. Now, although I still sometimes write a stand alone romance, I prefer to follow a character who I find particularly interesting through several books rather than just end with a happy ever after. This is why I have written 'Loving Ellen' which was published by Books We Love on 1 February. It is also why I have introduced what I call my Mapleby Magic. This is the time travel aspect of each story. Time travel allows me to introduce a whole lot of back story in a much more interesting way than just have one of the characters recount it and I find it a really interesting thing to do. I also did something else when I started to write the Mapleby Memories series. I wrote in the first person. And I've found it fascinating because although I have always followed my heroine (yes they do take over!) I've discovered that I get to know them a whole lot better writing in first person. Maybe they are jogging my fingers as I write...or taking over my computer. Who knows!
In the first book of the Mapleby Memories series, 'Remembering Rose', the heroine, Rachel, was able to step into the past events that happened in and around the village of Mapleby as she followed the twists and turns of Rose's life and tried to make sense of it. In 'Loving Ellen,' this time travel continues but in a different way when the spirit of one of Mapleby's past residents returns on a personal quest to solve a very human problem. And who better to help her than Millie Carter?
If you have read Book 1 you will know that after many twists and turns Millie became Rachel's best friend. You will know too that she has survived some of the worst things that life could throw at her and come up smiling, determined, hardworking and kind. Don't get me wrong though. She is far from your sweet do-gooder. Millie is gutsy and resilient and prepared to say her piece. And most important of all, she isn't traumatised by ghosts!
If you want to see who she is then go to the book snippets page on my website at www.sheilaclaydonwriter.com where you can read the opening pages of "Loving Ellen.' In the meantime I'm moving forward with Book 3. It'll be a while yet but there will still be time travel, and Rachel, and Millie, and of course Ellen too.