Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Guest Author: Tate Hallaway

Keeping the Romance Alive -- or At Least Undead

What do you do AFTER boy meets girl – or, in my case, after vampire meets witch? The classic set-up of the romance is the first blush, the excitement of falling in love -- so what do you do for a sequel?

That was the question that faced me – and, well, continues to haunt me as I write subsequent books – when starting Dead Sexy (Berkley, May 2007) the follow-up to Tall, Dark & Dead (Berkley, May 2006).

I’ve been in a relationship with the same person for twenty odd years, so, intuitively, I think I sense the romance in the long-term, but how do you write about it – so that it’s interesting? I mean getting him to learn to pick up his dirty socks can be a real challenge, but it doesn’t necessarily make for scintillating reading, you know?

Luckily, the guy in my novels is a thousand year-old vampire, so nothing having to do with Sebastian is typical. Plus, Garnet, our heroine, has a lot of, shall we say, baggage. In other words, before she can even consider settling in with Sebastian, Garnet has to deal with her own crap. In the first book, Garnet had witch-hunters after her, and in Dead Sexy, she’s got an FBI agent hot on her trail. Plus, there’s all that unfinished business with her ex-….

…you get the idea. Even though all these events keep my hero and heroine nearly too occupied to deal with each other, I snuck into the book some of what I consider “real-life” milestones for any relationship. In Dead Sexy, for instance, Garnet and Sebastian have their first fight. It breaks them up a little – hopefully, enough to keep the reader in suspense – and it gives Garnet some time to finally figure out if Sebastian is the one for her.

Garnet is a modern woman, in that she’s in no particular hurry to commit. I think, in some ways, this makes her slightly more difficult for some readers to identify with, but I chose to make Garnet a touch leery about jumping headfirst into a relationship because, well, Sebastian’s not exactly human. And, as odd as this might sound, I wanted my paranormal romance to have a touch of realism, in that the heroine has to consider and weigh all the consequences of a serious, long-term relationship with someone who drinks blood to survive.

For me, that’s one of the appeals of reading and writing urban fantasy. I like to puzzle out the real-life problems of dealing with a fantasy lover. What would it really be like to be married to someone who never ages? If your boyfriend is thirty times older than you are, does he get your references to the Brady Bunch or Schoolhouse Rock? Can people from two fundamentally different eras really breech that gap to fall in love – and, more importantly, stay together?

What about you? How has your favorite author dealt with the question of how to keep a continuing romance hot and spicy and interesting?

Check out Tate's website.

19 comments:

lois greiman said...

Tate! I'm so glad to have you here with us. I really loved Tall Dark and Deadly and am looking forward to the next installment.

I worry about the push and pull between hero and heroine too with consecutive books. I just turned in my fourth Un-mystery, Unmanned, a few weeks ago and am looking into the daunting maw of the fifth. Meanwhile, I'm getting so much mail about my characters sleeping together. As in...when's it going to happen? It's fun, but a little disconcerting, cuz...remember Moonlighting...how when Shepherd and Willis finally got togehter it was basically the end? Hmmm.

Anyway, keep up the excellent work. We're proud to call you a Minnesotan.

Helen Brenna said...

No question. Sexual tension means no sex. Unless you can take it away from the characters afterward. But how do you make that realistic?

Love for the rest of your life is hard enough to write. Tate, how do you write love for the rest of eternity with a vampire? Ha!

Betina Krahn said...

Tate, welcome to the convertible! And congrats on the fine beginning of your series!

I figure Sebastian's been around the relationship block a time or twenty. He knows she can't relate to his lengthy history, so he has to be with her in her time. . . maybe even using her eyes and attitude to explore and adjust to this century. Maybe he's even hungry to belong to the current time. . . otherwise he's floating free in time and not only undead, but ungrounded, which may be far worse.

And as to how to keep a relationship sharp for five or ten books. . . the only author I've seen do that is Nora Roberts with her J.D. Robb series. The other authors I read all have shorter relationships (one or two books worth) with multiple guys. All sexy, all endearing in their own way, all potent and unique... especially if they're paranormals. I do believe the competition helps-- because the continuing and evolving relationships of old flames still around, take on an extra zing when there are unrequited passions involved.

Interesting stuff to think about!

Cindy Gerard said...

Welcome Tate
so great to have you in the convertible with us today. Your covers and titles are soooo cool! As an author who struggles with titles I have to ask - are they yours or did your editor come up with them? And do you get input on your cover art?

tate said...

First, thanks to everyone for inviting me. I'm glad I'm not the only author who struggles with this issue. I agree, Betina, that competition helps... but then I worry about falling into what I call the Stephanie Plum connundrum, which is -- if your heroine is always torn between two guys, what happens when the readers pick favorites and you start to worry about who you might offend if your heroine actually settles on one or the other (and how realistic is it to keep jumping back and forth forever -- it starts making your character seem shallow.)

I don't envy your problem, Lois. At least my characters have already slept together (though I get the complaint from some readers that Garnet jumped into bed awfully soon -- so I guess that adage about pleasing everyone all the time is true.)

To answer Cindy -- I picked my titles (with some editoral back and forth), but had almost no input on the cover art, though I'm happy with it. My editor did ask for a scene to use on Dead Sexy, but I didn't have a good one so she thought of the magical/ritual bath scene, which is what you see. I do worry that the book seems to be about a woman taking a bath, but hopefully the back cover copy clears that up. :-)

Keri Ford said...

I'm dealing with keeping the sexual tension alive right now in two different series I'm writing.

And it's not fun. I want to aviod the "Stephanie Plum Problem" too.

Had plans to keep one of my couples apart for a couple books, then my crit partner informed me readers get angry when you put it off too long. So I threw them in bed at the end. After reading some of the comments above, I'm glad I did!
The best thing I know to do is lots of makeup sex!

Glad to meet ya, Tate!

tate said...

Make-up sex! That's an awesome idea, and one that I'm working with in the third Garnet book. I actually try the "magic kept them apart" thing to see if that helps continue realistic tension. I'm, of course, worried, too, that readers will be put off by that.

Argh, especially since it's fun to introduce sexy new characters (note FBI guy in DEAD SEXY) and have your heroine get a chance to flirt (and reflect on main guy?) yet you don't want to come off as TOO afraid to commit.

What's a witch to do? :-)

Keri Ford said...

I tried bringing in a new character to make the hero jealous.

My heroine's not into commitement, and here I've attached her to one guy and then I'm asking her to at least play nice with another? To spite me, she kept making fun of him in her head.

So I can only do the jealous thing if SHE wants to make him jealous

tate said...

Yeah, don't you hate it when characters won't behave?

Christie Ridgway said...

Tate: Welcome! I love your covers and titles too. So, is that how what you call what you write..."urban fantasy"? I've seen this term around and about and didn't know exactly what it referred to.

Ongoing love...that is a challenge to write about. I'm reading a fab book (nonfiction) about falling in love that I'm blogging about tomorrow. It really helps explain the how/why/when of that initial "in love" feeling, but keeping together for the long haul...much harder to explain, let alone write about!

tate said...

I only call what I write urban fantasy because I was invited to be part of of a group blog of urban fantasy writers -- some of whom I would have called paranormal romance authors. (The group blog, btw is http://community.livejournal.com/fangs_fur_fey/).

They answer the question "what is urban fantasy" on and off a lot. I don't think anyone has one real answer... and I'm not quite sure the Garnet books fit because their "urban" is actually kind of rural, being in Madison, WI.

Anyway, thanks for the compliments re: my titles and covers.

Michele Hauf said...

Tate!
Can't wait to get a copy of DEAD SEXY. My memory is horrible, which is a good thing. I can watch a movie a few months after I've seen it, and it's like new to me. And I usually forget plot lines of great stories just as fast. So I'm trying to recall the name of the bad guy in the first book, that was terribly sexy and like to flirt with Garnet. I love him.

But then you (or someone who looks just like you) made me fall in love with Lucifer once, too. Sigh...

M

tate said...

Bwah. ha. ha. I'm so glad that doppelganger of me made you fall for Satan.

As for the villian -- could you mean Matyas (Sebastian's son)? Or Garnet's ex Parrish (another vampire, who was kinda good/kinda bad)?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Welcome Tate!

I read a vampire romance years ago--oh, my goodness, was it Linda Lael Miller?--that was the second in a series. I don't think I ever went back for the first, but the premise of the second one was what drew me in. Vampire hero didn't turn heroine of the first book into a blood sucker, so she's old in the second book and wants to help him find a new love. He's still in love with her, so he takes some persuading, but finally admits that his ol' lady is going to die soon. He does fall in love again, and it's a nice bittersweet kind of story. I can't see it carrying over beyond the second book, but I'm generally good for one sequel at most.

Continuing characters can work for me--love Tony Hillerman's cops--but generally not when there's a big focus on the romance. Stephanie Plum lasted several books for me, but I haven't read any in several years. I guess I reached a saturation point. Spin-offs are different. You can take a secondary character into his own completely different book, it seems to me.

But that's just me. Many readers, bless their hearts, WANT book after book after book.

tate said...

And yay for them, at least for me!

I think I may have read the series you're referring to -- the first one, anyway. My first vampire (romantic?) novel was Anne Rice, of course. Then, I was hooked. I read all sorts, any I could find, in fact. I'm always surprised that I find I have more to add to the vampire myth.

Debra Dixon said...

Tate--

I'm late chiming in but I love the thread we've been discussing about keeping characters in a series fresh, apart, together, fresh, apart, together, fresh, apart...

Well, needless to say it's an important task I hope you have to deal with for quite a while!

JoAnna said...

Tate,
I am looking forward to reading your second book. We (the MOA romance group) loved the first book and I am looking forward to seeing what the different transformations Garnet's friend (sales associtate) goes through in this book:)

Michele Hauf said...

Parrish! That's the guy. Num.

Okay, this is picky me, but in the pic for Dead Sexy to the right, under Tate Hallaway, why isn't 'Tall' in the title italicized like the rest of it?

Yes, I'm weird.

M

tate said...

Oh! I didn't even notice. I wonder if the typo made it onto the official cover.