So, some of you might know I started off my writing career with American publishers. I won a few awards across the Pond, but there’s one I’ve never cracked: the Romance Writers of America’s main award, the RITA.
Last year, I entered The Untied Kingdom and my scores were, well, mixed. Two judges gave it a perfect score, one just under that, and two thought it was utterly mediocre (how depressing is ‘mediocre’?).
So we at Choc Lit started wondering about the RITAs and what does well. Some of my favourite authors have been honoured by the award, but it’s a tough nut to crack for a British author.
“Theres not enough sex in my book!” said one friend. Well, that’s genre-dependent. Being an author of paranormal romance (as well as erotic romance under my pen name) this is a trope I’m wearily familiar with. You don’t necessarily need sex in a book to do well in the US market, in fact there are lots of popular books which keep it off the page. But American readers are pretty vocal if they feel they’ve been cheated: lots of build up and then the bedroom door closes!
Having read a few American paranormals lately (I’ve read loads and loads, just not for a while) yes, the feel seems more urban fantasy, vampires and werewolves and chicks in tight leather with swords (just look at the covers!).
It’s style as well as content, and really hard to put your finger on. The market is used to a certain type of book, as are we I suppose–I’m not sure Sherrilyn Kenyon or Loretta Chase would win a RoNA, but they’re pretty damn popular over there (Sherri doesn’t actually enter the RITAs as she says she isn’t in need of the publicity, and might as well let someone else have the chance. Sherri is an utter sweetheart. She even bought me lunch once).
I don’t know if that’s why The Untied Kingdom wasn’t right–just not paranormal enough, maybe, or perhaps they prefer clean-cut heroes whose long hair is always perfectly conditioned, who wear leather trousers without irony, and have names with extra H’s in them (ahem). I suppose a guy like Harker who has a pathological aversion to shaving, smokes like a chimney and says ‘bugger’ a lot probably didn’t seem so appealing…
Well, I like him anyway.