Valentine's Day 2021: Four romance novelists and a poet share what it takes to be a romance writer

Valentine's Day 2021: Four romance novelists and a poet share what it takes to be a romance writer

They also speak about where they draw inspiration from, and decipher the most important question that is plaguing many millennials: Is romance dead?

Manasi Y MastakarUpdated: Saturday, February 13, 2021, 03:23 PM IST

Abhay K, The Bloomsbury Book of Great Indian Love Poems

What is romance!

Romance comes naturally to us. I think one just has to be alive to one's true feelings to be a romance writer. What is romance? It is a feeling of mystery, feeling of strong attraction towards a person or things. True feelings show up in one's poetry or prose. One does not need any special skills for it. I come across a lot of people from around the world. Most of them are strangers, just passing by, reminding me of this poem of Walt Whitman:

Stranger, if you passing meet me

and desire to speak to me,

why should you not speak to me?

And why should I not speak to you?

I draw inspiration for my love poems from these strangers, who keep coming into my life as comets come to Earth, for a brief interlude, and pass by hurtling into deep space, or as flowers blossom in spring and wither away quickly.

Evoking feelings in the written word

I think here the dictum 'honesty is the best policy' applies. When I'm honest to my feelings, romance automatically comes out in written words. Please remember, our words are our thoughts and emotions and if they are not preachy or lustful, our written words too would not be preachy or lustful.

Is romance dead?

I don't think so, otherwise how would so many love poems/stories, romantic novels be written and romantic movies be made. I think romance can never be dead. It lives in our heart and will live until there is life on Earth. What is life without romance? Romance is all around us. It is not just strong attraction towards another human being, but a general sense of connection with everything animate or inanimate around us like flowers, stars, clouds, mountains, wind, trees, lakes, rivers, oceans. Romance is a way of looking at life in a mystical way. Each of us is gifted with it. This is how William Blake puts it in his poem 'Auguries of Innocence':

To see a world in a grain of Sand

And a heaven in a wild flower

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour

We should keep the child within us alive to feel the sense of wonder alive within us. I think the best way to do it is to stay connected with our inner self, to play, to laugh often and to take pleasure in small things in life, to live every moment of one's life.

Anuj Tiwari, author of Give Your Heart a Break

Drawing inspiration from real life stories

Being real is the most romantic and the rarest thing one can have. If you have it, you feel content. To add, it becomes the most comfortable way out to connect to people when you are genuine in nature. There is nothing else required to become a successful writer or a successful romantic person in a relationship. I have written stories inspired by real lives. My inspiration comes from people I meet, people I talk to, and people I see. I am just a medium to convey their stories by unwrapping their feelings that sometimes we hide to share it with others. I just write what I personally feel good about without feeling preachy or lustful. However, there is always the first calling when you feel “it is not right” I just stop and press backspace. Writing is the easiest thing for an introverted person like me and many others there, so I write what I want to speak to the world through my books.

Is romance dead?
Absolutely, and I sometimes feel sad about it. There is a difference between romantic feeling and romantic drama. Things you see on social media are drama, and I think most of us are influenced by it and then stuck in real life even after having the most charming person. You need to accept that the relationship you have is the most special somehow, so stop comparing it, knowingly or unknowingly. To keep romance alive, one must stay away from social media and stay connected to your loved ones in real life. Nothing can be more romantic than sitting with your love and talking random stuff. Being romantic is not a responsibility; it is the most precious feeling that connects two people most powerfully.

Andaleeb Wajid, author of The Crunch Factor

Being a romance writer

A genuine love for the genre. Not just because you want to hop on to a bandwagon because romance supposedly sells well. Key skills would be reading other romances out there, across various subgenres, and observation of people around us. Inspiration comes from a variety of places — memories, dreams, people I see, and general observation of people around me. It's all right to sound lustful! And, most of the evoking of romance in written comes from depicting good chemistry, dialogue, reactions and inner thoughts of the characters.

Is romance dead?

Not at all. But honestly, I write romance but I'm not necessarily a romantic person in the way of grand gestures. So, for me, romance lies in the small things, the day to day gestures where you learn to live with someone. It's not the happily ever after. It's what comes after that which is what I like to focus on (in my books too).

Nikita Deshpande, author of It Must’ve Been Something He Wrote

Love for escapism

I don’t know about skills required for being a romance writer, but it takes a certain amount of delusion, daydreaming and a shameless love for escapism. You have to enjoy watching your character have certain ideas about love and the world and then coming up with ways to thwart them. I think you also need a deep understanding of your own nature and the unlikely/out of character things we do when we come up against the possibility of rejection. I draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. I'm shameless. Sometimes I'll watch two people arguing on Twitter and think, oh these two should totally kiss.

Evoking feelings of romance in written word

It’s very funny because in real life romantic situations, someone could say the cheesiest thing and "ruin" the moment. But being able to capture the truth of moments like that makes it more real and less preachy, I think. As for lust, I would love to learn to sound lustful. Navigating sex and desire is a very regular part of romance that has been taboo for so many years that many of us grew up thinking that reading or fantasying about it is "icky". I enjoy reading novels that normalise that.

Is romance dead?

No. I think romance has transformed. Earlier romance equalled grand gestures and big spending. I love that that has changed. A lot of women I know would hate a big, public proposal. I find us gravitating more towards gestures that are small, private, thoughtful and defiant of social norms and gender roles. Think Prince Harry hand picking the flowers for Megan Markle’s wedding bouquet, or walking out on the Royal Family to stand against the racism she experienced. Think Alexis Ohanian bringing his baby daughter to watch mum Serena Williams' tennis game and making sure she gets her bottled feed. Think of the number of people, whether romantic partners or not, who have nursed each other to health during this pandemic. To me, romance has expanded to include love and friendship and is expressed through curiosity, care, effort, and the willingness to be vulnerable, brave, silly or cheesy. Through deep attention, curiosity, vulnerability and care, one can keep romance alive. Through being a team, through being open to growth and changing your mind about things, one can keep romance alive.

Riva Razdan, author of Arzu

What does it take to be a romance writer

A love for reading great romances is the most necessary skill, of course. Personally, I enjoy reading love stories with strong female protagonists. I would recommend reading Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Margaret Mithcell because they are the masters of romantic-feminist fiction in my opinion. To learn how to contemporarise your story into a modern romance, I’d say Lianne Moriarty or Jill Mansell or Cecelia Ahern are wonderful at creating urban heroine-centric love stories. Like all fictional stories, its facts plus imagination. I won’t be at a liberty to say how much is fact or whose life the fact belongs to. But I am fairly certain that the story is rooted in enough truth to resonate with many young girls.

Writing romance

My style is neither didactic nor lewd so I find neither a problem. I focus on the construction of my characters, trying to make them as human and yet, heroic, as possible so that they become the sort of people you’d either want to be, or want to fall in love with. You fill a world with interesting and admirable men and women and the romance inevitably follows.

Is romance dead?

Romance is only as dead or alive as your imagination allows it to be.


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