Guest Author Maggie Wells on Writing Kickass Heroines

Happy April! Hope everyone had a nice weekend. I'm in the final stages of finishing up book 3 in The Ones Who Got Away series (The One You Fight For), which is already up for pre-order! So I'll be in the writer cave all week, but today I have a special treat for you. Maggie Wells is stopping by to tell us about her new release in her Playing for Keeps series and about writing strong, kickass heroines. I really love this topic because I agree with her that we're harder on the heroines than we are the heroes. When I wrote By the Hour, I knew I was going to get push back because the heroine was a villainess in the first book, but she had good reason to be a bitch for a while (in my opinion) and had a journey to make, so I'm all for the tough woman getting her romance. : )

Take it away, Maggie!

Guest Author Maggie Wells on Writing Kickass Heroines

Take it away, Maggie!

I write women I know. Or want to know. Some readers fall in love with my characters on first sight. Other heroines, they can never quite warm to. I get that. Believe it or not, I’m okay with that.

We all know women come in all shapes, shades, and sizes. I am a vertically challenged (but still the first woman in my family to break out of petite inseams, thankyouverymuch), pinkish-white, middle-aged woman. You probably know someone who fits that description, but I will bet all the money in my wallet (heh) they can’t fit my backstory.

I am the seventh child and one of two girls born to parents of Irish and German-American descent. I was raised in a middle-class, middle-America household. Dad worked hard to provide for us, and mom worked harder as a homemaker. I was given an excellent, if not always appreciated, Catholic school education. I attended university close to home, joined a sorority, and wound up with a degree in Political Science that has proved to be woefully underutilized in any of the six career paths I’ve followed since graduation. Pretty typical, right?

Oh, did I mention that my parents were alcoholics? Yeah, that shapes a person a bit. But I'm not damaged because of it, just cautious around alcohol. And, in spite of the booze, my family is freakishly functional. I had three serious romantic entanglements before the age of twenty-one, then dated sporadically through my twenties. I was a bridesmaid nine times. I considered myself comfortably settled into my singledom by the age of thirty. Then, I met my husband. A twice-divorced custodial parent of two kids under ten.

What could be more perfect for a nice Catholic girl?

I believe a person’s backstory shapes their humanity. There are a multitude of factors that play into our chances for success. Genetic traits passed on at birth, family ties, friendships and support networks. Then we add in education, environment, romantic and sexual identity, career choices…It goes on and on.

But every one of these factors force us to confront and adjust who we are and what is important to us. I went through all of this to say, you can’t duplicate me.

Yet, we like to try to fit our fictional heroines into tiny little molds. We call them archetypes, because that sounds cooler and more writery, but basically, they are character sketches. We want them to be relatable. Perhaps we want them to be just like us, or come with qualities we aspire to have. But sometimes those sketches bleed into one another or blur around the edges.

We all have stories and characters we gravitate toward. I like to read about women who have confidence in some things, but maybe not everything. I write some who make life choices that boggle my mind even as I’m putting the words on the page. There are some I’d love to be more like one type, but they stubbornly refuse to conform. Others, who are pretty much my doppelganger.

As a writer, I want the words I write to mean something to someone. Even the silly jokes. Because I never know who is reading. That person may really need a laugh that day. Or, perhaps, a reader sees something of herself in a character someone else might see as tragically flawed. This is why it’s important to me to write women who don’t always fit the mold. Maybe they didn’t spend their childhood playing with baby dolls and dreaming of their wedding day. Maybe, like me, they did, but that family life didn’t unfold the way they originally envisioned.

Doesn’t make it better or worse, just makes it different.

Our life stories can be plotted using two simple markers—decision or indecision. Of course, as a writer, I tend to write action more than inaction. No one wants to read a story where life simply happens to a person, right? But we all know inaction can have as potent a result as action.

Me, I’d rather see my heroine make the wrong choice than no choice at all.

As readers, we can be pretty darn judgmental about some of the things heroines do. But we forgive an awful lot in our heroes. I know I do. When will we as romance readers and writers start extending the same level of forgiveness and understanding to our heroines?

I am a work in progress—as a person, as a writer, and as a reader. I love characters who refuse to stop evolving. When I started writing the Love Games series, I wanted to write romance with a seriously feminist bent. Stories that would showcase kickass women who happened to be hitting some of those critical moments of decision/indecision smack dab in the middle of life.

You know, that time in life when younger people think we're supposed to have life all figured out?

When I started writing Millie Jensen, I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. I also know that Millie's manner and some of her choices may not sit well with readers. But that's okay. Millie is her own person. Just like me. And you.

I'll tell you a secret, most of us don’t have it all figured out. Even at my advanced age. So, when do we start accepting ourselves as flawed, but still pretty damn awesome? At what point do we start cutting women—real and fictional—a break?

Meet Millie and her fantastically flawed friends in my latest release, PLAY FOR KEEPS!

Mixing business and pleasure is a dangerous game…
Tyrell Ransom, the new men’s basketball coach, is ready to whip his team into shape and start winning some games. But when compromising photos of his soon-to-be-ex-wife with one of his players go viral, everything comes crashing down. With reporters thick on the ground, Ty and his team need some serious damage control―now
 

When public relations guru Millie Jenkins arrives in her leopard-print cape to save the day, things really heat up… Soon they’re going to have to work double time to keep their white-hot chemistry out of the headlines.

Grab your copy at:

Amazon ~ Apple ~ B&N ~ Google Play ~ Kobo  ~ Powell’s ~ Books-A-Million ~ The Ripped Bodice

 
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About Maggie: 

By day, Maggie Wells is buried in spreadsheets. At night, she pens tales of people tangling up the sheets. The product of a charming rogue and a shameless flirt, you only have to scratch the surface of this mild-mannered married lady to find a naughty streak a mile wide. Maggie has a passion for college football, processed cheese foods, and happy endings. Not necessarily in that order.  

More Maggie: 

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook 

 

Classic Romance Review: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

I've mentioned before that I didn't grow up reading romance. In my high school years, I spent most of my time reading horror and suspense. I don't think I even realized romance novels existed since my mom didn't read them. So I missed a lot of the 80s and 90s romance novels that people consider classics. So I've been trying to weave those into my reading life.

One that I kept seeing mentioned and recommended as one of the romance cannon was Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. I bought it a while back and it's been sitting there staring at me on my Kindle, so I finally decided to pick it up. I'm so glad I did.

 

First, here's the blurb:

They call him many names, but Angelic isn't one of them . . . 

Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain, is big, bad, and dangerous to know. No respectable woman would have anything to do with the "Bane and Blight of the Ballisters"—and he wants nothing to do with respectable women. He's determined to continue doing what he does best—sin and sin again—and all that's going swimmingly, thank you . . . until the day a shop door opens and she walks in.

She's too intelligent to fall for the worst man in the world . . . 

Jessica Trent is a determined young woman, and she's going to drag her imbecile brother off the road to ruin, no matter what it takes. If saving him—and with him, her family and future—means taking on the devil himself, she won't back down. The trouble is, the devil in question is so shockingly irresistible, and the person who needs the most saving is—herself!

 

So I loved this book for a lot of reasons, but one main aspect stood out the most for me. It's a common thing in romance-reader land to pick our favorites because the hero is so swoony. I know as a writer that the hero can make or break a book. If you don't love the hero I write, I'm toast. In the same vein, we're often more critical of the heroines. (Like a hero who acts like a jerk gets a pass if he's redeemed, but a heroine who acts like a jerk is often labeled a bitch. I had to be very aware of this in By the Hour because I have quite a jerk of a heroine to start.) There are all kinds of reasons and theories about this I'm sure, but I'm just pointing it out because in Lord of Scoundrels, I loved the book because of the heroine. 

Now, I'm not saying the hero wasn't worth swooning over. Sebastian/Dain was confident, commanding, angst-ridden, and devilish. He was also maddening because he was so damn stubborn, hard-headed, and high-handed. But that's why Jessica was such a fantastic heroine. She was having NONE OF IT. She did not cower or give in or take any of his crap. She gets pissed and doesn't just hold her own, but goes on the offensive often. In fact, she gets so mad that she (mild spoiler warning) shoots the hero. And not in a fit of rage but in a calculated act of payback. It was hilarious. In fact, I found myself laughing at many points in this book because she often handles him as if he's a petulant child. And he is just confounded by a) how this woman is treating him and b) why he can't seem to resist her. So there's a lot of that love/hate dynamic going on, which I love.

Also, one thing I adore about the old school historical romances is that they're in no rush. You often get a full story, including seeing some of the hero and/or heroine's childhood. So even though this book isn't longer than a normal book, you feel like you really know the characters and have spent a lifetime with them. You feel like you've gone on a real journey.

So if you're looking for a sexy read with a lot of laughs, witty banter, and a heroine who is someone you'd want to have a drink with, grab this one

Who's read this one? What did you think?

It's Release Day! The Loving on the Edge Bundle

It's release day! Woo-hoo!

This is my first boxed set and gathers together all four Loving on the Edge novellas, including the RITA-nominated BREAK ME DOWN, in one nice place with one sexy cover. That's almost 500 pages worth of smexiness, y'all. ;)

About the set:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Crash Into You comes four previously published Loving on the Edge novellas, together for the first time...

In Still Into You, married couple Seth and Leila head to The Ranch, a resort where any sexual fantasy can be had. Seth hopes to put the spark back in their marriage and to show Leila why he’s the only man for her...

In Forever Starts Tonight, two Dominant men and one submissive woman attempt to jumpstart their relationship with a getaway at a mountain cabin. When they get snowed in, however, the heat between them reaches a fever pitch, and secrets come out...

In Yours All Along, two men, Devon and Hunter, shared a hot night in college, but an accident tore their relationship apart. Four years later, Hunter is a professional baseball player, engaged to a woman, and in Devon’s bar. Neither man can get that one night off their minds...

In Break Me Down, Samantha Dunbar and sexy executive Gibson Andrews are Dominants, and according to Gibson, that makes them incompatible. But after an attack shakes Sam to her core, Gibson finds himself unable to let her go...

Grab your copy:  Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

And for those of you who've already read the novellas (thank you!), I'd be forever grateful if you could leave a review on the boxed set. Reviews help tremendously with visibility in Amazon search and such, so I'm sending you all the heart eyes if you're so inclined. :)

Happy reading!