Anna Belfrage is an author who continues to pop up on my radar on a fairly regular basis. She’s a prolific historical fiction writer and boasts three successful series to her name!
I am so excited about sharing a lovely guest post from her here on my blog today and also share a little bit about her upcoming release. The Wanderer series is wrapping up here with the third book which is out now! So be sure to pop by and take a look at the summary for this lovely conclusion!
Today though, Anna Belfrage talks a bit about writing and writing what you love. This piece really resonated with me because I myself am a writer and I big fan of romances. I adore Belfrage’s candor and truth in this piece and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!
Writing what you love – and loving doing so!
“Do writers in general suffer from low self-confidence?” hubby asked me the other day. Hmm. I would not describe myself as low on confidence and I don’t think writers in general have low self-confidence. But what most writers need and want is some sort of affirmation, a third opinion expressing that their work is okay. Ha! Okay is not what we want to hear, more along the lines of “heart-wrenching” or “unputdownable” or “thought-provoking” or “excellent read” or “gripping”.
Writing is a lonely endeavour. Well, it is if you discount the fact that the writer lives in a bubble populated not only by themselves but also by the characters in their books, and boy are those characters a pain in the nether parts at times. Leaving aside all the voices in a writer’s head, all those shadowy creatures visiting them at night to suggest yet another tweak to a crucial scene, the writer is mostly alone. So alone, us writers tend to talk a lot to our pets, or if we don’t have pets, to ourselves or our laptops. This may be why it is so important for us to have someone else tell us they love our work.
Another reason for this thirst for affirmation lies in the fact that being a writer is a lot of hard work. There are so many hours, so much effort invested in each novel. Some writers—especially those with huge outputs, releasing several novels each year—resort to formulaic writing. Essentially, they’ve learned to standardise their production process. Lee Child does this in his Jack Reacher books (and I must hasten to add I really, really enjoy those books and am a tad worried about the news that he plans to pass on the writing baton to his brother…). In every book, you have lone wolf Reacher who wanders the U.S. with a toothbrush in his pocket and not much else, pitted against baddies. A woman is always involved. At least once per book, there is a love scene. There is always one initial fight scene where the baddies realise—too late—that Reacher is not only big, he is also an extremely competent fighter. Reasonably, after five Reacher books, the reader would yawn at the recurring elements. Except the readers apparently don’t. No, the readers love that they know exactly what they are getting.
Romance writers are also quite good at formulaic writing. Enter hero, who for some authors always is tall and muscled. For others, said hero always has mesmerising eyes, be they amber or green or grey. Enter heroine. Usually, heroine is spunky. She also has mesmerising eyes—rarely are her eyes described as “a muddy brown”. She has lovely hair—not necessarily immediately apparent as heroine may have hidden it in a messy bun or under a hat. Usually, heroine has baggage in form of a tender heart which makes her reluctant to trust. Alternatively, it is the hero who has had his heart broken in one way or the other. Trust, dear peeps, will not come easy to our couple—but attraction does. Like a wall of sizzling heat, it has both our protagonists gasping while desperately trying to hide it. At first. (NB: these days, romances can have two heroes. Or two heroines. Same rules apply re the broken heart and trust, though)
Once again, the interesting aspect of all this is that the readers do not mind the repetitiveness of the writing. Take a historical romance by Amanda Quick (and while Ms Quick has some formulaic elements, she always delivers a unique plot, so it doesn’t quite apply, but still). Should the hero not have a leonine mane of (preferably) black hair paired with amber or green eyes, I would be somewhat disappointed.
Likewise, if I read contemporary romance featuring hockey stars (Yes, I know: sounds very formulaic. Is very formulaic, as the writer wanders through the team, one book per player, but this particular writer is skilled enough that she always delivers a human angle that varies) I am expecting a story about a young man who has really enjoyed the wild and crazy life of an attractive (and hot—they are always hot) bachelor who suddenly meets Ms Right. He doesn’t always want to meet Ms Right—heck, he likes his life as it is—but there you are: Ms Right enters from the left and Mr Hockey Player is soon enough a reformed man, worshipping the ground she walks on.
Those of us who haven’t quite mastered the art of standardised production (which we all know brings with it the benefit of solid margins) plod on with our stand-alone stories. We write books that sometimes cross over multiple genres, thereby making it difficult to promote them adequately. The other day, someone asked me if I could give them the name of a couple of books which I felt were comparable to A Flame Through Eternity, the third in my Wanderer series. My reply?
I can give you a list as long as my arm with books that in some aspects compare to this complicated, sizzling love story featuring star-crossed lovers who’ve been around for 3 000 years, who’ve lived and died, who’ve loved and lost and who now finally—FINALLY—are in the same time frame only to discover that their ancient nemesis has also decided to pop up, as intent as ever on destroying their lives—but I can’t name one single book that contains all those elements. I am inordinately proud of my Wanderer books—IMO, my writing reaches new heights in this series, probably because I loved writing them—and I have some lovely awards and reviews, but my self-confidence suffers when the sales stats don’t pick up or when the reviews don’t flow in. Logically, I understand why. Emotionally, I am wrecked.
The moral of all of the above is that the savvy writer lays an ear to the ground and considers how to address the market. Then they sit down and mull over their formula: what genre, what ingredients will be recurring, what will be added as a unique spice. Assuming they can write—because let’s face it, it takes a lot of skill to write high-quality formulaic fiction –the savvy writer is on the road to success, both from a monetary perspective and a self-boosting exercise.
Obviously, I should now be sitting here considering just how to become one such writer. Except, I’m not sure I want to. I like writing unique stories, crazy, sprawling things that vary in historical period, that sometimes include paranormal elements, sometimes not. I want to write romance and historical fiction and time travel and epic sagas and maybe historical fantasy. The single recurring ingredient in my stories is love—and my preference for tall, strong heroes with eyes to die for. I suspect that isn’t enough to design a standardised product, but boy do I have fun exploring all these parallel, imaginary worlds and stories.
“Do writers have low self-confidence?” hubby asked. I guess some do. But some of us clearly have enough confidence to write what we love, no matter if the end result is quite impossible to neatly box into one genre. And you know what? I think writing what you love is fundamental to writing so that other people will love it too. The rest, as they say, is simply a matter of visibility. Or so I tell myself on those evenings when I stare way too deeply into my wine glass and consider my vulnerable and somewhat shaky self-confidence!
Anna has recently released A Flame Through Eternity, the third in her Romantic Suspense series, The Wanderer.
When she isn’t writing contemporary suspense with a time travelling twist, Anna is usually visiting her favourite historical periods, namely the 17th century and the 14th century. And yes, she is quite convinced people were as much about love back then as we are now!
Find out more about Anna on www.annabelfrage.com.
Or pop by her Amazon page and browse through her books, http://Author.to/ABG
It started 3 000 years ago. It ends now. Who survives the final confrontation?
According to Helle Madsen, being the protagonist of a time-spanning epic love story has some things going for it, primarily Jason Morris. Because seriously, meeting up with your fated lover after 3 000 years apart is not bad—at all. Unfortunately, where Jason goes, there goes Sam Woolf, yet another very, very ancient acquaintance—with the fundamental difference that Sam is not into Happily Ever After. He’s into destruction, more specifically of Jason and Helle.
Helle may believe in second-chance love, but she sure doesn’t believe in reincarnation. Okay, she didn’t believe in stuff like that until she met Jason Morris a year or so ago. By now, she has accepted that sometimes impossible things are quite, quite possible—like an ancient princess being reborn as an ambitious financial analyst.
Finding Jason was like finding the part of her that had always been missing—a perfect match. But handling Sam Woolf, the reborn version of their ancient nemesis is something of a trial. No sooner do you have him well and surely beat, but up he bounces again. Sheesh, will it take an oak stake to permanently rid their lives of him?
Sam Woolf is a powerful adversary. Too powerful, even. Jason and Helle will need help from unexpected quarters to finally bring this tangled, ancient love-and-hate triangle to some sort of conclusion. Question is, will they survive the experience? (summary from Goodreads)
About Anna Belfrage
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours. Plus she always finds the time to try out new recipes, chase down obscure rose bushes and initiate a home renovation scheme or two.
Her most recent release, A Torch in His Heart, is a step out of her comfort zone. Having previously published historical fiction & historical romance, with this first book about Jason and Helle Anna offers a dark and titillating contemporary romance, complete with a time-slip angle and hot & steamy scenes.
Connect with Anna
Monday, February 10th: @thereadingchemist
Monday, February 10th: @mixed_matched_socks
Wednesday, February 12th: @livingmybestbooklife
Friday, February 14th: @books_with_bethany
Saturday, February 15th: @sincerelykarenjo
Sunday, February 16th: @sarahandherbookshelves
Tuesday, February 18th: @nurse_bookie
Wednesday, February 19th: @simplykelina
Friday, February 21st: @_ebl_inc_
Monday, February 17th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, February 18th: Nurse Bookie
Tuesday, February 18th: The Book Diva’s Reads – author guest post
Wednesday, February 19th: Stranded in Chaos
Friday, February 21st: Living My Best Book Life
Wednesday, February 26th: Openly Bookish
Thursday, February 27th: Sincerely Karen Jo
Thursday, February 27th: Audio Killed the Bookmark – author guest post
Friday, February 28th: @falling4romance
Monday, March 2nd: @barr_bookworms
Wednesday, March 4th: From the TBR Pile – author guest post
Friday, March 6th: Treestand Book Reviews
Friday, March 6th: Broken Teepee
Monday, March 9th: What is That Book About – author guest post
Tuesday, March 10th: Jathan & Heather – author guest post
Wednesday, March 11th: @balancingbooksandcoffee
Friday, March 13th: The Lit Bitch – author guest post
Monday, March 16th: The Sassy Bookster – author guest post
Wednesday, March 18th: Read Love Blog – author guest post
Monday, March 23rd: Book Fidelity – author guest post