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A Happy Beginning, the Next Stage of the Journey: Two Friends Set out Together

So what’s next, you might ask?

You mean after I finally, tardily, retrofit the In-the-Works page on this website to announce the November publication of The Edge of Impropriety?

And after I help update the workshop Janet Mullany and I will be giving at RWA National this July about Writing the Hot Historical (leaving time, of course, for Michael and me to plan our trip to Berlin this August — we leave on the Monday after National).

Before which (I dearly hope) we will have hired a contractor to let some light into our little San Francisco Victorian. We’re not greedy. All we want is the sun in the morning and the moon at night. More windows. Bigger windows. If ever the contractor calls back.

Yeah, after all that. You know, writing-wise.

How nice of you to ask, because it just so happens I am working on something. Too early to give out any specifics, but wish me luck; I’m excited, and particularly about the core concept of the project: the book I’m trying to cook up is being jointly written by Pam Rosenthal and Molly Weatherfield.

I don’t know if anybody really would publish a book so authored — at least to the extent of putting both names together on the cover. But the idea makes perfect sense to me, and it’s jazzing me.

After all, why not get Pam Rosenthal for the romantic historical part? The RITA-nominated romance writer and certified History Hoyden Pam Rosenthal has certainly learned a few things over the years about Regency England:

  • has thought long and hard about the material situations giving rise to the horrid, dehumanizing class attitudes and strictures of the period
  • and has read some Very Great Literature from the period itself — with care and concentration. Which has suggested to her how to retell some of the most vexing, provocative stories…

…while Molly’s no slacker either, at the business of retelling important stories, Carrie’s Story being a successful homage to the immortal Story of O, and so blessed by Jim Petersen, compiler of’s list of the Sexiest 25 Novels of All Time

So if I were doing the hiring on this project (and what luck — I am!), I’d definitely bring Molly on board to do the non-monogamous, equal-opportunity sex part of what I hope will be a thoughtful, highly literate and very smutty piece of writing, with (drumroll!!) NO HAPPY ENDING.

Or at least, no monogamous ending; no ultimate sorting; no cozy, well-protected final retreat back behind the gates of Pemberley. And yet (I hope) no loose ends either. I’m going for a resolution of contending erotic forces — a way of bringing together all the stuff I’ve been meditating on during my loopy journey from erotica to romance and now, perhaps, back.



The pictures ? Oh, those are of Pam and Molly yakking it up in conference




But anyway…

What do you think? Would you read a hot historical that retells a venerable couple of novels from the viewpoints of some neglected and even maligned female characters, by an author (or a pair of them) who’s listened hard to the erotic and political sub-texts whispered at its verges and margins?

Are you interested in how it might be possible to turn up the erotic volume and shine the bright lights of one’s attention on the play of power as well as sexuality?

Do you absolutely need a triumphal married ending, or could you go with other kinds of triumph, perhaps having to do with erotic justice, self-knowledge, power, and the complexity of grownup human interaction?

By chance have you ever been to Berlin? And if so, what should we make sure to see and do?

And (most immediate) do you have any advice about getting a contractor (forget about agents or editors) to actually return your calls?


  1. No happy ending is a huge risk. I haven’t actually read a romance novel that didn’t have a happy ending, but I have heard sad stories of authors who have written them. Personally, there is enough bad stuff in the real world. I don’t want it in my romance novels. That’s why I read romance novels. Regardless of what horrible stuff happens in the novel, I can keep reading because I know in the end, it will all be okay. If I got to the end and it wasn’t okay … I’d be pissed.

  2. But is it bad stuff, Deborah, when love relationships reveal their limitations, and erotic attractions cross boundaries? In one of the stories I’m considering, Deborah, which is a retelling of a Very Great Novel Beloved by Romance Readers — my heroine (a secondary character in the original) muses that none of the couplings is really complete. “We all need each other,” she thinks — and in the version I’m scribbling away at, they get a chance at that. I’ll be musing more on this at The Spiced Tea Party on Independence Day, as it were…

  3. Hmmm … well, that doesn’t sound bad. In fact, it sounds promising. But as RWA says, the ending has to be emotionally satisfying. I am currently struggling through Jennifer Crusie’s “Tell Me Lies” — and I do mean struggling! If I hadn’t already read 4-5 of her other books, I’d have stopped after the first 50 pages, but I am really counting on that emotionally satisfying ending!

  4. I misspoke (miswrote?!) about posting at the Tea Party today — it seems we get a day off, maybe to commemorate the Boston one.

    But thanks for responding, Deborah. and thanks especially for reminding me that what the romance reader wants is more precisely the Emotionally Satisfying Ending.

    So the question is, perhaps — what’s an emotionally satisfying ending for the reader of erotica? Where’s the meeting ground between the romantic yearning for reconciliation and the eternal itch of erotica?

    Is it really to be found behind the gates of Pemberley?

    I hope find the ending to Tell Me Lies emotionally satisfying. When I read it, I found several true satisfactions along the way — which I realize is a slightly edgy answer.

    Happy Fourth, as I set forth on this new beginning.

  5. Fascinating topic, Pam! (And your proposed book sounds fascinating as well!). I find the whole concept of the guaranteed happy ending an intriguing conundrum as a writer. I like happy endings, as a reader, and I instinctively write to them as a writer, even in my subplots (one reader complained about everybody’s happy endings all being too neatly tied up in “Beneath a Silent”). But paradoxically, one of the things I love about writing historical fiction is that I don’t have to write a happy ending (even though I very likely will do so). And some stories I prefer without happy endings. “Atonement” requires the fascinating, troubling double-ending it has. Much as part of me wants Ilsa to go off with Rick, I actually think it would weaken the ending (and in fact, make it less emotionally satisfying). And some of the happy endings I’ve found most satisfying are in books where the happy ending wasn’t necessarily guaranteed, so I nervous about how the story would play out.

    Thanks so the thought-provoking topic!

  6. some of the happy endings I’ve found most satisfying are in books where the happy ending wasn’t necessarily guaranteed, so I nervous about how the story would play out

    I agree wholeheartedly, Tracy, and in fact, I was delighted when my sister-in-law (not a romance reader) said of a tense moment in The Bookseller’s Daughter, “I just didn’t know how you were going to get her out of that one.” A huge pleasure for a reader, especially when she misses the clue planted so carefully, and yet so casually, out in plain sight.

    But perhaps things are different in the world of erotica-for-erotica’s sake — which I continue to believe can be mightily romantic, even if final perfect pairings aren’t in the offing.

  7. I was delighted when my sister-in-law (not a romance reader) said of a tense moment in The Bookseller’s Daughter, “I just didn’t know how you were going to get her out of that one.” A huge pleasure for a reader, especially when she misses the clue planted so carefully, and yet so casually, out in plain sight.”

    I felt the same delight a couple of weeks ago when I was a guest on Candice Hern’s boards. One reader posted that after a particular scene in “Secrets of a Lady/Daughter of the Game,” she stayed up late reading because that plot development made her doubt the whole outcome of the book (which means it had the desired effect).

  8. I’ve said before that one of the things that made me want to write was a spell many decades ago where I was staying up until 4 reading Stephen King. I wanted to be able to do that for (or is it to?) readers of my own.

  9. I think it’s both “for” and “to,” Pam. Hearing that’s someone’s sat up into the small hours turning the pages of one of my books is one the nicest compliments I can receive as a writer. And as a reader, I love finding a book I want to burrow into and not come up for air (I’m feeling that right now with Elizabeth George’s new book).

  10. Elizabeth George writes fabulous mysteries that combine rich characterization and sense of place with page-turning suspense and intricate plots. I was trying to analyze what kept me wanting to read “just a bit more” of her latest, “Careless in Red,” and I decide it’s the sense that just a few more pages will reveal a bit more of the puzzle of who the characters are. In addition to the overarching mystery, in a sense each character is a mystery, and I want to read more to discover what drives them. She also has an intriguing set of ongoing characters and the book before this ended with a dark cliffhanger, so it’s interesting to see the events of this book.

    I once went to a fabulous workshop on characterization that Elizabeth George gave at a mystery writing conference that influenced me a great deal, particularly in writing “Beneath a Silent Moon.” I used her character profiles method, and I loved the results.

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