Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The changing nature of Mills & Boon novels


On October 28th I’ll be speaking at the Yungaburra Folk festival and the friend who twisted my arm to do this suggested that I talk about why romance appeals to women and to try to see its position in the cultural and historical scheme of things.

To help me get my head around this, I ordered jay Dixon’s book The Romance Fiction of Mills and Boon 1909-1990s.

What fascinating reading. It only arrived yesterday and I haven’t got all that far yet, but I’m hooked.

I hope jay Dixon won’t mind, but I’m going to post a short extract here:

“The Mills & Boon romances of the post-Second World War period depict problems that are specific to women. In the late 1940s the mainspring of their stories are such topics as the lack of job opportunities for women (both single and married) the difficulties that arise when living with in-laws due to the housing shortage; and the problems faced by wives when trying to revive marriages to men who have become strangers after being away at war for six years.”

I’m sure Mills & Boon books continue to reflect our current society this now. We still have fairy tale aspects such as stories with princes and sheikhs. (I can never spell that word.) But real life contemporary issues too. I’ve dealt with infertility (an increasing modern dilemma) in Their Doorstep Baby and the problem of a father discovering that his daughter isn’t his in In the Heart of the Outback (April 2007) a post-DNA phenomenon.

Natasha Oakley’s Accepting the Boss’s Proposal is about a divorcee with two children and Jessica Hart has written some wonderful stories about women becoming involved in blended families. And these are just a smattering of the issues relevant to these times that you will find in the books in our Romance line and I’m sure the other lines (especially medicals) cover these, too.

But of course, as jay Dixon would agree, I’m sure: it’s the emotional response from the reader that is more important than the issue itself. The issue simply makes the story relevant for the audience.

To quote jay again: “Emotional involvement of the reader – which is achieved by the particular style of the author – is all that matters. The kind of writing is, for the most part, intuitive. It must, to some degree, tap into the wells of the writer’s subconscious if it is to be effective in conveying the emotional intensity that is the hallmark of these books.”

When I sold my first book, editor Linda Fildew told me: “We bought your book because of the level of emotional intensity. Always remember that’s what we want: emotion, emotion, emotion.”

1 comment:

2paw said...

M&B books do reflect the circumstance of women: the books have definitely moved with the times, and I don't mean sex scenes, explicit or otherwise. They really do deal with the problems faced by women in society today: being a single parent, having a career and a family, isolation, commitment etc. And it is all about the emotion. I need to connect with the protagonists, who are very different to me, who live is other places and lead other lives, but it is the emotion that makes the connection for me!! Can't wait for your new book!!!