Monday, November 10, 2008
Mills & Swoon
Feeling much better (thanks for your lovely comments) and finally got round to watching a programme I recorded on BBC4 last week, about literary novelist Stella Duffy taking on the challenge of writing for Mills and Boon, who are celebrating their centenary this year.
It was oddly fascinating. Probably because back in the day I - along with crime writer Mark Billingham, strangely, and lots of other people I suspect - thought it would be a doddle to write one too, and earn enough money to buy myself a flat. (I was young and stupid, okay?)
Anyway, Ms Duffy, who is extremely likeable by the way, was well out of her comfort zone as she normally writes about Gritty Real Life and The Seedy Underbelly (those aren't her titles by the way) but to give her credit she threw herself into it. She talked to the superfans - one woman admitted she'd spent over £20,000 on M&B novels over the years - met an established writer, went on a writing course in Tuscany, and forced herself to override her natural instincts. Mills & Boon novels HAVE to feature alpha males and a strong heroine who teaches the hero that love is all. Once Stella realised she could write for their supernatural imprint - albeit still within the guidelines - she started to care about her characters and the words flowed - although she needed a couple of stiff ones for the sex scene, as it were. The editor really liked what she'd done and would have asked for the full MS had Stella decided to continue, which I don't think she did.
It proved once and for all - if proof were needed - that it's nigh on impossible to write something for the sake of it. I can't remember what mine was about, but I know I called it The Valley of Clouds and my hero was a blacksmith I called Ben, because I fancied Ben Murphy from Alias Smith and Jones (shakes head at youthful self).
Actually, looking at that photo he wasn't half bad. I won't bother trying to find out what he looks like now...