Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Market Research: Romance

I've been a reader of romance--specifically, historical romance--since I was a teenager. And though I know that romance is a big category and it sells really well, I hadn't really ever looked into the numbers.

And since what I'm writing might be a historical romance (or is it a historical with romantic elements?), I thought I'd noodle around on Google and see what I could find.

Romance as a genre is worth $1.08 billion, which is something like one-fifth of all adult book sales. It's the size of the mystery genre and sci-fi/fantasy combined. According to the Romance Writers of America, in 2014, women made up 82% of romance readers. Most romance readers are in the 30-44 age range.

64 percent of romance readers read romance more than once a month. 35% buy romance more than once a month.

Romance readers adapted pretty early to ebooks and e-readers, but there is a fairly substantial print mass market format business still going strong.

Top Romance subgenres read by format:

Print: romantic suspense, contemporary romance, historical romance, erotic romance, New Adult, paranormal romance; Young Adult romance, Christian romance.

Ebook: romantic suspense, contemporary, erotic, historical romance, paranormal romance, New Adult, YA, and Christian romance.

Graph from The Business of Romance Novels Presentation

Sunday, May 21, 2017

An Interview with Author Krystal Jane Ruin!

Today, I have a guest--brand spankin' new author Krystal Jane Ruin, whose debut novel No Rest For the Wicked was released on May 10th! Krystal and I have been blogging and writing friends for a few years now, so naturally, I wanted to interview Krystal a little bit about her book!

No Rest For The Wicked is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and tons of other places, too! 

So Krystal, your debut novel No Rest For the Wicked has been out for eleven days now! I finished reading it a few days ago! (Click here to see my Goodreads review) How does it feel to finally have your work out there?

It’s really kind of weird! I’m excited, but I haven’t gotten used to seeing the book out in the world like that yet.

I'm not going to ask you where you got your ideas from, because we writers all know that that's an impossible question. So: where did Tatum come from? Did she come to you fully-formed or did she develop along the way? I really enjoyed her voice. 

Haha. Ideas are a can of worms. Tatum came out of an idea I had for a group of traveling fortune tellers. There was a palm reader who couldn’t actually read palms, so she would just root around in people’s heads and mess with them. I thought she was really fun. So, Tatum showed up pretty well-formed. There were definitely things I didn’t know, but my characters drive the plot, so I have to know them pretty well.

I loved how the characters are one thing at the beginning of the book and they twist and turn and grow as the story goes on. Just what you want characters to do! But those twists feel really natural to both the story and the characters. Was there one twisty aspect that was harder to write, create, or refine for you than the others? 

You know, some of the backstory actually gave me a bit of a hard time. Getting all the little details right took the most amount of work. And so much was riding on it! There’s a part where a door is kicked in, and I had no idea who was on the other side until it happened! That was really exciting.

The book is set in Asheville, North Carolina. Why Asheville?

I love Asheville! It has such a cool, laid-back vibe to it. I’ve been on a using real places kick, and Asheville had everything I needed: namely an awesome cemetery and the perfect atmosphere for the characters to live in.

To go back to having your work out self-published it! I felt like you made that decision fairly quickly once you decided to do it. What made you decide to self-pub it and how did you find the process? (You can check out Krystal's Self-Publishing Diaries at her blog) 

I can be pretty decisive. I think I thought it would be fun. The whole concept of getting to control the cover and content and who I worked with was really exciting for me. It’s such a steep learning curve. A lot of times I wondered if I’d lost my mind, but now that I’m on the other side, it was totally worth it. :) 

What about this story made you go, "All right. That's it. This is getting published."?

This was really interesting to think about. I think it was more what it did for my writing, than the story itself. I was in a writing funk for a couple of years before I wrote this. Writing it made me really excited about crafting stories again, and it's paved the way for all the other crazy ideas that I've been wanting to write but wouldn't because I was too scared. Once I knew I wanted to publish something, I knew this would be perfect with launch with. It's very me, and the thought of people reading it didn't freak me out. That's never happened before. :)

I know you researched a hell of a lot more on indie publishing than I did, so tell me: favorite thing you learned about indie publishing? Or the best source for info on indie publishing? (Strangely, formatting the short story felt really soothing) 

Favorite thing! I actually found formatting to be kind of meditative, too. Haha. Two places where I got more info than I can handle are the Publishing Profits Podcast and The Creative Penn Podcast. They’re both available online, and feature a lot of interviews and indie world news.

What's coming up next? Any more stories from this cast of characters or this story world or is it something else?

I do have an idea for a companion sequel, but it’s still in “wait and see if it finds its way out of concept only” mode. I’ve never written a sequel before, so there are some walls to climb over. LOL! But next up I have a Swan Lake reimagining that I’m in love with! I’ve been wanting to do a retelling for years, so I’m way too excited to have one finally pan out. It’ll be out in November! 

Krystal Jane Ruin is the author of supernatural and paranormal fiction, living in the Tennessee Valley with a collection of swords and daggers. When she's not hoarding stuffed pandas, hourglasses, and Hello Kitty replicas, she can be found drinking chai tea, knee deep in Sudoku, in a YouTube hole, or blogging about books, writing, and random things at

Friday, May 12, 2017

Naming Your Historical Characters

During NaNoWriMo 2010, I attempted to write a serious work of historical adventure set in Tudor England, just as the Dissolution of the Monasteries was taking place. I gave my lead character a pretty outlandish first name--but it was a very Catholic first name, so I figured I could get away with it, since the character was born in a convent.

But as I was scrabbling around for a name that wasn't Elizabeth, Anne, Mary, or Catherine for a female character, I decided to ask a friend to help me brainstorm first names. Her suggestions weren't usuable for the time and place and that's when I realized that figuring out historically appropriate names for your characters is probably one of those odd historical fiction writer quirks. (For the record, among her suggestions at the time were Avery and Shirley, both of which were last names, then became first names given to boys in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, then more recently, given to girls as first names).

More recently, as I was tapping away at the draft I'm currently almost 12K words into, I realized that I had major characters named Jane, John, and James and a minor character named Jones. So that's a problem. And then I went back and looked up the types of names that would've been given to people born in the Georgian era, who would've been adults in the early 1800s, in England.

Unsurprisingly, many of the names are what we would consider traditional English names: William, John, Elizabeth, Jane, Anne, Catherine, Henry, Charles, Mary, George, James, Robert, Edward. Men sometimes had surnames as first names (think of Fitzwilliam Darcy, whose first name is his mother's maiden name because his mother's family had more money and prestige). There were many feminizations of male names: Georgette, Georgiana, Georgina, Edwina; feminization got even more intense as the 19th century wore on, resulting in names like Thomasina, Wilhelmina, Frederica, and Benjamina (!).

Of course, in this time period, naming also went by class, so lower or working class were more likely to have Biblical (Old Testament Biblical) names than the upper classes, while the upper and middle classes may have also had more Classical names because Greek and Roman culture was in vogue in the Georgian and Regency periods--think of Cassandra Austen, for instance, who was named after her mother, or babies named Julius, Augustus, or Octavius.

As the Napoleonic Wars heated up, babies were also named for battles and famous people, like Horatio Nelson, Lord Byron, and Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. Names of the kings (who were named George for over a hundred years until George IV died) and the royal family were used, too: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, Sophia, and later on, of course, Victoria, who was born in 1819.

Many names we think of as girls' names were boys' names in the olden days: Evelyn, Ashley, Whitney, Aubrey, Beverly, Hilary, Meredith, Shannon, etc.

Granted, historical names are one thing and historical romance names are another. As long as the name you choose for your born-in-the-late-eighteenth-century character isn't utterly implausible, too modern, actually an animal name, or you can explain it some way--and it was in use at the time--then it seems like it can fly in historical romance.

For the record, while I had to keep Jane and John (they've been called those names for years, though John's often referred to by his last name), the other names in my new story changed. James (my default name for an English heir to anything) has become Richard and Jones, Jane's maid, was re-surnamed Griffith, because I finished reading a Welsh-set book not long ago and decided I could do a shout-out by using a Welsh last name for a maid.

What's in a Name?
 Regency Names
Top Female First Names in 1800
Georgian Girls Names

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Japan Trip: Food Part 2

We had Chinese food--well, the Japanese version of it--twice: once in Hakone and once in Tokyo. Both times, we ate family style and both times, it was flavorful but not the greasy and overly sauced foods that we in New York get from our Chinese take-out restaurants, which usually find some way to upset my stomach.

The second time we had Chinese, the food was placed on a lazy Susan and we took what we wanted of the dumplings and fried rice and beef.

I had a light lunch with my aunt and her friends one afternoon in Ginza, in a French-inspired tea shop called Le Mariage, where we each had an individual pot of tea and super pretty plates. I had crab and carrots wrapped in a spring-roll like thing with a sweet orange dressing (or so I was able to glean from the menu, which was written in French and Japanese. Sometimes, the four years of French I took in high school come in somewhat handy).

I had Thai food in Shibuya with some friends the night before it was time to come home. I enjoy Thai food, but I cannot do spicy, so I always get it mild at home. But there was no "can you make it milder for me, please," option so we did our best to choose a variety of foods that weren't overtly spicy--but it was still pretty spicy, at least to us. There are a fair number of Thai immigrants in Tokyo, so the workers in the restaurant were definitely, genuinely Thai and we shared dishes that I hadn't had in my forays into Thai food at home.

My friends also took me to a wafu restaurant--I think it was in Omotesando or Harajuku--where the menu consisted of the Japanese version of spaghetti--all kinds of spaghetti. Spaghetti with salmon roe. Spaghetti carbonara. Spaghetti with little sardines.

I went with the spaghetti with avocadoes and shrimp.  It came with a daikon salad and a cup of soup. I now have this urge to try to recreate this dish.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


It's IWSG time! The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a large network of writers and we vent our frustrations and questions to the world every first Wednesday of the month. Check out IWSG here.

I'm writing again, what I think will be a full-length novel, a historical romance. I've read countlesss historical romances. I've even read a few where the heroine starts out a widow or married to someone else, but then falls in love with the hero and gets her HEA.

So, I'm not too worried that my heroine's just become a widow in Chapter One. Besides, it's a draft and I may very well trim the beginning next draft. Sigh. Oh well. I'm having fun while writing this, actually since it's kind of like visiting old friends; these are characters I've had in my head for quite a while.

This month's IWSG question: What is the coolest/weirdest thing you've ever had to research for your story?

Oh boy. Let's see: *scrolls down to research tag*

I'll venture to say that British noble titles, mourning customs, vague and archaic inheritance laws...are relatively normal to Google, at least if you write historical anything in Britain. Clothes? Also fairly normal.

Maybe it was when I had to research slavery, the West Indies, and plantations? Then again, when you're writing a story that involves those elements, I don't think the research itself is too weird. Disturbing, in many instances. But not weird in itself.

Or strange 18th century British taxes?

No, wait, definitely the historical epidemics.

Or maybe various New Hampshire ghost and other myths for a short story, "Haunted Lake"?

I think one of the coolest things I've researched, though, was the London theater scene of the 1890s.