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Monica Murphy on Writing the Hard Stuff

Hi everybody!

Today I’m excited to welcome fellow new adult author Monica Murphy to the blog. Monica and I are taking over each other’s mailing lists and websites today to talk about why we’ve decided to write about “the hard stuff” in our romance novels.

If you’d like to read my own essay on this subject, check out Monica’s blog or read today’s edition of her newsletter. You can also follow Monica on Facebook or Twitter.

Don’t miss the giveaway at the end of the newsletter! I’m giving away a signed copy of Monica’s Four Years Later to one lucky subscriber.

Take it away, Monica!
R x

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The Hard Stuff

Monica Murphy on why she writes dark

No, I’m not talking about booze. Though I have touched on that topic in my books, dealing with an alcoholic (hello Fable and Owen Maguire’s mother. Notice how I never give her a first name? I did that on purpose. She doesn’t deserve one). I’m touching on alcoholism right now at this very moment with a book I’m writing as my other self (Karen Erickson). The heroine’s father is an alcoholic but hardly anyone knows it. His condition is her family’s secret shame.

That’s something I’m drawn to as a writer—secret shame. We all have them in varying degrees. Some are too overwhelming to face (such as Drew’s molestation) and some could be considered minor (I went through a very short-lived shoplifting stage when I was thirteen. There. I just confessed.), but they all mean something to us. They leave us feeling embarrassed, shameful.

These feelings bring us together as humans. We all experience various levels of shame and horror. We’ve all had something bad happen to us or we know someone who’s experienced *insert horrific thing*. We can relate.

And that’s what I’m going for when I write about the hard, ugly things in my books. I don’t want to bring the reader down and fill them with despair but I do want to make them feel. I want to touch their emotions and make them laugh and cry and get angry or sigh with happiness. I want it all because I guess I’m greedy like that.

I truly feel the way to do get readers to feel so much is to force them to face the hard stuff but then give them—and the characters they’re reading about—a glimmer of hope. This world is ugly enough when you deal with the day-to-day reality of it. Who needs to read books that are nothing but major downers? Not me. We read to escape.

But we also read to learn things. To feel things. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if what we’re reading is all glossed over happy stuff that rarely delves deep…that can get boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fun, feel-good story (and I’ve written more than my share) but I also like the gritty subject matter that makes me think. That even makes me feel uncomfortable.

While writing ONE WEEK GIRLFRIEND, I worried over what I was doing to Drew. Yes, I’m personally responsible for putting him through so much because after all, I’m the one who created him and Adele and his clueless father and his sister and Fable and Owen and their shitty mother. There were points as I was writing where I would pause and think, should I go there? Should I do that? Oh man, should I do THAT?!

When your writing is rooted in romance (as mine is), yes you must create conflict for your characters and you must put them through some hard times before they get to their happily ever after. But never before have I put a cast of characters through so much shit. Ever. I felt bad. I considered easing up on Drew specifically. But then…

I decided screw it. I’m going for it. And it’s not like I hid what was going on from readers either. I receive a lot of complaints that they knew pretty early on in the book what happened between Drew and Adele. Guess what? I planned it that way. I wanted it to be obvious because I wanted the reader to experience what Fable was experiencing during that one week she pretended to be Drew’s girlfriend. Fable’s pretty smart you know. She figured it out quickly, she just didn’t want to believe it. But when she finally asks Drew for the truth and he confesses, she knew all along. Just like many of the readers did.

And I think that’s okay. Sometimes we have to face the ugly truths early on to get to the good stuff. Sometimes we have to struggle and fight and suffer before we can conquer. I’m talking both in real life and in fiction. Hopefully the struggle makes the end result that much sweeter.

Hopefully reading about the hard stuff makes reaching the end and the happily ever after worth so much more. That’s all I want to do as a writer. Make that HEA worth it.

Because every last one of us deserve one.

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Want to hear what Robin has to say on this subject?
Read her blog post here.

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FYLOver. That about sums up everything in my life. Suspended from my college football team and forced to cut back my hours at The District bar because of my crappy grades, I can’t keep turning to my sister, Fable, and her pro-football playing husband, Drew, to bail me out. I just can’t seem to find my own way. Weed and sex are irresistible temptations—and it’s messed up that I secretly hand over money to our junkie mom. A tutor is the last thing I want right now—until I get a look at her.

Chelsea is not my type at all. She’s smart and totally shy. I’m pretty sure she’s even a virgin. But when she gives me the once over with those piercing blue eyes, I’m really over. But in a different way. I won’t deny her ass is killer, but it’s her brain and the way she seems to crave love—like no one’s ever given her any—that make me want her more than any girl I’ve ever met. But what would someone as seemingly together as her ever see in a screwed up guy like me?

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Exclusive giveaway for newsletter subscribers!

One lucky subscriber will win a signed copy of Monica’s next release, Four Years Later. To enter, email me with “I want to get my hands on the dark stuff” as your subject line. Include your name and mailing address. This giveaway is open to international entrants. Entries must be received by midnight CT on Thursday, February 6, 2014. One winner will be randomly selected on Friday, February 7, 2014, and notified via email.

Subscribe to the newsletter here.

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