by Ella Sheridan
I never considered myself to be a curious person. In fact, for a writer, I consider myself kind of unimaginative. But one day I realized, unimaginative or not, I couldn’t stop asking one very curious question: Why? Of course, I might be fixated on why? because of my obsessive need for control, but that’s a topic for another day. 😉 I prefer to think I want to know what’s behind things, what the meanings of things are because, like the proverbial cat, I’m curious, and that’s a good thing, an imaginative thing, to be.
Which is why (you caught that, didn’t ya? why…) I can understand the need of readers to know why I wrote a book or, in this case, a series of books. The Secrets To Hide series came into being for one very good reason. Because…I’m a rebel who has to know why.
No, seriously, I AM a rebel. Don’t laugh! That’s really the… Oh, never mind.
I was at a particularly tough spot in my life, trying to figure out where I was going and what the heck I was doing with this whole writing thing. I had hit the stage where I knew just enough to be dangerous, and like a kid wanting to break out of his boundaries, I was getting one thing thrown in my face over and over and over: You can’t do that.
That’s actually what I said. I was tired of hearing you can’t do that. So, one October when NaNoWriMo was about to begin and I was thoroughly sick of working on my rule-following WIP, I decided to break the rules, become a rebel, and do exactly what all those critiques had told me I couldn’t do. I sat down one night and made a list of the subjects I wasn’t supposed to write about, the things traditional romance authors had tried to drill into me that I couldn’t write about because it would turn off readers—and then I created a story in which those very subjects were actually okay.
Like what? you might ask. Like adultery. My first Secrets book, Dirty Little Secret, features a hero who is married. I can hear the collective gasp now: What?!?!?!?! Yes, he’s married. And given that I have a firm, absolute love of romance’s traditional HEA, I had to figure out, how could I have a married hero and make it okay? Why, a marriage of convenience, of course. But a marriage of convenience is a historical thing, right? And I don’t write historical; I write erotic, contemporary stories. How could a contemporary hero, a powerful hero at that, be forced into marriage? And even then, how could it be okay for him to be married, even platonically, and still fall in love with another woman?
Well, I can’t give all my secrets away, but I can tell you I figured it out. Dirty Little Secret was the book I thought no one would ever touch, and it became the first book I ever sold. All because of one question: Why?
Naughty Little Christmas came along next, and the taboo for that book was equally shocking: a woman falling in love with the father of her twin sister’s baby. But, but, but…she can’t do that! you might say. Why? She did, and it made for a beautiful love story—and a hot one too! The third Secrets book, Just a Little More, took that old friends-to-lovers trope and turned it on its head: what happens when friends are reunited and fall in love, only then to be torn apart by a tragedy that leaves them present bodily but devastated emotionally? Brad and Angel’s story is particularly close to my heart because it presents a heroine I was told I couldn’t write.
Because heroines must be compelling, interesting, not depressed and afraid to leave their own house. “No doormat heroines!” Really? Angel is in a very bad place, a deeply depressed place. Some might even consider her a bit of a doormat to begin with, and yet she is compelling, heart-wrenching, totally relatable. She tugs at you so that you root for her—and the man who loves her, heart and soul—every step of the way. All because I asked myself one question: Why? Why can’t I write this character and make it work, make her gripping?
Oh, right. I can…and I did!
What about you? When do you find yourself asking that age-old question, why? What books have you read that you found dealt with taboo topics but were so compelling you couldn’t put them down? Tell us! Curious minds want to know!