I've got lots of fun stuff to share with you this time, including lots of snippets from authors on a new feature called Cast Your Favorite Book. We'll also talk a bit more about Silly Sex/How Come? and reveal the size of our TBR piles, hills, and mountains.
Loretta Chase is an author on everyone's mind these days, partly because she won a RITA this summer, but mostly because she doesn't publish books often enough for most readers (we aren't a patient group, are we?).
It seems that Loretta shares something in common with author Rexanne Becnel, who goes to a coffee house each day and writes her books long-hand. Loretta also, according to an author who shares her publisher, Avon, writes all her manuscripts by hand, then has her sister type them up.
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Avon apparently is getting ready to move Loretta up to lead author but they want to be able to release two books close to one another so they are waiting for her to get more than one finished. While one book has been completed, she has just begun the second, so neither book will be released until early in 1998. So, repeat slowly, "I need to be patient, I need to be patient."
Julia Quinn, another Avon author, has had many recent changes in her life. After her wedding in June, she used her medical school deferment to begin studies this fall, but recently decided instead to devote herself full time to writing. Medicine's loss is our gain, and, laughter can be the best medicine anyway.
Cast Your Favorite Book
Reader Linda recently suggested a feature I thought would be a wonderful addition to this column. As a result of her suggestion, and after recalling how author Alexis Harrington had a vision of Kevin Costner when developing her premise for A Taste of Heaven, I posed the following question to several authors and readers: Pick your favorite book and cast the leads (who could be anyone from Tyrone Power to Johnny Depp, or Katherine Hepburn to Emma Thompson). Here are some of the responses:
"Interestingly enough, casting people for my books is a game my Significant Other and I like to play now and then.
"For The Rake & the Reformer, Reggie would be Timothy Dalton, and Alys would played by Sigourney Weaver. (Timothy Dalton could play lots of my heroes. As could Michael Praed, the wonderful hero of an English Robin Hood series that sometimes is shown here on PBS.)
"You only asked for one book, but for another, Silk & Secrets, Juliet could be played by Geena Davis in her red-headed jock mode, and Ross by a young Peter O'Toole."
From Catherine Archer for her book (and my favorite medieval) Velvet Bond, "You and I agree, Laurie, on Vivian Leigh for Catherine and, as Raynor, maybe a buffed, long haired Tom Berenger, from when he was around 30, of course."
"I definitely wanted Dean Cain to be Parsifal Wentworth, the hero. In fact, that's who I had requested the hero resemble when I sent in the art notes. No such luck, though! . . . of course, that type of look would not have been considered fashionable in Regency England, but I can't help thinking that a Regency miss would look more than once at someone who looked like Dean Cain.
"There's also the personality aspect. Dean Cain is supposed to be a Nice Guy, just like my hero. Responsible, generous, kind, etc. Never likes to bad-mouth anyone. So it was easy to keep in mind as I wrote about Parsifal.
"As for the heroine, that's more difficult. I don't pay much attention to female actors , so don't remember their names very well. I was thinking Teri Hatcher at first, but she's too thin, and I wanted someone with a sturdier build for Annabella. Hmm. Oh, shoot, what's that actress's name who played in Northern Exposure? Short dark hair, oval/heart-shaped face. Oh, I think it's Janine Turner."
From Susan Crosby for her upcoming (March 1997 ) release Wedding Fever, "This is sooo simple. From the beginning I pictured Jimmy Smits as the hero (he positively smolders) and Courteney Cox as the heroine (she's smart and sassy). My editor tells me that the heroine looks like Cox and the hero looks like Smits, except broader in the shoulders. Fine by me!!!"
From Lisa Ann Verge for Twice Upon a Time, "Ralph Fiennes as Conaire (hands down!). As for the heroine .. . .I forget her name! She plays the lead role, Heloise, in a great romantic movie called Stealing Heaven." That actress, btw, is Kim Thompson.
From Cathie Linz for her current release Seducing Hunter, "Hunter. . . is inspired by Jeff Fahey from The Marshal."
From Connie Brockway for her upcoming release (January 1997) As You Desire, "Who would play Harry Braxton? Jeremy Northam who starred as Mr. Knightly in Emma (he has that "ruthless pleasure" expression down pat). And my heroine, Desdemona, would suit the talents of Gwyneth Paltrow. Yes, Emma herself. I know, it's terribly dull of me but she is blonde, young, and has a very strong presence plus the reason Emma worked so well was the chemistry between the stars. Harry and Desdemona definitely must have reams of chemistry!"
From Judith O'Brien, (who preferred not to cast the female leads as she wants readers to be the heroines:
"For my last book, Once Upon a Rose, my hero was physically based on Daniel Day-Lewis, which makes ideal casting easy. . . My next book, Maiden Voyage (to be released in January 1997) is trickier. I went hero-hunting in Dublin, and combined about eight guys for the one hero. Physically, perhaps Jason Patric comes close, with his brooding looks, although it's also tough to think that I only chose heroes who have been involved with Julia Roberts (although Lyle Lovett is not yet on my possible hero list). The book I'm working on now, which should be out early autumn, '97, features yet another combo-platter hero. Perhaps an actor with interchangeable parts would be best (is Mr. Potato Head free for the role?!)."
From Deborah Simmons for The Vicar's Daughter, Kim Basinger for Charlotte and Adrian Paul for Lord Wycliffe. (It took her quite a long time to come up with her choice for Charlotte!) Deborah added that she "based the looks of Nicholas in Maiden Bride on Alec Baldwin, so was kinda thrown when John deSilva was the cover model. Anyway, it gave me an excuse to rent a bunch of his movies and watch him closely."
From Amanda Ashley for her favorite Embrace the Night, ". . . I can't think of any actress who could be my heroine (she'd have to be someone who would be believable as a ballerina).....I can think of several actors I'd like to see play Gabriel. . . I thought Antonio Banderas made a terrific vampire. . . I think Daniel Day-Lewis might also make a good Gabriel....and after seeing Ralph Fiennes in Wuthering Heights I think he might be pretty good, too. However, I think my favorite choice might be Adrian Paul from Highlander."
From Deb Stover for her recent release, A Willing Spirit, Gary Cooper in the role of Paul and his great-great-grandfather. She added, "Winnie is a fiery redhead, a little on the skinny side, but the only actress whose personality comes to mind is a young Maureen O'Hara. Obviously, she's a lot more buxom than my heroine, but she'd do my slightly dubious heroine justice."
From Jo Beverley for My Lady Notorious, ". . . I don't see many movies or watch much TV, so I'm very culturally deprived. But when someone said that Hugh Grant should play Cyn, I made a point of catching a movie with him in, and I think he could. (I assume he can play something a bit more lively than his vaguely amiable young gentleman roles.) I'll admit to wanting Daniel Day Lewis to play Rothgar. Or perhaps his brother Bryght."
From Julia Quinn, this story about Splendid:
"When I attended my first RWA conference, about a year before my first book came out, Tanya Anne Crosby said to me: 'When you get that coverflat in the mail, you're going to look at it and think, "They don't look like that!'"
"To which I replied, 'Oh, but I don't really have a clear visual picture of my characters in my head.' "She shook her head and said, 'It doesn't matter. You're still going to look at them and say, 'They don't look like that!'"
"Well, sure enough, when I got the coverflat of Splendid in the mail, I thought, 'Good Lord! That's not what they look like.'"
Readers Get Into The Act
I've picked up a few reader responses and will reveal them in the next column, but I'd like to get your responses as well. To start off, I'll reveal my choices for some of the authors' works as listed above:
For Mary Jo Putney's Silk & Shadows, Andy Garcia for Peregrine. As with many of the authors, I am having trouble with casting heroines. So, for Lady Sara, please e-mail me here with your choice of actress.
For Catherine Archer's Velvet Bond, although we agreed on Vivian Leigh, my choice for Raynor would be a younger Timothy Dalton.
For Lisa Ann Verge's Heaven in His Arms, Isabelle Adjani for Genevieve and a young Sam Neill for Andre.
For Julia Quinn's Splendid, Tyrone Power as the Duke of Ashbourne and Rita Hayworth as Emma (although an alternative could be Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.
Before we end the casting discussion for this column, I'd like to leave you with an hilarious e-mail I received from reader Cathy:
"I would like to nominate myself as actress in all of Garwood's books, but I want the fictitious alpha men of her books to be materialized; there are no real men to fill those (heart fluttering) men's shoes.
"I also don't want any stunt doubles to fill in, especially during Jaime's first night with Alec in The Bride, or any of the the (love scenes) between Jade and Cain in Guardian Angel - what a delicious lover he was! . . .
"I also nominate myself to play the leading female role (Jessica Trent) in Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels, but as leading man, I'll take Antonio Banderas; for Garwood's The Gift, again pair me with Antonio Banderas; and for Mary Jo Putney's Angel Rogue, again I nominate myself as leading actress, but I do feel that Robin could be filled in nicely by Brad Pitt."
You may agree or not with some of the choices above - I would choose Liam Neeson over Antonio Banderas for Nathan in The Gift, but I'll save other choices for next time. What about you? Think about some of the books mentioned here, and then about other favorites. Remember, the actors and actresses don't have to be from this time. Please e-mail me here with your selections.
Silly Sex: Guess Who?
In Issue #13 of this column, I printed the following silly sex snippet and asked readers to guess who wrote it: "He could feel her tensing within, and then her quivering little flutters of satisfaction as she crowned the head of his manhood with her own sweet honeyed libations of pleasure. The warmth of it sent him out of control, and his own love juices burst forth in greater measure, searing her hidden garden with an intensity of ecstasy. . . ."
Most readers guessed correctly - the author of that purple prose was Bertrice Small. A few of the incorrect answers included Susan Johnson, Suzanne Foster, and Thea Devine.
Reader Pat was so disgusted with the snippet that she expressed outrage that the book was published. She commented that, "there should be a law against authors of this caliber being allowed to publish the sort of trash she seems to delight in writing. How could anyone read this womans' work? You certainly have my sympathy because you had to read it in order to review it. This garbage belongs on the bottom of a bird cage."
(On Another Subject)
Yes, sometimes it is amazing to me that certain books are published, and there are times when I need sympathy after reading crummy books. In fact, during a recent two-month period, I read only one 4-heart book. Things have picked up a bit recently (I've read another 4-heart book), but I wonder what you do when you're in a bit of a slump.
Do you re-read an old favorite, switch genres, take a reading break, or read a romance that is very different for you? I decided this time to read a piece of general "woman's fiction". It didn't help; in fact, it made it worse because this book featured the same old infidelity so many general fiction novels do (why they say romance novels all read the same is beyond me - it seems many general fiction pieces feature infidelity and/or incest!).
Please e-mail me here the solutions that have worked for you in the past.
More Silly Sex
Readers have added a few new silly sex phrases for us to enjoy. From reader Mystique comes this one: "I can't remember the author but someone referred to a part of the female anatomy as pouting nipples. Quick. . . someone cheer them up!!!"
Reader Gretchen, after our discussion of "nubbin," discovered that, in addition to being a small lump, nubbin also describes an imperfect ear of corn or an undeveloped fruit, prompting this response from Tonyia: "Thanks, Gretch. Now when I read the word nubbin in a romance, I'll automatically think of undeveloped fruit. How can I ever thank you for that mental picture?" To which Gretchen replied, "Hey! It's not my fault. Why don't you think of an imperfect ear of Indian corn? (Maybe it's good for popping?)- To which all I can say, is, "ouch!"
Meredith, whom I agree with in our mutual disdain for mound of Venus and its variants, wanted to add a couple more silly sex phrases to the discussion, including woman's cave and mound of love. The funniest euphemism she's read "was in Carole Nelson Douglas' Lady Rogue. It described the heroine's pubic hair as a Van Dyke, as in those pointy beards.
While we're on the subject of mounds, Eleanor wanted to remind me that it is based on a "real" term - mons veneris. I knew that, but knowing it makes it all the more silly to me. I mean, do you imagine a man in the throes of passion saying "I love to touch your mons pubis"?
Samantha's friends asked her to add Love Grotto to the list. She added, "By the way, with all that throbbing, pulsating, hardening, and thrusting going on, it makes me wonder if Robin William wasn't right when he said that God's biggest joke on men was giving them a brain and a penis and not enough blood to operate both at the same time.'"
Janet, who wished she had read our 1-heart rated review of Rebecca Paisley's Bed of Roses, thereby saving herself some money, offered up this little snippet of silly sex: "The heroine is so naive that she thinks she has to rescue the hero when he's bathing in a creek. She comes to his aid, wrestling with a huge snake attached to his thigh. I've never heard anything so ridiculous. And this from a heroine who has spent most of her life around grown men. Cheez-Whiz!"
And this, from Penny: "If you want a whole book full of silly sex, try Sinful Secrets, by Thea Devine. I will admit, I have been looking for someone who can write a good erotic love scene, I said love scene, not rutting dog scene. No one seems to know the difference. And the dialogue in that book made me absolutely howl."
And, from an author who prefers to remain anonymous: "I personally like and respect some of the authors of that purple prose. They are extremely intelligent ladies. I simply cannot read their books, and they probably can't read mine. I find that kind of writing enormously funny and those adjectives will show up in any number of the purple writers' books. I think they copy each other, intentionally. And as bright as these ladies are, I can't help thinking they're laughing all the way to the bank."
Finally, reader Pat, who detests purple prose of any kind, reminded me that a great deal of purple prose is not about silly sex. She wanted to share a couple of snippets from Kathleen Woodiwiss' contribution to the Three Weddings & a Kiss anthology. "I was laughing so hard my husband wanted to know what was so funny. I haven't read dialogue like that in years and hope never to again. Peeeuuuuu. Where else would you read the likes of 'For shame, you cod-faced lout' or 'I curse the day you came into our lives claiming to be my mothers' long lost brother!' Oh, Lord, my sides hurt!"
I wouldn't mind expanding our silly sex section to include non-sexual purple prose. If you have a word, phrase, or snippet you would like to share, please e-mail me here.
I've received several more instances where readers wonder how come. . . ? I'd like to share some with you.
"I got a kick out of your gross/silly sex examples, and there is one in particular that always bothered me. It is located in a book that I otherwise adore, by an author who was a great inspiration to me. But this . . . yecchhhh.
"This is an oral sex love scene that takes place the morning after a passionate night . . . no one has washed or even gotten out of bed before this incident of oral love is performed by what must be a pretty stalwart hero." - author Alexis Harrington
Alexis, this bothers me as well and is a big "how come" in my book. But because us romance fans are a tough group to please, and can be bothered from both directions, there is this "how come" as well:
"My favorite is the hero who bathes daily while at sea for months on end, and in fresh water no less. Yeah right!" - Kim
"My hero bathes whether he likes it or he doesn't! Though the cook often finds it hard to strain all the salt out of the water" - Tonyia
Regarding Those Pearly Whites:
"Occasionally in historical romances I'll run across a description of a character's pearly white teeth. Uh huh. Yeah, right. . . Actually, they're lucky if they even had teeth. . . So, when you read those descriptions of locking lips, maybe they should read locking haggle-tooths. Sweet dreams!" - Lois (I think Lois has definitely hit on one of those "how comes" that is also a "do I really want to know?", especially when you consider the lack of meaningful dental hygiene in days of old.)
Regarding The Naming of Characters In Historicals:
"How come heroines who lived in the 19th century have names that nobody had back then? They'll call them Whitney or Taylor, which are more likely to be found in my daughter's nursery school class. . . (and) I keep wondering when someone will just go whole hog and name her hero Stud" - Blythe, a stickler for realism in this one area
"It's because the names were so unappealing. . . When I was pregnant, we decided to pick a girl's name combining his Scots ancestry and my interest in the 18th century. After debating whether Hergis or Haggis was the better choice, we changed our minds." - Lana
"A couple of years ago my roommate brought a romance all the way back from her trip to California. Why? Because it was the worst one she had ever read. The hero was a hardy Canadian was called Caleb Winters. Okay so what's next, a Creole Pirate from Louisiana called Louis Humid or a dashing Floridian Alligator Hunter called Chance Hurricane?" - Samantha
Regarding Perfection In Love Scenes:
I've received many e-mails since writing this column about perfect love scenes. Heroines who experience ecstasy right after their hymen is ripped to shreds. Love scenes on the beach with all that gritty sand, or on forest floors presumably covered with pine needles.
Asks Holly, "Why is it that all the sex scenes in some books are perfect on the first shot? There is never anyone who pulls hair by laying on it or nothing ever bothers anyone (i.e. chewing on one's earlobe or tickling one's ribs) and some even have their virgins as experts the first time round. Go Figure."
What do you think about these areas of concern? Are you like me, talking out of both sides of your mouth on cleanliness? Do you sometimes wonder how your favorite heroes and heroines smelled or looked when they opened their mouths? Do the historical inaccuracies sometimes bother you in terms of names or titles? And, about those love scenes - do you sometimes wish the heroine would turn to the hero and say, "Not tonight; I have a headache."?
Please e-mail me here with your answers and/or your own "how come" contributions.
How Big Is Yours?
My, tbr pile, that is, is a mid-sized mountain of 500 or so unread books. As a reviewer who has to keep current in terms of reading, I don't get as much chance to read older books these days. But I can't stop buying them because what if I miss something?
Some authors I've talked to are in a similar predicament, and we're not the only ones with bookcase after bookcase filled with unread books either.
Juno probably tops the list. Her mountain is the Everest of unreads with 3,100 books tbr.
Penny counted her stash and has 495 unread books. As she says, "I got it bad!"
Laurie thinks her tbr pile numbers 300. She can't be sure because "They also keep getting shuffled around. . . DH wants them out of sight so he moves 'em to the basement and I bring up back up and hide them under the babies crib, in the closets, under our bed. . . Unfortunately, the dog has also eaten a few."
Tracie's tbr pile is of K2 size - it numbers roughly 900.
Kim's stash of books tbr, "not including other genres and non-fiction", is 800 strong.
Finally, here is Simone's e-mail, which I think describes us romance lovers in all our quirkiness. See if you see a bit of yourself in this:
"Perhaps a good marque would be Hopeful Romantic; in like my cats, they're always hopeful (of getting fed, etc.) and we're always hopeful of time to read that ever-increasing stack. I went so far as to put some that didn't quite meet my standards after all - but I owned them, for Pete's sake, so I had to read them sometime! - into a box to clear some space out. (This box joining the collection in the basement) This was after I had taken another box of 'not in a million years, thank you very much' to the used book store. I think I might be ready to put together a box of each once more. The controllable stack by the bedside is now competing in size with the bed yet again. A full book case (nice how you can stack three deep those paperbacks!) plus the stack on the floor in front of it of equal quantity. Probably at least 400+ books. "Then, we get to the other room where the 'keepers' are kept but which also has a nice collection of hardback wonders that also fall into the TBR category. They are not all romances, but I think we should still include things like Tales of a Shayman's Apprentice, don't you? Add at least another 50 there. . .
"Signed, Glommed and Bushwhacked! (That latter could also be what happens when you pass by too closely or a curious feline begins nosing about and all those carefully placed stacks land on you. . .)"
If you've been embarrassed about the size of your tbr pile (or mountain), you can see there's nothing to be embarrassed about! So, please e-mail me here and tell me how big yours is!
TTFN, as Tigger said to Winnie the Pooh,
Laurie Likes Books