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Hope Tarr | Keeping it in the family-or at least together: Writing the romance series

February 22, 2008

To paraphrase the late great John Lennon, life is what happens while you’re making other plans.

To directly quote my mother—and mothers everywhere—”Don’t do as I do. Do as I say.”

Both sage snippets segue albeit circuitously into my blog topic—how to write connected romance novels, or rather how not to write them, or at least how to recover from (cough, hiccup) going about it all wrong.

My Men of Roxbury House trilogy—VANQUISHED, ENSLAVED, and now UNTAMED—is my first shot at writing connected books. Like anyone’s first anything, in the aftermath, there are lessons learned, battle scars to be shown off—and FYI, I’m not just in it for beads. 😉

Seriously, I don’t write like grownups do. Never have and likely never will. For starters, I don’t write sequentially, linearly, or well, in any reasonable, replicable fashion. You’ll never catch me at a writers’ conference touting my “process,” flashing charts and graphs, or God forbid, instructing others on how to write like me. If anything, I’m the textbook case for what not to do. I do it all wrong—and yet for me, it works.

I write scenes out of order, the characters voicing firing off like canon shot in my head. I’m not a plotter (duh) but I’m not a “pantser,” either. I start out with a synopsis, though fat lot of good it does me. I’m what you call a “puzzler,” which I’m coming to think amounts to starting down that path paved with good intentions that leads to You Know Where.

In the case of my trilogy books, I thumbed my nose at any notion of creating character sketches, a timeline, a “bible” of people, places, dates, you name it. My muse must have free rein and besides that, all that set-up “stuff” felt like…well, like a lot of work.

Creative freedom tasted sweet for VANQUISHED and ENSLAVED. Then I got to UNTAMED. My challenge (AKA “big problem”) was that Kate and Rourke, my UNTAMED heroine and hero, had already met in ENSLAVED. To keep the sexual tension at a slow sizzle building to burning point, I had to backtrack and start out UNTAMED *prior to* where ENSLAVED left off, all the while keeping clear in my head on where the other secondary characters were at each stage e.g., were Callie and Hadrian (VANQUISHED) married yet and just where were Daisy and Gavin (ENSLAVED) with opening that refurbished theater in the East End?

Memo to whomever manufactures those Post-It notes, please let me know where I can buy stock. Ditto for Starbucks. As to the guy who delivers my carry-out sushi/sashimi, the one whose twins are now contemplating medical school, no need to thank me. I’m always happy to support higher education.

There’s no anchor in a free fall. That said, once you take that leap of faith, there are some pretty amazing surprises that crop up amidst the brambles and screes scraping your knees. In my case, my circuitous “process” has led me to think about adding a fourth book to my so-called trilogy. It seems Rourke’s sexy friend, Ralph, former con artist turned valet is angling for a book of his own. For sure, Kate’s pretty but prickly younger sister, Bea, will be pretty disappointed if he doesn’t get it. I think I will be, too.

What are your experiences of detouring off the so-called beaten path in fiction or in real life? Ever thumb your nose at conventional wisdom—and found yourself thanking the Universe that you did?

Hope’s Unconventional Wisdom:

  1. To paraphrase Louis Carroll, begin at the beginning.
  2. If you ignore #1, and of course you will, then at least keep a damned log book, so you can figure out where you went…shall we say, awry.
  3. Drink coffee. I recommend a latte with an extra espresso shot—all that shaking keeps you on your toes, or at least awake.
  4. To combat being wired from all that caffeine, drink red wine, good red wine, or substitute your mood altering beverage of choice.
  5. Keep all carry-out menus within easy reach. Unlike your “work” files, and the character log that in all likelihood doesn’t actually exist, the menus should be kept in meticulous order, preferably alphabetized.
  6. Drink another glass of red wine—repeat as needed.

Hope Tarr routinely thumbs her nose at Conventional Wisdom and, hair pulling and teeth gnashing aside, generally finds herself glad she did. To enter her more than monthly contest, and have a shot at winning the latest releases from romance buds Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Kathryn Caskie, visit Hope online at

Hope Tarr

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