As a published author and prior to that ghost-writer, I have dove into almost every genre pool there is out there to swim in. Some of it was duty and other works were a delight. There is truly a reader for every form of novel out there. I’ve done short stories, poetry, advertising and news copy, right down to greeting cards and blurbs for products. You name it, I’ve probably done it or came so close that we waved and said hello.
Where am I going with all this? Right, get to the point Ward and stop yammering.
I recently published my latest title- “Love’s Bitter Harvest” and I will admit I am very proud of the book. It’s in the contemporary romance genre, but nothing about LBH is conventional. The male is every bit as handsome, strong, passionate, and strong-willed and a down right stubborn ass as any romance out there. He loves and hates just as equally due to his own misguided beliefs in what life is supposed to owe and what love is all about. He can cause a woman to swoon with a smile, heat with a glance and isn’t afraid to claim what he feels he had a right to—the woman he loves. With growls, brutal kisses and a strong heart that will not let go of what it knows he needs. Even if he denies it and everything else.
Sounds typical right?
Except for one thing—Matt has a tragedy and finds himself a paraplegic.
Oh, that’s a bit different, you say.
Of course it is. It’s what I strive for (romance- the Ward way).
So, I wrote a strong, powerful, sexually tension filled love story about two very realistic characters. There’s no heaving breasts, chiseled never wearing a shirt main female and male. Just two very complicated people trying to get past the pain of their history together and either move on or take a chance. It has grief, loss, tragedy and all the things that, oh yeah, real life has in it. There’s no arch villain, no life-saving need and no evil plot to conquer the world. There’s also tons of laughter, sweet kisses, memories of innocence and believe it or not…a happy ending. Perhaps not the perfect ending where the hero walks into the sunset with a beautiful perfect woman in his arms, their hair billowing out behind them, her swooning against his perfect chest…but it’s the perfect ending to Matt and Katy’s story as I feel they wholeheartedly deserved.
I know the trends in the literary world right now; I am a partner in a publishing house after-all. That erotica, romances and paranormal are flying onto e-readers and into readers TBR’s faster than anyone could have ever imagined. That same genre has been wonderful to me as Madness continues to get sales more than 8 months since it was published, as well as reviews. For that I am grateful. I too enjoy the sometimes sinful and wicked pleasure of a good sensual read with beings that can’t possibly show up and make me melt in my own bed. Because they don’t exist, I admit, but are fun to imagine.
With Love’s Bitter Harvest, I wanted to write a book that would not be an escape as much as an uplifting of the human spirit with people and issues we can all identify because we have “been there, done that” or know of someone that has. A book that changes your view and perhaps makes you think about how one simple action, a single event, can change any of us, at any time. And what would we do.
A novel. A thought provoking, tear jerking, laughter and joy filled…novel. You know, one of those things.
So, as with many of us, the pimping after its release began.
I love bloggers and other social media groups that are there for us authors. They have been so instrumental in getting the word out about my books in the past. The fans as well, which I couldn’t think of writing a single word without, helped blast the news of LBH.
But weeks went by, and most of the blogs which have been so helpful and wonderful in the past, simply weren’t responding. I inquired and inquired again. Nothing. I scrambled to see is some negative vine had woven its way into my creative literary garden and found nothing. (I did have a hate fest from some going for about a week related to Madness, but their threats were apparently just that—threats). So I was boggled as to why I wasn’t getting the assistance I had gotten in the past.
Finally, an honest and sincere blog (one of the biggest) sent me an email back. They had good intentions and they did not say it in any harsh way; only in the spirit of letting me know they weren’t sure they could or would promo and review LBH. Or if any blogger would take it on.
Very simply put, it was this:
They didn’t think romance readers or any reader was ready for a character or a love story about someone in a wheelchair. That almost all their reviewers and readers were into erotica, romance and paranormal.
Basically, LBH wasn’t what was popular right now. Or what was accepted nor expected.
Read that again.
I was so proud, and still am of this book. I love Matt and Katy. Sure, they aren’t heroes and they have flaws and difficulties. And we aren’t talking about bad-ass angst against the world with a woman who has to imagine what he might be like with clothes ON. In a world of social media, reality TV (which is scripted and not any reality I am a part of) and fantasy avenues, shouldn’t we try to give a chance to a focus on real stories? Stories that are believable and real, with characters that we can see something of ourselves in? One that leaves us crying with joy, laughing at the scenes we can so see ourselves in or cheering when love conquers true and honest obstacles?
Now for those who haven’t read LBH, let me make this clear. It’s not all tragedy and tears. It’s full of humor, love, sweetness and yes, sizzling sexual tension. All that have read it say they don’t even remember that Matt is disabled. The wheelchair is no more than a prop as with any novel. His disability NOT what makes the character. They love the overpowering “love conquers all” theme to the story—even when we fight against the victory with all that we are. The romance is not the purpose of the book and nor should it be. It’s a side-bar to two people’s story that needed to be told and shared with us to maybe go away feeling enriched, happy and know it could be as real as we are. And just like we should all strive to be—inspiring despite all the odds life throws at us.
It would be different if reviewers and others gave this book a chance and THEN decided what readers aren't ready for. If they at least gave it more of a look than seeing what it’s about and judging it. If they weren't indeed romance reviewers who ingest dozens of the genre sometimes daily and decide to or not to spotlight it. They are reviewers—judging is what they do.
I have always stood by the notion that no one should judge what a reader wants to read. Or chooses not to. I may not understand it (50 Shades of Grey success just confuses me) but I think it is every readers right to purchase, read and review whatever they wish.
On that same stance, I give readers credit. I have stated this in interviews, blog posts, etc and feel that readers are deeper, smarter and more insightful than many publishers give them credit for. Or, in this case, some bloggers.
I have never written for the masses nor have I written something just to get sales or attention. I write as the creative drive demands and hope someone will read it. I believe when a writer begins worrying about sales, award and spotlight they will no longer be true to their creative muse. And that muse hangs their head in shame for the beauty that once was.
To write, to write. TADA!
Not to say I wouldn't LOVE to have a best-seller and write night and day rather than have a 9-to whenever I’m done job and other obligations. But that should be the REWARD not the purpose for doing what we do.
LBH was inspired by real paraplegic couples I had worked with in the past. It’s also inspired by that little white-haired man that visits his wife in the nursing home even though she doesn't know who he is. It’s inspired by that young couple who have a tragedy and can’t seem to stop holding each other’s hand, even when events are tearing them apart. LBH is about hardship and pain, love and passion and all the things that can test marriages, families and friendships.
LBH is about finding strength. In seeing that love isn't as perfect as a romance. But still as wonderful as it can be.
Back on point—
LBH may not ever reach the levels of promo and sales of my other titles. And at first, I admit, I was pissed (not at the blog—they were very kind in being honest) that the book wasn't even given a chance. That while it might be a beautiful, touching and heartwarming story—it’s just not what readers want and wouldn't get even a look.
I get it. I really do. But to me, that’s like telling a child “Now Bobby, you know you can’t dance” before the music even starts or little Bobby takes one step up on the stage. See, I've been Bobby. I've been the one who let my stubbornness and pride stop me from loving. I've been the one looked at and judged not what people wanted. I've been told to conform and give the people what they want (Soul Bound….) and refused.
So, I’ll just have to be happy that those who have read Love’s Bitter Harvest loved it. That while it may not be the same as all the other popular books out there, it’s a book I stand by and am proud of. That even if it doesn't get sales, highlights and spotlights, it still did it’s purpose.
To tell the story of Matt and Katy. To use them as an example of how so many couples face hardships and disabilities and find love on the other side of the darkness that tears apart some, and strengthens others. That if it gets in the hands of ONE person who reads it and goes out and does something good for either themselves or someone in need through charity, good deeds are just a smile—I’m okay with that.
Because just like the book says—Sometimes the harshest ground, the most bitter fruit….was worth the harvest and what we made of it.
P.S. – Oh, and those of you that may be wondering….I’m writing another romance. Guess what it’s about? Heh, mental illness and love.
Oh and if you want to prove this little running dude wrong? Heh...here's the links to buy the book. Don't worry, I think you're more than ready. ;)