Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fast Lane Author Dave Thome Talks About Writing Romance Novels

Dave Thome is a writer who has broken the gender barrier…he’s a guy who had the balls to write a romance novel.  How did he do it?  Why did he do it?  And was it a good idea?  Those are the things I wanted to know when I found out he’d published Fast Lane as an ebook for the Kindle and then in paperback, available also through Amazon.  I thought you might be interested to know, too.

So, here, in Dave’s own words (via an e-interview) is his story.  (Note: if you read my piece on Dave in Musings of a MadCityWriter, please know that only a few of the questions are the same as in that piece. There is more Q&A here regarding writing and marketing.)

MCW: You are the author of Fast Lane, a romance novel.  What ever possessed you – a guy – to write a romance novel?

Author Dave Thome
DAVE:  My wife, Mary Jo, and I have been self-employed as writers since 1999. At the end of 2009 we had our worst quarter ever: Only one client had work. Mary Jo knows a woman who writes erotic romances, which is the fastest-growing segment of romance, so she decided she’d try to write one during the downtime. I thought that if she could, I should, too. It turned out neither of us could. I laughed every time I tried to write a sex scene in the contemporary erotic romance style—which is the style of Penthouse Forum, but I liked the story and characters in Fast Lane and continued as a more traditional romantic comedy with romantic sex scenes.

I’d had some experience writing female characters; about half of the twenty screenplays I wrote before I turned to novels had female leads. No one ever said anything bad about those characters. Besides—who says men aren’t romantic? 

MCW: What kind of reaction are you getting to Fast Lane?

DAVE:  Women who read it love it because the heroine, Lara, is strong even though she has doubts about her looks and her upbringing. The quirky side characters also have gotten rave reviews. Some readers have suggested I turn Fast Lane into a series, so I’m going to do that. 

MCW:  What were the challenges that you faced writing Fast Lane?

DAVE:  In a screenplay, you don’t have to worry about details, like what someone’s wearing. In a novel, apparently women readers want to know what everyone’s wearing all the time. I had to get used to that—and that meant knowing stuff about what women call their clothes and doing research about what they wear and where they wear it. I still don’t understand the difference between a sheath dress and shift or the rules about when it’s OK to refer to panties as panties (as opposed to “underwear”), but I have extensive notes and beta readers to help me.

MCW:  What are some of the challenges in marketing Fast Lane?

DAVE:  Right now, I don’t know if me being a man is a good or a bad thing. Some women won’t read romance novels written by men. Other women are intrigued. When the other two books of the series are done, I’m thinking of launching all three under the series name Paradise Cove, with similar covers that will be quite different from the one on Fast Lane now, and the author listed as D. Thome.

Beyond that, I think I face the same problems every indie author faces: How to connect with readers and get exposure beyond a small group of friends.

MCW:  Will you write another romance?  

DAVE:  I didn’t think I would write another romance, but I like the characters of Fast Lane enough to proceed with a trilogy. I’ve got most of the planning of the whole arc of Lara and Clay’s story, and expand significantly on two characters, Sushma and Tiffany, in books two and three.

Beyond that, who knows? Three years a go I would not have predicted I would write any romances.

MCW:  You also wrote a book about writing a romance novel, right?  What’s that all about?

DAVE:  The book is Man Writing a Romance, a collection of blog posts I wrote about stuff I was learning while writing Fast Lane, with lots of humor. Mostly of the self-deprecating variety. The posts aren’t just about writing, but about issues like body image, the nature of beauty, what it means to love, what it means to be a man and communication between men and women. I’ve been a journalist for thirty-five years, and ManWAR satisfies my ongoing journalism jones. I’ve been a clown for fifty-some years, so ManWAR also satisfies my need to be funny.

I organized the posts into categories and added some other material, like interviews I’d done with other writers. It’s a funny book and most of the entries are less than 600 words long. The kind of thing you can leave in the bathroom and read little by little. If you want to leave your Kindle in the bathroom. 
MCW:  What do you do when you are not writing romance novels?

DAVE:  I write a column about car technology that appears in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel every week. Don’t ask me to fix your car; I don’t know how. Otherwise, I’ve written twenty screenplays and plan to turn them into novellas or put them up for sale as screenplays.

MCW:  What do you like to read? Does what you read influence your writing?

DAVE:  I’m a slow reader because I like to read with a cup of tea or an Edy’s Frozen Fruit Bar between my exercise for the day and cooking supper. At least half of what I read is nonfiction, and that’s usually science or theology. A lot of that stuff does creep into some of the things I write, like my screenplay See You in Hell, which is about a woman who’s killed while downsizing her company, goes to hell and takes over. My devil is not the stereotypical devil. Instead, he’s part of the Universe’s overall cosmic self-improvement plan. And the angels in my screenplay The Unleashing aren’t beatific women with rosy cheeks, they’re entities that scare the crap out of people—because that’s how they’re described in the Bible.

When I read fiction I’m all over the board. I read all of the Harry Potter books and The Hunger Games trilogy, but I don’t think either of those had or will have any affect on my writing. When  I read a Jennifer Crusie novel, I’m usually not thinking, “I’m reading a romance,” but “I’m reading a well-written, funny book with quirky characters,” and Mary Jo (who’s also my editor) has pointed out things I’ve written that sound like Crusie.

MCW:  What are some other major influences on your writing?

DAVE:  Comedians of the past thirty years or so. The best ones are very good at building to up to the punch line without sounding like they’re telling a joke. Colbert and Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Blake Clark, Kathleen Madigan, Louis CK.

Also, about twenty years ago a guy who was in my Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum critique group made a big, over-the-top, dramatic point of scratching out extra words in my dialog. Things like, “Bob, are you going to go to the dance on Friday?” became “Going to the dance?” That stuck with me and since then people have always complimented me on dialog. 

MCW:  What keeps you going as a writer?

DAVE:  Man, that’s a good question. Even though I haven’t been as successful as I’d like to be, I’ve still tasted success. Four of my screenplays have been optioned—for small money or no money at all, but hey, someone believed in them. One, Metal Mom, even had Michelle Phillips signed to be the lead. Plus I had no problem earning the respect of my colleagues when I was a reporter. And I’ve won a couple of awards for screenplays and short stories and have gotten praise and support from people I respect, including other writers. And, when I’m really in the dumps, I get out the two textbooks that include articles I wrote as examples of good writing. Right now, it’s comforting that Fast Lane is getting good reviews and is selling consistently.

All that adds up.

MCW:  What are you working on now, or what do you plan to publish next?

DAVE:  I started turning See You in Hell into a novella before I started outlining the Fast Lane sequels, and I’m gonna finish what I started. Hopefully, that won’t take too long, because I’m starting to feel like I’m ready to tackle a series.

For more about Dave Thome, read "Romance Writer Dave Thome Talks about...Romance."

Fast Lane and Man Writing a Romance are available in e-format for the Kindle and in paperback from Amazon. 

Experience more of Dave and his writing at his Man Writing a Romance blog.

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