The Accidental Romance Writer: How I Fell Into Writing a Love Story or Two
by Dan Kolbet
I never intended to write a romance novel, let alone two of them.
Way back in 2012 I set aside my work-in-progress novel to pursue a little holiday short story, which ended up being my first romance novel, Don’t Wait For Me. The plan for Don’t Wait For Me was simple. It was supposed to be about 20-pages long and a freebie that I’d give away on my website for Christmas. If anyone picked it up, I’d be pleased. The story follows a down-on-his-luck toy store owner, Edwin, fighting to keep his inherited business open during one holiday season. He is aided by Amelia, the mother of a boy caught shoplifting at the store.
My characters took over quickly and told me a short story wasn’t good enough. So, in less than four months this short story turned into a full-length novel. As is my standard process, I provided a draft to my trusted beta readers.
“You wrote a romance novel,” one said.
“Um, no,” I replied, “It’s the story of a man mourning his late wife and trying to keep her family’s toy store afloat. He meets this other woman . . . oh, crap. Maybe I did.”
Here was my trouble. At that point I had never read a real romance novel in my life. Sure, I’d read plenty of books that had a love story at the center, but nothing like what I imagined a romance novel should be. Those books have hunks with rock-hard abs on the covers. They always have a damsel in distress falling into their manly arms, right?
Well, not always, or so I have learned.
You might read romance stories to escape the humdrum day-to-day. You root for your protagonist to find the love you have at home, or the love you want to have someday. Unfortunately, we’re not all tennis pros, powerhouse attorneys or lonesome billionaires pining for each other. Most of us are pretty normal people who do normal people things each day. Love happens in the middle of all that. Love stories happen around us every day, we just have to find the patience to see them and take notice.
So when the characters in my novels fall in love, it’s not because they are in a romance novel. It’s because that’s what people in their situation should do. Yes, they might fight it. And they will probably screw it up, but isn’t that what we all do?
It took me three years, but I followed up Don’t Wait For Me with a companion novel, or sequel, titled Better Not Love Me, in October 2015. This story follows Amelia, five years after the events of the first book. She’s burnt out with corporate life. She’s unemployed and discovers that her kids don’t even know her anymore. Her fix? Rent a cabin for the summer and reconnect with them. But she can’t get away from her past, or her terrible former boss Nate, who just happens to be staying in the cabin next door.
Better Not Love Me is a standalone story, but I’d recommend reading Don’t Wait For Me first to avoid any spoilers.
So I may not have intended to write a romance novel originally, but I’m certainly glad I did – twice. So, as Valentine’s Day approaches, ask yourself this: have you considered your love story as romance-novel worthy? Why or why not? Think hard. Your answer might surprise you.
ABOUT DAN KOLBET:
Dan Kolbet lives in Spokane, Washington with his family. He is an independent author, former newspaper editor and reporter. He is currently working on his next story.
His novels include You Only Get So Much, Don’t Wait For Me, Off The Grid, Better Not Love Me,plus short stories, Five Rows Back and An Easel for Avery.
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