"Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance." Speaking of defense, on board is retired army dude Don Helin, who, while not carrying the label of "romance author" per se, is a staunch advocate. Don writes scary, true-to-life thrillers in a military setting. After three tours at the Pentagon, Don claims he had plenty of material for his books.
Make sure to leave comments on this post, because you'll be playing for one of two copies donated by Don of his new spine-tingling thriller, Thy Kingdom Come, as well as a $15 gift certificate to Amazon.com. (The second copy of Kingdom will be given away tomorrow.) See my contest page for eligibility rules. If your name is chosen, you must claim your prize by e-mailing me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) by February 14, 2010, or I will award it to someone else. Be sure to check back to see if you have won, and let your subject line be the name of the prize.
Ah, but before we do that, let us arm you with more words for your I Heart Romance arsenal.
Your naysaying naysayer says: "Romance novels. Pah. They're all the same, aren't they? They're just so formulaic. Read one, read them all."
Your wise, thoughtful reply: "Well, I guess you could say romance novels follow a formula the way mystery novels follow a formula (solve the crime), or thrillers do (endanger the hero/heroine, thwart the villain), or any other genre of fiction readers pick up and have expectations about. That's how readers know how to find books they will enjoy. Even literary fiction follows certain expectations (reader will be given food for thought and learn something about the human condition, often through the protagonist's failure to achieve a goal, or by his or her demise while attempting to achieve the goal).
However, I beg to differ that all romance novels are the same. There are as many different categories of romances as there are categories of readers to enjoy them. In fact, the annual Romance Writers of America conference hosts an awards ceremony for both published and unpublished authors in order to celebrate excellence in romantic fiction in which a myriad of categories are recognized. These include: Contemporary Series Romance, Contemporary-Single Title Romance, Historical Romance, Inspirational Romance, Novels with Strong Romantic Elements, Paranormal Romance, Regency Romance, Romantic Suspense, and Young Adult Romance. Even amongst these, there are subgenres within them, like multi-cultural romance, or erotic romance.
So, are romance novels all the same? Au contraire, ma petite!"
Take it away, Don!
Don Helin: Smart Men Do Read Romance
I enjoy reading thrillers. That’s why I started writing them. The story moves at a fast pace so it keeps my attention, and it helps divert me from the daily routine swirling around me.
Many authors believe that plot is the most important component in a thriller, but I must respectively disagree. I think that character is most important. Readers must be able to relate to your characters, must care what happens to them. If readers don’t care, your novel risks ending up on a shelf somewhere no matter how breathtaking the plot.
Thrillers are about people in perilous situations. People mean relationships. That’s why I look for romance in a novel. Thrillers without a romantic touch seem sterile to me.
In my novel, Thy Kingdom Come, the protagonist, Colonel Sam Thorpe, is a military guy, a little stiff and conservative, but a nice guy. Sam sees Jackie McCarthy at a meeting of the Pentagon’s anti-terrorist task force and is attracted to her. They are partners on the task force. This keeps the story moving ahead, but adds a love interest.
FBI agent Alex Prescott joins the anti-terrorist task force. I call her a “kick-ass” woman with spiked blond hair and personality to match. She becomes Sam’s link to the Pentagon while he is undercover tracking white supremacists plotting to steal nuclear material to make dirty bombs.
Sam and Alex work closely together in the most stressful of conditions and grow to really like one another. Opposites attract. Sam and Alex are opposites. And of course, Jackie is still on Sam’s radar, although her father has been pushing her toward a state senator from Pennsylvania whom he feels is a more appropriate match.
I was delighted that Thy Kingdom Come received a five-star review (Reviewers Pick) from the romance magazine, Affaire de Ceour. Romance is everywhere in the world today, and that’s why it’s important in a novel, whether the novel is a thriller, mystery, science fiction, or romance.
So the question should be, if you don’t read romance, why not?
Bio: Don Helin is a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Iowa, and a Masters Degree in Hospital Administration from George Washington University.
During his time in the military, Don spent seven years in the Pentagon. Those assignments provide the background for Don’s suspense/thriller series. Don’s novel, Thy Kingdom Come, tells the story of a group of white supremacists plotting to steal nuclear material to build dirty bombs. His second novel in the Sam Thorpe series, Sons of My Lai, is due out in May 2011.
Don and his wife enjoy sea kayaking, cross-country skiing and bicycling. They recently returned from a dog sledding trip to northern Minnesota.