I'm thrilled to introduce author Louisa Edwards and her guest post on writing what you know. Being a foodie, I love Louisa's steamy and sizzling culinary romances. Read on to learn more about her new trilogy, writing, and maybe winning the first book: Too Hot To Touch.
Thank you to Rashda and the Romance Magicians for having me! I see some familiar names on your member roster—cough, Jenn Echols, cough—so I know I’m in for a warm welcome and a rockin’ good time.
Since we’re all writers here, I thought I’d take the opportunity today to explore one of the most often-repeated pieces of writing advice:
Write what you know.
Sounds good, right? I mean, if you write what you know, there probably won’t be a lot of that tedious, difficult research—your own life experiences can fill in the blanks and add a realism to your story that no amount of flipping through dusty books (or scrolling through Wikipedia) can match. And of course, your intimate connection to the bits of the story that are ripped from your own life can only help to breathe life into the characters. Your books should be personal.
All of that is true. But it also conceals a trap that I discovered the hard way…by falling into it.
I’m a firm believer in the importance of writing what you love; every book should be the book of your heart—but as I discovered in writing (and rewriting) my latest contemporary romance release, Too Hot to Touch, it’s possible to take that too far.
When I began writing Too Hot to Touch, I had a very definite idea of where I wanted to go with it. Yes, I knew it was the first book in a trilogy following a team of talented chefs through the trials and challenges of a high-stakes culinary competition, and falling in love along the way. But I also knew that I wanted the heroine to have a particular dark secret in her past, one that is intensely personal and close to my heart.
Too close, as it turned out. For months, I wrote and revised and tore my hair out over my efforts to shoehorn this personal event into my heroine’s backstory. It took precious weeks and even a few tears before I was able to admit that this wasn’t the right story to address my issue—and that, quite possibly, I wasn’t ready to write that story yet.
Once I took a step back, I could see what the story actually needed, who my heroine actually was, rather than who I’d tried so desperately to turn her into (ahem, me.) After that, Too Hot to Touch came together in a shower of sparks, sexual chemistry, kitchen chaos, and emotional family relationships. The Jules Cavanaugh you’ll meet in the book is very much her own woman, a sharp, ambitious, loyal professional with complicated mother issues, enormous talent as a chef, and a raging crush on the black sheep son of the family whose restaurant she helps run.
Are there still elements of me in Jules? Of course; there are bits and pieces of me scattered through all of my characters. But she’s not me—and making her less personal allowed her to take shape as a full, three-dimensional character with her own voice, her own passions, and her own life.
I’m proud of Jules, and I don’t regret the journey I took with her. Because now I’ve learned an important lesson I can share with all of you:
Write what you know. Don’t be afraid to make it personal…but don’t force it. A great novel isn’t a chance for you to work through your own angst. Sometimes it happens incidentally, which can be powerful and wonderful—but if you go into the writing process with that as your main focus, you’ll be blind to the possibilities of the story you’re telling.
If you want to see how Jules and her team turned out (and try to guess which aspects of them are pieces of me) comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of Too Hot to Touch! Which of your characters is the most like you?