Having done my top 11 pop songs and movies, I think I should probably do my top 11 romance novels. Seeing I am a romance writer and all!
Again these arenít in any particular order and I havenít included classics although obviously Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are all masterpieces of the romance genre. And I havenít listed Dorothy Dunnettís Lymond series, not because they arenít romance (and everything else you can think of as well) but because they deserve a whole column to themselves. At least one!
This was really tough! I could do a top 11 with just my favorite books by Loretta Chase and Laura Kinsale. Every writer Iíve mentioned has a wonderful backlist from which I could easily have made other choices for the list. Isnít it great to think how rich and varied the romance genre is?
Iím loving the Avon FanLit site. As I write this (mid-September), they have over 3,000 people signed up. The judging on the first chapter has finished and nearly 50,000 votes were logged for over 500 entries. There are a number of lively discussion threads, many of which have clocked up over 1,000 responses. Reading the daily blog by Avon authors and editors has become a fixture in my day and Iím really enjoying checking out everybodyís comments. I must confess I havenít read any of the chapters yet, partly because Iím trying to turn the first draft of my second book for Avon into the second draft of my second book for Avon (confused yet?). If I get lost in the chapters, Iíll never come out again. Itís hard enough staying away from the forum!
These figures are really mind-boggling. What do they tell me? Apart from what I already know - that Avon books have a huge number of fans out there and also that a lot of people who read romance want to write it. Why not? I think if you asked any author, nearly all would say they started as fans. I personally have a theory that romance is brutally cruel to people who arenít sincere about what theyíre writing and part of that sincerity is loving the genre. You can tell if a writer has a patronizing attitude towards what theyíre doing within the first couple of words.
I think, though, that the main thing Iíve learned from FanLit is that there is a massive hunger amongst readers to communicate with other romance fans and with romance writers. Avon FanLit is establishing a real community and itís a great privilege to be part of it. Check it out! The event continues until the end of October when theyíll announce the winners of the wonderful prizes.
I had such fun with My Top 11 pop songs that I thought I might try and put together a list of my top 11 films. Yet again, theyíre not in any particular order.
Lawrence of Arabia
The Last of the Mohicans
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
The Sound of Music
Les Enfants du Paradis
Somewhere in Time
How to Steal a Million
Hmm, romances, epics and history. Yep, pretty much sums up my tastes in films. Actually, and good soundtracks. Great music always helps! Iím surprised most of the films are oldish Ė the most recent would be Last of the Mohicans which was released in 1992, hardly yesterday.
Sunday nights on one of the local cable channels, they have this great show called My Top 11. A popular musician picks their favorite videos by other artists and in between they have a chat, often amazingly revealing, with the host. I think because theyíre talking about the music they like rather than the music theyíre promoting, a lot of barriers tumble.
Iíve become addicted to this show over the last few months. Iím always fascinated by what influences people to create the work they do. Itís one of the reasons that Iím obsessively curious about what other people read. Never ask me to your house. Iíll spend the entire visit scoping out your bookcases!
Anyway, a few Sundays ago, I started to think about my top 11.
Iím sticking to popular music. I like many varieties of music but to fit the format of the TV show, Iíll select from rock/pop exclusively. The list is in no particular order:
Looking my list, Iím surprised at how Brit-centric I am. And clearly, I like a man to sing to me! Thereís a melancholy cast to a lot of this music Ė it falls squarely into the category of Ďmisery popí as a friend of mine puts it. Another surprise for me. Iím quite a jolly soul. Really!
What would your list be? The hardest part is keeping to just 11 tracks! Try it and see.
The Sound of Music is the first movie I remember going to the pictures (that word alone should date this particular reminiscence!) to see. I was enchanted by the whole experience although I now suspect most of the plot went totally over my youthful head. I was four going on five, and Nazis and religious vocations, what did I know of those? To paraphrase the song in the summerhouse scene.
According to family mythology, although I donít recall this at all, I refused to leave the cinema when it was over. Maria was still behind the curtains just waiting to take me back to that wonderful world of music and color.
Those breathtaking shots during the credits of Austria from the air still give me goose bumps. Coming from Australia, Iíd never seen anything so green and gorgeous as those hills and valleys or as old and interesting as all those castles they fly over. Not to mention the snow. Snow was cool in every sense of the word to a girl from subtropical Queensland.
The nuns seemed so glamorous too. Looking back, Iím not quite sure why. I was brought up in a very Protestant household, so perhaps it was the lure of the unknown. Nuns played a regular role in my dressing up for quite a while afterwards.
But the best part of The Sound of Music is the romance. Iím not sure if this was clear to me on the first viewing but itís sure clear to me now. Even after seeing the film more times than I care to count, I still get a giggle out of Mariaís spirited responses to the remote Captain von Trappís tyrannical ways. I even stole the line about not answering to a whistle like a dog or cat for THE MAGNIFICENT MARRIAGE. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Of course, we know heís not really tyrannical, just grieving and out of touch with his heart. This is in many ways a redemption through love story. Itís so beautiful the way the film charts his emotional growth and follows Mariaís awakening to the possibility that human love can be as precious as divine love.
Favorite scenes? Iím spoilt for choice. The Captain catching the new governess in a daydreaming moment in the disused ballroom, symbolic of so many things that are locked away in this unhappy house. Maria facing him so bravely in a dress not even the poor want. The dinner scene when she sits on the pine cone. My Favorite Things (obviously!). The children climbing trees wearing clothes made from old curtains just as their father drives home with the baroness heís so certain is the woman for him but we know for certain isnít. And best of all, the lovely tenderness and quivering sexual awareness when they dance the landler outside the crowded ballroom. Sigh. Now thatís romance!
My original idea for the first MFT was to talk about The Sound of Music, not only for obvious reasons but also because it genuinely is one of my favorite things. But I thought Iíd leave that for next month and just give you a brief taste of the pleasures of winter in South-East Queensland where Iím currently living.
Weíve had rain for a few days so Iíve been housebound, but on fine mornings, I get up early and write then go for a long walk along the seafront. I live only five minutes walk from Pumicestone Passage which is where Moreton Bay leads out into the Pacific Ocean. The still water reflects the sun coming up over the sea and the bushy sand hills of the Bribie Island National Park are only a short distance across the passage.
The best part of the walk, apart from the clean, salty air, is the bird life. Iíve spent most of the last fourteen years living right in the middle of Sydney, which certainly offers a range of pleasures. But if you want wildlife, the best youíll do there are pigeons and seagulls. Iíve been up here on the Sunshine Coast for a little over a year and Iím still astonished at the range of birds I see every day. Every morning I see herons and terns and stilts and oystercatchers and egrets, and my favorites, the big black and white Australian pelicans. The last few weeks at low tide, there have even been black swans. Iíve never seen them swimming in the sea before but they seem perfectly happy in the salt water. Then thereís the wonderful Australian magpie which I donít think is related to the northern hemisphere magpie. Our magpie has the most beautiful song and theyíre such stately, elegant birds, I just love them. Then there are peewees and willy wagtails and wood doves and oh, just too many more to mention.
Sets a writer up for the day, it does! I come back to my desk with new vigor,
all ready to torture my hero and heroine. A girl needs a clear head when
sheís making people suffer the way my poor characters do and thereís
nothing like sea air for blowing away the cobwebs.
I wasnít going to do another top 11 favorite things for a while. But all the books I love that didnít make my top 11 last month clamored for their moment in the sun and I couldnít ignore them. This isnít really a reserve grade team at all. Any of these books could have made the first list on a different day. Does that mean Iím fickle?
Anyway, yet again, not in any particular order, my shadow top 11 romance novels: