Hi, I’m Cerella Sechrist, a sweet-romance author, Starbucks barista, and Pinterest addict. I live by the mantra that stories matter. Thanks to Amanda for letting me stop by today to talk about one of my favorite subjects – writing!
This month, my fifth published novel released. In A SONG FOR RORY, my hero and heroine are facing the challenges of reuniting after a difficult breakup, but more than that, their chance at happily-ever-after is in jeopardy when my hero, Sawyer, finds out he may have Early Onset Alzheimer’s. This book has a special place in my heart because I read so many stories from people who have struggled with this disease. In writing this story, I realized what it is I like about well-written romances. Here are my top three discoveries:
1. It starts with the characters.
Sure, that’s an arguable statement. But when it comes to romance, the characters are what compel us, what we’re most interested in. If the characters aren’t engaging or are unlikable without proper cause, there’s a good chance we’ll give up on the story. If they lack chemistry or an emotional connection, the reader’s attention fizzles. Connor and Harper, my hero and heroine from HARPER’S WISH, are two examples of characters who bristle around each other at first but with good reason. Harper nearly destroyed Connor’s career several years ago when she wrote a scathing review of his first restaurant. Connor, in turn, doesn’t make life easy for Harper when he hires her on as a waitress after she loses her job as a restaurant critic. The dynamic between these two (plus the restaurant setting!) is not only fun to write but entertaining to read.
We fall in love (or at least are drawn in) with the characters in a story first, before anything else.
2. Romance books aren’t just about the romance.
They’re about relationships, and not just the one between the hero and heroine. In my first Harlequin Heartwarming novel, GENTLE PERSUASION, a large part of Ophelia’s storyline deals with her relationship with her mother and her need to live up to the unrealistic expectations that have been placed on her. I channeled Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada while writing Lillian Reid, Ophelia’s mother. But for all her flaws, Lillian became my favorite character in that novel. And when Heartwarming asked me to write a follow-up story, THE PARIS CONNECTION, I got to continue Lillian’s storyline (and give her a romance of her own!) in that book. So much of Lillian and Ophelia’s personalities were wrapped up in their mother-daughter relationship. As much as I enjoyed writing about Dane and Ophelia’s romance, I equally loved exploring Ophelia’s relationship with her mom.
The best romance books have more than just romance layered throughout the story.
3. The Happily Ever After never comes easily.
And we wouldn’t want to read about it if it did. Some of the best advice I’ve heard about writing romance is this – we all know the hero and heroine are going to end up together. That’s not the point. The question is how the author is going to make it happen. When you throw very real-life obstacles at your hero and heroine, even the most discerning reader is going to be hooked on how they overcome their struggles to find their way into each other’s arms. In A SONG FOR RORY, the threat of Early Onset Alzheimer’s causes Sawyer to doubt his future. And within that very real fear is an even darker concern – if he’s destined to lose his mind and memories, can he really ask Rory to be with him when he knows his future is so uncertain?
You’ll have to read the book to see how it all plays out, but the thing I loved about writing this story was the fact that there isn’t an easy answer to this kind of real-life situation. I’ve read countless personal stories from people who suffer from Early Onset Alzheimer’s or who have loved ones with the disease. Their stories are a mixture of fear, hope…and love. In the spirit of their struggles, I didn’t want to give my characters an easy way out. They have to fight for love just like the true stories I read.
(The inspiring personal stories I read while researching also motivated me to donate a portion from the sale of each book to Alzheimer’s research as a way of giving back to each person who shared their journey.)
As Rory says, “People forget that true love, real love, takes work. It’s being with someone even when things get dark and ugly. That’s when love becomes true.”
Give me a story with real, true-to-life conflict where the characters find each other through the hard times – I’ll always vote for that kind of happily-ever-after.
If you’d like to know more about me or my novels, make sure you check out my website at www.cerellasechrist.com
And be sure to check out some of the giveaways I’m running to go along with my latest release, A SONG FOR RORY! You can find out more and enter to win at the following links:
Character Love on the Heartwarming author blog (giving away a Celtic green amber necklace and earring jewelry set along with an autographed copy of HARPER’S WISH, the first book in the Findlay Road series!) Enter at: bit.ly/hqhwch
A Song for Rory release celebration (giving away a Kiss Me Irish shamrock apron, Irish “potato” coconut candies, and an autographed copy of HARPER’S WISH, the first book in the Findlay Roads series!) Learn more at: bit.ly/cs17nl1
Cerella Sechrist lives in York, Pennsylvania, with two precocious pugs, Darcy and Charlotte, named after Jane Austen literary characters. She has won various competitions and a scholarship for her writing, which includes devotionals, full-length plays and novels. She divides her time between working in the office of her family’s construction business and as a barista to support her reading habit and coffee addiction. Her novels exhibit her love for both the written word and food in fiction. You can find her online at her website where she pens Literary Fare: Fiction & Food, a blog for readers.