So happy to welcome Elizabeth Harmon to Muse Monday.
My latest release, Heating It Up: A Red Hot Russians Novella, actually began as a homework project.
After publishing three full-length novels in my Red Hot Russians contemporary romance series, I was eager to try writing something shorter. Last January, I took YA author Catherine Chant’s online workshop, Writing A Romantic Novella and decided to try a concept I’d had in mind for a while; a warm-hearted small town romance set in an unlikely place: Antarctica.
Since my full-length novels clock in at a hefty 95,000 words, writing a 30,000 word novella should have been a piece of cake…right?
While novellas have fully developed plots and characters, with goals, motivation and conflicts, they differ from novels in several important ways. Time lines are compressed, casts are smaller and there’s not a lot of room for lavish description.
As a writer who loves slow-burn romance, I’m used to having my couples take months to fall in love. Heating It Up’s Nora and Alexei have less than a week. Realistically, Nora’s grief over her fiance’s death wouldn’t heal instantly. The solution was to put her loss two years in the past, rather than the recent event I’d originally imagined. While she hasn’t yet moved on, a part of her is ready to. Meeting Alexei gives her a reason to take the first step.
Resisting the urge to over-populate Amity Bay was a challenge too, since big casts of quirky townspeople are one of the things I love about small-town romance. But with so many characters running around, it’s hard to keep track of the players without a roster sheet, not to mention that Nora and Alexei risked getting lost in the crowd.
I solved this problem by having Alexei and Nora trapped by a snowstorm during the story’s opening chapters. It’s not until they return to town mid-book, that we’re introduced to some of the folks who call Amity Bay home. Setting the story at the start of an Antarctic winter, when stations typically operate with just a skeleton crew, also meant I could keep my cast smaller, and it allowed me to add a bit of the “ticking clock” plot device—which works well in novellas.
And since I loved my Antarctic setting, the final challenge was to resist cramming in every fascinating fact I learned about this vast and beautiful place. My awesome editor Lauren Plude was a great help in determining what to keep in, and when it was best to let readers fill in the details for themselves.
What I didn’t expect was that the mysterious, isolated setting would take on some fanciful elements, inspired in part by the magic realism used to portray Alaska in the 1990s TV series, Northern Exposure. Series creator Joshua Brand said the show was more about what Alaska represented, than what it actually was. I loved bringing a few touches of that same other-worldliness to Amity Bay.
Taming my sprawling approach to storytelling was one of the most challenging things I’ve done as a writer. I hope readers enjoy the result—and their trip to Amity Bay, Antarctica.
In HEATING IT UP, a heart-warming novel of mistaken identity and forced proximity, widow Nora Bradford and Russian adventurer Alexei Zaikov must work together to save their small Antarctic town from being shut down—but will the truth about Nora’s role in Amity Bay’s demise, doom their romance?
A woman? Dread prickled inside Alexei’s clothes. "Hello?" His voice echoed in the emptiness.
He started up the stairs, every sense alert. Who was she? How did she get here? Most of all, why would a woman hide out alone in an empty building during an Antarctic winter?
The second-floor landing opened into a library. In the middle of the room, was a worktable, covered with drawings. Stunned, he picked up a drawing of a luminous green iceberg that looked more like trapped emeralds, than ancient plankton and sea plants which were the real cause. Again, came a startling thought of Quinn’s secretary Nora, with the ethereal green eyes.
From behind, a floorboard creaked.
He spun around; coming face to face with someone he'd never expected to see again. Her once-ruby lips were pale and taut, but there was no mistaking those eyes.
"Put it down. Now."
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Contemporary romance author Elizabeth Harmon loves to read and write romances with a dash of different. She is the author of the Red Hot Russians sports romance series. Her debut novel Pairing Off is a 2016 RITA® Award Finalist. www.romancewriter-girl.com