Tag: Joni Scott

Creating characters in novels

Creating characters in novels

Readers treasure their favourite books for many reasons. It can be for the story or plot, the setting, the language but more often it is for the characters. A story can have a great plot and be written beautifully or set in a glorious place but if the characters don’t seem real, how can we get involved and enter their world? How can we relate to them if they are just cardboard stereotypes or ill-defined ghosts of reality? Minor characters can be less defined but the main characters in a novel need to be bold and reflect real life people. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, Madame Bovary from the book of the same name or more contemporary characters like ditsy Bridget Jones or socially challenged Elizabeth Zott from Lessons in Chemistry. Creating memorable characters in novels is an art and some writers ace it and others not. If you are starting your first book let me share a few tips.

Creating great characters in novels

What tools do writers need to create great characters? Well, you may be surprised to realise that life itself is the best teacher. Your life experience of people and understanding of what makes them tick is your best guide. So, I guess in that way, the older writer can have an advantage. I’m a great people watcher and love to listen to the stories others tell me about their families, marriage and friends. My husband says I’m a busy body! But I do listen and take interest in others and this has helped me enormously in writing and creating characters. Why people do things is particularly interesting, isn’t it? I don’t mean crimes as such but just more everyday things, like fall in love with the wrong guy, decide to move overseas or just run away.

Capturing real life people as characters

As I write this, I realise that all of my five novels have characters, notably women that run away from their current lives. Maybe it is a coincidence or possibly more because I myself am a runaway! The whole runaway concept fascinates me, so I guess I used my own experience to fashion these characters. Did you know that Agatha Christie was also a runaway? My runaway characters run away to escape trauma in different forms. A failed love affair, an abusive marriage, to conceal a pregnancy, a death in the family are the motivations for my women characters and for Oscar, my runaway male character, it is his perceived grievance with his family.

These characters are all based on people I know or meet. They are heavily disguised in most cases. You have to be careful not to just model your characters on friends or family! No one likes to find themselves in a novel unless the writer airbrushes them into a hero or heroine. The characters in my novel The Last Hotel are based on strangers I met while at Nice airport in March 2020. Stranded by the Covid-19 outbreak, I sat for endless hours hoping for a flight home to Australia. While people watching, I observed then chatted with a male ballet dancer, two young British girls then a mother with her teenage daughter. All of them like me had their lives interrupted by the lockdowns in Europe. We all had nowhere to stay as hotels were closing one after the other. Our common fate pulled us together. We shared details of our lives. They became characters in a book that was only just crystallizing in my imagination. Read more here about the crazy writing process of The Last Hotel. 

Heroes and heroines?

But did I create these people as shining heroes and heroines? No, I didn’t. Because they do not know they became my characters, it was ok and better to make them the thawed people they are and like we all are. Each of us is a mix of contradictions. We can be strong then weak, loving then mean, depending on what happens to us. If character always behave the same in every situation they won’t be like real people will they? Nor will the story be interesting. Perfect guy meets perfect girl. End of story. Yawn. There has to be conflict to drive the plot and characters create this conflict. You just have to decide on what that conflict will be.

Use characters to describe other characters in novel

Minor characters are needed to help drive the plot and also it is through these minor characters that we can learn stuff about the main characters. They can talk about their character, looks or their past in a more interesting way than the narrator (you, the writer) can. I use this technique in my contemporary romance, The Last Hotel.

“I think there’s something going on between Jenny and the dashing Rene. They look like love struck teenagers,” commented Tim. This is one character’s observation of two other characters.

Another character, Maggie comments on Jenny’s looks. ‘Are you a dancer yourself? You are so slim and dainty just like a ballerina.”

Just a note about mirrors. So many writers use the tool of the character looking in the mirror to see themselves (often naked, he he). I think this is a bit cliche now. Use another character to comment on their appearance and not necessarily a naked description. Sometimes this is too much information that is not easy to dismiss in the imagination. Maybe the mirror thing works better for male readers.

Actions speak louder than words

Just don’t describe your characters, let them speak and act to reveal themselves. Give them gestures, movement and dialogue in different situations so we see how they react. When Tanya first meets Vinnie in my mystery romance, Colour Comes to Tangles, she has to steady herself by grabbing the counter. She loses her ability to act and speak normally. The reader quickly senses she is smitten by him.  In The Last Hotel, when Sasha grabs his mother and dances with her in the kitchen, the reader realizes they have a close bond. Writing is such fun. It’s like painting a picture that becomes a world to escape into. The final creation is often quite different from the original layout.

Read your story aloud.

As the story progresses, ideas come to you and instinctively you feel what works and what is not working. Read your writing, especially the dialogue of the characters ALOUD. Then you can hear if it sounds authentic. Also this essential technique also lets you see if you are telling the reader too much. Less can be more. Leave some room for the reader to create the character in their mind’s eye. This is why some films wreck books. What a lovely, imaginative escape is a book or film. Some films are so right for us that we can watch them over and over again. The same goes for reading books. But beware of the film made from your favourite book. If the film director has interpreted the character differently, butchered the plot or made the character’s appearance different then we can be shattered. I felt this way when I viewed a BBC production of Pride and Prejudice wherein both Darcy and Elizabeth have wishy washy complexions and blue eyes not dark- haired and dark eyed as in original. it put me right off!

Point of view and thoughts of characters in novels

starting your book

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This is a massive topic in itself. Point of view refers to who is narrating the story. Is it third person omniscient, a narrator who knows all and can tell all. This has been a standard for many novels through history. Or is it first person, ie “i’ or ‘me’ narrated. This form does give us more insight into the main narrating character but can be annoying if “I’ is overused. There is no need to write, ‘I saw..’ or ‘I heard..’when this form is chosen. The character can just report ‘the sky was achingly blue..’ or whatever. Some writers use third person and first person combined but it is a bit tricky. Maybe not something to try for the first book!

Point of view leads to the topic of thoughts. The thoughts of the characters can add to our understanding of them. But keep the thought dialogue to a minimum, I think. No long reflections as this can interrupt the flow of the book and action. Use thoughts instead to build tension. eg ‘Will he be there? Can I dare face him again?’

Well, thanks for reading if you did. Lots of other blog posts on books etc on my website. joniscottauthor.com

Ciao for now.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel,  Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

 

Agatha, Queen of mysteries.

Agatha, Queen of mysteries.

She is the queen of mysteries, the best-selling novelist of all times and one of the most prolific writers with 66 detective novels and 14 short story anthologies to her name. She wrote the longest running play, The Mousetrap which has played in London since 1952 and my mystery guest also wrote under the pen name Mary Westmacott. Did you pick up on the clues? Who is she?

The Queen of Mysteries

Yes, She’s Agatha Christie, the world famous, most celebrated detective-story writer. Agatha, the queen of mysteries and I have been one of her fans since a teenager. My daughter as a young teen also became a fan. Together, we collected 75 of her novels from markets and bookstores. We subscribed to the Poirot DVD collection and magazines and watched all the film versions of her books. They are still popular, so new versions keep being made, competing with each other to include famous stars. I am a self-confessed Agatha tragic (as well as a Titanic tragic.)

What I love about Agatha, apart from her delicious mysteries, is the woman herself. Having read everything about her and her autobiography countless times, I can tell you that she was a very humble, natural, unpretentious person, unaffected by her world-wide fame.

Agatha, a Natural Writer

When asked about her writing space and tools of the trade, Agatha laughed. ‘Why, I just need a little table somewhere, some paper, my old, battered typewriter and off I go.’ Apparently, her stories with their twists and turns, sprinkle of clues and trail of red herrings are already there in her head, bursting to come out and be put on paper. She’s a natural. No writer’s block, no hesitancy, two or three books a year, no worries.

When one of her books was first made into film and she went to the premiere, she asked why there was such a crowd. ‘It’s for you, Ma’am.’

Agatha, a Famous yet Humble woman

‘No, it couldn’t be,’ she protested. Agatha snuck away into the crowd and queued up with the patrons. When asked about her absent ticket, she told the usher she was the writer, could she go in free? Disbelieving her, he barred her entry and called the manager. They were amazed to discover that this plain little lady was the great queen of mystery herself.

Indeed, as Agatha aged, she resembled anyone’s granny. By then she was married to Sir Max Mallowan, the archaeologist, and travelled the world to his digs in Mesopotamia, now part of modern Iraq. She was an adventurous, no-frills woman, not one for glamour or the bright lights, nor interested in her fame. She wrote because she loved writing and puzzles. How good is that.

Agatha and the Modern Reader

Some modern readers admittedly may find her stories xenophobic but that is how the world was in the 1920’s up until 1976, the year of her death. She was a woman of her time, reflecting its attitudes and values, like we all are. In post-war England, people were wary of the influx of refugees flocking into their country.

Yet despite her now cringe-worthy comments about foreigners, she made one of them her most loved character, Hercule Poirot, the little dapper Belgian refugee detective. In fact, Agatha was a champion for the marginalized. Both Poirot and Miss Marple existed at the margins of society. A rotund foreigner and an elderly spinster were not on the A lists of society.

But Poirot and Marple infiltrate society and meet some well to do folk. Unsuspectedly, quietly working their little grey cells, they outsmart the police constables, even Scotland Yard. It’s a victory for the small man, the foreigner and the little old lady. In Agatha’s world there would have been many spinsters and maiden aunts. The Great War and later World War II took the flower of British manhood leaving many girls unable to marry. Jane Marple hints at a long-lost love lost in the war as does Poirot. He too, has a past. He too has a heart.

Agatha and Beatrix Potter

Agatha Miller was born in Torquay in 1890 to older, well-off parents. Like Beatrix Potter, she was home schooled in her nursery and had lots of pets running about in a rambling house and garden. Agatha had imaginary friends called the kittens that she talked to and wrote stories about. It was her sister Madge that challenged her to write a novel, as she was dabbling in writing herself. But this older sister lost interest in books and found men and left home to marry. Agatha as an only child for years, occupied herself. She had a vivid imagination, again like Beatrix Potter.

Eventually Agatha who was a very pretty, blonde child grew into an attractive, slim young woman. She went to local dances and caught the eye of Archie Christie a dashing young fellow. They became engaged in the gathering clouds of World War One, hesitated a few times, but eventually married on Christmas Eve 1914. He served his country in The Great War and luckily survived.

Dark Days for Agatha

During the dark years of the war, Agatha volunteered as a nurse and worked in the hospital dispensary. It was here that she learnt about poisons and had the idea for her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles where the victim succumbs to poison. It was the beginning of a seemingly never-ending flow of writing for young Agatha. I could not resist inserting Agatha in my latest WWI novel, Time, Heal my Heart. She becomes the friend of my character Dorothy who works in the dispensary with her. They have a marvellous time making suppositories and mixing potions. Dorothy is enthralled by Agatha’s writing.

Agatha, rejected by publishers

Agatha’s first attempt at writing pre-dated the success of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Agatha wrote a novel called Snow Upon the Desert. It was rejected by six publishers. Today, the novel is still unpublished though it exists as a manuscript in the archives of her estate.

Agatha kept writing despite this rejection (as we all should.) She kept trying even after becoming a mother to a daughter, Rosalind, her only child. Agatha and husband, Archie were happy enough until her mother died. Agatha went into deep mourning and took herself off to her childhood home for weeks, while she sorted through the old house and grieved for her mother, probably her lost childhood as well.

It was during this time, 1926, that Archie had an affair with his secretary and decided he didn’t love his wife anymore. He told a startled Agatha that their marriage was over. She was still mourning her mother and now had to mourn her marriage as well.

It was a dark time for the writer. She disappeared for ten days, and no one could find her. Her car was found abandoned in a quarry. Unwittingly, she created a real-life mystery with herself in the star role. Strangely, she was located at a small hotel in Harrogate registered under the name of Archie’s mistress. This is one episode of her life that Agatha passes over in her autobiography. She must have wanted to mentally erase the traumatic incident.

Agatha Sets Off for Adventure

Afterwards, divorce papers filed, she left her daughter in care and took off further afield. She went to Paris and boarded the train to Istanbul, then onto Mesopotamia. The train was The Orient Express. At the end of her second journey to these parts she met, by chance through friends, her next husband, the archaeologist, Sir Max Mallowan. Though he was 13 years younger, they hit it off. Agatha was most interested in his work (and men love that.) He was unaware of her writing, and knowing her, she probably dismissed it as a little hobby of hers, despite the fact that she was earning well from her books by then.

In fact, even her first novel sold well. Not many debut authors can claim that success! During the 1920s and her stress over a failed marriage, she turned to thrillers, James Bond style stories with dark villains and political intriguing plots. These novels, The Big Four and The Secret Adversary, 1922 are not as well received as her classic detective stories. The 1920s was the time of the Flappers but Agatha continued to do her own thing. It was good she had an income to fall back on after her marriage failed. Many women of that time had no chance if their man left them. She forged on and became the queen of mysteries. I wonder what Archie felt about his name becoming so famous because of his ex-wife’s talent not his own.

Agatha had not quite realized her literary strengths and was no doubt experimenting with other genres. Her few later attempts at thrillers in the 1950’s again were not hailed as brilliant, The Pale Horse, 1961 and N or M, 1941. Her six novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott offer a different style. They are partly autobiographical and sweet love stories. She wrote a number of plays as well and ten short story collections.

Agatha and the Cosy Mystery

Finally, thankfully, she settled into the cosy mystery genre set in the ubiquitous English village with the inevitable vicar and cast of landed gentry and their servants. She later interspersed these with murder stories set in Mesopotamia, Murder in Mesopotamia,1936, in Egypt, Death on the Nile,1937, in Europe, Murder on the Orient Express, 1934 and The Mystery of the Blue Train,1928, and South Africa, The Man in the Brown Suit, 1924.

Agatha’s one regret was creating Hercule Poirot as past middle-aged. She didn’t anticipate that he would have to last many decades, along with the already aged Miss Marple. It constrained her to a time. She couldn’t use these characters in novels set too much later in the century. Eventually Poirot dies off in Curtain,1975, shortly before her own death.

Agatha borrowed from Arthur Conan Doyle to create a sidekick for Poirot in the form of Captain Hastings, just as Sherlock had in Watson. These sidekicks are not as smart and ask questions as the reader would mentally. It is a successful way of revealing how the detective is thinking as he chats with his curious sidekick. Captain Hastings and Poirot present a comic duo and add fun to the novels.

Agatha is everywhere as the queen of mysteries

At any airport or train station anywhere in the world, you used to be able to spot someone reading an Agatha Christie novel, no matter their nationality. Maybe not so much now, as everyone has their nose in a phone, in what is called ‘Phubbing’. A combination of the word phone and snubbing!

Using my detective skills, I can spot an Agatha Christe novel at twenty paces, as I know all the titles! Even translated, they are mostly recognizable. Her most popular novel, at over a million sales, is And There Were None, 1939, also called Ten Little Niggers in USA, (possibly not anymore though.)

Agatha in Film

Many of her novels have made excellent films, Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun and Murder on the Orient Express being probably most popular and revisited with modern re-makes. Agatha Christie novels have been translated into every language under the sun. Over thirty films are based on her works.

Recently, some writers have attempted to copy her work and write in her style, re-establishing the cosy mystery genre. This is encouraging! But they will never trump Agatha, the queen of mysteries.

Recognition for the Queen of Mysteries

Agatha was awarded many accolades for her services to literature and entertainment. She became a fellow of The Royal Society of Literature in 1950 and appointed a CBE in 1956. She was later promoted to Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1971, making her Dame Agatha Christie, three years after Max Mallowan was knighted. Therefore, she could also call herself Lady Mallowan, though I doubt she did.

In later years of their mostly happy marriage Max took a mistress who was also an archaeologist and friend. They married soon after Agatha’s death just as Archie married his secretary a week after he and Agatha divorced. Men behaving badly again.

Agatha hated crowds and was a shy, modest woman, despite her talents. She loved animals and gardens. Her last home, Greenaway in Dartmouth now resides with The National Trust. She is remembered as an amazing woman who leaves a legacy of literature and film.

 

Photo Source: Unsplash

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour comes to Tangles and her latest, Time Heal my Heart.  Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Pip Williams and I

Pip Williams and I

Now, I don’t know Pip Williams, the Australian author, but after reading her second novel, The Bookbinder of Jericho (brilliant!), I was struck by the similarity and differences between Pip and I and our books. So, this post is about me and Pip Williams or Pip Williams and I, whichever grammar form you prefer. I know, you may laugh, an unlikely comparison, since she is famous, and I am a nobody, but you will get the drift in a moment if you keep reading. It’s a bit like Yellowface but with no evil intent.

Pip Williams; Travel, language and history

You see, Pip Williams and I are both Australian women who grew up in Sydney. We are both writers, albeit at opposite ends of the spectrum. Pip is a New York Times best-selling author, and I am an unknown nobody author. But we both love travel, language, history and books. Pip obviously loves the meanings behind words and as a previous Latin scholar, I also fell in love long ago with the origins of words. The other commonality is our novel plots, stories of two sisters set in World War One and on the university campuses of Oxford and Cambridge. Probably, that is where the personal similarities end. sigh.

Pip Williams; Australian Historical novels

Pip is young, I am not so. Pip had a career in writing nonfiction that led more easily into her novels being published. But I am a biochemist who accidentally wrote a novel then did not know what to do with it, so stumbled along in my newfound writing career to write five books. Maybe one day we will run into each other at a bookstore or maybe Pip is attending the Australian History Novelists Society conference this October (can’t wait!) Would love to meet her.

Pip Williams; World War One era

As I prefaced above, book wise, Pip Williams and I write novels set in World War One. My latest, Time Heal my Heart, has many parallel themes to those in Pip’s best seller, The Bookbinder of Jericho. Two sisters, love and loss, family, the futility and savagery of the war and the status of women in society. They both feature a foreign female character with a mysterious past (Pip’s Lotte and my Lisbette character) and a character attempting access to a socially restricted university education. Pip’s novel is set in Oxford. Mine is partly set In Cambridge. Both our characters swat for the university entrance exams around the time of The Great War of 1914-1918. No plagiarism involved. My novel was at the publishers long before Pip’s came out. It is the companion or sequel to my first Whispers through Time.

Pip Williams; Book Companions

I do love that Pip calls her second book a companion not a sequel or prequel. That is so much less limiting. A companion suggests that the books can be read together but not necessarily. So, each of her books, like mine, can be read as stand-alone novels. That helps me to pitch my fifth book as not a sequel but a stand-alone or companion novel set in Sydney prior to and during World War 2. I am preparing a pitch for an Australian publisher, and this gives me another angle. It is too hard having overseas publishers in London. I feel out of touch, can never do local book promotions and now since Covid the author copies cost a bomb to import.

Love Pp Williams? Take a chance on me!

So, wish me well. I just hope for a tiny ripple of book attention, nothing much. Aspiring to be a Pip Williams is ridiculous, I know, but authors have to self-promote somehow otherwise no one at all will know about their books. Writing a book is easy compared to marketing one. Publishers don’t really do it for you. They get you published and then it’s sort of goodbye at the school gate. Haha and thanks for reading if you did. Take a peek at my website or books. joniscottauthor.com. and if you are a Pip Williams fan, take a chance on me!

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels; Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour comes to Tangles and Time heal my Heart. Read about her books on https://joniscottauthor.com.

Writers and readers hate errors in books

Writers and readers hate errors in books

Editing drives writers to distraction. Writing is fun when the inspiration and words flow but then going over it all is so tedious, often de-motivating and just boring. That is why we prefer to farm this activity out to the publishers who promise painstaking editing and proof reading. This is how it has always been. But I suspect these editors and proofreaders also find these tasks tedious and possibly fall asleep on the job. Or do they now just computerise the task, claim they proofread it but didn’t really? Writers and readers hate errors in books.

Readers find errors

It is bad enough reading over your own work and fixing it but imagine reading someone else’s and staying interested and awake. Well, this is my theory why every time I have a book released, it is my readers who find errors. Though I read the manuscript oh so many times and the editor supposedly did too during one, two, three four rounds of editing and then a final proofread, there are still errors. ARGH!

Types of errors

Now these errors can be punctuation; missed capitals, commas, apostrophes or full stops or they can be spelling errors. Maybe these are the most forgivable errors that we can blame on a printer. lol. My book The Last Hotel contained a few of these in its first edition because the writer, me, wrote it or rather tapped it out with one hand. I had lost the use of my right upper body to CRPS at the time so was a writing cripple for about two years. I really relied on the editor. But they let me down.

Reviewers also find errors

However, the reader did not know this, so had no sympathy for these errors and besides shouldn’t the editor have found these errors before publication? I had to make a fuss after an Onlinebookclub.org reviewer rated the novel one star down because of the punctuation though they said it was ‘the best book they had read that year.’ The publisher ultimately edited the book again for me for free and now the new version is all good. Yeah!

Historical errors

In my first book, Whispers through Time, there is a date error in the chapter about Lisbon that has a king living for over a century and a half. Oops. That one is a typo of the date. In Colour comes to Tangles, Josie drives a VW at the start of the book but has a Peugeot by the end. This sort of error is an inconsistency one. When I wrote it over the period of a year, I did not notice that I assigned a different car to her and neither did the editor.

In my newly released novel, Time Heal my Heart, I am disheartened to be informed again by a reader that there is an inconsistency as to who named Manly. It is the beachside suburb of Sydney where my characters honeymoon. In the beginning of the book, Sebastian tells his new wife that the suburb is so called because a first settler thought the original native people looked ‘manly.’ This is true. But at the end of the book, another character mentions a different first settler being the origin of the name.

No, it wasn’t Captain Cook!

Now how did this happen? I have the research that tells me the first guy Captain Arthur Phillip named the suburb so how did I attribute this later to Captain Cook who never really settled on Australian soil? A blonde moment? Dementia setting in? Brain fatigue after hours of rereading? Captain Cook was a sailor and voyager who mapped the coastline and died in Tahiti. But his name is more well known than Phillip’s so maybe it popped into my head at this point later in the book. Oh, dear and sorry!

Editors are meant to save us

Now this is embarrassing but there is no recourse to fix this error once the book is published as it is not a self-published book wherein you can just reload the file to Amazon. So, it has to stay there now and shame me forever. Sigh Editors are meant to save writers from this. Writers and readers hate errors in books.

Editors are meant to catch my mistakes, but they don’t seem to be up to the task as well as editors in the old days before digital. You never see many errors in the old classics or books before around 2000 but errors have multiplied in modern books. Do editors now just run our work through Grammarly or ProWriting Aid? Do they even proofread with their own eyes not a computer program? Because they are often young are they distracted by their phones or just can’t spell?

Should we self-publish?

I have no answer to this. In frustration, I am going to ask a reader to proofread my next novel. They seem to be the best proofreaders. And they do it for free! Thank you, darlings! Writers and readers hate errors in books!

It’s tough enough writing 120, 000 words into a story without having to edit, proofread and then market the book. No, publishers are slack there as well. They get all the money and don’t hold their weight which is why so many of us are turning to self-publishing. You have control over the rights to the book, can fix the errors and earn more royalties.

I am sure there are some excellent editors out there and I wish you writers luck finding one who does your work justice.

Image source

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

‘Whispers through Time’ Sequel

‘Whispers through Time’ Sequel

Today was publication day and the birth of a new book into the vast global library. It’s the release of Whispers through Time Sequel entitled Time Heal my Heart by Joni Scott. This one has it all; love, loss, tragedy, war, peace, The Spanish Flu and best of all it is based on a true story! You can buy it on all the popular platforms like Amazon or through the publisher, Austin Macauley, London. 

It is the second historical fiction in my ‘Time’ series and can be read as it is or read after the first one, Whispers through Time. This historical novel continues the story of three young people who migrate to Australia from London in 1912 just after the sinking of the doomed liner, The Titanic. Soon war breaks out and their young lives are shattered by the consequences. This is the focus of the story in Time heal My Heart.

Time Heal my Heart is the sequel to Whispers through Time

Husbands, brothers and sons set off for the grand adventure of war, not realising its savagery. It was the war promised to be over by Christmas. Yet five years later it has involved the world and killed millions. Even in its swansong, the global conflict kills more as the deadly Spanish Flu spreads around the world with returning soldiers.

But the clock cannot be wound back. Time marches on taking the survivors with it into a brave new world of energy and promise. The Jazz age. But not everyone can forget, heal and move on. My protagonist, Winnie cannot. She has seen too much, lost too much. She cries, ‘Time heal my Heart!’ Hence the title.

A poignant Story of another time

War orphans, lovers, soldiers .. so many cannot move forward easily and forget or forgive the horrors of war. Read this poignant story and relive their lives with them. Step into the past and count your blessings perhaps that you were born in another time. Or do you want to recapture the romance, the urgency yet slower pace of the early Twentieth century? Life was ephemeral. Scarlet fever and infection could easily kill. There were no antibiotics, no safety nets in life.

And another place

Storm lashed monastery, Mont Saint Michel, is the scene of one of the sub plots in France. It is a place of mystery, violence and passion. Cut off from the war, it is also a place of refuge. The battle fields of France also feature as brother Gustave is sucked into a war of mud and danger. Then in Sydney, Australia, so far from the battlefronts, wives and families wait for news of the Gallipoli campaign. They knit socks, tend the returned soldiers and pray for their loved ones.

There’s more Time to come

I know this novel will tear at your heart. The story is of my own grandparents. But I must admit to adding sub plots and embellishing parts with fiction. However, it is based on true lives and war records. I hope you enjoy, Time Heal my Heart. If you do, you can go back and read Whispers through Time and look forward to part three, Last Time Forever, due out next year.

Stay tuned via my blog at joniscottauthor.com.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

Please be kind, review our books!

Please be kind, review our books!

Authors need encouragement, please review our books.

Reviews are the bread and butter for authors. Please be kind, review our books. As an avid reader I make a habit of reviewing every book I read whether I was impressed with it or not. Usually, I do this on Goodreads as it is so easy. This click takes you to my soon to be released fourth book. You just find the book you want to review, click on it, and under the book details is a place to leave a rating (one to five yellow stars) or below a blank box to write something about the book. This written comment is far more encouraging for the author and more informative for a potential reader. But I post a comment politely and make it more about my preferences not their bad writing.

On Goodreads as on many book platforms you can join up as a reader and list your finished reads like you are part of a club. Reading (and writing) are lonely pursuits, so it is nice to sometimes share with others. This feedback from readers allows other readers to decide if the book is for them before they buy it. Few readers actually bother to write a review. It’s less than 10%. So, authors need all the reviews we can get and preferably positive ones. After all, we make no money from books. Too many middlemen take that. It’s a mug’s game. Please be kind and review our books.

Too difficult to be nice? How about a star rating instead.

But if you feel you can’t possibly say anything good then just pop a one or two star. This is kinder than a brutal slaying. Consider how you would feel if someone roasted your book baby alive. Books take about a year to write and almost twice as long to get published. So please review our books.

Unless you are an author who opts to be an Amazon uploader in which case it’s instant. I tried this for my contemporary romance, Colour comes to Tangles, just to experience the spontaneous buzz. But I do prefer the wait and the box of books that come all the way from London. My fourth book, Time Heal my Heart just arrived this week that way. Twenty-five copies hot off the press.

Someone left a two-star review for me last week. Fortunately, my first ever. This one was long and ranting as well. The reader did not like my ‘overuse’ of commas, and she found a typo that I was aware of but powerless to fix post publication. So let me know if you too feel I am guilty of comma overuse. As the review was for my debut novel and I’m now up to book 5, I won’t lose sleep over this one.

It is far outweighed by good ones like this lovely one from another author and besides I’ve learnt a lot since book one and become a better writer and certainly know editors miss a lot of unintentional errors. Once a book is published traditionally it is very expensive to request a typo correction. With uploaded to Amazon self-published books, it is as easy as it was to publish. Just a click away.

We all need praise and encouragement, please review our books

I am now a little conscious of it lest it is true. It is possibly Prowriting aid‘s fault as they keep flagging my lack of comma, so I let them override my text and add one. They just did it. I’ve given you the link to a comparison of the most common writing, spelling and grammar aid . Are there too many commas for your liking too?

Encouragement is not just needed for authors but for everybody. Praise is lovely. We bask in it, like the morning sun. Try to find the good in people not the bad. The same goes for books.

Kindness matters especially for authors

So please hold or bite your tongue and let the emotions calm. Not easy but counting to ten helps. Or walk away, make a coffee. Whatever. It deflects the moment and helps compose a kinder or more instructive rebuke.

The one thing the whole world needs is more kindness, more saying sorry, more good listening to other’s concerns. oh, no, more commas! It would be lovely if everyone respected each other’s opinions, rights and values. I know, a pipe dream. But it’s good to dream, good to be positive. Oops, more commas. Sorry.

But, seriously, let’s use our voices for good not to tear down others. One day someone might tear you down and then you will know how it feels. Have a nice day and please be kind when you review for our books.

Photo Source

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through TimeThe Last HotelColour Comes to Tangles and the latest World War One romance, Time Heal my Heart. Joni also has many posts on a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Time, Heal my Heart.

Time, Heal my Heart.

Though invisible and intangible, time is a constant immutable factor of life. Our lives run on this key factor. Rushing around we can’t outrun it. We can’t wind it back nor slow it down. It proceeds ever onward regardless of our wishes. I find this so intriguing, more so as I grow older. When we are young, we barely think of it running out for us one day. In fact, as a child, we want it to go faster so we can be a grown up. But by twenty or thirty years of age it dawns on us that getting older may not be so much fun. When our own parents age, we start looking time in the face. So time is the thing in life. My latest novel encompasses this theme. It is titled Time, Heal my Heart.

Writing Historical fiction

It was coming across my grandparent’s story that led me to writing historical fiction. Pretty weird for a math science teacher to write a historical fiction novel but we get weirder as we age. Once started on this imaginative adventure of creative writing and I was hooked. Whispers Through Time was my debut novel. It’s set in the early 1900s and is the story of two sisters, Winifred and Francesca who travel from London to the other side of the world a few months after the sinking of the Titanic. It’s Winifred, my grandmother’s story embellished with the magic brush of fiction. But it is also my great-aunt Francesca’s story.

Onboard SS Rangatira bound for Sydney, she meets my grandfather, Walter and they start a new life in Sydney, Australia in 1913, just before the outbreak of The Great War.

Time, Heal my Heart

The sequel to Whispers through Time is about to be released on August 18. It is available for pre order on most platforms. Entitled, Time, Heal my Heart, it continues the story of the two sisters as war erupts shortly after their marriages. Like millions worldwide, their lives are disrupted. For Winifred, her life will change forever. I nearly titled this book ‘Time Across the Oceans’ but this title is already taken along with all the good ones.

You have to be very inventive these days with titles and even your name. I didn’t realise there was another author with my name until after I published my first book. By then it was too late. So, beware there are two of us. Joni Scott in America writes devotional and biblical books so that’s not me. I am happier it is this genre not horror or erotic porn books. That would be an incompatible mix up. Since my books are mostly sweet romances and historical, readers of her books can come my way and vice versa. My website is joniscottauthor.com. Follow my blog there as well as read about my books. There are four now. Two historical and two contemporary romance.

Romance, war, loss and mystery

Now I think you will enjoy the historical sequel, Time Heal my Heart. There’s a lot on offer; romance, war, loss, mystery and tragedy and even a couple of war orphans. You will travel from Sydney to London to France and the battlefields of the Somme plus the mysterious abbey of Mont Saint Michel. It’s a story that will pull on your heart strings especially as it is true.

Take time to read. It’s a great escape from the reality of life. It enriches your experience and knowledge. It’s relaxing, nourishing and once you have the book, free!

Stay tuned if you enjoy the books for number three, Last Time Forever, due out August 2023.

 

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest WW I drama Time, heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

 

The Crazy Writing Process for ‘The Last Hotel’!

The Crazy Writing Process for ‘The Last Hotel’!

OnlineBook.org offers reviews of member’s books by other members. Recently, an author reviewed my second novel, The Last Hotel. This came as a pleasant surprise as I never solicited a review. So, I posted it here as these reviews are not posted on Amazon or Goodreads where most readers look to read opinions on books. Here it is, below and this is the link to it; An author’s review of The Last Hotel. If only this reviewing author knew the crazy writing process involved in writing this book.

However, the review does offer a unique insight into this novel that had to write itself because the author only had one hand! As my husband kept telling me, ‘Writing a book, what a dumb idea!’ I added in a few headings/comments to break up this review, so easier to read and please read on if you are interested in the crazy writing process for The Last Hotel.

An Author’s Review of The Last Hotel

“The Last Hotel by Joni Scott is a thought-provoking and immersive novel that explores the depths of human nature, the pursuit of purpose, and the complexities of relationships. Scott’s eloquent writing style and meticulous attention to detail bring the story to life, enveloping readers in a world that is both familiar and unsettling.

The novel follows the lives of five strangers who find themselves mysteriously trapped in a desolate hotel. As they navigate their way through the eerie corridors and interact with one another, their individual stories gradually unfold. Scott skillfully weaves together their narratives, delving into themes of regret, forgiveness, redemption, and the universal search for meaning.

Based on real events and people

The characterization in “The Last Hotel” is one of its greatest strengths. Each character is distinct, flawed, and burdened by their past. Scott takes the time to delve into their inner struggles, fears, and desires, allowing readers to form a deep connection with them. The evolution of these characters throughout the story is both realistic# and compelling, as they confront their demons and discover hidden strengths within themselves.

The setting of the hotel itself is masterfully crafted. Scott’s vivid descriptions create an atmosphere of tension, with its dilapidated walls, flickering lights, and a lingering sense of unease. The hotel serves as a metaphorical backdrop, representing the characters’ emotional and psychological states, adding an additional layer of depth to the narrative.

Scott’s exploration of existential themes is thought-provoking and raises profound questions about the human condition. Through the characters’ introspection and interactions, the novel prompts readers to reflect on their own lives, purpose, and the choices they have made. It encourages a deeper examination of personal growth, self-reflection, and the impact of our actions on others.

Literary fiction!

However, while “The Last Hotel” is a captivating read, there are moments when the pacing feels sluggish. Some sections could benefit from tighter editing and more concise storytelling. Nonetheless, the compelling characters and intriguing premise keep readers engaged, even during these slower moments.

In conclusion, “The Last Hotel” by Joni Scott is a richly crafted novel that offers a profound exploration of human nature and the search for meaning. With its engaging characters, atmospheric setting, and thought-provoking themes, it is a must-read for fans of literary fiction. Despite some pacing issues, Scott’s storytelling prowess shines through, making this an enjoyable and worthwhile read for anyone seeking a thought-provoking and immersive literary experience.”

Strangers meeting

As a newbie writer, I am pleased by this appraisal, especially the inclusion of my style as literary fiction. It sounds much better than chic lit or women’s fiction! It is interesting what other people find in your writing. I realised The Last Hotel is character driven rather than plot driven. After all, it was the gathering of desparate and disparate individuals at the Nice Airport in 2020 that inspired the book.

There was no crime ever intended, I was just fascinated watching these airport strangers interact (me being one of those strangers) and decided to write down some ideas for a second book, also unplanned. At the time, in March 2020, I was crippled by CRPS so could barely write let alone brush my teeth or hair. It was my medical condition of CRPS that had brought me to Italy. I had come for a cure in a clinic in Genova.

Writing a book, what a dumb idea!

This cure did eventuate, but it took a while over the next two years to fully recover as I underwent rehabilitation. I can type today, brush my teeth and hair but back then at the airport as we tried to find a flight home, I was a one-handed, one-armed ‘cripple’ of sorts, still in immense pain from the CRPS. So, writing another book was a dumb idea, my husband’s words exactly. As he struggled along with both our cases from hotel to hotel as there were few flights available, he kept muttering these words. ‘Writing a book, what a dumb idea!’

But as we waited, day after day in budget airport hotels, the idea of this book was persistent in my mind. There was nothing else to do. We had to stay in isolation. Written permits allowed one trip out a day for food or medical purposes. There was only a small grocery store a block away. Even the vending machine had run out of food. Pressing the button for tomato soup only yielded a mug of hot water. Our tiny hotel room was equally disappointing. It had two bunks, a cubicle bathroom and a limited view of the Nice airport. If you climbed on the top bunk, you could see a scattering of planes going nowhere. They were as grounded as we were.

Writing filled the hours.

With an uncertain future, a cancelled holiday and no physiotherapy available, there was nothing to do but write this ‘dumb’ book. This was only possible by tapping away with my good left hand on the old iPad I had brought along. If only the people at the airport knew I had borrowed them for my novel. There was the young ballet dancer with a dream of dancing in the Nice Opera. He had only just arrived form Melbourne the week before and now had his contract on hold. I named him Sasha.

Then there was the mother and daughter planning a year in Provence. I called them Deborah and Andrea. The two young Brits who had just lost their dream jobs in St Tropez, they became my Kaz and Lou. The very helpful young Brit who carried people’s bags up and down the stairs because the elevators and escalators were turned off, well, he became Will. As I never took their details, these people may never know they are in a book. The hotel in lovely Beaulieu-sur-Mer is fictional but there is one like it in Beaulieu and there is even a bookshop next door, just near the market square too, where my hotel/pensione is based. I checked it out on Google Earth.

Getting it all together, The crazy writing process.

I had my characters, the reason for their meeting was the real reason they assembled at the airport ie Virus Alert 2020. Now I just had to get them interacting at The Last Hotel. This happened over a period of five months, after we finally scored a flight home to Australia. With my swollen right arm and hand on a pillow, that busy left hand of mine tapped out the story.

Finally, by September it was as finished as I could manage. It needed editing but my previously good left hand was worn out. It developed strange callouses that developed into dePuytren’s nodules so then I had no good hands. In despair, I sent the whole thing off to Tellwell Publishers, hoping they could sort it into a book. This they did and gave it a lovely cover. Maybe they should have accelerated parts of the book and edited more. But it was during global lockdown when things slowed down to a snail’s pace, even at the publishers.

My fourth book has only just been released due to this Covid effect. Two years at the publishers for this baby has been another long wait. But hopefully, there will be more good reviews and happy readers. Let me know.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Time for a story

Time for a story

Hi there, I decided to try something new. Story time! Yes, once a month, I will post one of my short stories for you to read. Some of them have won awards and been published in anthologies but some are just sitting around flicking their pages, bored in my doc folder. So, it’s time for a little story.

This story was a winner

This is one I submitted last year and won a highly commended award for. Stringybark Publishing included it in their anthology. What a surprise this was as this was the first time I ever entered a short story competition. David Vernon, judge and editor, wrote.

G’day Joni,

By now you will have read the good news on the Stringybark Stories website or on Facebook, so please accept my congratulations on receiving a Highly Commended in the Stringybark Short Story Award 2022.

With 287 entries submitted to the competition to be chosen as a highly commended and published author is an impressive achievement. Your story has been edited and published in our newest anthology Fruitcake Frenzy.

Here’s the story. I am calling it ‘Honeymoon in Paris’ but it was published as ‘Karl or not Karl’, in the 2022 analogy called Fruitcake Frenzy. The anthology is named after the winning story. So no fruitcakes in my story.

 

Honeymoon in Paris

After the whispered vows, the exchange of rings, we sealed our commitment with a kiss. Our wedding was the ultimate realisation of my fairytale dream. It felt perfect, looked perfect in all its expensive detail from the meringue puff dress, the gold-edged place cards to the tango we danced expertly before the gathering of guests. That afternoon, I had it all plus my gorgeous Karl.

But it takes two to tango. By the end of that night, our wedding night, there would be just one, not two.

‘All the best!’ ‘We love you!’

The well-wishers gathered around the stretch limousine as we left for our honeymoon. Such a sweet word suggesting a holiday filled with love, romantic candle-lit dinners and starry nights.

The Eiffel Tower

The hotel, as lavish and elegant as our wedding venue overlooked the Eiffel Tower and the arrondissements of Paris. The national symbol lit the night sky like a golden jewel, reminding me of the tiny gilt replica attached to my key chain. How I loved Paris! I stood at the window in wonder as Karl popped the champagne bottle, turning at the sound to smile at my handsome husband.

Feeling like a movie star, I purred, ‘I’ll slip into something more comfortable.’

Leaving Karl by the sofa, I entered the luxurious bathroom to shower and change into the black, silky negligee. Despite our ten-year relationship, thoughts of the night ahead excited me. It was, after all, our wedding night, a consummation of our forever love. But when I returned to the bedroom Karl was nowhere in sight.

‘Darling? Karl? Where are you?’

The champagne bottle sat on the coffee table where Karl had placed it, seemingly moments before. Positioned next to the chilled bottle two glasses and a bowl of strawberries waited expectedly. Everything was in place but the groom. Where could he be?

A hotel room no matter how unfamiliar has few hiding places and why would Karl hide? Was it a prank? I searched the cupboard spaces, the small balcony, behind the curtains, even in a moment of desperation, peered under the bed. His puzzling absence led me to assume Karl had left for the lobby or the bar.

Pulling a dress over my revealing negligee, I left the room and took the lift to the lobby. As we occupied the honeymoon suite, I felt an idiot enquiring at the reception desk, ‘Have you seen my husband?’

The reply there and in the bar, was the same. ‘No, Ma’am.’

A visit to the spa, the gym and the swimming pool offered no further insight into the whereabouts of my new husband. Upstairs back in the room, Karl was still painfully absent, as was his phone. Wherever he had gone, his phone was with him but he did not answer my calls. I left message after message. Panic rising, I paced back and forth, tears welling. The Eiffel tower, the silent witness to my agony, faded from a symbol of sublime golden happiness to just a teary blur of garish light. Hours passed, consuming my wedding night in an evil spiral of time spent alone.

The next morning, red-eyed, I descended to again question the hotel staff. The answer was the same. ‘No, Ma’am.’

The first days of my honeymoon passed not pleasantly, lazily in a haze of love but agonizingly, embarrassingly at the police station.

Madame, votre mari, il retournera. C’est seulement deux jours. Madam your husband will return. It has only been two days.’

But days stretched to a week, then two. Unable to afford continued residence in the now ill-named ‘honeymoon suite’, I moved to a hotel nearby in case Karl returned, in case he rang. My mind whirled with unanswered questions. I recalled plots of movies featuring murders, kidnap and betrayal. Which plot was I in? Should I call my parents now happily on a European river cruise and worry them? Or ring my best girlfriend in Brussels who had in another stab of cruel irony, been my bridesmaid? What cruel twist of fate had transformed my previously contented life into this hellish nightmare? Two weeks ago, I had felt beautiful, adored, blessed and so fortunate. Karl had even used these words.

‘I adore you, Rissa! You are so beautiful. I am so blessed and fortunate!’

Though legally Clarissa Robinson, I now felt like a lonely child, the little girl Clarissa Franklin from Melbourne, Australia, the little girl who had by chance met the man of her dreams. Ten years previously, Karl had come to my rescue when thugs brazenly ran off with my backpack, leaving me penniless and shocked in central Rome. Karl, the Roman Adonis in a sharp suit helped me chase them but Rome has many laneways, and we abandoned the pursuit at the romantic Trevi fountain. Soon I realized my gain was greater than my loss. We fell in love, moved to Brussels for work and planned a future together.

Now once again I was an Australian alone, adrift in a foreign land. Where was my Karl to rescue me now from this present nightmare? The police found no trace of Karl. He had vanished as miraculously as he arrived ten years before. Returning to Brussels, I, with trepidation, turned the familiar lock of the familiar door. Karl was there yet he was not. Everywhere were the mundane reminders that he belonged here with me. His clothes, his computer, his vitamins, his toothbrush. The pillow still held his masculine scent. I cuddled it to my chest as I wandered through the apartment touching his possessions. Tears welled again. Since the wedding, I had spoken to no one but police and hotel staff. My family and friends assumed I was happily honeymooning in my favorite city.

*******

‘You’re back! How was the honeymoon?’ they asked on my return.

Muttering the expected reply, I lied, ‘Wonderful!’

Yes, I lied to everyone even myself. Back on the treadmill of life, I hid my pain under the cloak of work. But at night sleep eluded me. Karl haunted my dreams. I would wake in a tangle of sheets, heart pounding. For a guy who was missing, Karl appeared everywhere. He was in the crowds on the street, on the train, the bus and sitting, drinking coffee at the cafes. Karl was every tall man with dark hair, a stranger bewildered by my stare.

I became the mental embodiment of Munch’s ‘The Scream.’ The inability to focus on my work as legal counsellor forced me to realize that I needed to escape to a place where Karl could not be. After searching for him, willing his return, I had come full circle to never wanting to see him again. Australia, my native Australia seemed a solution. He would never be there. He hated my country, decried it as ‘that colonial outpost, that cultural desert.’ Admittedly, The Great Southern Land is a mere vegemite sandwich compared to the smoked salmon baguette with capers of Europe, but Australia now beckoned me like a comfortable old armchair.

So, I headed home over the oceans to suburban Melbourne to a welcome of parents, tears and comfort.

‘Oh, my darling girl! It will be okay now you are home,’ my mother reassured me.

Dare I believe these words, these promises?

Taking tiny steps back to life, I even managed a smile one sunny day when we enjoyed a picnic at the beach. Slowly I started to trust in life again. But then Karl came back.

An unexpected knock at the door. His face. It was Karl but not Karl. In shock, legs like jelly, clutching the door frame, I whispered.

‘Karl?’

‘No, I’m not Karl. I’m his brother Kyle, his twin,’ Karl’s face said.

‘Let me explain,’ he continued. ‘Karl sent me to apologise. You must have suffered. His actions are unthinkable. He has always had trouble with loving, with commitment. Ten years with you, that was a record for him but then he freaked out once he realized what marriage meant.’

‘But… Karl is an orphan?’ I retorted, my voice rising.

Was it a lie? Could this ‘stranger’ be Karl? I searched his face and hand for tell-tale signs. The small mole on the brow, the scar on the right wrist were absent from this version of Karl.

‘We fell out…. lost contact. You should move on…Sorry,’ he stuttered. Distracted, only snatches of his words registered.

In retrospect, I was rude, banging the door shut on that face, Karl’s face. Whether the face was actually Karl’s or not, I didn’t care, it needed to go.  Over the sound of my sobbing, I heard a car door shut, an engine start, a car drive away. The man with Karl’s face left as suddenly as he had come.

Karl was not dead, only in my heart. There had been no crime, no murder or kidnapping, just betrayal and lies. The only casualties were my heart and trust in the male species. No more Karls for me.

 

                                                                                                    The End

 

What makes a great love story?

What makes a great love story?

GREATEST LOVE STORIES

Love in all its forms, we crave it, need it. But romantic love is the ultimate wish for most of us. Whether we have romance in our lives or not, women enjoy reading romance novels or watching romance unfold on screen. Men do too, apparently, though to a lesser extent, and they prefer a bit of violence and or nudity thrown it to spice it up. Love Actually (2003), the movie, was an all-time block buster showcasing romantic love in its many forms. Something for everyone.

girls hands holding copy of wuthering heights
top love stories ever

In 2007, Richard Kingsbury, channel head of UKTV Drama, commissioned a study to nominate the twenty top love stories ever written. 2,000 readers participated from (I presume) Britain. The details on the actual polling are absent as with many polls. So, the age, gender and demographics are not easy to find. I tried.

The findings were interesting to me back then in 2007, even though I was not yet an author. I saved the article about Kingsley’s survey for future reference. You can read it by following this link.

The List

Below is Kingsley’s list;

The top 20 Love Stories ever.

1 Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, 1847

2 Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

3 Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare, 1597

4 Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, 1847

5 Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

6 The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, 1992

7 Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, 1938

8 Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, 1957

9 Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence, 1928

10 Far from The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy, 1874

11 My Fair Lady, Alan Jay Lerner, 1956

12 The African Queen, CS Forester, 1935

13 The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

14 Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen, 1811

15 The Way We Were, Arthur Laurents, 1972

16 War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, 1865

17 Frenchman’s Creek, Daphne du Maurier, 1942

18 Persuasion, Jane Austen, 1818

19 Take a Girl Like You, Kingsley Amis, 1960

20 Daniel Deronda, George Eliot, 1876

This list honors the classic romance novelists of the past. As a teenage fan of the works of Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and the Bronte Sisters, I appreciate this list. I’ve read all the titles, watched the film versions and love them all. For a tragic romantic, like me, they all deliver the required fix. So, what is the magical combination that makes a romance memorable and captivating?

The Love Formula. What is It?

Do we need a happy ending, beauty, wealth, magnificent mansions for our heroes and heroines?

The answer is ‘no’. Scroll down the list and you will see why that is not necessary at all. In fact, the harder it is for the two lovers to be together, the better the rating. Catherine and Heathcliff, Romeo and Juliet, Darcy and Elizabeth, our top three couples all had barriers to their love. Family, class, wealth, and religion can all make love forbidden. And when something is forbidden, don’t we want it even more?

Great Passion

All the novels capture great passion that defies societal taboos and conventions. Love risks all to be with the other. True love is finding one’s soul mate and no two lovers define that ‘oneness’ as Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff in the winning title. The love story in Wuthering Heights emerges from the vast desolation of the moors. It is a brooding, dark novel, tragic but also stunning in its depth of passion. Heathcliff as our hero is both cruel and aloof, the Byronian hero, yet beneath the surface his passion for Catherine runs hot. These two share a love beyond the grave. Their love is more than a physical love. It is metaphysical, almost religious in nature. It is everlasting.

Romeo and Juliet Love

The same can be said of Romeo and Juliet. They die for each other. Another young love, another tragic ending. But what beauty in the language of Shakespeare, as he writes of such love. “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the East and Juliet is the sun!” They worship each other as do Catherine and Heathcliff. Don’t we all wish that for ourselves? A love that defies all obstacles and transcends time. I include this forbidden love in my historical romance novel, Whispers Through Time.

True Loves Never Runs Smooth

As you can see by scrolling down the list, love stories, unlike fairytales, don’t have to end happily ever after. Some do. Elizabeth and Darcy eventually settle their misunderstandings and ride off into the sunset at the end of Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre marries her Mr. Rochester and Sense and Sensibility offers a happy resolution of matters as well. But not without complication, barriers, and torment.

Too easy, and love stories are boring. Boy meets girl followed by an easy path to marriage and happiness. No fun there. This love formula is not what we want in book and film. Shakespeare wrote, ‘the course of true love never did run smooth.’ (Midsummer Night’s Dream. ) The plot of this play is classically riddled with a myriad of misunderstandings, false identities and trickeries before the couples settle with their intended.

Gone With the Wind Love

In Gone with the Wind, we witness another love affair, beset by difficulty even after marriage. Rhett Butler declares to his wife, Scarlett, in the final lines, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ How was that love story to end? We will never know. Margaret Mitchell did not write the sequel.

The English Patient, a poignant sweeping drama, a beautiful film, also features a tearjerker ending. Great love can be so great that it is destructive. I could go on down the list. But don’t worry, I won’t.

Not Always Happy Endings

Suffice it to say, that these novels, most transformed into films, capture our hearts not because of ‘happily ever afters’,  but because of the passionate love the characters have for each other. Basically, we all want that passion, we want to experience it again and again through film and reading maybe because our own lives have lost the passion. We want to experience the full gamut of emotions, relive it or know it if it never came our way.

Why Do We Love These Love Stories?

As well as nominating their top romances Kingsley’s participants commented on why they read romantic novels.

Forty per cent of women read romantic novels to feel better, 15% for nostalgic reasons and 10% to compensate for their own less highly-colored love lives. This makes total sense. Romance novels are escapism from our own lack-lustre lives. All books are of course, but crime novels and films do not have the same feel-good effect unless you are clever enough to solve the crime before the last chapter.

Historical Dramas Sell

Richard Kingsbury says, “We find that romantic drama is a very powerful kind of escapism for our viewers, and well-made costume dramas like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre have an extra dimension to them. Viewers get caught up in the beauty and language of the period.” This interest in other people’s passions and history still resonates today with the popularity of the Bridgeton period dramas based on Julia Quinn’s novels.

I Wish You Love

Book, film, real life, I wish you love in your life in whatever form you take it. It is the feel-good emotion that nurtures above all others. Women need nurture. Treat yourself to some love today!

Joni Scott has written three novels and award-winning short stories. She co-hosts a women’s blog; Whisperingencouragement.com and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com