"Write what you know!"
How many kajillion times have you heard that? It's a rule I've lived by...or maybe not. I started in post-apocalyptic science fiction. I wandered into thrillers set at a national TV food channel's studio (and dozens of others exotic locations I've never been to). Then I wandered into military romances (though I never served and they're set in places I've never been).
So, I've always pushed back on: "Write what you know!" with: "Write what you're passionate about!"
I wrote post-apoc SF because I am fascinated by the power of the people who find a way to stand up and try to save/rebuild the future. I write military romance because a) I love a good love story, and b) the more I research the military, the more amazing they become to me. Those who choose to serve, not as a job but as a career, are making an astonishing choice that took me a long time to understand. The more I understand, the more I am knocked back by these amazing men and women. They have driven me to do my best to show who they are.
I don't write the grittiness of war (not much, and certainly not the blood and grime), but I do everything I can to get their stories right. Why they are there. Why they choose to stay and why they miss it so much when they go.
My writing career has been a constant struggle to get it right. I typically research an hour for every three hours of writing. Still, despite over thirty military romances (not counting short stories).
This year I decided that I would write my second contemporary romance series. I have mentioned it from time to time over these last months, but it is the difference in the storytelling that I'm looking at today.
A few years later, I would travel this same route on a fully-loaded touring bike as the beginning of my solo, eighteen-month, bicycle tour around the world.
Fifteen years ago I was back, this time as a writer, for a two-week, deep-immersion class on the coast. Since that moment, the Oregon Coast has been an integral part of my life. I've come down for workshops, vacations, family trips, and, finally, to live. I'm now a full-time writer living in a small Oregon town.
The central coast, my favorite stretch of it, is 150 miles of beaches, wild forest, and small towns. The monster is barely ten thousand people (if you don't count the tens of thousands of tourists who descend every weekend).
So, I created the small fictitious town of Eagle Cove, which is drawn from a dozen different places along the stretch.
I have to pause here and say just HOW MUCH I love my job. I love the writing and the storytelling. I've fallen in love with enough of my characters that I don't understand how my wife isn't screamingly jealous (maybe it's because they aren't real...at least not to her!). As much as I enjoy writing the fast-paced romantic suspense... As much fun as it is to streak across the sky with the Night Stalkers and the Firehawks, or to slip in and out of dangerous locales with Delta Force... I was completely charmed by the easy days and friendly folk of Eagle Cove.
A contemporary romance has a pace about it that is as comfortable as a favorite chair by the fire on a cold, wet day. Really, it's the best analogy I can come up with. It's true for the writing process as well as the reading. By "Writing what I know" I managed to slip deeper into the stories. Unlike a romantic suspense, a contemporary romance hangs entirely on the characters. I'm not saying the former doesn't require great characters, but there's a razzle-dazzle there that doesn't exist in contemporary. It was a simple joy to write, rather than a challenge.
Even unlike my Angelo's Hearth contemporary series set in Seattle's Pike Place Market, Eagle Cove is a slice of life in a town that is slow-paced and quiet...except to the characters living there. To them, their small town is a whorl of events and emotions, some small...some as big as falling in love for the rest of your life.
My joy is writing romantic suspense...but this year I discovered that my heart dances down the beaches in Eagle Cove.
Want a taste of Eagle Cove? This story was the monthly free story on my website for a week in July. Now I'm making it exclusively free to readers of Romancing the Genres for one week more.
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Enjoy the trip...I certainly did.
M. L. Buchman has over 50 novels and 30 short stories in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and twice Booklist “Top 10 of the Year,” placing two titles on their “Top 101 Romances of the Last 10 Years” list. He has been nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of the Year” by RT Book Reviews and was a 2016 RWA RITA finalist. In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.
In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, and designed and built two houses. Somewhere along the way he also bicycled solo around the world.
He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife and is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing and receive exclusive content by subscribing to his newsletter at: