Being the friend of a romance writer is not for the faint of heart. Romance writers, like most artists, can be…umm…just a little bit…neurotic. Yes, yes – I know it’s hard to believe. But trust me, we can tie ourselves into knots no one can untangle.
They like me!
No, wait, they don’t.
This book is going to be amazing!
This book sucks and I’m a talentless hack.
The hero is the sexiest thing since Christian Grey.
The hero is more stalkerish than Christian Grey.
This heroine is so funny!
This heroine is so obnoxious! And she’s not at all funny.
And those are just the thoughts that can run through my head in the span of a single day/hour at the keyboard. It’s hard on my brain, and it’s hard on the people who hang around me and my brain. I can be cranky. I can be giddy. I can be needy. I can be self-absorbed to be point of being a hermit. And, when deadlines are looming, I’m stressed to the max. And sometimes I’m tired. Really, really tired.
What kind of friend does a romance writer need? We need cheerleaders. We need honest straight-talkers. We need reality-checkers. We need understanders. We need fellow romance readers. And we need folks who hate romance novels, but like us anyway. We need solid shoulders to cry on. We need party people to celebrate with. Did I mention we need cheerleaders?
I hit the gold standard when it comes to friends, because I have all of the above, and then some. We stay in touch via email, text and phone, and we talk about a lot more than just books (I’ve learned in the most painful way possible that a friendship that becomes solely about writing simply doesn’t work). Friendship needs balance.
It may not be easy for me to read an email from a friend telling me my hero is coming off as an asshole, but I need to hear that. I need a friend who loves me enough to say it. Probably the funniest (and most spot on) feedback I ever got was from a beta reader bestie who told me my heroine was a weeble-wobble – she was always bobbling and wobbling and stumbling and dropping. I laughed, but I also cringed. She was right, damn it, and I had to go back to the drawing board on the heroine’s character traits. She could be nervous without being helpless.
I need the friends who get it when they invite me to an event and I have to say “Sorry – I’m on deadline.” I need the friend’s husband who “borrowed” my manuscript of Halcyon from his wife (he’s not exactly my target audience), then quietly told me he couldn’t put it down and that it would definitely be published because it was just that good. Those words came on one of those “talentless hack” days when I desperately needed to hear them. And that’s the key – friends know when to say exactly what I want to hear. Well, it may not always be what I want to hear, but it’s what I need to hear, for better or worse.
I’m blessed with a group of local girlfriends who are happily invested in my decision to give writing a try. And when I say “local,” I mean we walk to each other’s homes on the best street in the world to leave on. We’re a crazy group even when it has nothing to do with writing, as evidenced when we plan a Valentine’s Party. It doesn’t take much to make us silly and get us laughing. We have crazy nicknames for each other (I’m “Frisky”). And good lord, I need those crazy laughs. I need these women who make sure I get out of the house and away from my computer once in a while.
And if there’s wine involved, well, all bets are off. Especially when a wine tasting takes place at Halloween and I volunteer to create masks for each of us. We have a damned good time whenever we’re together. But it goes far deeper than fun and laughs with our gang. Our friendships are the real deal, through ups and downs.
Their friendship has flat-out humbled me. Our four couples take turns getting the Group of 8 together for dinner throughout the year, so I thought nothing of it when Ferocious invited us over one Saturday night in November. When I walked in, I immediately noticed the décor – there were stacks of books everywhere. The whole house was decorated with stacks of books. The table centerpiece was a stack of books. And the cake? Well, the cake was a (slightly exaggerated) Harlequin contract for The Hide-Away. It was a Contract Party! For me! We played author games, and just generally had too much fun. That’s friendship.
And last night, they did it again, but just the girls this time. They whisked me out for wine and dessert as a surprise to celebrate my second submission to Harlequin, Halcyon, which was sent in before deadline last week. Now that doesn’t mean it’s sold yet. Hell, it doesn’t even mean it’s done, because it’s not. Three chapters are done. A synopsis is done. But there’s a whole lot of revising left to do to the rest of it.
But I beat my deadline, and that was enough for Ferocious, Fantastic and Fabulous to throw me a party. Or maybe it was just an excuse for drinks. I prefer to think it’s the former. You gotta have friends, and I have the best!