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Mary Balogh: On Starting a New Romance Series

New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh discusses her new historical romance novel, Remember Love.

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of the Bedwyn Saga, the Simply quartet, the Huxtable quintet, the seven-part Survivors’ Club series, and the Westcott series. Learn more online at marybalogh.com, and find her on Facebook.

Mary Balogh: On Starting a New Romance Series

Mary Balogh

In this post, Mary discusses her new historical romance novel, Remember Love, her hope for readers, and more!

Name: Mary Balogh
Literary agent: Maria Carvainis
Book title: Remember Love
Publisher: Berkley
Release date: July 12, 2022
Genre/category: Historical romance
Previous title: Someone Perfect (Westcott series)
Elevator pitch for the book: A mere hour or so after Devlin Ware, heir to an earldom, finally declared his love for Gwyneth Rhys, who had adored him in secret for years, he was banished from home when he discovered his father cheating on his mother and denounced him before a houseful of family and neighbors. Now, six, years later, Devlin is back home as the new Earl of Stratton following his father's death, and Gwyneth, who is about to become engaged to someone else, must decide if this hard, dour, embittered man she once loved is worth fighting for.

Mary Balogh: On Starting a New Romance Series

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What prompted you to write this book?

I was coming to the end of the 10-part Westcott series. There were (and are) still a few leftover characters who needed their stories told, but my publisher wanted me to start a new series. I was a bit undecided about what to do, but I can never resist a new challenge so set about dreaming up another situation that would be the basis of a whole set of love stories.

The new series again centers upon a family—the Wares of Ravenswood Hall, most notably the Countess of Stratton, her three sons, her two daughters, and her stepson. Book 1, Remember Love, opens with a summer fete being celebrated at Ravenswood, home of the Earl of Stratton. The day culminates in a major crisis that will set the tone for the whole of the rest of the series as the various main characters grapple with the enormity of what has happened.

One thing I liked about this new idea as soon as it came to me was that the timeline of these stories overlaps that of the Westcott series in such a way that I can hope to weave those leftover characters I mentioned earlier into the new series.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

As I remember it, I was asked in the early spring of last year (2021) to do a new series. I came up with the overall idea, dreamed up a basic plot for the first book, and wrote it by the end of July.

Did the idea change at all in that time? The overall series idea has remained the same. That is necessary because all the books will be based on it, and once Book 1 is published I cannot go back let's say in Book 4 and change something that was established in Book 1 however much I may wish I could. As far as the idea for Book 1 is concerned, though, well, that is a different matter.

My books are character driven, and my understanding of the characters develops through the whole book. I can never plan ahead. Each individual story idea is constantly changing as I write. I cannot even say how often in the course of writing a book I go back to revise and rewrite. It is certainly multiple times. So yes, each book changes many times while I am writing it.

I want the story to flow and the characters to appear authentic. I want them to be credible. I don't want them doing or saying things just because it suits my purpose. They must be true to themselves. I may have to drop a plot idea I had planned because by the time I come to it I realize it is no longer something these characters would do. I have to let them tell me what they will do.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

My publisher has handled many of my books and I do not expect any great surprises. They always do a stellar job of editing, publishing, packaging, marketing, and promoting each book. The nearest thing to a surprise this time was the decision to bring Remember Love out in hardcover before releasing the mass market edition in December. It was a very pleasant surprise, I may add.

Mary Balogh: On Starting a New Romance Series

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

My answer here would be pretty much the same as what I said earlier. My books as I write them are a constant surprise to me. I would be a bit worried if they were not because I am not a plotter. I find it quite impossible to write even a vague synopsis for the book ahead of time and am very happy that I have an editor who understands that and trusts me to submit something she is going to like.

If ever I do find that the plot of the book I am writing is proceeding in an easy, routine, relaxed sort of way, I know that something has to be wrong, and experience has taught me to stop immediately and go back to the beginning to find out exactly what that is. If the excitement and anxiety of not quite knowing where the story is going next or how the characters are going to solve all their problems and commit themselves to the love relationship is not there or I get the feeling that what I am writing is coming from my head rather than from some unknown, unconscious part of my being, then I know I am off track.

If I find I am just going through the motions (and it does happen), I soon get bored. And if I am bored, what can I expect of my readers?

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

My hopes for every book I write are sort of layered. At the basic level, I hope to entertain. If entertainment in the form of thorough enjoyment is all a reader gets from it, then I am satisfied. There are worse things to do with one's life than entertain people and give them a few hours of happy escape from the reality of their lives and the world around them.

Beyond that, I hope that some readers at least will appreciate the deep humanness of my characters and even recognize themselves in some of them. I never want my heroes and heroines to be cardboard characters, just two attractive people who fall in love despite the odds that a plot stacks against them and end up living happily ever after. I want them to be real people to the reader, with all the complexities and contradictions of human nature.

At a higher level again, I hope that readers will see the story as something more than just a romance. I want them to see it as a love story. Basically, of course, it is going to be the love and romance experienced by the two main characters, but in its wider sense it will be a story about love itself in all its many forms.

At the very highest level, I always hope some readers will find something that touches them deeply in a very personal way, some sentence or two that makes them pause and think and feel, an occasional insight that resonates with them. I do not preach in my books. If they only entertain readers, that is fine. But I am always touched when I hear from readers who have found and appreciated something in my books (even if it is one sentence) that goes beyond just the love story that is being told.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

I always give the same answer to this question, and it is a simple one. If you want to write, then write. Would-be writers must surely be the greatest procrastinators of all time. I talk to so many of them who have every excuse imaginable for putting off the moment of actually writing. They have to wait until they retire or until their children grow up; they need to do some research on how to write; they have to do more reading to analyze how other people write; they have to attend more writing workshops or conferences; and so on.

Writing is hard work even though it should also be a joy. A book does not write itself in a few days or even a few weeks. For most people it will take a few months at the very least of constant effort (for me it takes an average of four months). It is a slog. It takes patience and determination and discipline. It needs to be done! It sounds daunting, perhaps too daunting.

But if you really want to be a writer, then you must be a writer. Start writing. And keep on writing.

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