Tuesday, August 16, 2016

He Missed Being on the Cover
by Jo Ann Brown

Yep, he’s an important character in the story, a plot device that brings the hero and heroine together...and he didn’t make the cover.
I’m talking about one of the alpacas owned by the hero in An Amish Reunion.
When I first got the idea for the book, I knew nothing about alpacas except that being in the store where alpaca wool sweaters are sold makes me itch like crazy. Alpaca wool is supposed to be good for people who have allergies. Too bad nobody told my hives. I’d included a llama in a Regency entitled A Highland Folly (written as Jo Ann Ferguson), but even though both llamas and alpacas live in South America, they are different.
So it was time to hit the books. After doing some research on these adorable animals who look as if they were designed by Disney, I made the alpacas into the plot device that triggers the realization for the hero and the heroine that living without each other was a bad idea. Then came the time to offer input on the cover art, and again the alpacas were front and center in the information I provided.
However, none of my cute alpacas made the cover.
I’d gotten caught up in a common writer trap. I forgot that the most important parts of a romance novel are always the hero and the heroine. No matter how much fun it is to have silly alpacas or how heartwarming it can be for a child to find his way home, the story is always primarily about the hero and the heroine. As soon as a writer forgets that, the book is in trouble. It’ll get kicked back to the author with a rejection stating either that the work isn’t focused enough or that the story doesn’t have enough emotional power. Worse is when the reader feels that the heart of the novel isn’t the tale of two hearts growing together.
So it’s up to the author to create something new and wonderful at the same time it’s a story “old as time” (clearly I have Disney on the mind even though I’m watching the Olympics as I write this) where two very different people meet and are changed so much that they can’t imagine living without each other.
It’s a lesson authors have to remember with each new project...or else they won’t have to worry about what or who’s on the cover. Because there won’t be a romance novel without that romance in the spotlight on every page of the story.


  1. In truth, I might be more successful if I could keep the hero & heroine at center stage, but I often don't. (In defense of myself, I like reading where the romance doesn't always stay front and center, too.) Thanks for the reminder--what a great way of presenting it.

  2. We all let secondary characters take over some scenes occasionally. When some of them are really great we discover our next hero or heroine!

    But yes, keeping the central characters' romance front and centre is important.

    After all, a cozy mystery isn't a mystery without a body!

  3. Great post, Jo Ann. I'm sure we all know this, but it's great to be reminded.

  4. Alpacas! Who would expect an alpaca in an Amish romance? Hat's off to you, JO, for being so imaginative.

  5. I agree. I love books where hero and heroine are thrown together and stay close for most of the story. Romance is all about the relationship, IMO!


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