One of my favorite things to do is to introduce authors who I consider to be exceptional writers and story tellers. Please meet my friend and author, P. C. Zick.
“Revisions are a part of the writing process for all authors, but it took a “re-vision” of my writing life to give me a new passion for my work.”
It all happened when I joined an online romance writing class several years ago. Curiosity brought me to the course because I felt stalled with my next project. I occasionally read romances, but had never considered writing one. Even after I enrolled, I considered it a lark that might spark inspiration for a new novel, but not one in the romance genre.
Up until the class, I wrote contemporary fiction and created my own form of eco-journalism within the novel form. That sounds rather snooty, doesn’t it? Someone described it that way in a review for one of my novels. I just wrote about topics that interested me, and environmental issues remained at the forefront of my career as a journalist and editor. Writing a novel with dozens of characters involved in several different subplots meant a year or more of drafting, revising, shifting, editing, revising, and finally publishing.
“No wonder I had burned out. I was ready for a break. I didn’t have a topic for another book looming, so I thought the romance class might prod my imagination. I didn’t know where it would lead, or if I’d even write a book.”
Even though I wasn’t sure where it would direct me, I prepared to take the class. I studied the romance genre. I interacted with other writers, some of them experienced romance authors with several books to their credit. I read romance novels endlessly. Some of them weren’t very good, and some of them made me sigh with envy at the ease in which a story unfolded.
“There is a general formula to a romance, but the challenge for the author comes in the approach. Cliched plots are probably more pronounced in this genre than any other, so creating fresh storylines and non-cliched characters is a must.”
I learned from the good as well as from the bad. I knew what I didn’t want to do. A glimmer of an idea for writing a romance emerged.
The more I studied and listened, the more interested I became in working on a fictional world where my characters could live and love. I created a town populated with dysfunction as its slogan. Within in the community, I designed a central location for those characters to gather at the Victory Tavern. And my first romance, Behind the Altar, was born.
The prodigal son, Dean, returns home to find his estranged brother engaged to a newcomer in his hometown of Victory, Florida. His best friend owns the local tavern and his former girlfriend still pines for him ten years later.
The beautiful newcomer, Leah, is bent on helping the area’s homeless. It’s almost too good to be true until it all starts to fall apart. Leah and Dean are irresistibly drawn to one another, the homeless project is in jeopardy, and Dean vows to help Leah.
Attraction, complications, lock-in, more complications, a breakup, and finally the “happily ever after” or HEA—all the elements of the genre. Why read it if we know the ending? Because we want to know how it all comes together. It’s why we still go see classic plays or movies redone. We know Hamlet’s fate, yet we don’t know how a particular director will present the drama, and we don’t know how a certain actor might interpret the character. We watch to see how craftily it’s done. Same thing with reading a romance. We all know how it will end, but we don’t know how the author will get us to that end.
As I delved into writing Behind the Altar, I relaxed more than I ever had in my writing. In some ways, writing romance taught me more about writing fiction than the other genres. It’s a process that must be followed, and with its rather streamlined form, the elements of plot are on display. Do it wrong, and the readers are displeased.
“Dialogue, plot happenings, the HEA—all of these must be done with finesse, which I’m still honing.”
Some members of the class suggested we write our romances for a multi-author box set—another first for me. I rushed to complete Behind the Altar. I had three months from writing the first line to having a finished product. As a result of the quick turnaround, the final product in 2014 was considered a novella—a shorter form of the novel. But I was satisfied with the final product and the response from readers. However, I knew I could do better.
When I finished, I missed the town and the characters, which led me to write another book in the series. In Behind the Bar, the Victory Tavern owner and Dean’s best friend, Reggie, finds himself at a crossroads with his girlfriend of five years. Susie, who happens to be Leah’s best friend, wants to get married, but Reggie can’t bring himself to make the commitment. The other characters all return—along with a few more added to create more complications.
When I finished, I once again found myself not wanting to leave Victory. Thus, Behind the Curtain came to life. In this story, it’s Susie’s sister, Lisa, who stirs up the town when she brings a TV crew to Victory to film a reality show. Lisa and her friend, Tommy, spar over the ethics of such a production, and sparks fly.
“Readers who read the first three books kept asking me to do one thing. They wanted Sally Jean, the sexy minor character in all three books, to have her own story.”
She interfered in relationships, yet it was clear Sally Jean was misunderstood. And behind it all, she was a nice person. I kept putting it off. I thought I’d run out of things to write about everyone. And I didn’t know if I had enough to write about Sally Jean to sustain a novella, let alone a novel.
Early this year, I received some advice from a marketing expert: Change the covers, lengthen the first three books into full-length novels, and write a fourth book in the series. I’d never gone back to one of my novels before, except to do minor edits. I’d never considered doing a major rewrite with the objective of lengthening the story. But then again, I’d never thought I’d write a romance or a series of romances.
What I was told stayed with me. I started with the covers, which hadn’t previously been romantic enough. Lots of romances these days have naked torsos and muscular pecs, but I couldn’t bring myself to go that route. I don’t judge anyone else who uses that type of cover, but it’s just not my style. However, I could go more romantic. My new covers all contain couples. I chose the pictures to depict how I think my characters would look in romantic poses.
Then I started Sally Jean’s story. It came easily. I really did know Sally Jean better than I thought. Simultaneously, I began rewriting the first three.
“The past three months, while I’ve completed this project have been some of the best of my writing career so far.”
I loved going back to Leah and Dean’s story and deepening their characters because they’d become integral to the stories that followed. And it was also interesting to know what happened to the other characters after Behind the Altar ends. I could then strengthen their characterizations.
And now I have a series of four books—all full-length novels and all with some type of social consciousness. Romance doesn’t have to be all fluff and silliness. Real-life issues and solutions can be woven into the plots.
“Since taking the class in 2014, I’ve written seven novels and four novellas of contemporary romance.”
I plan to write another series—this one with six stories about the Crandall siblings of Chicago. The first book, Love on Trial, releases May 23, 2017, with the second one already in draft stage. I’m also branching out from contemporary romance and am currently drafting a paranormal romance this summer.
And then there’s a book simmering in a notebook. It will take me back to contemporary fiction—or women’s fiction—as it follows a group of friends who have known each other for forty years. The time has come for them to face some truths about their lives when one of them dies. The characters are all facing sixtieth birthdays, yet they are still fighting the same demons that have plagued them since college.
“Changing gears and plunging into romance recharged my writing batteries. Even though I’ve written seventeen novels, I’m still learning and absorbing and honing. And with each story I tell, I know there’s more to study and more stories to tell.”
Did I hear someone mention murder mystery? Thriller? Sci-Fi? Young Adult?
Re-vision—it’s a good thing.
Author, P.C. Zick
About the Author
Bestselling author P.C. Zick describes herself as a storyteller no matter what she writes. And she writes in a variety of genres, including romance, contemporary fiction, and nonfiction. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction.
The three novels in her Florida Fiction Series contain stories of Florida and its people and environment, which she credits as giving her a rich base for her storytelling. “Florida’s quirky and abundant wildlife—both human and animal—supply my fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable.”
Her contemporary romances in the Behind the Love series are also set in Florida. The novels in her most recent series, Smoky Mountain Romances, are set in in Murphy, North Carolina. She is currently working on a new romance series, Rivals in Love. Join the Crandall family of Chicago as the siblings find love despite their focus on successful careers. All of her books are stand-alone reads, even if they appear in a series.
Her novels contain elements of romance with strong female characters, handsome heroes, and descriptive settings. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion, and through her fiction, she imparts this philosophy in an entertaining manner with an obvious love for her characters, plot, and themes.
Behind the Altar – https://www.amazon.com/Behind-Altar-Love-Book-ebook/dp/B00N2WPFD0
Behind the Bar – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00V41FL26
Behind the Curtain – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015JTHQ5I
Behind the Door – https://www.amazon.com/Behind-Door-Love-Book-ebook/dp/B06XK79QZK
Subscribe to P. C. Zick’s Newsletter and never miss a thing! – http://bit.ly/2neozgi
Website: P.C. Zick
Blog: Living Lightly
Follow on Twitter: @PCZick
P.C. Zick is also an editor. Her services include editing, proofreading, formatting, coaching, and consultation on publishing. Please visit her website, The Manuscript Doctor, to find out more about her services and rates.
Thanks for stopping by to meet P. C. Zick. You will LOVE her books! <3