When I first started talking about writing a romance novel starring the villainess of one of my most beloved series (The Fixed Series), people told me I was crazy.
Not just one or two people, mind you. More than a dozen comments, emails, private messages. My agent questioned whether it was a good idea. One of my closest beta readers said she’d read anything I wrote, but did it have to be her?
I was pretty sure, based on feedback, that if it had been a man I wanted to redeem, I would have had much less backlash. A good deal of romance is based on a not-so-good hero becoming a better man. There are far fewer stories where a not-so-good heroine is redeemed.
I put off the idea for several years because of the blatant display of disinterest, but all the while the story brewed in my head. Partly because I’m that type of person that when you tell me I’m crazy to do something, I just want to do it more. I’m a challenge-authority kind of gal. The writer who likes to flip tropes on their head. The woman who consistently responds with, “Let’s just see about that.”
If it had just been my stubborn streak, though, I would have abandoned the project. I’m the sole provider for my family, and I’m smart enough to realize that writing a story that my readers don’t want is not the wisest business decision.
But it was more than being stubborn that brought me back time and time again to Celia Werner’s story. She fascinated me as a character. She’d done mean things to good people, things that I see play out in less dramatic ways in the real world, and I couldn’t stop wondering why she would do that. What compelled her? What drives people—what drives women—to hurt others?
Lots of reasons came up as I continued to mull over it, but one answer spoke loudest from the crowd—she was broken. People hurt others because they are broken. Women hurt others because they’ve been broken.
So very often, those women have been broken by men.
In today’s culture, that felt like a very important topic for me to explore. Especially when I tend to write alpha men with qualities that are often associated with toxic masculinity in the real world. It seemed relevant to differentiate masculine from machismo. In other words, differentiate men who are strong, courageous, and assertive from men who use their strength, courage and assertiveness to hold power over women.
Besides the aptness, Celia’s story was completely on brand. Because broken people finding love—specifically dangerously broken people finding love—is exactly what Laurelin Paige books are all about.
And so I got brave.
I focused in on what it would take to tell such a complicated story. I decided to make it possible to read this series and enjoy it without ever reading any of my other books. I freaked out a little when I realized it would need to be four books (oh-my-goodness-four-books-is-a-ton-of-books!), but when I talked myself off that ledge, I carved out time in my schedule, and put book one up for preorder.
Then I took a deep breath and dove in.
It wasn’t easy. The writing itself flowed well enough, but facing the terrible and dark places that Celia has been was much harder. I spent significant time researching and talking to a couple of close friends who were sensitive to the subject matter. I put my blinders on to the many readers who said they would never read this book (which is a decision I support completely—not every book is for every reader). I reminded myself this was a story I believed in, a story I needed to tell. I focused. I meditated.
And when I was done with book one, no matter what the critical response was, I decided I’d be proud of it. And I am.
Now, several books into the series, I’m over-the-moon grateful for the support readers have given me. It’s beyond what I expected, and I’m very lucky for that. But even if I hadn’t received such great reviews and comments, I would still believe in this story. I wouldn’t want to write romance books that didn’t include some aspect of redemption in them. To me, that’s the truest form of love.
The idea that people can recover, that we can heal, that we can atone, that we can change and become someone better than what we once were, that no matter what we’ve done we are still worthy of being loved—that notion is essential to the progress of humanity. I can’t imagine living in a world where we didn’t believe growth was possible. I certainly wouldn’t want to.
About the Contributor
With millions of books sold worldwide, Laurelin Paige is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling Author. She is a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however. When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching Game of Thrones or Letterkenny, or dreaming of Michael Fassbender. She’s also a proud member of Mensa International though she doesn’t do anything with the organization except use it as material for her bio. She is represented by Rebecca Friedman.
You can connect with Laurelin on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LaurelinPaige or on Instagram @thereallaurelinpaige. You can also visit her website, www.laurelinpaige.com, to sign up for emails about new releases.