Monday, July 18, 2011

On Writing Princess Romances by Harlequin author Melissa McClone

Happy Monday! My friend Melissa McClone has a new Harlequin Romance book out this month called NOT-SO-PERFECT PRINCESS and is on a book tour now!
I'm thrilled that she's stopped here today to talk a little about the recent subject of her book: princesses in romances.

So please welcome, Melissa!

A little bit about her: Melissa McClone writes for Harlequin Romance. Her November '10 release Christmas Magic on the Mountain is a RITA® Finalist in the Contemporary Series Category. She graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but quit her job to write romance novels. Writing happily ever afters is a lot more fun than analyzing jet engine performance. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, four cats and a dog named Chaos.

I'm so happy to be back at Me, My Muse, and I. I had a lot of fun here during my visit in February! If I was a new-to-you author then or am a new-to-you now, a look at my new release Not-So-Perfect Princess and my February one Expecting Royal Twins! might lead you to assume I write a lot of princess books. In fact as this virtual book tour was being set up, my gracious host today, Jennifer, told the organizers, "… she does a lot of themes with princesses, maybe she could talk about that and why."

Given the popularity of royal romances, I'm happy I've been able to write three of them. One for Silhouette Romance and two for Harlequin Romance. All three stories feature prince heroes, but only the most recent two had princess heroines. The stories are standalone, but one character makes an appearance in all three books—Princess Julianna of Aliestle. I've been dying to write her story for years now!

It all started when I wrote a manuscript called If The Ring Fits… It was a Golden Heart Finalist in 1998. (I'd sold another book to the Silhouette Yours Truly line in late 1997 but due to the rules at that time I could remain in the contest.) The hero was a prince, but the heroine was a klutzy American. I love rags-to-riches stories, but I wanted to flip it. I made my heroine wealthy and tired of the privileged life. Her ideal Prince Charming wasn't a prince, but a cowboy. She didn't want to live in a castle, but a ranch.

To counter my so-not-ready-to-be-a-princess heroine, I created a secondary character who was the perfect European princess, the kind of woman my hero should marry (except for the fact he fell in love with the klutz!) From the minute Princess Julianna appeared I knew she should have her own story. My critique partner at the time even said Jules would be the perfect Sleeping Beauty heroine. I agreed.

I eventually sold If the Ring Fits… to Silhouette Romance. It was released in early 2000. I kept telling myself I wanted to write Jule's story. By then I had already sold a third book. I had an almost two year old and was expecting another child in a couple of months. My editor suggested I write something else, so I wrote about my klutzy American's cousin. I kept telling myself someday I'd write Jule's book!

Someday took over a decade! My love of reading royalty-themed books made me want to write another. By this time Silhouette Romance had merged with Harlequin Romance so I developed a brand new story, what eventually would become Expecting Royal Twins!

I wanted to add a twist to this royalty story so I had my princess, Isabella aka Izzy, not know she was royalty (something that has been done many times in the past) but I also gave her a non-traditional occupation—a car mechanic who dreamed of working on a NASCAR pit crew. The last thing Izzy wanted to be was a princess, married to a crown prince and forced to wear gowns, heels and a tiara!

I needed a foil to Izzy. Someone who could be a mentor and a friend, a fairy godmother so to speak. I knew the perfect person…princess…Julianna. I asked my editor if I could resurrect Jules from my old Silhouette Romance. As soon as I received the okay, I couldn't stop myself from brainstorming about Jules' own story.

As the days and weeks passed, I knew I needed to ask my editor if I could write her tale next, but part of me was worried. It had taken ten years for me to write a second royalty-themed story. Would it be another ten years before I got the chance?

Imagine my surprise when my editor asked if I wanted to participate in the Once Upon a Kiss miniseries where each story is loosely based on a fairytale. I knew right away I wanted to write Princess Julianna's story and use Sleeping Beauty. My editor agreed. I actually screamed when I read her email!

In Not-So-Perfect Princess, Julianna strives to be the most dutiful, perfect princess she can be. Not easy when she's from an archaic country with outdated views of gender equality. But she believes she can make a difference to her countrywomen by doing what's required of her—marrying a crown prince she doesn't love. But to do that, she'll have to sacrifice her own dreams and keep sleepwalking through life. Not the best existence even if you get to wear a tiara! Unless a handsome prince can awaken her!

I don't know when I'll get the chance to write another princess story. My next heroine who'll be out in my November '11 release is a paramedic and volunteer mountain rescuer. But I hope it's not another ten years! I think princesses make really great romance heroines because from the time I was a little girl I've wanted to be a princess. But since my Prince Charming came without a royal pedigree and a castle, writing about a princess is the next best thing!
Thanks so much, Melissa! I LOVE princess themed romances!

Here's a little more about Melissa's book:

While the Princess was sleeping…

Dutiful Princess Julianna has a secret—she’s actually happiest makeup free, sailing with the sea breeze in her hair. Her attraction to rebel prince Alejandro is instant—but her intended is his brother, the proper but dull Enrique!

For the first time, Julianna’s irresistibly tempted. Before long, she’s spending her nights sailing with gorgeous Alejandro while the rest of the palace believes she’s sleeping. Soon she’ll have to choose—remain the perfect princess, or follow her heart and stop sleepwalking her way through life.…

**CONTEST**MELISSA WILL BE GIVING AWAY a $20 Amazon gift certificate to a random commenter from her tour; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found HERE.

I love that Melissa's book has a Sleeping Beauty theme instead of the classic Cinderella theme (although I'm a sucker for both)!

Have you written or read a fairy tale themed book? Do you like them?

Do you have a favorite fairy tale themed book? What fairy tale would you like seen done?


Heather Sunseri said...

I haven't read any, but I just recently saw Red Riding Hood, the movie, and despite bad reviews, I loved it.

I like the trend toward fairly tale themed books.

Misha said...

Oh my word! I loved If the Ring Fits... never even thought I'd pump into the author on the bloggosphere.

Trust me. There's some serious squeeage on this end. ;-)

Good luck with the blog tour, Melissa.

Linda G. said...

Melissa, your books sound delightful! May they all be royally successful. :)

Stephanie Faris said...

I was trying to write for Harlequin/Silhouette in the 90s and know how great an opportunity it is to build a huge fan base, so congrats to her!

Melissa McClone said...

Good morning! I set my alarm to wake up earlier (on the west coast) but couldn't quite manage it!

Thanks again, Jennifer, for hosting this stop on my blog tour! I'll be stopping in throughout the day and look forward to visiting!

Heather - I saw the trailers for Red Riding Hood. I thought it might be a little too dark, but maybe I'll try it on DVD. I, too, love the trend toward fairy tale remakes/themes.

Misha - Nice to meet you! So happy you enjoyed If The Ring Fits... And thanks, the tour's been a lot of fun so far.

Linda G - Thanks so much!

Stephanie - We were trying to write for them at the same time! I feel very blessed to have sold to them and be writing for them now. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

The Not-So-Perfect Princess sounds great! I'm glad you finally got to tell Julianna's story - and nice story behind how that all came about!

I love fairy tale themed books - perhaps because I loved fairy tales as a kid. Who didn't want to be a princess?

Suze said...

I have a character named Izzy. :)

Melissa McClone said...

Tracey - Thanks! I'm so happy I finally got to tell Jules' story too. There are just some characters that really resonate like that. Another was the hero in my November '10 release!

And yes, many of us dreamed about being princesses. I wrote my take on why royal characters appeal to readers at one of my tour stops last week.

Suze - I love the name Izzy. It fit my heroine so well and the Isabella sounded like a princess to me!


Kimberly Franklin said...

Princess stories! I love them. Will definitely check this one out!

Carol Kilgore said...

These books sound like great fun! I'll look for them :)

Better is Possible said...

Pleased to meet you. I shall look for your books. I love a regal read.

tammy ramey said...

i would love to see rumplestilskein done in a book. it would be interesting to see how they would do it.

your book sounds wonderful and i can't wait to read it. i'm haveing a lot of fun following your blog tour.

Melissa McClone said...

Kimberly - Thanks!

Carol - Appreciate it.

Better is Possible - Glad to meet you! I hope you like them.

Tammy - my youngest I just read Rumplestilskein. That would be an interesting one to do as a romance since the King isn't all that heroic. The page who finds out the answer would be a better hero! Thanks for following the tour.


Jackie S. said...

Don't think I've read any.....but would love to read your book and others by you, too. Enjoying the tour and learning more about you.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Thanks again, for stopping by, Melissa!
I picked up your trading cards for this book in the goodie room at Nationals. They are so pretty!

Na said...

Hi Melissa,
I really enjoy fairy tale themed book and fairy re-tellings with a twist. My of my favourites is Briar Rose and anothe is Winter Garden, which re-tells war-torn Leningrad in a fairy tale form.

Your dog is named Chaos. =) I wonder if you named him before you knew him and he lived up to his name or did you name him only after his ways? Then again he could even be an obedient, prim and docile dog.


PatriciaW said...

Love reading fairy-tale based romances. I've thought about trying my hand at writing one. I'm wondering whether Melissa has been able to infuse her trademark humor into the princess stories?

Heather said...

Hi Melissa, great interview! Thanks for sharing your story with us. I look forward to checking out your novel.

Maria Zannini said...

What woman deep down doesn't want to be the princess of a story? I think that theme touches all of us.

I don't know which fairy tale I'd like to see retold but I never get tired of Beauty and the Beast.

Congrats, Melissa!

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for the intro to Melissa! I haven't read any fairy tale themed books in a very long time. Maybe I need to change that! :)

Chelsea B. said...

I wanted to be a princess, too! Maybe that's why I also love reading about princess heroines :-)


Rula Sinara said...

Melissa - All your stories sound wonderful! favorite fairytale as a child was Cinderella, but later it became Beauty and the Beast. I love all stories based on that one :)

Thanks for hosting, Jennifer!

Melissa McClone said...

I've been daydreaming about princesses all morning, then had to put on my mommy-hat and take my kids to the dentist. But I'm back and ready to don a tiara ;)

Jackie S - so glad you're following the door and enjoying it. Thanks!

Jennifer - thanks! I had fun figuring out what to do with the Romance Trading Cards for this one. It was different searching for my characters at stock photo sights. Gave me new appreciation for what cover art teams do. And I lucked out finding Kimberly at Hot Damn Designs to do them for me. She was so great and easy to work with. Highly recommend her!

Na - glad to see you here! I'll definitely google Winter Garden. Sounds interesting. As for Chaos, we adopted her and that was her name. Actually she's got a much more formal name from her dog showing days, but Chaos is her call sign. Turns out she was a singleton puppy who had to be born via C-Section so her birth was chaotic. That's where they got her name. She's a total sweetheart.

Melissa McClone said...

PatriciaW - you should try writing one. They are so much fun. Though I'll admit not as easy as I thought it would be. But so worth trying. Please give it a shot! Oh, and you're so sweet. The crown prince cracked me up just cause he was so over-the-top and I had fun with that, but I've had some readers tell me they hate him so hard to say. Humor in any of my stories happens because of the characters. My kids think I'm the least humorous person around. They hate when I try to make any kind of joke or do something I think might be funny. They get so embarrassed. LOL! But thanks.

Heather - thank you! It's always nice to visit with people during the tour stops.

Maria - thanks! Good to see you hear. And I do agree the princess theme resonates with many of us.

Karen - you should check one out. Harlequin Romance isn't the only line to put this kind of story out so you can pick the level of sensuality you like in a romance and go from there.

Chelsea B - thanks for following along with the tour. Princess Chelsea has a nice ring!

Rula - Thanks so much! I used to work with a woman named Rula at United Airlines. Seeing your name brought back memories of her and that time in my life :-)


Diane said...

I did read "The Healer's Apprentice" and it had a Sleeping Beauty theme too. Sounds like a great book! :O)

Emy Shin said...

I love princesses stories, and this sounds endlessly interesting. I'll definitely have to check it out!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Ohhh, That sounds like a fun story! Thanks for introducing us, Jennifer!

Laura Pauling said...

Sounds like a dream come true! I don't think it should be write what you know but write what you love! Great interview! :)

Robin said...

I like fairy tale themed stories, there's some magic around them!

Melissa McClone said...

Diane - I haven't heard of that one. I'll add it to my list. Thanks!

Emy - thanks so much! I really appreciate it.

Sarah - glad you stopped by. It was a very fun story to write.

Laura - Happy you enjoyed it. This is my second time here with Jennifer. She always suggests great topics to talk about!

Robin - you're right about the magic. I think that was the hardest thing with this latest story. As well as the one before it. Not having magic in there. Or at least very subtle things that no one probably got buy me! In the first one, there was a touch of magic, an enchanted royal engagement ring as well as a love potion. Magic and fairytales just seem to go together.


Debora Dennis said...

I LOVE fairytale stories and yours is double the fun - both your own inspirational story about wanting to write Julianna's story and then Julianna's actual story.
Thanks for the great post! :)

Melissa McClone said...

Debora - Glad you enjoyed the blog. Thanks for stopping by!

Diane Craver said...

Your Princess romance looks marvelous and one I would enjoy!

I think any of the fairy tales mentioned ahead of me would be great - Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, or Sleeping Beauty.

Nancy said...

I love princesses. I just went on a Princess Cruise. I bleieve all of my favorite fairy tales have been done. I love Cinderella the best and Rapunzel, because of the long hair.

I think The Princess Diaries and Elle Enchanted were both wonderful.

This new take on the princess sounds great.

Elle Strauss said...

Congratulations to Melissa on her book release!

Melissa McClone said...

Nancy - thanks! I bet your cruise was wonderful. I'm sighing just thinking about it.

Elle - appreciate it!

Beth said...

This was very interesting. I was intrigued by Melissa's story and the book themes.

marybelle said...

I do like fairy tale themed books. No one loses that idea of wanting to be a Princess - not if they are truly honest.


Sandra Cox said...

Hi Melissa,
What a winning combination fairy tales and princesses. Love it. Wishing you all the best.

Sarita said...

I love princesses. Really, who wouldn't want to don a tiara for even a short while? Just so wonderfully romantic!

Melissa McClone said...

Beth - thanks!

Marybelle - I think you're right! Appreciate you following the tour!

Sandra - thank you so much!

Sarita - yes!


Melissa McClone said...

Heather is the winner of the Romance Trading Cards! Thanks everyone for commenting. Jennifer is in the running for most comments! We'll see when I get to the last blog and I still need to choose the gift card winner!


Melissa McClone said...


You were the tour host with the most comments. Please let me know your email address so I can send you your prize!

melissamcclone (at) gmail (dot) com

Admin said...

Nice Post