Thoughts About Writing

Hashtag Triggered

My last musings were on spoilers, and whether or not it was worth leaning into them. In the end I chose not to – my own personal dislike winning out over the evidence that suggested it wouldn’t hurt.

But then my brain moved further along down the track, loosely connecting the concept of ‘spoilers’ to ‘triggers’. (Yeah, I know. My brain, she’s special.)

In Handle With Care I attempted to keep my hero somewhat believable. To me, he was swoonworthy, but still human. So, some of the choices he (read: I) made were substantially less than heroic. And, I won’t lie: that might have been a mistake for the romance genre.

He (oh, here we go, breaking my own rules with a SPOILER ALERT!) slept with someone else during an almost year-long stint during which he and the heroine were apart. They were not at all in a relationship at the time. In fact, he didn’t think he would see her again. (And it happened ‘off screen’ as it were.) I kind of put myself in his shoes and went with it.

But for a romance novel, I’m aware that this might have made him just a little too flawed. Moreover, I’ve received feedback that suggests that his lack of celibacy requires a trigger warning.

I’m taking the feedback on board. (And I’m learning a lot about which rules of the genre I can bend and which ones I really should stick to!)

But, as usual, now I’m overthinking the whole concept of trigger warnings. If something like that requires a trigger warning, what else should I be warning readers about? How far down the rabbit hole do authors need to go? Do they really need to do it at all?

Obviously, there are traumatic situations where I understand it might be worth issuing a warning. Deaths, rapes, graphic violence etc…you know the drill. Darker stuff. But I don’t usually read dark romances, and I never write them, so I’ve never taken notice as to whether specific warnings have been issued. So then I wondered, as a reader, would I like to be given advance warning of these things? Would it change the way I approach reading the book?

For me personally, I’ll admit that make assumptions on what to expect from the typical tropes of a genre. And, if I’ve read other books from an author, I also generally know how they might tackle specific issues.

Have I been taken by surprise before? Hell yes. The twist in Frankie Says Relapse by Siobhan Curham got me good. The fact that I read it over 15 years ago and it has still stuck with me -and begs me to re-read it every other year- says something about the reader experience (particularly when ugly crying has been invoked). But would I have liked a warning? I don’t think so. Maybe that’s just me, though.

So, again, this blog post has been more thinking and less decision. Haha. I know that you can’t please everyone (not just as an author, but in any situation) but the last thing I want to do is trigger someone and upset them. I write fluff and happiness, and that’s ultimately what I’d like to impart in the end.


To Spoil or Not To Spoil

That is actually the question.

I recently read an article about spoilers not being a bad thing. It asserted that, instead, spoilers make you enjoy stories more. Obviously, I won’t repeat the article verbatim* (I’m not into plagiarism), but what I took away from it was the concept that if an audience knows what’s coming, they can focus more on the actual story as it develops, rather than try to guess what’s around the corner.

I found this soothing. You see, I’ve received a few reviews recently which contain spoilers for a twist which -while I thought it was predictable- a few readers have said they didn’t see coming.

Before I continue, I want to be very clear that this blog post is in no way an indictment of the reviews I’ve received, because those people cared enough to take the time and make the effort to leave feedback, and that is awesome. I value every single reviewer, and thank them from the bottom of my heart for leaving their thoughts for me and for other readers. The feedback is deeply, genuinely appreciated. (Yes, even the handful of 3 star reviews. They are fair, and valid, and I appreciate them, too, and I will use them to improve my writing going forward.)

I firmly believe it is a reviewer’s right to put their feelings and opinions of a work out there however they choose to. Spoilers or no spoilers. Even though I’ll admit it – I have never really liked spoilers.

In Handle With Care‘s case, some reviewers have -on Goodreads- ticked the box that declares that they’re doing just that, which then gives the option to hide the review from people who mightn’t like reading spoilers (like me). Amazon doesn’t (as far as I’m aware) offer the option to do that. And that’s okay. It’s an Amazon flaw, not a reviewer’s.

However, I know that as a reader/viewer myself, a courtesy “Spoiler Alert” at the beginning of a review is helpful to me, because I personally detest reading them before I’ve read a book/watched a movie so I will skip that review…but, according to the article I referenced above, there’s a chance that spoilers might actually make me enjoy the story more.

So this all got me thinking… when it comes to Handle With Care, the ‘twist’ that has been “spoiled” in these reviews actually puts my novel into an additional trope category than just the ones I’ve been advertising it under. It’s a trope that I know a lot of readers enjoy. Some even specifically seek it out.

With that in mind, I’m now wondering: should I embrace the spoilers? Lean into them and change my blurb? Market this additional trope as part of the novel’s appeal? It’s very tempting to do it.

If the article I read is right and spoilers don’t actually ruin a reader’s enjoyment, I can’t see why I shouldn’t embrace them. Especially if I’m going to potentially market to a new group of readers who might not have given my novel a chance otherwise, not realising that I tick their trope boxes after all.

But it’s daunting. Just like every other decision in this self-publishing adventure. Every time I start thinking that I’ve started to wrap my head around it, something new pops up to challenge me. (Or maybe I’m overthinking again.)

But, with no magical guide to tell me what to do, I’m off to write a list of pros and cons.

I’ll let you know how I go.

(If you’d like to give the article that inspired this ramble a read, THIS LINK will take you there.)

Sharing The Love

Sharing The Love: A.N Verebes

I’m trialling the concept of blog sharing with other romance authors, and I really like the idea of the Author Interview format. In the spirit of playing fair, I thought I’d also answer some of the questions I’ve set up and kickstart the new blog!

Here goes!

Q1: If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

PIZZA! There’s no contest there. And, because I like to find loopholes in these things, I feel like I could change the toppings around to keep my taste buds entertained. Seriously, it’s such a versatile meal! Starter? Garlic pizza. Main? Any topping laden pizza of your choice. Dessert? Nutella and marshmallows and fresh strawberries on a sweet dough base. Pizza is life. (I may have put too much thought into this answer.)

Q2: What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

A huge thank you for not suing me? Lol. Everett, in particular, is a fantasy amalgamation of a few actors that I’ve had little celebrity crushes on. (I have a type.) It’s not that creepy that I built a dream man out of the fantasy versions of a few real ones, right? Riiiiiight?

Q3: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I’m on the downward stretch of drafting Book 2 for publishing. Book 3 was half-written and then set aside when the plot bunny for Book 2 leapt all over me. I have a paranormal romance that I’ve half written and all but abandoned (it’s in dire need of a rewrite) and another contemporary romance plotted out. Let’s not mention the fanfics currently hiding in my One Drive vault, either.

Q4: What is your writing Kryptonite?

I am easily distracted. You know Dug from Up? I’m Dug. I can be in the middle of writing and …squirrel! Shiny new ideas and plot bunnies tend to sway me from what I should be writing.

Q5: If you’ve ever met a celebrity, describe that encounter. (You don’t need to name the celebrity if you don’t want to.)

I like the way this question ties in with the plot of Handle With Care, lol.

In 2018, for our 10th wedding anniversary, we went on our dream holiday to the USA, and as part of that, my husband gave me a front row ticket to see the Broadway production of The Boys In The Band while he took our then 4 year old off to explore NYC together as just ‘the boys’. After the show, hubby encouraged me to wait in the line at the stage door, and there I met Andrew Rannells and Matt Bomer.

Both men were insanely sweet to their fans. I’m pretty sure I made a fool of myself in front of Andrew Rannells (my 4 y.o. was excited to tell him that “Mummy and Daddy let me watch you singing on YouTube! I love Book of Mormon!” and Rannells was incredibly patient in taking a photo with him) and my hands shook like crazy when I took a selfie with Matt Bomer. I might have babbled at him and told him that his performance in The Normal Heart absolutely broke me. He was so good-natured about my fangirling! (Poor guy! Sorry Mr Bomer!) I floated on air for the rest of the night.

That time I met one of my idols. Please excuse the blurriness. My hands were shaking and there was a huge crowd, so I rushed it. No regrets!

Hubby earned himself SO many brownie points for encouraging me to do that, haha!

And that’s my attempt to Share The Love and some fun information about me. I hope you enjoyed it! And, if you’re a romance author and would like to join me in Sharing The Love, click THIS LINK to sign up, and click HERE for Ts & Cs.


Free Book Distribution – Quick Update

Alright, so I’m fairly happy with Prolific Works as a host and means for distributing my reader magnet in conjunction with MailerLite, but in terms of using the free version to build a mailing list/social following, it’s been a dud for me. Over 200 copies of Handle With Care have been downloaded, though, which does make me feel quite excited, and I genuinely hope that those readers enjoy it.

However, I have since moved on to trialling Voracious Readers’ Evergreen program (in conjunction with their free 20 copy giveaway to existing readers) and within 24 hours I had 30 new subscribers to my mailing list. I’ve got about a 75% click rate on my welcome email/newsletter out of that, and I’m keen to see what the retention rate will be like in a month or so. (Much like my blogging, my newsletters are sporadic at best – I don’t like to spam people, and I struggle for engaging content to share, so I’d rather wait until I have actual news/something fun to send out.)

The next step in my plan will be to complete Book 2 in my series (because HWC is no longer a standalone as planned, haha) and then use HWC itself as my reader magnet. (As an aside, I’m also looking into PublishDrive as an alternative to IngramSpark or Smashwords for publishing Book 2, after initially publishing on KDP exclusively for the first 90 days. From all accounts, it seems like PublishDrive is less rigid than IS, but after diving in too hard and too fast with IS, I’d like to do a bit more research first.)

I’ve also got a Virtual Book Tour lined up for later in the month, but that’s definitely a blog post for another time!