Genre crossing: Interview with indie author Lisa Ann (AKA Lisa Arrington)

Sandra Hutchison interviews an author who crosses two very different genres

Lisa ArringtonLisa, first you wrote a couple of YA science fiction novels, “Quake” and “Aftershock,” as Lisa Arrington. Then you began a series in African-American paranormal erotic romance, using the author name Lisa Ann. I’m going to guess there are good reasons to keep an erotica author’s name separate from a Young Adult author name, but I’m curious how workable you’ve found that. Does it ever get awkward?

I wanted to keep some separation between my YA identity and my new erotica identity. I would hate for a young reader to think that I released a new book for their age group, and I would hate even more receiving an angry letter from a parent! Thankfully it’s been easy so far, but it’s only been a year, so “Lisa Ann” is still a newborn if you think about it.

As I googled “Lisa Ann” in preparation for this interview, I discovered that’s also the name of a porn actress! Did you know that going in? Has that created any special challenges for you, or does it help?

Oh God! No, I did not know that, I honestly used my first and middle name. With such a common name (as my mother so nicely put it the other day), I’m sure this isn’t a new thing. And who knows, maybe it will help us both out.

You helped me out recently by reading the manuscript of my next novel, which has a number of African-American characters in it. What do you think are some pitfalls white authors who attempt to write black characters can fall into?

I think that if the author doesn’t have black friends or do research they fall back on stereotypes a lot. Or not write them in at all.

I notice that your erotica gets marketed as African-American but your YA titles do not. I know that’s hardly an apples-to-apples comparison, but do you sense that it changes the equation to label your niche African-American?

To be honest, I categorized my paranormal-romance African-American because after reading several books that revolved around Motorcycle Clubs, I hadn’t found one that had any African-American characters or, if it did, they were depicted as stereotypical thugs. I wanted to write a book that had strong African-American characters that could overcome the same problems and fall in love the same way, and I wanted to give relatable characters to African-American readers. It really had nothing to do with my YA book or sales.

I know you read a lot — probably more than I do! Which authors out there have inspired you the most in your personal writing journey?

I wish I was reading as much as I used to. I read everything from “Pride and Prejudice” to “Twilight.” I would say that Linda Howard, Lisa Jackson and Janet Evanovich made me a bigger fan of reading than I already was. And friends like Stacey Lynn and Lee Gjertsen-Malone inspired me to even try to find my own voice.

What has been the most challenging thing about your indie publishing career? What about the most rewarding?

The most challenging, hands down, is doing it on my own as an Indie author. Luckily, I have learned from my mistakes and now have a small team of people I trust to help me through the process. The most rewarding is always hitting that “publish now” button.

I know from our online friendship that you’ve faced personal challenges with a physical disability. How does that impact your writing?

I battle fibromyalgia and it makes it hard to be “on” when I need to be. Like right now, I’ve had a scene going through my head for the past couple of days but just thinking about picking up my laptop was too exhausting. Or I have “fibro fog” days, days when I can’t remember my address, let alone what my characters are up to.

What are your future writing and publishing plans, and what would be the fulfillment of all your dreams as an author?

In my Microsoft OneNote I have twelve notebooks for future stories/series and am constantly adding to it. I plan to keep writing as long as I am physically able and as long as people want to hear from me, which I hope is a very long time. What would be the fulfillment of all my dreams? I don’t know. My dream of becoming an author already came true.

More about Lisa Ann
ROSELisa is a stay-at-home mom by day and as a writer by night. She attended a local technical college and received an associate’s degree in computers, which she put right to use. Lisa lives in Southern Arizona with her two sons and, when not writing, can be found curled up on her favorite chair with Kindle in hand, reviewing books for her blog, chauffeuring the boys around town for basketball games, or playing Game of War on her phone.

She loves the color blue, can’t get enough Arrow or Castle, loves Junior Mints, can’t live without coffee, and will forever be in a power struggle over the big screen TV with her youngest.

Lisa reports that Riders of Sins Eternal has been a bestseller in African-American Romance and is available exclusively on Amazon.com.

Learn more about Lisa at:

QuakeHer blog: http://lisaawritesreads.com/

Via email: lisa@lisaawritesreads.com

Twitter: @lisaawrites

Google+: LisaAlisaawrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lisaawrites/

Being white, writing black: An interview with Cori Tadrus

Cori Tadrus

Cori Tadrus

Sandra Hutchison interviews Cori Tadrus, author of “Flawed Happiness,” a novel about a biracial woman’s struggles to get past perfectionism and find happiness.

Cori, I remember when I first met you over email, via a third party, it was about an editing project we didn’t end up working on together. You described the work to me, and I felt compelled to tell you that I hadn’t actually read much urban fiction, and I wasn’t black. You then surprised me by telling me you were not black either, although you certainly did read a lot of fiction with multicultural characters. What specifically led you to want to write from this point of view?

I’ve been exposed to a great deal of diversity from the time I was a child. The neighborhood and inner city school system in which I was raised was comprised of people from various races, cultures, and economic classes. My friends all looked different, talked different, and lived in different circumstances. I witnessed, and became conscious of, all kinds of false stereotypes long before I graduated high school. And because of this, I believe, I’ve always gravitated to multiculturalism, from friendships to education (my degree is in cultural anthropology and African-American studies) and employment (I worked for many years as a refugee case worker).

There’s also this inherent part of me that seeks to question the status quo, to look at things like history, popular culture, and current events from differing perspectives. So, when I started writing my manuscript, it didn’t feel natural to write my protagonist, or any of my characters for that matter, from simply a “white perspective.” It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision either; I saw Athena as a biracial woman in my mind, so that’s the cultural identity I gave her.

Given how the country reacted to the outing of Rachel Dolezal, an NAACP chapter leader, as white – and her subsequent resignation — do you worry about readers being offended that you are not African American?

The thought didn’t occur to me at all during the first draft of the book, as my intention in the beginning was simply to lose myself in the writing process and live vicariously through Athena and her experiences. I was seeking the answers to my own happiness through this character’s journey, and it unfolded in such a way that I didn’t know where the story was going to end until it did just that.

When I finished the first draft and started considering publishing is when I began to think about whether my story would strike the reader as inauthentic because my main character is half-black, and I’m not.

FlawedHappinessI kept coming back to the fact, though, that unless an author is penning a memoir, there will always be some element of distance and fictionalization when creating a character (even when speaking to such basic characteristics such as gender, age, etc).

With this, many of the characters in the book are based on my own friends and acquaintances, on how we communicate with each other and our tastes in fashion and music, so I was conscious throughout the editing process of ensuring that their qualities were reflected and not stereotyped.

Sometimes, there is a fine line there, especially when writing dialogue, so I recruited beta readers of different ethnicities, as well as a professional editor/author who is a woman of color, to read the manuscript and provide feedback to exactly this point.

In regard to Rachel Dolezal: Unlike her, I’m not purposefully misrepresenting my ethnicity. My photograph, in which I am clearly Caucasian, appears on my book cover, website, and all of my social media pages. I hope that no one would be offended that, as a white woman, I chose to have diverse characters in my novel, or that my main character’s biracial identity does not mirror my own. If I were touting the book as nonfiction, or addressed issues such as racism and white privilege in the plot, then of course that would be a different story.

A UK author named Nikesh Shukla recently posted what he called a “provocation” that says “…if we want true diversity in books, white people need to write about non-white people. It’s not just my responsibility, as an author of colour, to write about my people…” He had already pointed out that “every character in every film and novel was white unless they had to do something ethnic.” He wants to see white people writing about ethnic people as just normal instead of “the other,” instead of exotic. I take it you agree with him? Would have you have any other insights here?

Yes, I absolutely agree with Mr. Shukla’s points, especially in reference to the notion of tokenism in contemporary literature and film. It seems that many times, a person of color isn’t simply another character in the story; rather their “Blackness” or “Indianness,” etc., is somehow relevant to the plot as a whole. I’d really love to see more authors, especially in the mainstream, incorporate more diversity into their writing, without feeling the need to justify doing so.

Personally, I’ve always been drawn to fiction that is classified as either multicultural (like “The Joy Luck Club”) or African-American (like “Waiting to Exhale”) for the very reason that so much of the entertainment we consume in the US is from a majority perspective. I find it interesting to read a story written from a different viewpoint. Yet even reading within these genres, I don’t think I’ve ever found a book that speaks to my experience as an individual who came up in a multicultural, urban environment.I mean, in 2015, how unique could this perspective possibly be?

Where are all the novels, especially in women’s fiction, with girlfriend characters that are not all of the same color, or sexual orientation, or physical ability, without their being an explicit reason or message behind their differences? Even though it wasn’t a conscious decision on my part to write a culturally diverse novel, I think that deep down I sought to write the book that I couldn’t find on the mainstream shelves.

I notice that your debut novel was published by a small press. How did that happen, and what would you say are the pros and cons of that experience?

When I decided to pursue publishing, I did as many new authors with stars in their eyes do and queried only the top literary agents and publishing companies. Then, after rejection letters and reality began to roll in, I shifted my approach to researching small presses that would be more likely to take a chance on an unknown such as myself. That’s when I came across a local, indie company accepting manuscripts from previously unpublished authors. After a few months of emailing back and forth, I had a publishing contract in hand.

In my experience, the benefit of working with a small press is primarily the structure and education they bring to the table. Their team edits, designs, and distributes the book on your behalf, and as someone with no prior knowledge of the publishing industry, this was the most appealing factor in my decision to go this route.

When considering self-publishing, I was overwhelmed by the choices I would have to make as far as who to hire for each step in the process, as well as the financial liability this would incur. Although traditional publishing (at least by a small press) has proven to not be inexpensive, as the cost of marketing (for which, most of time, the author assumes primary responsibility) has not been offset by the royalties earned on book sales.

This is to be expected, especially with a debut novel, but honestly, it can be trying to relinquish both a lack of control and cash flow with a project you have put so much of yourself into. Overall, I wouldn’t encourage or discourage an author from traditional over self-publishing; it comes down to which path best suites your needs, goals, and personality.

A big thank you to Cori for taking the time to do this, especially when she’s expecting her second child literally any moment now! You can find her book at most online retailers.

Buy “Flawed Happiness,” a National Indies Award finalist, at these retailers:
AmazonNooklogo
 kobo

 

 

More about Cori Tadrus

Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Cori Tadrus spent most of her twenties working as a refugee case worker by day and a bartender by night. Eventually she decided it was time to get a 9-5 job that paid the bills and pursued a career in finance, but it left her feeling uninspired. She found respite in writing a story about a character named Athena who, like her, was seeking a more fulfilled life. Then Cori married an active duty army officer. When she was nine months pregnant with her first child, she left her job to join him in his travels. With change came perspective, and the ability to look inside of herself to discover what she truly wanted to be: an author. Cori is expecting her second child any day now, and continues to write.

Addition 9/6/15: Want some tools to help you reflect diversity in your fiction in a respectful manner? Check out this great round-up from literary Agent Carly Watters.

The importance of reviews and feedback … even in a climate of fear

As if it wasn’t already hard enough for indie authors to get reviews, things appear to getting scary out there. Amazon is allegedly coming down hard on authors and friends and apparent friends who review each other’s books.

The thing is, authors often, as part of normal, professional networking, befriend people who review us or write in our genres or share our challenges. Or we may discover that some of the people we already count as friends turn out to be great readers and reviewers.

And I know that I have gone back to some of those readers who most seem to “get” what I’m doing for beta reading.

But now that means the people who wrote our favorite reviews the first time around and then give us initial reads on new books can’t safely leave a review when the new book is published. Amazon says they helped with the book, so they’re disqualified. These people can be quoted in a blurb —  a blurb that means absolutely nothing if the reader is not an author or some other public figure. A blurb that is also, by definition, hardly going to be a full, meaty review.

Frankly, these rules are really tough on indies. We often gain our first readers solely by virtue of knowing them. It’s not as if people are going to find our books in a bookstore or the New York Times Book Review, nor do we generally get the advertising support or the favored positioning that some traditional books do (and all of Amazon’s own imprints do).

I do believe it’s more ethical to mention how I know a person when I review a book, at least when a person is being him or herself. The only time I’ve held back is when it feels tantamount to ‘outing’ them — generally, when they seem to be trying to fly under the radar with a nom de plume. Which Amazon would seem to be encouraging, actually, with this crackdown, unless they also have some secret algorithm for figuring out who’s pulling that off. Which is possible.

And of course there are plenty of reviews I don’t leave because that would be kinder than giving my honest opinion, or because I’m not sure my honest opinion would be welcome — God knows I’ve occasionally discovered that it isn’t — though the great bulk of the reviews I haven’t left can be blamed on me not having read the book yet.

But now… do I dare review anyone ever again, even with a disclosure? Anywhere but on Amazon, apparently. Which is the only place where reviews really matter, or have, up to now.

It’s all another argument for not depending too much on one monolithic retailer.

And please remember … even if you are a friend, or colleague, even if you fear crossing into dangerous territory by reviewing, most authors desperately want to hear from you. Did you read it? Did you finish it? Did you like it? So please … at least send an email, or put up a Facebook post, or tweet, or send a letter via snail mail, or resort to Goodreads, or try to post on Amazon’s competitors, or say something in the grocery store.

This brings me to the great compliment an old fanfic pal of mine paid me, recently, by sending me thoughtful answers to ALL the questions I’d put in the discussion guide for The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire.

I loved this so much I’ve put it on my web site. If you’re interested in it — and it does contain major spoilers, so keep that in mind — you can find it here. I’m sure she and I would both be fascinated to hear further discussion of any of these points.

 

Update: Brenda Perlin has an interesting post on this issue in Indies Unlimited this week, and includes a link to a petition to Amazon, should you be so inclined.

 

The old standbys — books I will recommend to anyone

Choosing books for people can be a lot like choosing art for people. It’s fairly hit-or-miss trying to find something that is exactly to their taste.

But I get asked for book recommendations fairly often, and I have a few standbys that I’ll mention to just about anyone because I am almost certain they will be enjoyed.

I’m sure you have some, too, including some I’ll miss here, so feel free to share them in a comment! (For example, I still haven’t yet read Lonesome Dove or Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Both are on my shelf, waiting in my loooooong queue of Books Not Read Yet.)

But the books I have read — and recommend even to people I don’t know well — are these:

Cover of I Capture the CastleI Capture the Castle 

Young Cassandra wants to be a writer and thus can see the romance of living in a derelict castle because her father’s writing block is impoverishing them all. Then new neighbors move in, and life gets even more romantically interesting.

The summary may not sound like much, but this is simply one of the most charming books I’ve ever read. It will make you smile and it will make you laugh, and you will just hate to get to the end of it and have to let these characters go.


GuernseyCoverThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The only problem with always wanting to recommend this book is that I can never remember the title correctly. It’s an epistolary novel (i.e. told in letters) that gives us a peek at a close-knit community on the island of Guernsey (off the coast of the UK) during German occupation in World War II.

There’s slow-building romance, hunger, danger, comedy, and lots and lots of charm. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy this book.


Cover of The Monk DownstairsThe Monk Downstairs

Okay, I’ll admit that this one may annoy people who are committed atheists OR people who are really piously Christian, but most others should enjoy the slow romance of tired single mom Rebecca, working hard to keep her life together, and runaway monk Michael, who’s flipping burgers at a McDonalds and living in her downstairs apartment.

I include it because if you’re here I assume you found some enjoyment in The Awful Mess, and because I just love this combination of romance, theology, and comedy.


And that’s it for this week. It’s actually harder to pick out books I’d expect everyone to love than I thought. Of course, there are many others I might recommend to someone who enjoys romance and can cope with science fiction elements (The Time Traveler’s Wife) or can handle a sad ending (Little Bee) or doesn’t mind literary prose (Housekeeping), or is already familiar enough with British classics to appreciate a spoof (Cold Comfort Farm).

In fact, as I wrote this, I kept coming up with subcategories:

  • Books for people who love Jane Austen
  • Books for Episcopalians, or at least progressive Christians
  • Books for people who appreciate literary prose
  • Books for people who appreciate a tragic ending
  • Wonderful memoirs
  • Books about writers and writing
  • Books for people who enjoy British comedy
  • Books for people who enjoy American comedy
  • Books that will introduce you to Southern literature

So, I have plenty to write about in the future, if I go in that direction. Feel free to let me know what categories you’d be most interested in. (And if nobody’s interested, I guess that’s good to know, too. Ha!)

I’m also opening this spot to occasional guest posts from other writers who would like to write a “Showing some love to ____________” blog post about a favorite (preferably not already incredibly popular) writer’s work, or something else you love that would be of interest to the kind of readers and writers who are likely to be found here. (And yes, of course, you can plug your own book at the same time.) So if you’d like to take part in that, just let me know through the contact form or below.

Happy reading!

P.S. I’d still love your vote for The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire for 2015 Readers’ Choice Award in contemporary/literary/general fiction at BigAl’s Books and Pals. Voting closes March 28, US Mountain Time. While you’re there, check out the fine nominated indie fiction and nonfiction across a whole bunch of categories.

 

 

 

 

 

The addictive joy of “shipping”

Although I write stand-alone novels, I have spent a great deal of my life enthralled by various ongoing fictional relationships, whether in books or on television. There’s something uniquely addictive about watching a relationship unfold over multiple installments, instead of in one big gulp.

Is this because it mimics real life, where two people meet and might have to dance around each other for quite some time before they realize they belong together? Or is it because there’s a sense, when you see characters over multiple installments, that you are actually getting to know them the way you get to know real people?

Of course, it’s a very one-sided relationship. They don’t have a clue about you. But that makes it incredibly easy. There they are in your life, at regular intervals, consistently entertaining you. Meanwhile, you can wear sweatpants and never worry about whether the house is clean or you have spinach in your teeth. Nor do you need to worry whether they have anger issues, designs on your checking account, sexually transmitted diseases, or a deep-seated desire to axe you in your sleep.

So fictional characters are safe, you think … at least until you notice you’ve turned into the reader/viewer equivalent of a crack whore.

The risk is much higher today, especially with streaming services that make entire series available on demand. If it weren’t for my absolute refusal to turn on the television before 6pm, I could lose entire days! As it is, I still sometimes lose entire evenings.

For years now I have actively avoided TV shows when I hear people talk about them as addictive. I avoided Lost. I avoided Bones and House and Breaking Bad.

When I was a kid a show would be on once a week. At most, once a day. There were only five channels on the television, but I found plenty to suck me in. I shipped for Fess Parker’s luscious Daniel Boone and his wife, and John and Victoria on High Chaparral. I also had a thing for Barnabas Collins and Victoria Winters.

Spock and Kirk in a nutshell - Imgur

From http://imgur.com/gallery/SI6h3U9

As a teenager, I went gaga for Spock. Not that he was particularly great for shipping, unless the friendship between Spock and Kirk counted. But I suppose it did for me, even though I never saw that crossing over into what shippers call slash (i.e. Kirk/Spock – K/S, for short.)

In high school, my friends and I went mad for Ross and Demelza. (Poldark is being remade now and I’m glad — Winston Graham’s fine saga deserves another round of popularity.) My friend Julie and I devoured the books and used to reenact favorite scenes with a tape recorder.

Another fictional series I got interested in after a television miniseries was Conrad Richter’s The Awakening Land trilogy The Trees, The Fields, and The Town. Sayward and Portius were wonderful, and I swallowed those three books like candy. It wasn’t TV, but possibly just great cover art that led me to another addictive trilogy, Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter novels. And if I hadn’t been so fond of Aragorn and Arwen, I doubt I would have plowed through The Lord of the Rings as fast as I did. (This was decades before Viggo Mortensen made Aragorn way cuter than he is in the books.)

File:Arwen-aragorn.jpg

From http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/File:Arwen-aragorn.jpg

A religious friend recommended Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries as good writing with Christian themes back when I was first exploring Christianity. I don’t think he had any idea how compelling I would find Lord Peter Wimsey, especially his eventual relationship with Harriet Vane. Star Trek had launched me into reading science fiction and fantasy, and these books got me started reading mysteries – but only if they have strong romantic threads. I still consider the relationship between Lord Peter and Harriet one of the most satisfying fictional relationships I’ve ever read. It could not have been as rewarding if it had all happened in one novel.

In the world of television around this time, I got addicted to silly Remington Steele and Scarecrow and Mrs. King. And when Star Trek: The Next Generation came along I shipped passionately for Picard and Crusher from the very first episode. That passion inspired a long correspondence with TNG’s producer, the lovely Jeri Taylor, which eventually allowed me to do amazing Trekkie things like tour the sets and eat in the Paramount commissary. I even sold an (uncredited) story idea to Star Trek: Voyager, where I dutifully shipped a little for Janeway and Chakotay before I finally lost interest. If I hadn’t been married, with a full-time job and a baby, I might have tried to parlay that initial sale into an actual television writing career, but I knew how all-consuming that that kind of work was, so I didn’t.

It's more accurate to say XF Fandom created the word "shipping" -- to distinguish shippers from "noromos" who didn't want all that anguished attraction. From  ttps://www.pinterest.com/pin/550072541961425904/

Mulder and Scully may be the reason THE WORD “shipping” exists — to distinguish “shippers” from “noromos,” who didn’t want their stories bogged down by all that anguished attraction. From ttps://www.pinterest.com/pin/550072541961425904/

My mother got me addicted to The X-Files and Mulder and Scully. I loved those two, but that show eventually annoyed me so profoundly that I also started writing and publishing fanfic for it – something made so much easier by the new Internet than it had been before.

Another fictional couple caught me in their grip about that time, because while I was writing The Awful Mess I was keeping my eyes open for fiction featuring Episcopal priests. The Rev. Clare Fergussen and Russ Van Alstyne of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s mysteries can still cause me to drop everything for the next installment.

My Star Trek genes re-activated yet again when I discovered Star Trek: Enterprise, which I’d missed when it was actually on the air because I had a kid to put to bed and no time to chase down its weird movements on the TV schedule. (Jeri had moved on by then.) It was uneven, like all the Treks, but I loved that crew and Trip Tucker and T’Pol in particular. Like the original series, it ended far too soon. I wanted more.

trip_discovers_fanfic_avatar2 And so I wrote more. A lot more. I have put Trip and T’Pol together in scene after scene after scene (and yeah, occasionally the other characters, too). I recently totaled my fanfic.net output: 522,274 words. That’s at least five or six novels right there.

bed_shirt_avatarOn one level, this was absurd. Star Trek is a very recognizable universe, so I can’t just tweak my stuff and try to sell it the way 50 Shades of Gray was sold. (That started out as Twilight fanfic.) I should have put all that energy into work I could actually make some money from someday, even though I’d had a lot of nibbles but no bites from an agent. But, honestly? Fanfic kept my writer’s ego alive through all those rejections.

It was also great training. I got the discipline of writing regularly, the tougher feedback that comes from sharp writing pals, a chance to experiment, and an opportunity to roll with reviews and reviewers that were mostly kind, but definitely not always so.

Rude but effective. From AngelCosta78: http://41.media.tumblr.com/8cb7350090904ccb2f5b57cc9d498e70/tumblr_mpy1wvenEI1rtrs3mo3_1280.jpg

Rude but effective. From AngelCosta78: http://41.media.tumblr.com/8cb7350090904ccb2f5b57cc9d498e70/tumblr_mpy1wvenEI1rtrs3mo3_1280.jpg

Today, I’m not really addicted to any TV couple. I used to religiously watch the stylish Castle (though I never bothered with repeats), but Kate Beckett went gaga over a wedding dress a year or two ago and I haven’t watched it since. Defiance is entertaining, but I’m willing to simply watch it unfold. House of Cards has addictive qualities, but who can ship those awful people?

Readers sometimes tell me they’d like to see more of Mary and Winslow from The Awful Mess. I have written a (recently much expanded) prequel I’m about to make available to members of my mailing list, but I kind of hate to do anything else to those two. (Didn’t they already suffer enough to get to their happy ending?) As for Molly and David in The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire, I think I left them where they needed to be left.

Right now I’m in the midst of turmoil with another couple in Bardwell’s Folly, but I don’t expect to stay with them for more than one novel, either. (If you want to read the first two chapters of that before anyone else does, do make sure you sign up for my mailing list.) And then I have a play to write, and then another stand-alone novel in mind.

But after that, or possibly even before that, I’m beginning to wonder whether coming up with a series of some kind might not be a good idea. It would give me a chance to play with a long relationship over multiple installments. And it might give me a writing income closer to the income of your typical low-level drug dealer, as opposed to your typical starving novelist.

Except… to stretch out a romance over multiple installments, there has to be an A plot that leaves the reader feeling some sense of satisfaction at the end of each episode (or book). Otherwise, they’re likely to feel cruelly tortured by egregious cliff hangers and unresolved sexual tension stretched out beyond all reason. (Cue X-Files theme music.)

Perhaps that is why so many great couples come from genre fiction — historical sagas, Westerns, vampire tales, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction and fantasy. Yes, people are falling in love, but their number one job is usually something more pressing, like finding murderers, saving the universe, or fighting off the bad guys. Just plain old romance over multiple volumes tends to devolve into soap opera. (Cue Downton Abbey.)

Do series even exist in women’s or literary fiction? I suppose Jan Karon’s Mitford novels do this — Father Tim and Cynthia take a long time to come together while the various problems of the people of Mitford get charmingly presented and resolved. (An agent once won my heart by telling me The Awful Mess was like the Mitford novels, “only better.” He still didn’t think he could sell it, though.) There are probably others, but I can’t think of any. Can you?

Who are your favorite ongoing fictional couples? Who’s your crack?