Happy ever after …..

I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. As a child, in all my favourite stories, the princess glided away to a happy ending with her prince. In my teens, I graduated to Jilly Cooper’s jolly super romances. At university, I discovered the guilty pleasures of Mills and Boon as a way to take the mind off real life and essays. And now, as an (alledged) grown up, I am actually writing chick lit. My own marriage may have ended messily, but there’s nothing I like better than other people’s happy-ever-afters.

There are loads of people I know who are interested in writing, and would be brilliant at it. So I’ve found the perfect competition for them. Mills and Boon wants  you to pen the first chapter of a great romance and upload it at www.romanceisnotdead.com. The best submission will be published, and the winner will also receive an iPad and get an editor for a year. The deadline for submitting your first chapter is 10th October, so you’d better get writing! To help you on your way, I’ve asked Mills and Boon’s top editors, Flo Nicoll and Anna Boatman a few questions about today’s Mills and Boons.

How do you go about making sure that a Mills and Boon romance has a real emotional impact?

All about characters – if the reader cares about them then their story will have emotional weight. Unique, believable characters who have convincing motivations readers can emotionally invest in will always lead to a romance that packs a punch.

Does the heroine have to keep one foot on the floor these days?

Depends on what is true to her character. Our heroines vary from innocent and emotionally available to the more cynical, driven women who are completely sworn off romance! As the continuing global success of Mills & Boon shows, there’s always room for the ultimate fantasy of falling head over heels in love, however it’s obviously important to make sure this is still believable to a modern audience. If anything, this acts as more of a challenge to our heroes – they need to be even more gorgeous and irresistible to sweep a 21st century woman off her feet!

Is the hero still always the granite-jawed, silent alpha male that I remember from my Mills and Boon reading?

Absolutely not! There’s a huge amount of variety in our heroes, from the dangerous daredevils to the single dads to the brooding types you remember from years ago. We do still look for alpha heroes in our stories, as this is an intrinsic part of the romantic fantasy – but what we mean by Alpha these days is a hero who is at the top of his field (be it international business, neurosurgery or landscape gardening!) and a match for the heroine.

Does the romance always end in marriage?

Not necessarily! Weddings will always have a huge significance in series romance – it’s the perfect way to celebrate all things love-related – but if it doesn’t fit with what you know of your characters, it’s definitely not required! What’s important is that readers are reassured the couple have found forever love – with or without a diamond ring to prove it. To check out the most recent debate on this topic, visit Flo Nicoll’s great bloghttp://community.millsandboon.co.uk/forums/behind-scenes-romance-hq/happy-endings-thinking-outside-diamond-ring-box

Are Mills and Boon books enjoyable escapism or a cruel way of giving women unreasonable expectations of romance?

They’re romantic fantasies – we like to think of them as what falling in love should and (for some lucky readers) can be like!

More and more women are remaining single, divorce is on the up, are women still looking for a Mills and Boon hero?

No woman needs a Mills & Boon-style hero to rescue them or complete their life – but we’re appealing to readers who think having a hero along for the ride makes the journey even more fun!





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