Someone asked on a previous blog post whether we are looking for formulaic, 'same-old-same-old' category romance at Embrace Books, and since my answer is quite complicated, I thought it might be a nice idea to turn it into a separate blog post.
First off, I don't believe in formulas. That is, I don't believe they exist in fiction, though I know many do. Particularly journalists searching for a good headline or those who look down on popular fiction as being formulaic and therefore not worth their time.
There is no magic formula or guideline sheet handed out to romance authors at the start of their bodice-ripping careers - as an apparently intelligent woman insisted recently, talking to me about the evils of romance, though she admitted to never having actually read one herself.
No, what I believe in is 'story'. Romance is one kind of story, and it has a simple plot: girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy again. If that's a formula, it's no more a formula than a crime novel: a crime is committed, an investigation is launched, the criminal is caught. Or any type of popular fiction that follows a common theme or structural framework.
Within the idea of 'romance' there are many different varieties of approach to story-telling. Writers can manipulate the setting, period, characters or writing style to differentiate their stories from their peers in the same tradition. But all romances must follow the same basic plot of girl meets boy. If your story doesn't do this, it may be excellent in all manner of ways - but it will not be a romance.
The real question may be, am I looking for very tightly conceived and executed category romance within a strict set of guidelines prohibiting various types of hero, heroine, setting, plot variations, and sexual antics?
The answer to that is no.
I am looking for freestyle romances within the stated word lengths - not romantic fiction, or fiction with romance in it, please note, but bona fide romances where the love story is the key focus of the plot - and if it contains something unusual, as long as it's still a romance, then I'm very much open to new twists and turns on the road to love.
Perhaps giving me some examples of what constitutes a 'different' approach to category would help me be more specific. I'd be happy to field queries below on the topic of what fits Embrace and what doesn't.
Though, in general, my reputation in editing is as an innovator and a rule-breaker. So try me!