Terra Beilman: When writing romance…
Meeting the Rising Writer No. 34
It takes more than two sons and daily duties to keep Terra out of a book, and it takes even more to keep her from writing. Or, maybe it’s the other way around. Terra isn’t just a writer but an avid reader. She has used her endless list of read books to create her own set of rules, both broken and unbroken, and today, she shares a lot of what she has learned both as a reader and as a writer.
What genre do you enjoy most, and what draws you to the genre you write?
I enjoy romance the most and the steamy variety. I write mostly romance and if it’s not exactly romance, it will always have a romantic story within it. I always loved reading romances. The crazy ways people meet and connect. Sometimes, it comes together perfectly, and others, they stumble over each other so much until they bug each other into love because passionate feelings (like hate) lead to passionate actions. I tend to write stories like that. I respect the old romances where the woman is falling over herself because I was like that at one point in my life about a guy, but my characters tend to be broken but strong, real, and when they meet a love interest, they don’t just automatically fall because that is so boring it makes my eyes roll, not to mention I kind of hate writing weak female characters. I’ve tried and I can only deal with thumping around that brain until I change the core values and the story turns to shit.
What do you think is most important about writing romance?
At first, you think it’s the fall or the way they meet, but that’s almost always easy. Feelings are easy. It’s how you make it work through the struggles of life, especially if you have a flair for the dramatic like me. I like to make it really hard.
Well, throw in a family obligation that keeps them apart (see Romeo and Juliet). Social standards—those are classics. I like my female characters to be broken but strong-willed, so it’s usually pride or past mistakes keeping them from giving in fully. I also like to put them through almost unforgivable situations and then finally, they’re forgiven after years of struggle.
What do you see as successes in romance writing?
Aside from getting published, I want to move my readers. I want them to feel love, hate, sticky sexy chocolate fudge … loving that will get them to maybe want to try a few new things or fear someone is reading over their shoulder. I also want them to love it as much as I did writing it.
What do you think makes a romance cliché?
When they fall at first meeting. I mean, you can be infatuated with someone at that point, but come on, let’s be a little realistic. Also, if they have sex the day they meet, that’s a mess. I mean, give a girl some time to work up to that. Foreplay is huge not only in sex, but in writing—you can’t just go plunging in! It becomes mechanical and forced. I hate it when that happens. Also, the “Woe is me” weak girl characters—excuse me while I roll my eyes. Unless you’re writing a BDSM and you need her to be SUPER submissive, I stay far away from characters like that.
What are you currently working on? How did you begin working on it?
I have a few things I’m working on. Currently, I’ve been writing a romance about a girl who has burn scars who works at a Go-go dancing club, and you slowly start to figure out how she got them, and that the annoying guy who works at the deli was her childhood sweetheart. It’s been a slow write compared to my last work, which has been frustrating.
I began working on it by starting with a rough outline. I like writing organically, so I don’t like strict outlines since the character kind of takes it where they want it after they are a full, rounded person. Then, I worked on the opening line for a week before I finally started moving forward.
When do you usually write? How often?
I tend to write all day. On and off course since my kids keep me pretty busy. I don’t do goals unless I’m writing a new chapter for Wattpad, and I try to hit the 2,000 word mark for the chapter.
What’s your favorite part about writing a novel?
Oh man . . . writing a novel is like climbing a mountain. You look at it from a distance and you think that’s not too bad. When you get to the base and look up, you think “Man that’s high,” but people write every day, so you start the climb. You stumble, fall, scrape your knees, bleed, and deal with bad days, good days, and when you finally get to the top and you’re done, you realize you have to keep going back and climb up over and over until you get it just right. But, the best part? The best part is finally sitting on your beautifully finished mountain and you can sing to the world about it like the damn Ricola man blowing his alphorn. I’m a writerrrrrrr. (ricolaaaaa)
What are your experiences with Wattpad?
Oh wow, it’s mixed. They are a funny group. It’s a super young base. Thirteen-year-olds are bumping around in there.
But, I have a very strong following on one of my stories. Its reading demographics are all over the globe. I actually love to hear what people think, good or bad, and you will get opinions there. Also, it’s a nice place to pitch ideas.
What suggestions do you have for those who haven’t joined but are considering it?
Well, you can’t expect anyone to read your stuff out of the blue. I mean, you can hashtag so you’re found easier in the search engine, but Wattpad is a lot like life. It’s who you know and how you network. I found a few writers on there who have a huge following in the same genre as I am, and I read their stuff, comment, then we become friends. I help one write steamy scenes, and I’m one of her 20 follows, and she has over 17K followers. I also post links to my story on Wattpad’s Facebook posts, and I pinned my cover that one of my readers made on Pinterest, twitter hashtags … you know, the normal networking you’d do.
Have you heard publishing success stories from any Wattpad authors?
There are tons of writers on there who have been found by publishers through Wattpad. The biggest one is that Anna Todd who wrote the After series. It was fanfic about Harry Styles and she has over 3M reads .She got signed with Simon and Schuster and they are currently approving scripts for the movie. Seriously.
What inspires your writing?
Music. I love listening to lyrics and picking them apart. I once wrote a romantic comedy while listening to The Fratellis Chelsea Dagger album on repeat. I read a ton and have notebooks full of quotes. I watch romantic movies; there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t watch Pride and Prejudice at least once. My favorite holiday movie is Love Actually (which by the way is not an appropriate option when your mother is visiting). I people watch. I used to have more time before the boys came, but I’d make up stories about people I see—how they interact, body language—it’s very helpful for my character development.
Give us insight to your main character. Who is he or she? What is his or her purpose?
Ruth is a 26-year-old go go dancer with burn scars on her face, arms, and parts of her ribs. She mostly dances in the cage so people can’t see her scars. She’s sassy and tough. She’s had a pretty rough life before we come to know her. She grew up with her Nan on her farm, she was taught to live without fear, and to be wild. Nan was a bit of a free spirit and taught her to be one too, but after her Nan died and her best friend never reached out, she ran away from home so she wouldn’t be put in the system and started working at the go go club at the age of 16 where they paid her under the table. Her purpose is to go back home, meet Echo (E) at the deli her uncle runs, and later figure out he was her friend and didn’t tell her who he was. He pushes her to go return home where her best and most painful memories wait for her. I don’t have it all figured out I’ve only made it to chapter 14, but it’s been doing well in the Wattpad community.
What does your character mean to you?
She’s strong, and besides having a chip the size of Texas on her shoulder, she gets along in the world really well. I feel like these feelings are always hidden. Like no, don’t say bad things about your family, but that isn’t real, and the feelings she’s dealing with are real. It’s important that my characters are always real.
What is the biggest mistake you think you make while writing? How do you overcome it?
Oh my gosh, TENSE. I get so frustrated with it. I usually write in first person, and when I go back and edit, I always find that. I also forget names all the time. I have to write everyone’s names down and tape it to my computer when I write to keep my characters’ names straight.
Which authors inspire you?
This is so hard because I love so many. Stephen King was the first author I read and it impacted me. I read IT and of course it scared the b-Jesus out of me, but also his characters were rich and engaging. I remember thinking “I could do that.” I have a ton of romance authors I love, but the list is too long and I can’t pick just one. I read a ton of Anne Rice because I was super into vampires in high school, and I still have a soft spot for a good vampire story. I could go on and on with this. Let’s just say many inspire me.
What/who are your favorite or most reliable support groups?
Authors’ Tale and other writing groups on Facebook gave me some much-needed self-esteem. I also have a really supportive beta reader when she’s not busy with life.
Are you reading any books right now? What are you reading?
I’m ALWAYS reading something. Right now, on top of the many series I follow on Wattpad, I’m re-reading Archer’s Voice. It’s a romance about a woman who runs from her hometown after her father was gunned down by a burglar and was almost raped after. She meets the town crazy one night but was “drawn to him”—I know, cliché—but here’s the kicker: He can’t speak and her father was deaf so she starts signing with him and finds out he’s not weird, it’s just no one has ever given him a chance. The language barrier and a broken male character kind of flips things around.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Let go of your anger. Be positive. That security guard really was taking you on a date to that movie and you ruined it by inviting your friend along. Drinking Red Bull may seem like the only other option to help with sleepless nights, but it’s your job and the Red Bull will seriously screw up your kidneys so just stop. Don’t listen to anyone when you tell them your dreams. They try to put you down because their vision stops at their backyard, but you’re better than that, so get out while you can.
BONUS QUESTION: What is your favorite written romance scene?
I have a thing for what I’ve been told is the Sign love novels, where the love interest must sign to communicate. I think ASL is beautiful and I love to read about language barriers.
In this scene, Archer had left and here, reunited with Bree.
From Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan:
I turned her around to face me and brought my hands up. (This part is italicized since he signs it) Someday, I said, when we’re old and gray, I’m going to look at you laying in bed beside me just like this, and I’m going to look into your eyes and know that it’s only ever been you. And that is going to be the great joy of my life, Bree Prescott. She smiled, her eyes filled up with what I knew were happy tears and I pulled her into my chest holding her tight, breathing her in. Just a little bit later, I came to for a brief second when I heard fireworks in the distance. I sleepily realized that it was midnight, a brand new year, a brand new start. I pulled my beautiful girl closer against me as she sighed out in her sleep, and I closed my eyes. I was home.
How can readers and fellow writers discover more about you and your work?