By Amy Taylor
If a crackling fire, a mug of cocoa and a romance novel sounds like your idea of a great night in, we’re with you. Now that Valentine’s Day is on everyone’s minds, you might be looking for a dose of romance. We caught up with local romance author Natalina Reis to learn more about the craft of creating romance novels.
A Lifetime of Writing
Her journey into writing romance novels began as a teenager.
“I always liked a good romance even as a kid. When I started writing in my teens, I always seemed to add a heavy romance element to everything I wrote, so I guess it was not surprising that I would end up writing romance. Romances have a sort of magic to them; they are full of hope and optimism and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside,” Reis said.
She hit a few bumps along the road to publication, but she didn’t let those discourage her for long. After a rough patch of many rejections, she got back up and found a way to publish her work.
“I started writing romances about the time I had my first son and kept it up for a few years. Then I got disillusioned with all the rejections (back then self-publishing was not an option and most publishers were not taking unsolicited manuscripts) and I stopped for a long time. Then about five years ago, I joined a local writing group, learned about NaNoWriMo, wrote a novel that I pitched during a Twitter’s Pitch Madness and was lucky enough to be picked by a small publisher. Even though I didn’t stay with that publisher after my first book, it gave me the boost I needed to continue publishing. I am now a hybrid author. Most of my books are traditionally published by a small press, and I have a couple of self-pubs,” she said.
A Touch of Romance
Her novels don’t fall squarely into the romance genre as you might expect. You can find a variety of genre elements in each of her novels.
“I am one of those people who absolutely hate to place books in these little genre boxes. My books have a very strong romance element to them — some more than others — but they are also so much more than that. I was a devout mystery reader for many years, so most of my books, from romantic comedies to
paranormal, have some elements of mystery. In my portfolio you will find a fantasy series, romantic comedies with a twist, a dystopian/sci-fi and paranormal romances. I have even written some short horror and suspense pieces (not published), but even in those I tend to insert some romance,” Reis said.
The universal notion of love and positivity of romance drew her to add elements of romance to all her novels.
“… the optimism, the idea that love can change the world, that love can sustain you. The idea that there is someone who completes you, who feels like home no matter where you are is a very attractive concept. Also, the fact that love is something that unites us all no matter what nationality, what ethnicity, what
sexual orientation … everyone deep down inside has a need for love,” Reis said.
Writing Process — From “Pantsing” to Publication
Every writer has their own process when crafting their work. Reis calls herself a “pantser” — a writer who flies by the seat of their pants.
“I’m a pantser, which means I do no planning. I will get an idea (something I saw or heard, a song, a painting) and I will just start writing. The plot and even the characters develop as I write, and I’m not lying when I say that I often get surprised by what my characters do. I could be writing something with no specific goal, and all of a sudden something just pops up in my head and the story takes a whole different route. And that’s the one thing I love the most about writing,” she said.
She has published books through several different avenues. Her advice for new writers is to never give up.
“I’m not an expert and it took me a long time to get published, but it can and does happen all the time. So whether you want to be traditionally published or be self-published, the best advice I can give a new novelist is to keep at it. Don’t give up. Writing is not for the faint of heart. The romance genre is by far the one that sells the most, but it is also the one with the most competition in terms of numbers of authors and works. It’s not easy and don’t expect to make a living out of it, at least at first. Go in for the love rather than the money or you will be sorely disappointed,” she advised.
“My other gem of wisdom is to keep educating yourself. Go to workshops, classes, read lots of books on the craft of writing. Just having great ideas is not enough. You have to be able to express them clearly and in a way that pleases and hooks readers,” she said.
Her books published to date are We Will Always Have the Closet, Loved You Always, Blind Magic, Her Real Man, Fictional-ish, The Jewel Chronicles, Lavender Fields, Dark Feathers, Infinite Blue and Heart’s Prey.
Her 13th book, Of Magic & Scales, will be published in February 2020. For more information about Natalina Reis, visit her website at natalinareis.com.
Amy Taylor (Ataylor@princewilliamliving.com) is a freelance writer and editor. She earned her BLS in English from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.