Jenna Black's Blog Experiment

Wherein romance author Jenna Black plunges into the terrifying new territory of blogging . . .


 

Monday, February 27, 2006

Discovering My Theme

In an interesting coincidence, I've had two writing workshops this year--one at our local RWA chapter, and one in an online course--where I've been asked to delve into the theme of my writing. Exploring this issue has been a fascinating voyage of self-discovery for me.

I write in two sub-genres of romance--paranormal, and romantic comedy. I haven't sold a romantic comedy yet, though I'm still hopeful. It was easy for me to see a theme in the paranormals I'd written. Many of them (including Watchers in the Night, my October 2006 release from Tor Romance, and Embraced in Darkness, my free online read) center around a character's struggle against his or her inner darkness. Just this week, I realized with a jolt that that's why I love the Anita Blake books as much as I do--Anita is constantly struggling against the darker side of her nature, and it's a conflict that fascinates me.

However, as compelling as this fight against inner darkness is as a theme, I was looking for something broader, something that would also encompass my comedies. And I realized that yes, there really was a theme that would cover both: even the most emotionally damaged of us can find love. When I came up with this sentence, it resonated through my body in a way that told me that this is The One. This theme is more subtle in some of my books than in others, but it's always there, a core message of hope that I want to share with the world.

Even more amazing to me was that once I recognized that theme, I realized where in my psyche it came from. Without going into too many personal details, let's just say that I had a very damaging relationship with my first boyfriend, who I was with for four years. After we broke up, I didn't date again for about eight years. I thought I was open to having another relationship, that I was actively seeking my Mr. Right. But later experience proved that I had shut and barricaded the door around my heart.

When I met my now-husband, Dan, I'd added several locks and chains on that door, still not realizing that I'd done it. When Dan started to pursue me, I pushed him away with both hands. I said we didn't have that much in common, that there was too much of an age difference between us, and any number of other excuses for why we were "just friends." Luckily for me, Dan knew from the start that we were right for each other, and he refused to give up. He chipped away at those locks for about a year before he finally managed to open the door. And that's when I realized that I'd been so damaged by my first relationship that I hadn't been willing to risk my heart a second time. We were engaged within about a month after my emotional walls came tumbling down. We'll have our ten-year anniversary in July.

So, no wonder this theme of the emotionally damaged finding love is so important to me! I lived it myself. And it was such a life-altering experience that it had to find its way into my writing, especially when I started writing romances. (I suspect that before Dan came into my life, I wouldn't have been able to write a romance at all.)

It's amazing what you can learn about yourself from the experience of writing. Even when you're writing about vampires and fey creatures, it all comes from something inside you, some kind of personal experience. The fun part is trying to find that connection.

2 Comments:

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Lady M said...

Sorry - had to post again!

I LOVE - (all capitals - mind you) Anita Blake.

 
At 12:35 PM, Blogger Jenna Black said...

No need to apologize for commenting again! That's the whole point of a blog.

I ditto the capital letters. I just finished re-reading the first 8 books. (I'm a very fast reader, so this didn't take as long as it might.) She is a fabulous character, and so many of the supporting characters are great too. No one is one-dimensional, that's for sure.

I was thrilled when I got the following quote for Watchers in the Night: "It struck me as kind of a Stephanie Plum Meets Old Anita Blake."

Wow.

 

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