Romance Author Q&A: four novelists on writing romance

January 21, 2020


Exclusive Q&A with four Tyndale Fiction novelist

Have you ever read a sweet line in a romance that made you swoon or wondered where authors gather inspiration for characters in their love stories? In the new Q&A below, see what Tyndale novelists Tessa Afshar, Heidi Chiavaroli, Carla Laureano, and Courtney Walsh had to say about romance and couples in their stories + more:

Q&A with Tyndale biblical fiction novelist Tessa Afshar

Tessa Afshar’s newest novel Daughter of Rome is both an emotive love story and an immersive journey through first-century Rome and Corinth. Read what Tessa shared about the couple in Daughter of Rome’s love story:

Q: Relationships aren’t always smooth sailing. Priscilla and Aquila in Daughter of Rome have their share of challenges. How did you decide what obstacles to have them overcome together and how do you hope their story will encourage others?

A: Priscilla and Aquila were expelled from Rome, which meant they were forced to leave their home, dear friends, and established business ties. The implied emotional and financial stress in such an unexpected move is enormous and bound to affect even the strongest of relationships. In Daughter of Rome, I tried to capture some of the complexities of love in troubled times. The story reminds us how important it is to choose love in marriage, to guard it, to fight for it. To avoid listening to the negative conclusions that our wounded hearts press upon us. I hope readers will be inspired by Priscilla and Aquila’s brave love for each other, for God, and for friend and foe alike.

Q: Your novels are set during biblical times when courtship customs were different from today. How do you give characters in your novels romances that will resonate with contemporary readers while also not making the love stories feel too modern for the setting?

A: I believe there are certain things about the human heart that never change regardless of the era. Women will always want to be known and cherished. Pursued. Men still need to feel honored and respected. They still dread failure. The ancient Romans and Israelites might not have gone out to the local Italian restaurant for a first date. But the main ingredients of a good romance never change.

Q: Is there a scene between Priscilla and Aquila in Daughter of Rome that was the most fun for you to write? Which scene is it?

A: Oddly, it is the scene where Aquila almost ruins everything. He withdraws his first proposal. Caught in a whirlwind of judgment, he can’t wait to walk away. But the reader is also aware, perhaps more than Aquila himself, that he can’t really let Priscilla go. I love the charged tension Aquila feels in this scene, his heart torn between a consuming love and sharp censure. Even though the scene doesn’t have a happy conclusion, as readers we are aware that it will eventually lead to a more satisfying union.

Q: What’s one of your favorite romantic lines a character says in your novels?

A: Goodness! This one is really difficult to answer. The romance of a line usually comes from the buildup of many previous scenes, adding momentum. But here is a stab at an answer. I chose a short scene from Land of Silence:

He strode toward me without a word and, before I could object, grabbed hold of my hands and hauled me into his arms.

“Ethan! I am unclean!”

He cradled my head against his shoulder. “I have never known a cleaner woman.”

To read more from Tessa, check out:
Choices that Heal
Recharge and Write: Writing Tips from Tyndale Fiction Authors

More novels by Tessa:
Thief of Corinth
Land of Silence

Bread of Angels

Q&A with contemporary romance novelist Carla Laureano

Carla Laureano is the author of the new contemporary romance The Solid Grounds Coffee Company, book three in the Supper Club series, which features the love story of Bryan Shaw and Analyn Sanchez who work together to start a coffee roasting company. In this Q&A, read about Carla’s favorite scene featuring Ana and Bryan:

Q: How do you balance giving your couples a delightful romance and letting them experience real-life challenges couples sometimes face?

A: In general, the greater the conflict or the obstacle the characters face, the stronger the connection they need to have at the outset. After all, I want the characters and the readers to understand that the relationship is worth fighting for, even when it gets hard, so I try to give them plenty of time to get to know each other, have fun, and fall in love. Come to think of it, that must be one of the lessons from twenty-one years of marriage that has subconsciously seeped into my writing: eventually you’re going to hit rough patches, so you need those warm, fuzzy, romantic memories to remind you both of why you said, “I do!”

Q: Is there a couple from the Supper Club series or The MacDonald Family Trilogy that was the easiest to write? Which couple is it?

A: It would have to be Bryan and Ana in The Solid Grounds Coffee Company. Part of the reason is that Ana is so much like me (okay, a less healthy me) that I instinctively understood her. So much so that my editors kept telling me things like “I know her behavior makes sense to you, but it has to make sense to the reader, too!” And I really enjoy writing friends-to-more stories because my offbeat, sarcastic sense of humor can shine through. When characters are naturally comfortable with each other, it’s easy to write fun, flirty banter.

Q: What’s one of your favorite scenes between Ana and Bryan in your latest contemporary romance, The Solid Grounds Coffee Company?

A: Speaking of fun, flirty banter . . . my favorite scene, hands down, is the yoga scene. I don’t want to give too much away, but Ana thinks she’s going to show off and ends up being the one who gets the surprise. How Bryan teases her afterward makes me laugh out loud every time I read it. It’s just so fun. It’s somewhat late in the book, but that’s where I thought, These two really are meant for each other.

Q: What’s one of your favorite romantic lines a character says in your novels?

A: It’s more of a scene than a line, but I love James’s declaration to Andrea at the end of Five Days in Skye. He’s gone halfway around the world for her and lays his heart bare to her without knowing how she’s going to respond. It’s vulnerable and true and oh-so-romantic. Many books later, I like to change up the denouement and make it funny or unexpected or quirky, but there’s a purity about this ending that gets me every time. No matter how many more books I write, this scene will always be a favorite.

To read more from Carla, check out:
My Pastry Chef Heroine: A look at Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe’s Melody Johansson
How to Prep Easy Book Club Snacks

More novels by Carla:
Five Days in Skye
London Tides
Under Scottish Stars        
The Saturday Night Supper Club 
Brunch at Bittersweet Café

Q&A with time-slip novelist and romance writer Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi Chiavaroli’s new novel The Tea Chest tells the story of two women separated by centuries, who must find the strength to fight for love and freedom. . . and discover a heritage of courage and faith. Read the Q&A below to see what Heidi had to say about writing matches for her heroines in her stories:

Q: How do you come up with the perfect match for the heroines in your stories? Is there a heroine who gave you a big challenge when it came to writing the perfect romantic hero for her?

A: Most of the time, I allow the hero to sort of “show up” on the page as I write. Subconsciously though, I tend to create a character who will complement my heroine in her struggles.

Hayley in The Tea Chest was definitely a big challenge, though. This is a lady who wants to be a Navy SEAL, after all—that might intimidate most men! Yet I wanted to shine light on the draw for her of Ethan, her old boyfriend—how she is drawn to his inner strength and the history between them.

Q: Have any of the love stories in Freedom’s RingThe Hidden Side, or The Tea Chest been inspired by real-life couples? If not, how do you find inspiration for the love stories in your novels?

A: Liberty and Hugh, in Freedom’s Ring, were inspired from my own marriage. Hugh’s solidness and patient, unconditional love were definitely something I drew from my own husband.

Q: Do you have a favorite scene featuring one of the couples from The Tea Chest? What scene is it?

A: I love the first scene in The Tea Chest where we meet Emma and Noah. Noah is walking Emma home on the dark, cobblestoned Boston streets. Writing it, I could feel not only the political tension in the town, but also the romantic and political tension between them. It’s one of the first times Emma is contemplating giving herself over to the Cause of liberty, and we’re just waiting to see what she will decide and what part Noah will play in all of it.

Q: What’s one of your favorite romantic lines a character says in your novels?

A: This is from Alexander to Liberty in Freedom’s Ring: “Tell me you love him, Liberty, and I won’t beg you to come away with me. I won’t profess my own feelings for you. If you tell me such now, I will turn and go back into the tavern a happy enough man knowing you are happy.”

To read more from Heidi, check out:
Author Heidi Chiavaroli Shares Five Things You May Not Know About The Boston Massacre
5 Books that Changed My Life: Heidi Chiavaroli

More novels by Heidi:
The Hidden Side
Freedom’s Ring

Q&A with Tyndale contemporary romance novelist Courtney Walsh

Courtney Walsh’s new novel If for Any Reason is a love story set on Nantucket where Emily Ackerman’s recently arrived to renovate and sell her family cottage, never expecting to be reunited with her childhood best friend Hollis McGuire, boy next door–turned–baseball star. Read the Q&A below to discover where Courtney’s found inspiration for characters in her love stories:

Q: How did you choose the perfect happily ever after for Emily and Hollis in If for Any Reason?

A: I don’t want to give anything away, but I really try to put myself in the characters’ shoes and imagine the scenario that feels the most true. I think coming up with happy endings is one of my favorite parts of writing romance.

Q: Where do you find inspiration for your heroines and heroes, such as Hollis and Emily in If for Any Reason or Grady and Quinn in Just Let Go?

A: Oh, my goodness, everywhere. Every conversation I eavesdrop on in Starbucks. Every person who walks by me in Barnes & Noble. Every love story someone shares with me . . . it’s all inspiration. I often find that in order to really “see” my character, I first have to know how they spend their days, so for me, I’ll figure out who they are, what they do for a living, and then what kind of person they need in their life. All of those things have to interest me or I won’t write the story.

Q: When you’re writing a new contemporary romance, what helps you envision what the heroines and heroes will look and act like in the story?

A: It’s funny—I almost never have a storyboard or image of my characters. I don’t imagine them as actors or celebrities (except Trevor Whitney in Change of Heart, who looks like Henry Cavill . . .). For the most part, it’s less about what they look like and more about who they are. I honestly think from the beginning I just try to embody the character as much as possible, and they become more and more real to me throughout the whole first draft. Then I go back and hone that character because by that point, I know them so much better than when I first began.

Q: What’s one of your favorite romantic lines a character says in your novels?

A: It’s not a line exactly, but more of a gesture, and again, I don’t want to spoil it, but I really love the way Grady shows Quinn he loves her at the end of Just Let Go. I’m a big believer in dreams, in having them, pursuing them, cherishing them, making them come true, and I think the best thing a person can do to show how much they love someone else is to believe in the other person’s dreams. So for me, Grady’s gesture is just that, a way to make a dream come true for the woman he loves. That makes me swoon.

To read more from Courtney, check out: 
Five Risks That Are Absolutely Worth Taking
Author Valentine’s Favorites: Courtney Walsh

More novels by Courtney:
Just Let Go
Just Look Up
Change of Heart
Paper Hearts