Today’s Guest MJ Schiller
Hi and a huge welcome to my guest MJ Schiller. I’m so fortunate she’s taken the time to stop by and share her latest book with us. I love the sound of “Abandon All Hope” and will be grabbing a copy soon to see how Hope does achieve her dream. I’m sure MJ would love to ‘talk with’ anyone who has time to leave a comment.
A TROPE BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A TROPE
Hi, Anne! Thank you for having me here today to introduce myself to your peeps and talk about my new book. ABANDON ALL HOPE is a rock star romance, but perhaps done a little bit differently than what you’ve read before. In romances you often see the same “tropes.” (Almost sounds like some sort of monster robot in a sci-fi flick, doesn’t it?) A trope is a seasoned character, or plot line, one we recognize and are comfortable with.
Perhaps romances employ a lot of these tropes because it is still the best selling genre, by far. Romance readers are generally voracious. The more books they crave, the happier we writers are to provide them. But as we’re cranking out novels, we tend to fall into the same patterns. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many readers seek that familiarity. We all know the damsel in distress, the wise-cracking side-kick, the outrageously handsome and buff hero. Why even the definition of romance is a sort of trope itself because we know that it will have a…what? HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER! (It’s become a noun, by George!) We know what to expect. When this is not good is when a writer gets lazy and lets the trope define the character, making them one-dimensional.
That cozy sense of recognition we feel, though, is one of the reasons why series are so popular. We know the characters; we know what’s coming. But a good writer will make the interesting part how it is coming. The writing should make the trope worth reading. Marketers these days are always talking about “branding” yourself as a writer. (Sounds painful to me! I know that wasn’t in the contract I signed! hee-hee). Those who study sales will tell you that you want the readers you’ve cultivated to be able to recognize your books and find you.
For instance, my cover for the first book in my ROCKING ROMANCE COLLECTION, TRAPPED UNDER ICE, shows a girl from mid-back down with a wide stance, back turned, visually standing on the title. I wanted the title to be made out of ice as it is a central symbol in the book. The cover for ABANDON ALL HOPE is visually very similar, yet very different at the same time. We again have the figure with the wide stance, but this time it’s our hero, rather than the heroine. (Don’t ask me what I’m going to do on the next one! Although I do have some ideas…). This time, though, instead of ice we have fire. “Abandon all hope ye that enter here,” is a line from Dante’s Inferno. It’s what’s written on the gates of hell. A bit strong for my little romance, but I liked the idea of using that for a title and naming one of the character’s Hope. So already I’ve set up my readers for the similarities, but also for the differences. TRAPPED UNDER ICE is a much different book than ABANDON ALL HOPE.
So at the beginning of this piece I told you that ABANDON ALL HOPE is a rock star romance, a trope of sorts, but maybe not exactly like you’d expect. You see, Chase refused to fit into the rock star stereotype. Of course he’s handsome as all get out, and the sex appeal oozes out of him when he’s up on stage stroking that guitar, but he’s not into the usual rock lifestyle. He doesn’t do drugs or imbibe overly much, and he isn’t a womanizer. In fact, he hasn’t changed that much since his days growing up in Nebraska. He doesn’t have a cook. His house isn’t much bigger than his parents’. He’s not brash. He’s not an alpha. The one remarkable feature about him that Hope refers to again and again is his sense of calm. Doesn’t sound much like the rock star we normally conjure up, does it?
Now Hope, Hope definitely fits the damsel in distress type. Or does she? True, at the beginning Hope is sort of bumbling her way through life. In the first scene she even has set her alarm clock wrong and wakes up late on a morning when she has a very important meeting. But Hope isn’t a flake, and she isn’t weak. You’re just going to have to read it to determine for yourself. But I’ll tell you one thing more that isn’t like your standard novel. Yes, when Hope and Chase get together it is the climax of the novel, but it’s not the end. Hope’s story isn’t over when she gets her man back. She has one more thing to accomplish. She has to restore her dignity, get the big story, before she leaves the newspaper she works for. She may start off shaky, but that girl’s something else!
Well, that’s enough of me blabbing! Now your assignment is to go out and use the word trope all day long to baffle the people you work with. Worm it into every conversation you can. “I would have been on time today, but I ran into this trope…” “What a lovely trope you’re wearing…” So what if it doesn’t make sense! It’ll confuse the heck out of them and that’s good fun! Thanks for reading and I hope (pun intended) you’ll pick up a copy of ABANDON ALL HOPE and give it a try!
Hope had expected someone else to open the door—a manager, a groupie, a chauffeur, anyone—but not him. She had been in the initial phases of bracing herself for seeing him again, when suddenly he was there in front of her. She was unprepared.
She eyed him. He hadn’t changed much, except for his hair. When they were younger, it had been about the same shade of brown hers was. Now, someone, a manager or promoter, perhaps, had convinced him to dye his hair blond, and he wore it longer than he had in high school, just to his collar, and long on top. The clothes he wore now were different, too. He seemed to have traded in his t-shirts and shorts for black jeans and an expensive-looking, scarlet-colored, button-down shirt. But when Hope peered into his eyes, she was flooded with memories of past times, and a warm feeling spread over her, both welcome and uncomfortable at the same time.
She took in her surroundings, resisting the urge to run across the wide, circular room and peer out the windows covering the far wall where the light streamed in across the lush carpeting. Directly in front of them was a sunk-in area with two large, semicircular couches with an ornate, round table between them. To the left was a wet bar with funky v-shaped stools, which looked somehow top-heavy, as if they would tip over at any moment. To the right was a big screen, plasma TV surrounded by comfortable seats, which had attached cup holders like in a movie theater.
“Wow, Chase! This is great!” She turned back to him. “You really have made something of yourself, haven’t you?”
He grinned. “I’ve done all right, I guess.”
“Done all right?” she exclaimed in surprise. “You’ve had six songs in the top ten in the past two years, and your first album went platinum in less than three months. I’d say you’ve done pretty damn good!” She laughed.
The sound of her voice was intoxicating, like a heady perfume, and he recalled now how she would occasionally insert a curse word into her speech just to catch him off guard and make him laugh.
“You haven’t changed a bit.”
“Oh yes, I have,” she said quickly, unable to keep the edge out of her voice. Hope looked down, moving her foot back and forth across the carpeting, watching as the color of the nap changed with each sweep, her hands clasped behind her back. I’m here for a story, that’s it, she reminded herself. She moved over to the window and gazed out over Chicago. Suddenly, she swayed forward and placed her hand on the glass to steady herself.
“Still afraid of heights, huh?”
Hope hadn’t realized he had followed her. She nodded mutely, surprised he had remembered something about her she had forgotten herself. Unable to resist the temptation, she turned to gaze at him, the pain engulfing her with a suddenness that was frightening. She didn’t want to remember or be reminded that he knew these things about her.
Now you’ve read an excerpt, check out this great trailer for “Abandon All Hope”
I was born in Overland Park, KS, in the heart of Tornado Alley, and my life has been a bit twisted since. Actually, it’s not all that twisted, but I’ve always wanted to use that line. I grew up in St. Louis, MO, went to school at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and moved to Bloomington, IL, fresh out of college, after my husband got a job at State Farm’s corporate headquarters. I’ve worked as a high school/junior college teacher, personnel recruiter, office manager of a jewelry store, and, for the past ten years, as a lunch lady. I like to karaoke and attend rock concerts. I am actively involved at church and spend too much time on Facebook. I am the mother of a seventeen-year-old, and fifteen-year-old triplets, and have been married to my husband, Don, for over twenty-four years.
I have been a writer all my life. My first book, which was co-written with Mary Ellen Murphey in second grade, was titled The Black Cat, and was written on blue hotel stationary, hole-punched, and bound by white yarn. I believe it is currently out of circulation.
When I turned forty, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized those bigwig publishing houses in New York were now probably run by people younger than me, so I shouldn’t be intimidated by them. At about the same time I was watching one of those award shows, and Jaclyn Smith got up to give a post-humorous award to Aaron Spelling. She credited him for encouraging her to go into acting, saying something brilliant like, “Reach for your dreams.” Nothing new. Almost even seems a little Jiminy Cricketish. But, for some reason, it struck me that night. When Aaron Spelling was thirteen, he was probably just like any other acned thirteen-year-old. But he worked to achieve his dreams, and became a household name. So, I began to write. Once I finished my first book, I wasn’t able to stop. I would rather write than do just about anything else. After all, you get to make people (characters) do what you want and design your own happy endings. What power! What a privilege.