Inkpop Blog

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Just a Modern Romance: Inside the Mind of Cassidy Calloway

Posted by inkpopbecki on September 29, 2010

With so many vampires, werewolves and love stories set in a world far beyond our universe, it’s hard to remember that there are any other kind of books in the marketplace these days. Yet the simple story of girl like boy, girl does everything–in her natural power–to date boy, girl and boy finally get together and live–presumably–happily ever after, is still out there. It is tried and true because readers can relate directly to the plot.

So how do writers create these types of stories and really make them stand out in today’s market? Cassidy Calloway, author of Confessions of a First Daughter and the new novel Secrets of a First Daughter, will be live on inkpop at 5 p.m. EST to discuss what it takes to write a modern romance. We caught up with Cassidy before the chat about her books and writing in general.

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There’s a big trend in the teen marketplace right now toward paranormal romances. What inspired you to write a contemporary romance?
As a writer, I’ve learned to never chase a trend. Novels can take years to write and years to publish. Also you’ve got to write the books you feel compelled to write. FIRST DAUGHTER was inspired by a weekend of watching WEST WING re-runs on TV. The last presidential elections were only starting to heat up. I thought that a teen like Morgan Abbott would make a wonderful president because she wouldn’t get sucked into the craziness of politics. I love real, human romantic leads. Vampires, werewolves and ghosts just aren’t my type.

How do you make your books stand out?
In my opinion, there are two ways a book leaps off the shelf to grab a potential reader’s attention.  One is to have a really great cover that speaks to what the book is about but is eye-catching.   HarperTeen has really hit the mark on the covers for both CONFESSIONS OF A FIRST DAUGHTER, and now, SECRETS OF A FIRST DAUGHTER.
Second, the story concept needs to be strong, which means having characters readers can connect with in a plot that intrigues them.  I like funny romantic stories with characters who are a teensy-bit oddball, yet likable.  So in the case of the First Daughter stories, the concept: the president’s daughter who needs to be perfect because the whole world is watching her grow up is meshed with Morgan Abbott, a lovable klutz who is anything but First Daughter material.  Readers who want a fast-paced book that’s loaded with humor and romance set in the backdrop of the White House will hopefully pluck the book off the shelf and give it a try.

Contemporary romances tend to be set in real time and are based on realistic people. How do you strike a balance between making your characters and storylines relatable, while still making them feel fresh and different from our own lives?
The human experience is universal.  One of the things I love about contemporary romances is that it IS rooted in reality.  A reader who is struggling with parental pressures or who is agonizing over what to wear for a date can identify with the problems presented to the characters in the book.   For the Morgan books, however, no teen has a mother who is the President of the United States (yet!) and who lives at the White House.  There’s a curiosity factor about how a person like that grows up in the public eye.  How do you deal with seeing your mom being the leader of the free world but still telling you to go clean your room?  How do you go out on a date with a horde of paparazzi following your every move?  Hopefully, readers will want to find out!

Another aspect of writing a contemporary book is that setting requires just as much if not even more world-building by the author as any alternative reality novel.  For example, for the Morgan books I did a lot of research about the lives of the First Children, living in the White House, and Washington D.C.’s political backdrop.  There was no fudging with these details because readers will know if you don’t get it right.  For SECRETS OF A FIRST DAUGHTER, the story moves to London which required another level of research. Let’s just say that our disaster-magnet Morgan takes international diplomacy to a whole new level!

Want to hear more? Join us for a live chat with Cassidy Calloway at 5 p.m. EST on inkpop forums.

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