Why We Need Love Stories

These days, we need them more than ever. We need to tell our love stories, and we need to live our love stories. We cannot pass them off as “fluff,” as less than, as something not lofty because it’s not “literature.” We need love stories because we need love. Not just romance, but energy.

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It’s the second Wednesday of the month, and I was all set to write a post centered around the skill or craft aspect of The Writer’s Habit. But it’s also Valentine’s Day, and it’s the launch day of my ninth novel and eleventh book.

So, I kind of wanted to write about love.

In particular, love stories.

Despite Romance being the most popular genre, outselling just about every other genre, love stories seem to get passed off as nothing more than feel-good fluff. It’s not literature, a reviewer writes, but I liked it.

Even the tagline I use, “beach books with a brain,” is clever and fun and makes for a clear visual description. And yet, I sometimes feel guilty using it because it implies that beach reading is brainless.

And maybe for some it is.

I will tell you that I never aspired to write “literature”—I wasn’t interested in validation from my peers (although it’s always nice to be liked), and I was OK with being excluded from college reading lists (although I am proud to say that my memoir Friends of Mine made the cut in a course about the 1980s).

But I always, always want to tell a good story.

And I love writing love stories. I enjoy exploring the relationship one has with the world around her, be it love of home, of music, of food, of family. Love of self, especially. It’s not solely about the happy ending and getting what you wanted. Sometimes it’s about getting what you didn’t know you wanted, or losing what you thought you wanted. Sometimes it’s about giving what you wanted.

My husband and I were on Yellowstone Public Radio the other night (you can listen to the interview here). We told our hosts stories—about how we met, how our books came to be, how we collaborate as authors and business partners, and more. At the end, they said to us, “May you never run out of stories.”

We began as Facebook friends. And we transitioned to friends when we started reading each other’s stories. We evolved to close friends when we started telling each other stories—the stories of our past, of growing up in suburbia, of teenage angst, of favorite bands and foods and firsts.

What we didn’t realize at the time was that we were writing our own love story. And that has become my favorite love story of all time. Not because there’s a happily ever after (cue the Zen Master: “We’ll see”), but because we get to keep writing it as we go along. We get to engage in the process day after day. Some days it’s messy, and other days it’s like great jazz. It consists of good characters (flawed, yet worth rooting for), intentions and obstacles, and dialogue—lots and lots of dialogue. And we practice. Every day.

We need love stories.

These days, we need them more than ever. We need to tell our love stories, and we need to live our love stories. We cannot pass them off as “fluff,” as less than, as something not lofty because it’s not “literature.” We need love stories because we need love. Not just romance, but energy. Music. Art. Dance. Mr. Rogers. Chocolate. A sunrise and a sunset. A cat that falls asleep curled up beside you. A dog that is ecstatic to see you when you walk through the door. A stranger for whom you held open the door.

Each of these things comes with a story.

What is yours?

 

cake photo
Our wedding cake courtesy of Audrey’s Bakery in Sayville, NY. It tasted even better!

The Writer’s Habit “Introduction”: Read It Here for Free!

Here is the Introduction to my book The Writer’s Habit, on which this blog and website is based.

Here is the Introduction to my book The Writer’s Habit, on which this blog and website is based. I hope it will make you want to read more. You can buy it here. You can also go to elisalorello.com to learn more about me as well as my other books.

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Big Skye Littleton is here!

In this warm, high-spirited contemporary novel, big love can happen in the smallest of spaces.

I am happy to announce the launch of my eighth novel, Big Skye Littleton.

I am so proud of this book, which takes place in my adopted city of Billings, Montana. It was fun to write, and I’m thrilled by the response it’s already gotten.

Here’s what some of the early reviews on Goodreads have to say:

This book has a huge heart. A real feel-good story that feels personal and leaves you warm inside.

A delightful, contemporary read that you simply can’t fail to love.

It’s a fun roller coaster ride through the beautiful city of Billings, MT and one that I didn’t want to end.

Big Skye Littleton is a super good book. I could not put this book down. I loved the story and the Montana setting. Lorello is a new author to me and I was impressed by her writing and will be reading more of her books. If you enjoy a good romance this could be the book for you.

In this warm, high-spirited contemporary novel, big love can happen in the smallest of spaces.

Skye Littleton said goodbye to her job, her best friend, and her home in Rhode Island to start over in Billings, Montana, with Vance Sandler, a gorgeous guy she met online. On her cross-country flight, Skye shares her happy story with her seatmate, Harvey Wright, a Billings resident who knows Vance—and his reputation for heartbreak. Harvey’s infuriating advice to Skye? Go home.

When Skye arrives, she discovers that Vance has changed his mind and wants nothing to do with her. Despite the setback, Skye is determined to rebuild her life and begin a new chapter in Montana’s largest city, which sometimes feels like a small town. With Harvey’s help, Skye finds a job—and a passion for organizing closets and clearing out clutter. But as she grows closer to Harvey, she finds herself homesick for her former life. Could Harvey be her future, or is she his chance at revenge? Can Skye finally trust her own heart enough to let it show her the way home?

Available in paperback (ask your local bookseller to order it!), Kindle, and audiobook. Buy a copy today!

To lean more, go to elisalorello.com.

 

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What Writers Can Learn from Duran Duran: 5 Secrets of the Fab Five’s 40-Year Success

The first song my husband and I danced to at our wedding was Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “If I Could Write a Book.” The second was Duran Duran’s “Pressure Off.”

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Duran Duran is still around, did you? In fact, they’re celebrating 40 years next year.

Or maybe you didn’t know there’s such a thing as Duran Duran Appreciation Day. It’s today, in fact.

If you know me, however, you know how big a Duran Duran fan I am. In fact, I wrote a memoir about my thirty-plus-year-long “relationship” with the band. And so, I thought today would be the perfect day to share the tenets of that success, and how writers could learn from them.

 

Duran Duran Had A Definite Plan

Founding members John Taylor and Nick Rhodes had a vision—not only for the sound, but also for the look and trajectory of the band. They were among the pioneers of the fusion of punk and disco called New Romantic, a hybrid of David Bowie and Chic. In the way the Beatles had donned mop tops and suits, they had donned frilly shirts, leather pants, and makeup. They wanted a record deal with a major label. They wanted to play Madison Square Garden by 1984. And guess what—they did. In fact, some say they achieved the kind of stardom that hadn’t been achieved since the Beatles.

 

Writers can sometimes be vague in their intentions. “I just want to tell great stories,” they say. Or, “I want to be on the bestseller’s list someday.” The lack of a definite plan makes those goals more difficult to achieve. Telling great stories means learning everything you can about the craft—how will you go about that? By reading great stories. By reading about how to tell great stories. By learning from master crafters. How will you get on the bestseller list? By continuing to write great stories. By researching the benefits of getting a literary agent and a traditional publishing contract as opposed to the benefits of self-publishing. By learning everything you can about marketing and promotion. And so on. The more clear you are about what you want, the better you’ll be able to plan for it.

 

Duran Duran Endured Setbacks

In 1985, after having back-to-back #1 hits (“The Reflex” and “A View to a Kill”), coming off a mammoth tour, and being arguably the most successful pop band in the world, Duran Duran’s performance at Live Aid was the last time the original lineup performed together for almost two decades. The 80s, it seemed, had ended in 1985. Although the band produced another hit with the single “Notorious,” album sales dropped. So did their popularity. Princess Diana’s favorite group went from being a quintet of pinup stars and fashion icons to a trio trying to re-invent themselves musically and visually. They also struggled personally. For example, bassist John Taylor has talked and written openly about his cocaine addiction during that time.

No matter what, they didn’t quit. If an album failed commercially, rather than walk away from the music business, Duran Duran went back into the studio and made another one. They toured and played each venue as if it were Madison Square Garden. And something happened along the way. They matured. They improved at their craft. They persisted. Moreover, the teenage fans grew up with them. And guess what? They came back—first in 1993 with their hit “Ordinary World,” again in 2003 when the original five members reunited and toured, again in 2011 with their album All You Need is Now (produced by Mark Ronson), and again in 2015 with their hit “Pressure Off” (produced by Nile Rodgers).

 

Just about every writer/author goes through peaks and valleys throughout their careers. Whereas my debut novel Faking It has sold over 150,000 units, my seventh, The Second First Time, face-planted right out of the gate. That hasn’t stopped me from being proud of both novels and both efforts. I’ve seen changes in the industry and in consumer behavior in the last seven years. I’ve had four different editors since signing with my publisher. It would be easy to long for the years when I sold 5,000-10,000 units a month, or for another one of my novels to hit the way Faking It did. It would be even easier to quit altogether, thinking, “What’s the use? I’ll never be on top again.” But it’s better to persist. Persistence pays off—not always extrinsically, but intrinsically. It makes you a better artist, composer, musician, performer, writer. It makes you focus on what really matters—not the glory, but the work itself—and it makes you grateful for what you’ve learned along the way, as well as for those who stuck with you no matter what.

 

Duran Duran Never Look Back

The band could have easily become a “nostalgia act”—going on tour year after year and capitalizing on their catalog of 80s hits. (And I’m not knocking those bands that do—they make their fans very happy and put on great shows.) Or, they could have capitalized on the sound that made them so popular (their albums Duran Duran and Rio) and made various incarnations of them over the years. But Duran Duran has never looked back. Regardless of an album’s commercial standing or what’s trending in music, when they go into the studio, they strive to never repeat themselves. The result is 14 albums and counting—the fans love some more than others—but each album is different in theme and design and production while still retaining the Duran Duran musical identity and brand. That is the sign of musicians who are in touch with the creative process. And yet they still aim to be trendsetters and produce music that people will dance to when the world around them is dull or discouraging. Every show echoes this.

Even All You Need is Now, which was touted as “the follow-up to Rio,” contained the perfect blend of modern and retro. It wasn’t a throwback to or repeat of Rio as much as it was an evolution.

 

As an author, I don’t seek to write a repeat of Faking It—I don’t think I could even if I wanted to. I can, however, identify those traits that keep readers coming back to my novels and turning pages. Crack dialogue. Engaging characters. A good, entertaining story with a sound structure. I want to keep evolving in my creative process. From a place of craft, I want each book to be better than the last. And I don’t want to dwell why some books exceeded expectations while others greatly disappointed them. Like Jed Bartlett on The West Wing, when I’m ready to get back into my writing studio, I say, “What’s next?”

 

Duran Duran Appreciate their Fans

We’ve stuck with them for a long time. And some are just discovering them in the last year or two. Regardless, the band has always expressed gratitude, be it in their performance onstage (like playing a deep cut or a classic B-side), at a record store signing, or in an interview. Today may be the official day for Duranies to appreciate Duran Duran, but it’s also the day John, Nick, Simon, and Roger (and Dom!) honor and appreciate us right back.

 

My husband recently had this to say about readers:

Readers are wonderful. Readers are a gift. If you want to write, and you’re actually audacious enough to think that your words should be printed and bound and distributed, readers are who you want on your side when it’s all done. Absolutely, you want your agent to be your champion. You want an editor who’s in love with your book and can persuade all the other people who have to say yes to love it, too. You want booksellers who adore your book so much they put it in the hands of their customers and say, “You HAVE to read this.”

If a reader loves your book, she shares the love. She tells her friends, and her brother, and her mom. You end up getting these messages: “I bought five copies and gave them to all my friends for Christmas” or “My aunt gave me your book for my birthday, and I loved it!” And you’re so touched by that, you cry. Why wouldn’t you? That’s an amazing thing.

Here’s another amazing thing: If you have ten readers or ten million, you have gold.

He’s right in every way.

 

Duran Duran Always Puts the Music First

If you came of age during the 1980s, you probably couldn’t walk five feet without seeing Duran Duran—on a teenage girl’s t-shirt or pinned to her denim jacket, on MTV in one of their videos shot in Sri Lanka or Antigua, in the record stores or pop magazines or on the radio or at the top of the Billboard charts. An outsider might think they were all about image. But an insider knows they’re all about music.

They wrote and played their own music. Became masters of their instruments (“Roger uses two hands for his!”). They famously said they wanted to be the band everyone was dancing to when the bomb dropped. When they play “Ordinary World” in concert, they dedicate it to “lost friends” or someone who has passed away, or a group in need of comfort. “The song is no longer ours,” singer Simon LeBon said. “It belongs to all of you now.” I still have my pin-ups and posters and pins and scrapbooks from those teenage years. Saved all my ticket stubs, and still collect memorabilia every now and then. But what has kept my torch burning all this time has been the music. I listen in my car. Or when I’m on the treadmill. When I need inspiration. When I need a pick-me-up. The first song my husband and I danced to at our wedding was Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “If I Could Write a Book.” The second was Duran Duran’s “Pressure Off.” (I think they would have approved.) In their hit song “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise,” which has become something of an anthem, the lyric that has summed up everything about the relationship between the band and their fans is “The music between us.” Andrew “Durandy” Golub showcased this in his book of the same title.

 

As writers, publishing contracts and literary agents and Amazon rankings are great, especially if things are going in your favor. But never forget what got you there. Never forget why you got into this racket in the first place. It was the writing. You couldn’t not do it.

Wishing you all a fab Duran Duran Appreciation Day, and happy writing!

 

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FoM title page signed by the band!