This week’s guest poster is the wonderful PC Zick, who discusses revamping her contemporary romance series. Enjoy!
Creating a functional family within fiction
By P.C. Zick
“I’m from a dysfunctional family.”
We’ve all heard this statement so much, it’s a cliché—overused and meaningless.
However, as an author, I can turn the cliché into something meaningful. But first, I must make my fictional families as dysfunctional as possible to create the necessary conflict and tension.
Once I’ve done that, I can turn them into my ideal version of functional. I don’t mean the vision of what we’d been told a “real” family looks like.
Those ideas were created with the 1950s sitcoms, and probably messed us all up when we realized we didn’t have Donna Reed in an apron in the kitchen cooking dinner.
Or Mrs. Cleaver greeting the Beaver and Wally with homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk when they came home from a perfect day of school.
Fred McMurray wasn’t in the recliner in the den with a pipe waiting to dispense down-to-earth advice to his three sons on how to ask a girl out on a date.
Very few of us had that type of family. But as an author, it’s possible to draw families who are the vision of what I always dreamed a family should be. I take great pride in making function out of dysfunction in my fiction, which is what I did when I wrote my first romance, Behind the Altar.
In fact, I liked the families so much, I wrote the next two books in the Behind the Love series almost immediately. I had created dysfunctional families—the worst kind. But I gave the characters enough sense to dump the “dys” part of the equation and form their own families, not always of blood, but of love.
My affection for the fictional town of Victory, Florida, and its inhabitants grew and deepened in the next two books in the series, Behind the Bar and Behind the Curtain. Readers responded and asked for one of the characters—the misunderstood buxom blonde Sally Jean—to star in her own book.
I hesitated. I’d never intended to ever write a series so the idea of writing a fourth novel for Behind the Love startled me. Did I have enough to say in a fourth book? Hadn’t I already explored as much as I could with the previous three books? What more could I add to the dysfunctional family pool?
Several months ago, I received some marketing advice for the series. I was told they needed new covers that more represented the romance genre, and the first three needed to be full-length novels, not novellas hovering on the line to a novel. And finally, I received the tip that other series currently performing the best had at least four novels in them.
And that’s when inspiration hit.
I did have a fourth book to write. Sally Jean needed her own voice. I went back to the first three books and scoured them for mentions of her. I had plenty of material.
And I discovered that in each book, I’d developed the other characters a little more with each storyline.
Ideas began sprouting about how to deepen the characterizations in the previously published books. And Sally Jean’s dilemmas all stemmed from somewhere, so another dysfunctional family was created.
For four months, I rewrote and revised the first three books and simultaneously wrote Behind the Door. I fell in love with the stories again, and I fell in love with the process. The first book, Behind the Altar, introduced most of the characters who followed in the next books.
So, going back to the love affair between Dean and Leah became an honor. I knew them so much better than when I originally drew their portraits. And both came from embattled backgrounds. And both had found some success as young adults, although love had been something that had alluded them both. Until they met.
The dysfunction of their life allowed them to connect. And when they did, they created a different sort of family made up of others who’d grown up with negligent parents, alcoholic fathers, drug addict mothers, wife beaters, child abusers—all bad examples for forming relationships.
The second book, Behind the Bar, brings long-term couple, Reggie and Susie, to a crossroads. Reggie must decide if he can get over the abandonment of his father who always resented his mother. Reggie doesn’t believe in happily ever after. When Susie disapproves of some of his actions and abandons him as well, he must decide what his priorities are.
Behind the Curtain finally shows a family in Victory who set the perfect example for happiness. And Tommy and Lisa, Susie’s sister, become the beneficiary of that couple’s guidance and a recipe for happiness. If only Lisa’s quest for fame doesn’t thwart their attempts.
Through it all, the characters help one another to survive the dysfunction of their original families, which leads directly to the fourth book in the series. Behind the Door finds Sally Jean suffering from her belief she doesn’t deserve to be loved. When she meets up with a handsome man suffering from PTSD, they depend on the other characters from Victory to help.
As I worked on the first three—fleshing them out into full-length novels—and writing the fourth book, I was constantly reminded that we can choose our own families and communities. That’s not to say we must abandon the families of our birth, but we can modify them and erase the “dys” part of the cliché.
Family means more than blood. It means loyalty and love and honesty. It means respect. And it means that everyone deserves to be here and to find love. Those lessons—once learned—take us far beyond the pages of a romance novel.
The intersection of writing fiction and appraising my own life brought me to a realization about my first family. By considering the extreme in dysfunction through my fiction, I discovered my own family wasn’t so bad after all.
All it took was a re-examination of Behind the Love where dysfunction collides and explodes into function.
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About P C Zick
P.C. Zick describes herself as a storyteller no matter what she writes. And she writes in a variety of genres, including romance, contemporary fiction, and nonfiction. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. Currently, crafting fiction—mostly romances—occupies her time.
Many of her novels contain stories of Florida and its people and environment, which she credits as giving her a rich base for her storytelling. She says, “Florida’s quirky and abundant wildlife – both human and animal – supply my fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable.”
The three novels in her Florida Fiction series explore rural, state, and global politics, address the fight between environmentalists and developers, and capture the lives of the people struggling to survive it all. With touches of humor and romance, these novels trace Florida’s history, delve into current events, and imagine future impacts of both.
No matter the genre, her novels contain elements of romance with strong female characters, handsome heroes, and descriptive settings. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion, and through her fiction, she imparts this philosophy in an entertaining manner with an obvious love for her characters, plot, and themes.
Behind the Love Contemporary Romance Series
The Behind the Love contemporary romance series consists of four full-length and stand-alone novels. Each one features sizzling attractions, dramatic confrontations, and intertwined and complicated lives. Set in the fictional small town of Victory, Florida, friends fight and love and form families of their own choosing.
Behind the Altar, Book One – Leah lives a quiet life helping others. When her future mother-in-law threatens her causes, she’s left confused by the hypocrisy and befuddled by Dean, a stranger who roars into town on a Harley.
Behind the Bar, Book Two – Susie Williams yearns for a romantic wedding with her boyfriend of five years. Reggie Barker runs from demands to marry any woman, including Susie.
Behind the Curtain, Book Three – Lisa Williams has discovered a way to achieve her life-long goal of becoming a famous actress by bringing a reality television show to her hometown. Tommy Jackson despises the idea of exploiting the town and hates it, even more, when his editor assigns him to cover the show for a Tampa newspaper.
Behind the Door, Book Four – Sally Jean Compton is in love. And this time it’s with a man who isn’t in love with someone else. Dr Brett Gorman arrives in Victory to help the veterans of Deer River with PTSD symptoms. When tragedy strikes, neither Sally Jean nor Brett are prepared for what happens next.
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Thanks to P.C Zick for giving her time to contribute to this blog
Do please check out her links and leave comments if you have anything to ask her. As always all comments by new commenters are moderated so don’t worry if you don’t see your comment immediately.
For my regular readers, you may notice I have not been around much with my own posts. I am sorry about that, I have been dealing with a lot of stress and am now currently ill in bed. I will be back with my own articles, soon.