Recently, I read a review for my latest release, Tarnished Gold, in which the reviewer stated that the book didn’t have enough conflict. She liked the book, gave it a great rating, but the fact that the conflict wasn’t, in her estimation, present, bothered me, because I know better.
Of course, I accepted the review with a thank you and I meant it. I also stated this:
Just a note on conflict. My take on the subject was that they lived in a time of great change and conflict. Every day they were faced with situations that affected the way they lived and worked. There was a lot of conflict, but it was the way Jack and Wyatt chose to handle it that made them what they were.
As a reader, I tend to get worn out with stories that wring it out of you with one conflict after another, often contrived for the sake of the formula. By design, I chose to have Jack and Wyatt circle the wagons so to speak, and together, work through whatever life threw at them. Real people do that, that’s the way I live my life. No particular fanfare, just dig in and work through things, which makes you a stronger person and makes your relationship stronger as well. For these characters, the way they did that suited their personalities.
This review has stayed with me, because I know my book and I know that conflict did exist in it and what that conflict was. The major conflict is that the Hollywood that first doted on its gay residents then changed mid-stream, casting gay and lesbian actors as deviant. Amidst this atmosphere, what does one do about one of the most basic of human needs—to be themselves?
The choices were few if one was to keep their dignity and integrity intact. Should they be true to themselves, or play the game as set forth by others—the powers that be?
Studios forced many an actor to marry a beard in order to hide who they really were. In the years after those depicted in Tarnished Gold, Rock Hudson fell victim to this edict, as did Rudolph Valentino, Charles Laughton, Cole Porter, even Sir Laurence Olivier. There are rumors of current day actors in such marriages, while they can only be themselves in private.
Some actors, like William Haines, refused to knuckle under to studio demands, telling Louis B. Mayer that he was already married. He and his lover, Jimmie Shields, spent 42 years together, before Billy’s death in 1973. In 1934, actor Ramon Novarro refused as well, but instead of facing the world as boldly as Billy Haines did, Ramon chose a life of seclusion. For many years, he walled himself inside his Laurel Canyon home, where, in 1968, two brothers murdered him.
The conflict these men, and so many others, felt was the internal terror of never realizing the safety and security that straight actors took and take even today, for granted. Every day they lived with the pain others expecting them to live two lives. Their lives, professional and private, were, in many cases, a charade. Even their names, for some, weren’t their own.
In Tarnished Gold, I made a deliberate decision to not follow the formulaic theme of most romance novels, that being boy meets boy, they fall in love, all is well, boom, big major conflict, they break apart, then find their way back to each other, all is well, and they live happily ever after.
This is the same formula followed by writers of TV shows, movies, and books. Sometimes, conflict is used subtly, where the character fights the conflict within. These conflicts are often set in a character’s youth, some life-changing event, but always something major.
Then we have the silly conflicts, the lack of communication types, where you find yourself screaming, “Just tell him.” Those irritate and often cause me to put the book down or shut off the movie.
Reviewers have said that there is a biographical quality to Tarnished Gold, and when I think about it, there is, though I didn’t intend it that way. I have read biographies all my life, and still do. As a reader, I am very grounded in reality.
Yes, people have difficulties and problems to overcome, but not every day and usually in varying degrees. Sometimes problems (conflicts) strengthen a relationship, if handled properly. Conflicts don’t have to be bad, they don’t have to have a horrendous outcome, they don’t have to tear asunder all people have worked for.
In my own life, when the world comes knocking, we circle the wagons, pull out the bows and arrows, and take it on from within, together. We’ve had prior divorces, deaths, loss of jobs, money problems, meddling in-laws, even the birth of a daughter with a severe physical disability, and none of it even scratched the fabric of our relationship. Quite the contrary, they made us stronger, all of it, because we had each other and the faith that together, we could conquer anything.
This is what I tried to portray in Tarnished Gold, with Jack and Wyatt. While the world gave them its best shot, Jack and Wyatt battened down the hatches and fought back, quietly, without fanfare, without revealing their pain to the world. The triumph came in the fact that they won, because no one changed them or what they meant to each other.
I don’t think a story, romance or otherwise, has to follow the formula. Often during the writing, a story takes on a life of its own, and to force elements into it for the sake of convention serves no one.
I vehemently disagree that Tarnished Gold has no conflict, and perhaps it doesn’t in the usual sense. It’s there, burbling under the surface, giving Jack and Wyatt reason to do the things they do. No big explosions, no inane misunderstandings. Just an honest relationship, built on love, set in a time when their love was considered a dirty little secret.
What do you think? Does every story have to have conflict? What about angst? Can romances survive without these two elements? What is too much? Just enough?
I’m interested in your opinions.
I’ll select someone to receive a copy of either Tarnished Gold or For Men Like Us, the winner’s choice.
All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by 11:59pm (Pacific Time) on Monday, June 10, 2013, and you’ll automatically be entered to win! One winner will be selected by Random.org and notified on Tuesday, June 11, 2013, so be sure to leave your email address in your comment. :)
To help you decide, here are the blurbs:
Here’s the blurb for Tarnished Gold:
In 1917, starstruck Jack Abadie strikes out for the gilded streets of the most sinful town in the country—Hollywood. With him, he takes a secret that his country hometown would never understand.
After years of hard work and a chance invitation to a gay gentlemen’s club, Jack is discovered. Soon, his talent, matinee idol good looks, and affable personality propel him to the height of stardom. But fame breeds distrust.
Meeting Wyatt Maitland turns Jack’s life upside down. He wants to be worthy of his good fortune, but old demons haunt him. Only through Wyatt’s strength can Jack face that which keeps him from being the man he wants to be. Love without trust is empty.
As the 1920s roar, scandals rock the movie industry. Public tolerance of Hollywood’s decadence has reached its limit. Under pressure to clean up its act, Jack’s studio issues an ultimatum. Either forsake the man he loves and remain a box office darling, or follow his heart and let his shining star fade to tarnished gold.
Read an excerpt and purchase the Tarnished Gold ebook or print, signed by the author (if one of the first twenty sold.)
I also have For Men Like Us, which takes place during the Regency in England. You can find it at Dreamspinner Press. Just click the title to be magically transported.
Blurb for For Men Like Us:
After Preston Meacham’s lover dies trying to lend him aid at Salamanca, hopelessness becomes his only way of life. Despite his best efforts at starting again, he has no pride left, which leads him to sell himself for a pittance at a molly house. The mindless sex affords him his only respite from the horrors he witnessed.
The Napoleonic War left Benedict Wilmot haunted by the acts he was forced to commit and the torture he endured at the hands of a superior, a man who used the threat of a gruesome death to force Ben to do his bidding. Even sleep gives Ben no reprieve, for he can’t escape the destruction he caused.
When their paths cross, Ben feels an overwhelming need to protect Preston from his dangerous profession. As he explains, “The streets are dangerous for men like us.”
About Brita Addams:
Born in Upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. Brita’s home is a happy place, where she lives with her real-life hero, her husband, and a fat cat named Stormee.
She writes, for the most part, erotic historical romance, both het and m/m, which is an ideal fit, given her love of British and American history. Setting the tone for each historical is important. Research plays an indispensible part in the writing of any historical work, romance or otherwise. A great deal of reading and study goes into each work, to give the story the authenticity it deserves.
As a reader, Brita prefers historical works, romances and otherwise. She believes herself born in the wrong century, though she says she would find it difficult to live without air conditioning.
Brita and her husband love to travel, particularly cruises and long road trips. They completed a Civil War battlefield tour a couple of years ago, and have visited many places involved in the American Revolutionary War.
A bit of trivia – Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, like the woman’s name, and oddly, not like the famous water filter.
Please visit me at any of these online locations: