Ho, ho, ho, everyone, and welcome to Annabeth Albert and the blog tour for her holiday romance, Better Not Pout! Annabeth is joining us today to chat a bit about the challenges of writing a standalone novel, and there’s also a giveaway so be sure to check out all those details at the end. Enjoy!
Challenges in Standalones
Hi! I’m so happy to be here talking about my latest, BETTER NOT POUT, which stars a cranky solider about to leave the service and a much-younger man intent on giving him a good holiday. This one stands completely alone, which is highly unusual for me, as almost all of my books have been part of series, especially my longer books like this one. Writing stand-alone versus series brings a unique set of challenges for writers. Some of my favorite writers are extremely gifted at crafting self-contained universes and mainly write stand-alone books, but mastering the art of the stand-alone can be every bit as hard as the challenge of maintaining a long-running series.
As writers, what challenges should we watch out for? And as readers, what makes a satisfying stand-alone story? Coming at the issue as both a writer and a voracious reader, I think there are some key considerations.
No sequel bait
I admit it. I LOVE my secondary characters. I love introducing other single people into the story and let them percolate just long enough to stand up and demand a HEA for themselves. But when writing a stand-alone that’s not part of a planned series, you can’t do this! One thing that helps me is to focus on great secondary characters who fit different profiles from my usual main characters—senior citizens, siblings and extended family, kids, loving married men and women, etc. Not to say that those demographics can’t make amazing main characters in a romance of their own, but they’re less likely to come off as “sequel bait” than a single BFF pining for a HEA of their own. Also, it’s a chance to stretch one’s literary wings—attempt voices and characters that one wouldn’t usually try.
The other part of “no sequel bait” is not leaving hanging questions about the setting itself. For example, if the town is under a lot of upheaval, that needs to be resolved by the end of the book or if there’s a tyrant of a boss whom everyone loathes, they need disposing of before those final words. This isn’t to say that everything needs a neat and pretty bow on it, but when you have big background questions like a crime spree or murder or civic issue, you don’t want to leave your reader hanging. For me, in BETTER NOT POUT, the challenge was in creating a town that I would love to live in, one that felt real and vibrant to me, but to not leave questions about the setting better resolved in a series.
Oh how tempting it is to include “Easter eggs” for other series and books in a work in progress. “I’ll just have this previous couple having lunch at the same diner” or “Let’s use the same bar as this other series does.” For BETTER NOT POUT, I made a conscious choice to not set the book in the same location or branch of service as my other military romances. I knew that my SEALs would all be demanding appearances if I set the book in San Diego, and I wanted a true stand-alone here. If you want a series, shared locations, experiences, and characters are terrific fun, but some care is required so that that universe doesn’t take over.
This one really is a matter of personal preference, but HFN (happily for now) endings are ripe for sequels and subsequent books. As readers, if there’s no “I love you” or grand declaration yet, we tend to pine for those moments. Which doesn’t mean that every book needs to end with a proposal or wedding, but for a stand-alone, you want a firm HEA, whatever that means for your particular characters. If there was a love triangle, you want that situation resolved and any major impediment to their happiness removed. For example, if character A lives in Spain and character B is a closeted midwestern farmer with little money, those things that stand in the way of a HEA need to be resolved even after they admit the truth of their feelings. For me, I want to see the characters riding off into the sunset and to feel confident that they lived out the rest of their lives together, in whatever way would make them the most happy.
What do you think, both as readers and writers? Do you prefer stand-alone books or series? Any pet peeves? Any tips you can share for either series or stand-alones? Thank you so much for having me today, and I hope you check out BETTER NOT POUT. The challenges of writing a stand-alone were well worth it for me!
About the Book
Title: Better Not Pout
Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Carina Press (Harlequin)
Release Date (Print & Ebook): Ebook: Monday, November 12, 2018 || Print (mmp): Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Length (Print & Ebook): 288 Pages
Subgenre: Contemporary Romance, Male/Male Romance, Holiday Romance, Military Romance
Order at: Carina Press || Barnes & Noble (mmp) || Barnes & Noble (ebook) || Amazon
Blurb: One hard-nosed military police officer.
One overly enthusiastic elf.
One poorly timed snowstorm.
Is it a recipe for disaster? Or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for holiday romance?
Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and everything that goes along with it. When he plays an elf for his charity’s events, he never expects to be paired with a Scrooge masquerading as Santa Claus. His new mission: make the holiday-hating soldier believe he was born to say ho-ho-ho.
Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki doesn’t do Santa, but he’s army to his blood. When his CO asks an unusual favor, Nick of course obliges. The elf to his Kris Kringle? Tempting. Too tempting—Nick’s only in town for another month, and Teddy’s too young, too cheerful and too nice for a one-night stand.
The slow, sexy make-out sessions while Teddy and Nick are alone and snowbound, though, feel like anything but a quick hookup. As a stress-free holiday fling turns into Christmas all year round, Teddy can’t imagine his life without Nick. And Nick’s days on the base may be coming to a close, but he doesn’t plan on leaving anything, or anyone, behind.
Annabeth Albert says that, “BETTER NOT POUT is a male/male holiday romance featuring endearing characters with a fun, flirty plot that will remind readers of their favorite holiday rom-coms.”
About the Author
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance series include the #OutOfUniform, #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat, #RainbowCove and #PerfectHarmony series.
To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.