Romance At the Brooklyn Book Festival

Against a backdrop of lightly sprinkling rain, hundreds of authors and readers met in Brooklyn yesterday for the annual Brooklyn Book Festival. With guest authors including John Ashbery, Sara Shepard, Jessica Hagedorn, Salman Rushdie and more, Borough Hall Plaza was the place for New Yorkers to be.

Amidst the political discussion courtesy of Paul Krugman, sports talk with Venus Williams, comedy sketches featuring Sarah Silverman and a suspenseful conversation with Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane, there was also a panel on one of my favorite topics - the romance novel. Titled "Romancing the Novel" and featuring authors Donna Hill and Sarah MacLean, this panel delved into the some of the big questions in romance.

Romance authors Donna Hill and Sarah MacLean  

Victor McGlothin, author of The Secrets of Newberry, was an interesting choice as the moderator for this panel since he had never before read a romance. His novice status in the romance world made for some fun discussion. First and foremost, McGlothin wanted to know what goes into creating the bad boys so often found in romances. MacLean was only too happy to share her inspiration, her "ultimate hero", Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. While MacLean said Darcy can be arrogant and obnoxious, he is not a bad boy at all, at least not in the traditional sense. However, the author admitted to often writing about the bad boy including the hero in her first historical romance Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. But MacLean cautioned, just because a hero may look bad on the outside, doesn't mean he can't have a "gooey, mushy core that will make him fall head over heels in love with the heroine and make her life better forever and ever." Which I think sums up about 99.9% of the romance heroes out there rather nicely. 

Hill has more personal inspiration for her heroes. She said that she models all of her heroes after her real-life relationship with a man she has known since childhood. "We've had a tumultuous off-and-on again relationship for 30 years," said Hill. Their complex relationship mirrors what she writes about in her books. "People think romance novels are just simple love stories. But it is a lot more complicated that that. We write about the tug and pull of emotion." 

McGlothin said that was all very interesting, but he wanted to get more into the down and dirty of the romance hero. What do they look like? Hill responded in all seriousness that the hero has to be "handsome, gorgeous to the heroine - it is all about the eye of the beholder." MacLean definitely agreed with the sentiment. She listed her requirements - "clever, smart, funny and really in love with the heroine" (although she admitted maybe not all of these characteristics at once). The author also said that she purposefully left off the physical characteristics because a hero's "inner awesome" is much more important than the exterior. "If the hero has the heroine gasping for breath when he walks into the room, just because it is him, then that makes up for a hundred strong jaws ... although, I love that to." So do we, Sarah, so do we.

For more about the Brooklyn Book Festival visit their website and watch NY1's coverage here