Love lessons from a romance writer
Georgina Penney knows a lot about love, romance and dating. In fact, it’s what pays her bills, as an author of romance novel, Fly In Fly Out. We chat to her about what she’s learnt, what it takes to fall in love and things that guys think are romantic, but aren’t!
So Georgina, how do you go about writing a romance novel like Fly In Fly Out?
Wine. Lots of red wine… and swearing when I can’t get the words down right on the page… and spending time with kick- ass ladies who work in the oil industry flying in and out of places like Algeria, The North Sea, offshore New Zealand and Australia, Mauritania… you get the idea!
Over the last decade I’ve heard a lot about how hard it is for a woman working the FIFO lifestyle to meet a guy who’ll be cool with their partner potentially earning a higher income and being away a chunk of the year. One day one of my friends told me I should write a book where a FIFO gal got her guy and the rest is history!
I’m assuming you have to do lots of research into relationships and love. What’s something interesting you’ve discovered along the way?
Having a sense of humour can pretty much get you through anything. No one’s perfect, everyone messes up and being able to genuinely apologise or accept an apology and then have a laugh about the situation later is vital.
Besides, without humour, how would any relationship survive everyday craziness? When two people get together a whole wealth of otherwise hidden little habits come to light. If you can’t cackle about your new partner’s tendency to make Space Invader noises in their sleep or the way they look alive but aren’t really conscious until midday, you’re doomed to missing out on some of the funniest-sweetest-most-exasperating moments of your life.
In terms of ‘romance’, is there something that you’ve discovered women universally find romantic that guys can do?
Listening. Really listening and remembering what a woman has said is possibly one of the most romantic things a guy can do. That and asking questions and being genuinely interested in the answers. If that guy just happens to follow through on something he remembers his lovely lady saying she’d like to do/see/receive as a gift, then he’s a total legend and wins everything.
And what about the opposite? Something guys think is romantic, but to women, it just isn’t?!
The least romantic thing? Well, something that genuinely freaks me out are grand gestures. Especially when it comes to wedding proposals. How’s a lady supposed to say ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘I’ll say yes if your flat mate who knows how to burp the alphabet while picking his nose moves out of your house first.’ She can’t with a bunch of people looking on! And there’s nothing more heartbreaking than those YouTube clips of some guy getting turned down in public and being laughed at in front of a football stadium, or on live TV or radio.
Don’t go there guys! Stick to a safer option to impress the lady… like wrestling tiger snakes or becoming an astronaut… definitely less fraught with anxiety and risk in the long run!
Obviously a man and woman fall for each other in your novels. What do you think are key ingredients for these characters to find love?
Real, genuine honesty. And making do. I know it sounds super weird coming from a romance writer, especially when the genre can rightfully be accused of sometimes promoting an unattainable kind of guy. However, for me the best kind of romance story is when two people who aren’t perfect with messy lives come together and accept each other for who they are – odd habits, funny quirks and all.
My novels are all about that first stage of a relationship where the best and the worst of my heroes and heroines are on show. The interesting stuff that moves the story along and gets them to the Happy Ever After is how they deal with the worst bits and celebrate the best. If there’s some great-funny-awkward-steamy sex somewhere in the mix, all the better!
Are these things the same in real life?
Definitely! Especially the sex part… oh and the acceptance bit as well… but definitely the sex part.
If you were to write the perfect first date, what would it involve?
A nice dinner at an intimate – but not too intimate – place and something going wrong!
I think the best kind of date is where there’s something a little silly in the mix to loosen up the tension. I live next door to a pub that a lot of couples go to for their first eharmony dates. (Probably because it’s in the middle of the countryside and if things go awry no one will see!)
Luckily, I haven’t seen one date go wrong but the times I’ve seen people really hit it off is when someone spills their drink, gets the wrong order, or in one case the other week, gets a really loud case of the hiccups! It’s not the thing that goes wrong, it’s how the couple gets to laugh about it that counts.
Being a writer, do you have some tips for someone who’s stuck writing their online dating profile?
Draft that sucker until your little fingers are tired from typing. Make sure there aren’t any spelling and punctuation errors. It’s kinda pedantic, but otherwise sane and sexy people can turn into flamey-crotched demons at the sight of a misplaced comma!
And for what you’re actually writing? I’d go for less is more. (Not too little though.) Something genuine said the way you’d describe yourself to a good friend at a café or down the pub. Without the swear words… and pretending that you’re a lot nicer to yourself than most people are in their heads! (We’re always our own worst critic, aren’t we?!)
If you get stuck, ask a good mate to help you out. They’ll probably be able to point out a bunch of great things about you that you just take for granted. And then check your spelling and punctuation again!
Finally, do you think real life love is – or should be – as good as what it is in romance novels?
I think real life love is better! Good romance novels are full of flawed characters getting to know and love each other and isn’t that the way it is in real life? Besides, real life goes a lot longer than a couple of hundred pages so there’s room for so many more fun adventures.
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