34: Jane Lovering and Jeevani Charika (How to Write Romantic Comedy)

Danielle Krage interviews writers Jane Lovering and Jeevani Charika. They are shortlisted and award-winning romantic novelists in their individual careers, and together they wrote How to Write a Romantic Comedy.

This conversation includes:

  • Having pen names and marketing your funny books.
  • Juxtaposition and the unexpected in comedy.
  • Tropes, heroines and diversifying the genre.
  • Memorable endings and twists.
  • The editing process.

You can find out more about their work here:

How to Write Romantic Comedy
Getting Published is Just the Beginning
Jeevani Charika’s non-fiction site
Jane Lovering’s website
Jane’s Amazon page
Jeevani Charika’s website
Jeevani’s Amazon page

CLICK HERE FOR TRANSCRIPT

Danielle (00:00.629)

Today, I have two fantastic writers with me who authored the book, How to Write Romantic Comedy, Jane Lovering and Jeevani Charika, who also writes under the name Rhoda S. Baxter. And they’re also both shortlisted and award-winning writers in their individual careers, so doubly brilliant to cover this subject, writing romantic comedy. But before we dive in, Jane and Jeev, is there anything you’d love people to know about you and your work?

Jane Lovering (00:28.854)

I won the contemporary romance novel of the year this year with my book, Cottage Full of Secrets, and also I’ve got an insane terrier who is, as we speak, trying to tunnel through the kitchen to get to me. So if there are any strange noises off, it’s just the dog. I’m not committing any kind of murder, but I might murder the dog because she’s bloody annoying.

Danielle (00:48.022)

Okay. Oh, that’s good to know and congratulations. That’s quite the achievement. And for having such a remarkable dog who’s desperate to get to you. And how about you, Jeev?

Jeev (Rhoda) (00:58.996)

Yeah, so I write under two pen names. Jeevani is my real name. So everybody usually calls me Jeev. And Rhoda Baxter was my pen name that I wrote under for a long time and still kind of do. I’m also one of three people who are part of Fiction Tutors. So if anybody listening to this gets their debut contract, we have a group called Debut Author Club where people kind of help each other get over the fear and the confusion when they’re freshly published.

Jane Lovering (01:36.202)

It doesn’t get any easier though anyway, does it? No.

Jeev (Rhoda) (01:38.418)

Not really.

Danielle (01:39.993)

Yeah, what a great resource though. That’s great to know. And I definitely want to come back to you having a pen name, because that will also be useful for people to… I know several other authors who are in a similar position. So useful to know some of the challenges too.

But I did want to start off first of all, with how to write romantic comedy and its origin story. Because I read a few things online about where it emerged from, but I’d love to hear directly from you if this is true. Tell me more, how did it start and why did you write it?

Jeev (Rhoda) (02:00.374)

It involves a penguin onesie!

Jane Lovering (02:09.438)

Yeah, and our general love of eating biscuits and drinking cake and trying to avoid doing work. So it’s really the ultimate procrastination book, isn’t it? We wrote it because we were supposed to be writing other things and we were so busy procrastinating about not writing the things that we were supposed to be writing that we accidentally wrote a book in between.

Jeev (Rhoda) (02:28.618)

Pretty much. So we, we gave a talk, oh, long, long time ago now, about eight or nine years ago, called How to Write Romantic Comedy, which I presented dressed like a normal person and Jane presented dressed as a penguin. We were making a point. It was about the unexpected being funny. But it was like a boiling hot day and everybody’s faces were melting off and Jane’s just like in this full penguin outfit.

Jane Lovering (03:02.158)

I lost four stone, it was great.

Jeev

But anyway, she survived, we survived, it was great. It’s like a walk around sauna. Yeah. And then a few years later, we gave it at a conference at the Romantic Novelists Association conference, the next year, people were coming and talking to us about that. And then the year after as well. And so people were asking lots of questions, so we did a follow-up. And like three or four years after people were still coming up and talking about this talk. So we thought, okay, well, maybe we should put it down and put it in a book. Yeah.

Jane Lovering (03:29.346)

Yeah. So we decided to write it down. So we didn’t have to keep telling people the same thing over and over again. We could just say, just buy the book, leave us alone.

Jeev (Rhoda) (03:35.57)

Same things over and over again, yeah. Yes, the first talk was quite general and the second one got really into the weeds of comedy and we thought that might be too nerdy but people really liked it. I did think one of the audience members was going to hurt himself he was laughing so hard.

Jane Lovering (03:50.862)

They laughed a lot actually during that one. So yeah, I think we just thought, well, write it all down because it’s a good idea and then people can go back to it because when you’ve done a talk, there’s not much you can refer to. So it’s all written down. It’s all signed and sealed and people can dip in and out as they like. They don’t have to read the whole thing cover to cover, but it’s just helpful in bits. And it’s quite funny.

Jeev (Rhoda) (04:17.758)

Yeah. It has a lot of biscuits in it because biscuits are integral to the writing process, we feel. Yeah. It’s only a slim book, but we did try to make sure that we stuck to the point. And we wanted it to be conversational so that you didn’t feel like you were being talked at.

Jane Lovering (04:20.066)

And it’s got biscuits in.

Danielle (04:39.089)

Yeah, and it does. It feels really, really conversational, which I love. One of my favourite things was the advice to ‘juxtapose your thingies’. I wanted to know what some of your favorite thingies to juxtapose and how does that relate to comedy?

Jane Lovering (04:47.002)

Oh juxtaposition of thingy, juxtaposition of thingy, yeah. Well, I tend to write quite dark. My books feature things that are quite dark. They feature disability, they feature mental illness. And if you juxtapose that against humour…, so I mean, people are funny. Even in the darkest times, they are funny. People who suffer the worst tragedies can still laugh. And if you have some events in your book that are very dark and you have a bit of a laugh, the laugh is suddenly funnier.

The dark is suddenly darker and you haven’t had to put nearly as much effort into it as you would if you were trying to make it darker. You can just make people laugh and then they go, oh, that was dark. What am I laughing at? But they find it funnier for some reason because people are weird.

Jeev (Rhoda) (05:42.49)

It’s that tension release, isn’t it? Because there’s that theory that laughter is a modified fear response, and you just kind of build the tension and that gets released when you laugh. So yeah, you’re ratcheting up the tension in the dark bits, so that when you have an unexpectedly light bit, it feels funnier than it should be. So yeah, I tend to, I do occasionally touch on darker subjects, but mine tend to be more kind of cupcakes.

Danielle (06:16.241)

And I’d love to know for you both, what are some of your favourite tropes in romantic comedy, either that you like to use, or it could be the converse… ones that you feel are a bit overused or need kind of breaking apart of it.

Jeev (Rhoda) (06:33.154)

Ooh, um, I wouldn’t say it’s something that’s overused and needs breaking apart, but people love enemies to lovers and I cannot, cannot get my head around it.

Jane Lovering (06:41.198)

That’s what I was going to say, yeah, yeah. Once somebody said something bad to you, or bad personally about you, you can never forget, you can’t forgive that, there’s no going back. So, no, it’s not my favourite either. I kill people over this.

Danielle (06:54.373)

Right. I know it’s interesting isn’t it? It’s so subjective and it can be quite divisive, but it’s also great cause everyone then gets to have their favourites. I’d love to ask you particularly about building heroines. Because I think this can be an interesting area in romantic comedy too. What are some of the ways that you like to think about building your heroines as it relates to comedy? Because there are so many different ways to come at that and so many things that we’ve seen.

Jane Lovering (07:22.894)

I don’t know if this is for you because I don’t build anybody. They just show up, yes, they show up and then as you write them you get more into who they actually are and quite often they don’t actually show themselves until you’ve been writing for quite a while and then suddenly you realise that they’re not actually telling you the whole truth about themselves. I don’t tend to write funny funny. I don’t write gag funny.

Jeev (Rhoda) (07:25.751)

Well, I don’t particularly either. They just show up.

Danielle (07:28.867)

Do they?

Jane Lovering (07:49.69)

I write observational funny, I think. So it’s not about sitting down and thinking, oh, I can put a gag in here. It’s about thinking how people describe things to themselves and how they think about things to themselves and putting that down. And because it tends to be quite unexpected, it makes it funny.

Danielle (08:07.441)

Yeah, that totally makes sense. And did you have anything you wanted to add to that, Jeev?

Jeev (Rhoda) (08:08.206)

Yeah. Yeah, I do occasionally have the odd gag and then I usually end up having to take it out because editors object. When I wrote the royal book, I had one line that said ‘he came upstairs because even princes have to pee sometimes’ and they made me take it out. They were like, well, that’s not very heroic. I was like, well, does he not go to the toilet? But anyway.

Jane Lovering (08:37.954)

Not having to pee through the entire book. Now that would be heroic. We’re nearly always descending to tea, biscuits and pee. It’s just how we go. It’s just how we roll. Yeah, it’s reality. That’s why that’s what’s so funny. Reality is much, much funnier than anything you can imagine. It really is.

Jeev (Rhoda) (08:41.288)

That would be… he’d give himself kidney trouble, yeah. Sorry.

Danielle (08:46.627)

No, I love to have all the behind the scenes.

Jeev (Rhoda) (09:03.634)

Yes. I think though, I think that people used to, like in the 90s, they had the clumsy heroine and people would build a person that was a clumsy heroine. And I found that quite irritating, frankly, because, you know, if they’re clumsy for a reason, then that’s great. And I have read heroines with dyspraxia and stuff like that. Those are coming out now as the genre develops. And that’s fine and you can do all the clumsy heroine gags, but there’s a reason she’s like that and that is fine.

Jane Lovering (09:41.31)

Better she makes the gags rather than people make the gags about her. Yeah, there’s that kind of underlying cruelty which is also disappearing now which is great. It’s becoming a little bit less tropey, I think, romance. People have people have read all the friends to lovers, enemies to lovers. They want people to mix it up a little bit, you know, one-legged friends to lovers.

Jeev (Rhoda) (09:55.582)

Yeah. But tropes are nice because they are, I mean, the genre in itself is a comfort read. You read it, you know how it’s going to end. And that is a large part of the attraction, is that you know how this is going to pan out. You know that no matter what happens, it’s all going to be okay in the end.

Jane Lovering (10:12.79)

It is, yeah. It might not be the people end up with the people you think they ought to end up with, but they are going to be happy. However happy the ending is for the reader, the reader may disagree violently and find it really not happy at all. But for the characters, it all ends happily ever after, or happily for now anyway.

Danielle (10:46.561)

Yeah. And I wanted to ask you about endings specifically because there is that promise. And I wondered if you have any particular tips for then still making it really satisfying and resonant. Becauseendings can be so tricky.

Jeev (Rhoda) (11:01.294)

Yeah, um, I have to rewrite mine. Go on then, Jane.

Jane Lovering (11:09.238)

I quite like to finish on a… well, I wasn’t expecting that line. And then that kind of, it doesn’t tend to be about the romance, it tends to be about what the whole plot of the book was about. So if you can actually start, finish the book by moving away from the central characters so you know that they’ve got their happy ending, and then you just tweak the story a little bit so that something else that was running through the story ends unexpectedly. Then you’ve got a good point to end on because it makes the reader go ‘wow’ and I think that’s what you’re wanting at the end of the story. The tendency with romance is to end on an ‘aaaah’ but if you can end it on a wow, or a wow I wasn’t expecting that, what the hell happened there? People are more likely to remember it as well. It becomes far more memorable fiction than it if it just ends on the wedding or a baby or any one of those particular scenes.

Jeev (Rhoda) (12:03.234)

Yeah, I tend to end on a callback joke. Because my books are all standalones, but they are linked through the characters. So I want people to feel like they are part of that world. So that when they read the next book, and they see the characters from the previous book, it just feels like they’re visiting friends, if you see what I mean. So yeah, I tend to end up on a callback joke, because that kind of makes the reader go, Oh, I am part of this joke. That’s an in-joke.

Jane Lovering (12:35.242)

Included. Yeah.

Jeev (Rhoda) (12:35.362)

More involved, included.

Danielle (12:38.301)

That’s great. I love that. And I wanted to ask you before we forget about your pen names, because I think that’s really interesting. And I know multiple writers now writing under more than one name, because there are so many different reasons too, for different reader relationships or different branding or different ways of developing a career. So I’d love to know for you, how you found that process…anything you feel like it’s really helped with or anything that’s been particularly challenging.

Jeev (Rhoda) (13:06.607)

Well, I started writing as Rhoda Baxter more than 10 years ago now. So what happened was I wrote a book, which was, it was just straight down the middle of general fiction, women’s fiction, if you like, because I’m a woman writing it. So, the characters just happened to be Sri Lankan and back in like 2007 or whatever it was, it was really difficult to sell a book like that because it wasn’t…it wasn’t about the immigrant experience, it wasn’t about racism, it wasn’t other enough to be literary fiction. And there was just no other market for. So I had some very nice rejections you know the ones that go oh yeah you can write but I don’t know what to do with this book… which at the time felt terrible, but now I’m looking at it going… oh okay that’s what they were saying.

So I joined the Romantic Novelist Association’s new writer scheme. And as part of that you get feedback from somebody who’s writing in the genre. And they said, you know, you’ve got like a comedic voice that’s trying to get out. Have you considered just writing a book for fun? So I thought, okay, yeah, sure. Why not? So I wrote this book just for fun. It was a rom-com about a white lady who goes to work in London. You know, straightforward rom-com stuff. It poured out of me. It was just really so much easier. And that book got a publishing deal about maybe a year, two years after, when I started sending it out. And it was with an American publisher and they said, are you going to use a pen name? And I thought, okay. And I’m a microbiologist by training and my bacterium was called Rhodobacter sphaeroides. So I thought I’ll call myself Rhoda Baxter. Which is like a little joke to myself and it’s just stuck now. But quite amusingly, somebody’s dad had said to them, do you know that’s a bacterium? And they were like, yeah, she knows, don’t worry.

Danielle (15:17.359)

That’s such a fun little twist. That’s great. And in the book, you do talk about marketing a little bit and how that can be different when trying to market a funny book in the UK and the US markets. And I just wondered, with all the experience that you’ve had in your careers now… for anyone that feels like they’re struggling a bit with marketing fiction and marketing funny books, what have you learned do you think that’s been helpful?

Jane Lovering (15:45.058)

Just keep going. It feels like the most soul-destroying thing in the world because it feels like you’re just shouting into an empty room. But there will be people, there are people out there listening. There are people who are picking up on what you’re saying. They might not be responding to you and they might critically not be buying your book, but they are listening. And the more you get your name out there, the more you’re visible, the more chance there is that, okay, they might not buy that book, but they might buy the next book. Because they remember your name.

The only danger with writing comedy is that people want you to be funny. When you go out there and you do anything in public, the pressure to perform is enormous. Because if people are, if you’ve written funny, and people are wanting to buy what you’ve written, then you are, you stand there being the advert for your own books. And if you’re not a naturally funny person, then maybe it might be a good idea to pay somebody who is a naturally funny person to get out there and do your marketing for you because it can be very difficult, particularly if you’re feeling really miserable, really depressed, to stand up and sell a book that is actually quite funny. So it’s kind of like, yes, you really, really have to like to perform to sell a funny book because people expect you to be funny, just like they expect comedians to be funny. They might not even be reading their own jokes. But we expect them to be funny, we expect them to be the life and soul of the party, and if they’re not, we’re disappointed. And I think that carries over a little bit into marketing books.

Jeev (Rhoda) (17:21.618)

Yeah, with two names, you get that name recognition thing gets split. And that’s quite difficult. So I’m quite open about the fact that I have two pen names. I started off with the best of intentions with two different profiles. It was just too much work. So now my profiles contain both names and it’s quite clear that I’m the same person. But I have my Rhoda readers and I have my Jeeavani readers and there’s a bit of crossover, but not as much as you’d expect. And to the point about being funny and people expecting you to be funny. I write funnier, the darker the things are in my life because it’s my escape. I once wrote a long conversation in a hospice and that was, it was very funny, but it was difficult to write because my happy place became inextricably linked with the difficult places.

Jane Lovering (18:09.902)

It was funny.

Jeev (Rhoda) (18:21.634)

So yeah, you have to kind of, as you say, present the funny face, even though you’re not really feeling it at all.

Jane Lovering (18:30.834)

It’s a performance, but then it is selling any kind of book. Because you’re selling the book, you’re not selling yourself. You’re not writing your own life story over and over and over again. So you’re actually selling a product that you have to kind of pretend to be that product. But I write really dark and… But people don’t expect me to, you know….one of the Christmas novellas is about a heroine who’s lost a leg in an accident. Well, nobody expects me to lose a leg just for…

verisimilitude with my books, but they do expect a certain truthfulness, I suppose. So they do like you to be the person you write within certain parameters, obviously!

Jeev (Rhoda) (19:10.694)

Yeah. I mean, I imagine if you write crime, they don’t expect you to actually go around murdering people. So, yeah.

Jane Lovering (19:19.062)

They expect you to think like a policeman. If you write crime you are expected to have a very analytical… because you’re not writing well, generally you’re writing you know police and crime and detection things and they expect you to be quite analytical apparently. I don’t know, so I don’t write crime.

Jeev (Rhoda) (19:21.744)

Eh, fair point. Yeah.

Danielle (19:35.349)

Yeah, super interesting to think about. So many things that I haven’t considered before. So thank you. Lots of food for thought there.

And I’d love to know for both of you, what are some of your favourite characters in romantic comedies, whether that be books or movies? And, what characters come to mind that you’ve really enjoyed reading or watching? And what is it do you think that you really like about them?

Jeev (Rhoda) (20:01.254)

I could tell you about a series of books which I’ve just finished reading. It’s called the Bromance  Book Club and it’s about these really blokey hockey playing alpha kind of guys. But they’ve all decided that the reason they’re still single is because they’re a bit crap with love. So they start reading romance books to learn. And I’m just like, I’m so jealous. I wish I’d come up with the concept. The blokes are so blokey and the women are so partially exasperated with them. They’re just so realistic and funny because in a natural way. So it’s not gag funny. The way they interact is how you would expect people to interact and that is funny. So yeah, the Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams. Love the series, just finished it.

Danielle (20:53.189)

Oh, that’s a great recommendation. What about you, Jane? What comes to mind for you? I know, it can be spoilt for choice.

Jane Lovering (20:58.03)

The only thing that speaks to mind for me is Jane Austen’s heroines. I absolutely love the mannered, wonderful, almost repressed nature of the romance in them. But they’re not really romance books, are they? They’re social commentary and that’s why I really love them, because they are talking what makes people so ridiculous, and sort of holding it up. And that’s what I like doing in my books. That’s what I think a lot of the humour comes from in my books, is just pointing out just how ridiculous people can be. And I think that’s why I relate to her heroines, except I can’t do the frocks.

Jeev (Rhoda) (21:36.907)

But there’s quite a lot with Jane’s books, because I’ve read nearly all of them now.

Jane Lovering (21:42.782)

IT’S YOU!

Jeev:

It is me! I’m the one who’s buying them! But yeah, there’s often a character who will do something and you think, oh yeah, I know somebody who would do that. And that’s why it makes it funny. Yeah.

Jane Lovering (21:55.494)

It’s reality. I try to go for absolute reality. I write about people that you feel…. you could be these people or you know these people because they are absolutely… I try for absolute reality. So yes, they do go to the toilet, usually at inauspicious times. And they do…

Jeev (Rhoda) (22:13.775)

Mine aren’t allowed!

Jane Lovering (22:17.05)

You see and I don’t write about princes I just write about really crap people really.

Jeev (Rhoda) (22:22.314)

Well, so do I normally, it’s just one prince, just the one prince.

Danielle (22:29.993)

Yeah, I love it. And in the book you mentioned, and Jane you’ve mentioned that you particularly like observational comedy, and you helpfully kind of draw attention to different kinds of comedy… whether that’s character-based or situational. So I wanted to ask you particularly about physical comedy, if you don’t mind… one of the ones that you mentioned. Because you also mentioned….sometimes it can be so challenging, you’re asking the question…are you really getting onto the page what you’re picturing in your head? And I think with physical comedy, that can be quite challenging. So just any advice for people writing physical comedy into a scene.

Jane Lovering (23:07.794)

I think about whether you actually need it, whether you can get around it by maybe somebody thinking wouldn’t it be funny if somebody did something. And then they can describe what they think that person might have done that would have been so funny, rather than have them actually do it, because physical comedy is only funny to some people.

And it’s only funny if the people reading can picture exactly what you are writing about and sometimes that means that you are just over-describing the scene so much that you lose a lot of the humour in it. So I would avoid it if at all possible because it’s just so difficult to get it right and to make sure that the people are reading what you want them to see. They’re envisaging exactly what you want them to see. Because if you miss it just by a little bit, it’s not funny at all.

Danielle (24:04.081)

Oh yeah, that’s a good point. What do you think, Jeev?

Jeev (Rhoda) (24:04.18)

Yeah. Well, I think if you can nail it, then your books will do better in America. Because they like physical comedy in America much more than they do in the UK. I think they like it in the UK too. But yeah.

Jane Lovering (24:19.354)

A subtler kind of approach. We’re not all about the pratt falls and the falling in the mud thing.

Jeev (Rhoda) (24:24.559)

Well, one of the things that we point out is that humour is regional. Different things are funny in different countries. And that’s quite a well-known phenomenon. So, yeah, depending on where people are when they’re reading it or where they’ve come from, where their sense of humour is.

Jane Lovering (24:42.978)

Our book is aimed squarely at the UK market, isn’t it? We have to point that out. Yes, people are saying, well I’m in America and it doesn’t work like that here. We’re a little bit parochial about it.

Jeev (Rhoda) (24:47.518)

This is true, yeah. We’ve got a lot of reviews pointing this out. Yes. Who is this Mr. Bean? Yeah. Well, to be honest, when I was doing background stuff for it, there was nothing that was UK-based for romantic comedy. It was all US-based and mostly scriptwriting. Yeah, a lot of sitcom.

Jane Lovering (25:18.458)

There were a lot of sitcoms, a lot of advice on how to write an American sitcom, but very, very little stuff, which is why we wrote it, because there was a hole in the market, a gap in the market, which we had plugged quite nicely, I like to think, with biscuits, yes.

Danielle (25:30.425)

Yeah, I agree. I love it. And what are some of your own personal favourite tools for making something funnier? If you think…oh, I do want to amp this scene up a little bit. What, kind of tools do you like to go to?

Jeev (Rhoda) (25:49.222)

Mine would be pen and paper and like just a brain dump. Like what would be funny here? And you just start writing down potential funny things. And after about, like the first few are just going to be dead predictable because that’s just how brains work. But yeah, after about like five or six, when you’re really struggling and just going, ah, I’ll just write anything down, that’s when the real funny stuff comes out.

Danielle (26:12.403)

Yeah, I love that. That’s super practical. What about you, Jane? What do you enjoy using?

Jane Lovering (26:16.978)

I just sit there and write beginning to end and it all seems to work itself out. I don’t get it.

Jeev (Rhoda) (26:24.266)

She’s just got this weird magic brain, honestly. We are so completely different. We’re polar opposites.

Jane Lovering (26:29.154)

We are! We are! We are! I just sit there and write. And if my editor says, this isn’t funny, I take it out. That’s it. I don’t sit and go back over stuff. I just write it from beginning to end. I can’t plan. I can’t work that way.

Danielle (26:47.685)

Right. And what’s your process like? It sounds like it’s a bit different?

Jeev (Rhoda) (26:51.158)

it’s just messy. So Jane will start at the beginning and just write all the way through. I write here and there and everywhere and then I write a really messy first draft and end up just moving chunks of things around and adding bits and taking bits away. So my first drafts tend to come in about, I don’t know, 60,000 words and the final book tends to be 80 to 90,000 words because by the time I’ve chopped and changed or filled in and gone oh this doesn’t make sense I need to write more.

Jane Lovering (27:32.514)

I don’t know how anybody can do it like that. I just start at the beginning and finish at the end. That’s how it goes. That’s how you write a book. But there are as many different ways of writing as there are writers. So there’s no right way, there’s no wrong way. It’s just that’s how my brain does it. It makes an order of the story as I write it. And I don’t plot. I just sit there and write.

Jeev (Rhoda) (27:52.51)

So yeah, when we do workshops, I do the plot bit. And we’re like, this is how the three-act story structure works. And then Jane does all the character bits, the flow bits.

Jane Lovering (28:04.493)

Yeah, it generally works its way, it works itself out when you do it. Because everybody will fall somewhere in that spectrum. And sometimes each book is different as well.

Danielle (28:13.234)

That makes a lot of sense. And, slightly different subject, but in the book you mentioned Twitter, pitch events. And you also mentioned Facebook pitch events, which I hadn’t actually heard of. So for people that may not have heard of either of those, or want to consider them a bit more, any advice for writers, or tips for how to think about those kinds of events and how to make them useful.

Jeev (Rhoda) (28:41.602)

Mainly you need an elevator pitch. Just constantly have it done and tweak it. So what they are…a lot of publishing houses, which normally only take agents and submissions, will have one day where they say, right, use this hashtag and tweet a pitch for your book. So you’ve got a really, really short space to pitch. And you have to include the hashtag as well. And then if they like it, you can, I think, DM them and get a submission link. And it’s their way of opening up the submissions process but keeping it manageable. But for you, you’ve got to make that pitch really, really shine. And it’s really tricky.

As with any book submission, it’s subjective. Different editors like different things and they’ll be tickled by different jokes. You just don’t know, but you know, it’s, it’s a chance and it’s a chance that you wouldn’t normally get if you don’t have an agent.

Danielle (29:55.793)

Yeah, that’s really helpful. Thank you. And Jane, you say you don’t plot and you write from beginning to end. Do you have the concept for your book ahead of time? No? So you’d have to do the pitch event after it was done.

Jane Lovering (30:09.442)

Yes, I’m not very good at being concise. My editor, we have marketing meetings for my books, and my editor will say, well, you know, what’s the concept for this book?

I just go, it’s two people, it’s two people, they meet, the end. I can’t really get with the whole marketing thing, I’m not very good at it. Thankfully people do it for me. I just have people, lots and lots of people in my head, all talking all the time, and I write down what they say, and that’s as far as it goes for me.

Danielle (30:48.912)

Yeah. Well, it’s working for you. And what about, with regards to editors for both of you, anything that you’ve learned from working with editors, in a sort of meta sense of things that’s useful to know for people that maybe have not worked with editors yet because of where they are in the process, or would like more feedback on their work. What’s been useful to you?

Jane Lovering (31:19.662)

Modifiers, don’t say ‘just’ quite so often. Do a word search for words like ‘just’ and ‘almost’ and check and see how many. If you’ve got into the hundreds, you’ve probably got too many and you need to take them out. And also the swearing.

Danielle (31:36.361)

Oh, okay. And what about you Jeev. How have you found working with editors or that process? What’s been helpful to you?

Jeev (Rhoda) (31:45.086)

Well, the first edit I had, it was just covered in red. But I learned quite a lot from that. And one of the most useful things that she told me was, she said, this scene, it only does one thing. And she said, every scene has to do two things at least. And then she was like, it can move the plot forward. It can deepen character. It can introduce a setting, introduce, you know, all of these, but it has to do two things, so make it do something else. And now, I don’t often edit as I write, but as I’m writing I will think there is something wrong here, and it’s usually it’s only doing one thing. So she helped me pinpoint something that I will fix before it goes to the editor now.

Jane Lovering (32:31.83)

I think you do start learning to edit in your head as you go. The more you’ve been professionally edited, the more you kind of go, no, they’re going to hate this. They prefer sentences to be structured this way. I do a lot of sentence fragments because I write as I speak and I’m typing as I speak. And I have to then go back and punctuate a bit more and learn to breathe. And I do that now automatically because I know otherwise it will come back and I’ll have to repunctuate it. So I’ve started to do it automatically.

Jeev (Rhoda) (33:04.422)

Yeah, you kind of don’t really notice you’re doing it until you sit down to think about it.

Danielle (33:11.606)

Yeah, just a couple more questions. I wanted to ask you how you think about conflict or other characters in your books. Because I think again, that can be really interesting in romantic comedy…what roles those other characters are fulfilling and what shape conflict takes.

Jeev (Rhoda) (33:31.67)

Okay. I mean, the easiest form of conflict is if they both want the same thing for different reasons, or they want something to end in different ways for their own reasons. So yeah, there was a tip somebody gave me, which was to make their character flaw the same thing, but from different angles. And so, yeah, there’s the thing that they want. And the thing that they want is where you’re going to get most of the external conflict from. But there’s the thing that they need, and that too has to have some sort of give and take. And the thing that they need the characters don’t know about until pretty much the end.

Jane Lovering (34:15.026)

I tend to write internal conflict rather than external conflict. Usually one or other of my characters will have some big problem that they need to get over or they need to work through or even something that can’t be worked through that they just need to learn to accommodate. And I tend to deal with a lot of it with internal monologue. Nobody gets saved in my books. There’s never…a big man riding in and love conquers all and all that sort of thing. Everybody is messy. And generally they just learn to live with it. Therapy exists. I quite often have them agree therapy is necessary, or they have already been through therapy and they probably decide they need more because sometimes the problems are just too big and love does not heal everything.

Jeev (Rhoda) (34:50.61)

And therapy exists. Therapy exists.

Jane Lovering (35:10.146)

There’s a big concept that all you’ve got to do is fall in love, or even in some cases just have sex, and then suddenly.. oh yeah the magic wand and suddenly everything’s healed, everything’s better and you’re a completely different person and having only one leg doesn’t bother you anymore or whatever or it grows back. Or you know…nothing works like that, life does not work like that and it’s usually just two people who are incredibly messy, incredibly flawed and they just come together and go… yeah I can live with your flaws and you can live with mine so we might be a good match.

Jeev (Rhoda) (35:41.49)

Yeah, yeah. I tend to write both points of view. Generally as well, with romance, they need to grow together. They both need to grow and change. But because I have both points of view, you need to have character arcs for both of them and they need to meet somewhere.

Jane Lovering (36:00.746)

Yeah, I tend to write just first person. So, I do try to get over the other person’s point of view through what they say. There’s a lot of dialogue, a lot of dialogue in my books, pages and pages of dialogue.

Jeev (Rhoda) (36:14.349)

It’s all these people in your head talking.

Jane Lovering (36:16.114)

Well quite often I’m writing and writing and writing and I’m shouting… Will you just stop talking and do something! But yeah.

Danielle (36:26.021)

That’s great. Thank you. So, it’s lovely that you both have these different approaches and can share advice that will work for different brains and different people. I love it. That’s super helpful.

And so what would be any parting advice for people who would like to bring a little bit more humour into their fiction, whatever genre they’re writing in, do you think? Just one little thing they could try.

Jeev (Rhoda) (36:53.97)

Just try it, just have a go.

Jane Lovering (36:55.19)

Yeah. We’ve done a whole workshop on it, haven’t we? How to bring humour into whatever you’re writing, doesn’t matter what genre. It doesn’t have to be funny all the way through, but I always say that if you make your readers laugh, they will follow you anywhere. So if you put a couple of laughs in, even if it’s a serial killer, or murderer thing, if there’s just a couple of laughs, people will follow the character because they become more human if they are funny.

Jeev (Rhoda) (37:23.654)

Yeah, because humans are messy and funny. And also if you’re not expecting a laugh and you get one, that’s quite nice.

Jane Lovering (37:33.654)

Yeah, yeah. I mean, the most surprising books can make you laugh. Just have somebody doing something or they make an observation. And you think, hang on a minute, this book isn’t the dull, dry, dreary read I expected it to be. It’s got funny bits in it. And you just feel more warmly  towards the whole thing, towards the characters, towards the book, towards the author, hopefully.

Jeev (Rhoda) (37:54.886)

Yeah, and as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett say… funny is not the opposite of serious. So.

Danielle (37:59.493)

That’s a great way to put it. I totally agree with that. Wonderful, that’s a lovely place to end. So before we go, where should people go to find out more about you and your work? And I will put full details in the show notes as well. But where should they start off trying to find you?

Jeev (Rhoda) (38:19.35)

Well, I’m jeevanicharika.com or rhodaBaxter.com and they refer to each other. And I think the voice in the How to Write Romantic Comedy book, that is us basically.

Jane Lovering (38:31.896)

It is. I write as I talk, so yeah.

Danielle (38:36.933)

And I really loved that about it. It did really feel like, you know, two friends, coming over with the tea and the biscuits and telling you some good stuff. So you totally achieved that. I love it.

Jeev (Rhoda) (38:48.002)

We meet quite often because we both live in the north. Jane is even further north than me. And we meet quite often and there’s always tea and biscuits and cake. And yeah, I think this book mainly got written so that we had an excuse to meet for tea and cake.

Danielle (39:06.08)

I love it. And Jane, where should people go to find out more about you and your work?

Jane Lovering (39:11.73)

Should they be that way minded they could just google me because my books are all on Amazon they’re all on Audible they just google me or you know come round knock on the door I’ve always got biscuits, the kettle’s always on. Sit down and talk to you and you know if you can get past the dog you’re in.

Danielle (39:32.461)

Amazing. Okay, well, that’s the gauntlet thrown down listeners and viewers… a date with a terrier and tea and biscuits. But thank you. You’ve been such great company on this interview and shared so many really practical tips in such a lovely real way, which I really appreciate. And I’m sure that listeners will too. Thank you so much for your time, Jane and Jeev.

Jane Lovering (39:34.126)

Thank you.

Jeev (Rhoda) (39:54.427)

Thank you for having us.