Saturday, March 23, 2013

Romance Tips from an Unqualified Expert by Nadia Simonenko and Giveaway!

The third week of the spectacular Insatiable Reads Book Tour is coming to a close, and I've a very special guest visiting Books à la Mode to end things with a bang. First-time author Nadia Simonenko is on tour with her new adult contemporary, Lost, and will be sharing with us her valuable insight on romance today... she is a romance author, after all! 

Before we get started, here's a little bit about the book:
Sometimes you need someone else to help you find your way.

When Maria was fifteen, her life was torn apart by a horrible tragedy that she has kept secret for seven years. She withdrew from her friends and family, changed her personality to hide her invisible scars, and let the pain slowly devour her. Now, in her final semester of college, she still struggles against paralyzing fear just trying to speak up in class, and the terror and helplessness linger on in her nightmares.

Across campus, Owen sees his scars in the mirror every morning while he gets ready for class. They remind him of the broken home he left behind, the father he hates and fears, and the little sister he couldn’t protect. Now, in his final semester of college, he is scared that he may have to return to the hell he called home after staying away for almost five years.

When Owen becomes a teaching assistant for one of Maria’s classes, they find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other. As the two learn each other’s secrets and grow closer, they realize that although they may be lost, they're not alone anymore.
Click "read more" to find out what her best romance advice is... and to enter a HUGE giveaway, organized exclusively for Books à la Mode readers! 

Romance Tips from an Unqualified Expert... a Romance Author's Advice

Hello, my fellow romantics! Thanks for stopping in and special thanks to Karielle for hosting me today.

Tonight’s article is “Romance Tips from an Unqualified Expert,” and I’m your unqualified expert! Apparently, being a romance author means I’m good at this sort of thing. I’m very happily married, if that counts as a qualification. I’m going to discuss romantic relationships—and in particular, getting and keeping one—from a different sort of angle. There are no lipstick colors, no “Top 100 Secret Tricks You Never Knew,” and no mind games at all! (Read my non-existent column in Cosmo if you want those kinds of tips.)

Let’s talk romance. No, I’m not talking about “romance” with its dukes and regents, tribal chieftains and fabulously wealthy sheiks, but actual, honest-to-God romance. You know... that thing that over 75% of romance readers polled say they wish they had more of in their life!

No, put down that mouse and back away from the Goodreads bookmark—it’s time to talk romance!

#1 – Romance isn’t romance!

Ladies and gentlemen, your “no duh” statement of the day! If it was, we’d all be drowning in shirtless Scotsmen and probably pine for the simpler days when men just ignored us. Now, if you live in a parallel universe where your mailman is a gorgeous, single gent with a perfect smile and muscular shoulders, by all means stop reading and skip straight to #2 of this article. Oh, and get more people to send you mail while you’re at it. Can’t have too much of a good thing!

Romance (the genre) is a form of escapism. That’s perfectly okay—don’t get me wrong—but a trend I see when interacting with other readers is that the same complaint we make about guys and their own... graphical interests... applies to us as well. Many of us internalize unrealistic expectations and then wonder why nobody ever lives up to them. It’s one thing to fantasize, but a completely different thing to treat the fantasy as gospel. My old study partner back in college (who, to be honest, I was interested in at the time) will likely remain single forever because he won’t settle for anything less than a pair of DDs and a size-zero waist. 

Umm... hello? Earth to guy-friend: It’s all fake!

Just like that perfectly built Viking invader who falls for my gentle beauty and then gives up his pillaging ways, settles down, and tends the vegetable garden with me when we’re not too busy having passionate sex.

(I know I’m sounding really negative, but bear with me.  I’m going somewhere positive, I promise!)

Real romance is that spark that you feel when you read about the intense, developing relationship between the two characters in a book you like—that little hope you have that everything works out for them, even though you know darned well it will. Internalize that feeling, not the actions of the characters. 

Love and romance are real things—our genre wouldn’t exist if they weren’t—but they’re the feelings behind the story. Forget the Viking and pay attention to the spark. The spark is what’s important, and I believe that it’s the part so many people feel is missing in their lives. Get the spark, and suddenly it no longer matters whether your lover is a brooding billionaire or an accountant.

#2  Romance isn’t passive!

When I ran out for milk and eggs this morning, the Duke of West Flappington most certainly did not ride up on his horse and sweep me off into the sunset. (I’d have called the police if he did, quite frankly.) 

When you sit down and think about the differences between the hero and heroine in your average pulp romance novel, it’s pretty terrifying, isn’t it? I don’t want my hamlet to be pillaged by barbarian hordes.  I don’t want to be sold to a handsome sheik who then falls for me and grants me my freedom. (Now, if that handsome sheik is sitting at the bar, I’ll gladly buy him a drink...)

You know what I actually want? I want to have the guts to actually walk up to that cute guy in the library and say hello to him. He’s shy, nerdy, and pretty much exactly my type since I’m a geek-girl scientist for my day job. If I wait for Mister Shy to come up to me, though, I’m going to be waiting a looooong time.

I’d love to blame a certain major romance publisher for the trope of feminine passivity, but it predates them by quite a bit.

Let’s face it: Mister Right isn’t going to come down from the heavens on a chariot of golden clouds. The cherubs will not be playing angelic trumpets, nor (well, at least it’s not likely) will he instantly walk up to you and make your life complete. Old Spice’s “man your man could smell like” already has a wife and kids. Yeah... I was disappointed too.

For most people, the best way to find Mister Right is to do a little work on your own. (Mister Shy was actually a children’s book illustrator, by the way. We’ve been married since August 2011.)

There are three things in particular that I’m talking about when I say that you need to do a little work:

First: Push past your urge to give into what I call Scotsman Syndrome. Just because he doesn’t have a visible six-pack and shoulders to swoon over doesn’t mean you’re not going to get a little weak-kneed when he smiles at you. Maybe he’s a really great dancer (yeah right, but you get my point) and you’re missing out on it because his initial impression didn’t match your pre-supposed dream man. You won’t know what else you’re missing if you reject the possibility to learn about the guy. Remember: you can say ‘no’ and not do a second date. Just, be nice and tell him ‘no’ if that’s your decision. Dragging people on is cruel!

Second: Don’t wait for someone else to come up to you. Go up to him, for Pete’s sake! One of the benefits of being in the sciences as a woman is that I’ve been surrounded by guys for so long that I’ve had plenty of chances to talk to all sorts. Men and women aren’t identical by any means, but we’re closer to the same than many people seem to think. They get scared to talk to us, don’t want to be seen as that creepy guy, and fear rejection just as much as we do. AKA... they’re human. 

Fear of rejection wins more often than it loses, so if you always wait for him to approach you, you’ll miss tons of opportunities to meet someone amazing.

Third: Take some chances. Go places you haven’t gone but want to. Talk to people you might not normally talk to if you see anything you might like about the person. (Be safe and reasonable of course!) Take up your friend’s offer on that party they’ve been trying to drag you to! Invite a guy to go to a dance with you even if you can’t dance. I bet you anything that he can’t either. (Gee – something biographical in my novel?  Unheard of!)

Summing all this stuff up:  If you want to find Mister Right, you’re going to have to go looking for him.  You will never have a werewolf and a vampire fight for your affection unless you go to that Halloween party your friends have been bugging you about.

#3 – Romance is a two-way street!

I’m writing this section from my phone while I wait for these two sexy pirate kings to stop swashbuckling over me in front of the cash register. Worst grocery run ever.

Among romance readers polled, the second most-common response (behind wanting romance in the first place) was the combination of wanting an escape from X or wanting to get more Y in their relationship. The actual things mentioned varied drastically from reader to reader. 

Some people didn’t like that their partners were overweight. Some said things weren’t adventurous enough in the bedroom. One woman (the only response I saw even close to this) wished her husband would try something other than his BDSM fetish. Things like that. 

People feel like something is missing, so they read about it... and then they miss it even more. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

First, let’s take the lesson from #2. Be active! Let’s find a way to get that thing into your life. That part’s up to you, of course, depending on what your missing piece is.

Second, you need to figure out how to approach your partner with it. Some approaches work better than others do, of course! Was your partner a former athlete who let himself go? Is the spark gone from the relationship now that he’s... well... fat? The best way to guarantee that nothing good will come of it is to walk up to him and tell him he’s fat. Don’t. Do. That. (Caveat:  If you have a wonderfully healthy relationship with open communication and can tell him gently, maybe then you can. Think about how you’d feel if it was the other way around, first.)

Ideally, we’d all be rational human beings capable of hearing things we don’t really want to hear and not getting upset, but yeah right. Be careful with your partner’s feelings. Emotions are very fragile, and words can’t be taken back once they’ve been said. 

That’s an awful lot of words to say “figure out how to change it,” but hey, I’m an author and excessive wordiness is my forte!

Now... that’s only one side of the street. As I said in the big bold text above, romance is a two-way street! It’s not your partner’s job to keep the fire going on his own—sometimes you’ll need to do something too. Remember, your partner is a human with wants and desires of his own. My personal view is that you both have an obligation to pay attention to each other and make sure that you’re doing what you can to make things work. 

There’s a whole lot of “after” to Happily Ever After, and our novels never talk about all the work that goes into keeping the fire lit once the couple has ridden off into the sunset.

Summing this whole article up:

In my highly unqualified opinion, the best thing you can do—whether you’re seeking romance or trying to keep one going—is to actively participate in making it all work out. Give Mister Maybe a chance and perhaps he’ll end up being Mister Right. 

Once you’ve found him, you both need to work together to keep things going for your own Happily Ever After.

About the Author

Nadia Simonenko is a Ukranian-American scientist and author currently living in Indianapolis with her husband, two cats and a dog. When she isn’t writing, she develops new oncolytic compounds and dreams about someday getting to take a vacation.
She frequents the web on:

Nadia and her debut novel, Lost, are currently on virtual tour with 15 other awesome romance authors as part of the Insatiable Reads Book Tour. From March 4th-31st, readers will be invited to enter for a chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite, free books, and other fun goodies. Readers will also be able to participate in author chats, get insights into writing and publishing romance, and collect story swag.

This week, Nadia is touring with Anya Karin, Krista Lakes, and Karolyn James.

To enter the giveaways and meet the other writers, you can follow the tour on the following sites:


That was an absolute delight! I love how extensive and full of personal anecdotes Nadia's tips are... she definitely needs to contribute to Cosmo... wait, she can do better than Cosmo ;) Wouldn't that be neat, though—a column of romance advice from romance authors, the "experts"?

Nadia has been generous enough to compile a phenomenal giveaway just for you Books à la Mode readers. There are 2 print copies and 3 eBooks of Lost up for grabs—five winners total! To enter, all you have to do give us your best romance advice in the comments below :) I wanna hear what you've got! If you can't think of anything (booo!) just respond to Nadia's fabulous post, but make sure your comment is meaningful! We want thoughtful, relevant responses, here... comments like "thanks for the giveaway" and "nice guest post" will not be eligible for the contest!

Follow Nadia online and subscribe to the blog for extra entries, which you can keep track of through the handy dandy Rafflecopter form below. Y'all know the drill:
Rules and Disclosure:
Giveaway ends April 7th at 11.59 (your time).
Open internationally! Woohooo!
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be chosen.
Although I will be selecting winners, I am in no way responsible for the prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤ Plus, you get extra entries ;)
Good luck!