Most likely all the authors who blog on Romancing the Jock or post to the site on Facebook were inspired by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and her Stars football series. So glad to see her newest is another Stars book after an absence of many years. My copy is on order. Meanwhile, those of us on RTJ have tried to fill the void with our own sports romances. It’s not as easy as it sounds. You pick a sport, make up a hot guy hero, and start typing. Nope.
The first thing you do is learn all you can about that sport. I choose football because that is the sport I knew the most about–or so I thought. My first move in research was to buy Football for Dummies wherein I found out all I didn’t know. What do players eat when training, how are jersey numbers assigned, what do they do during the off-season? My husband’s subscription to Sports Illustrated helped immensely. I watched the game with new eyes. Since my first heroine in Goals for a Sinner was a sports photographer, I also watched the sidelines to see what the photographers were doing. Later, when I did books on kickers and punters, I often strained to see what they did when not on the field. How did they train? What made them good or even great? Immersion in your subject is important. When I moved on to bull riders and bullfighters, I dragged my man to a rodeo. I’d been to many football games, but wanted to be able to describe the noise and smell of the bull pens, the types of fans attending. You can also catch professional bull riding on TV, though the times are elusive and the season runs from January through the finals in October with the holidays off, but you won’t know about the odor.
Believe me, if you make one single small mistake, readers are on you in an instant. After four flawless books, I made an error in the fifth by having my fictional team play three games in a row on the road. I needed this for the plot and thought it plausible, especially since the Saints played all their games on the road after Katrina, but a reader informed me this never happens, and since I knew so little about football, she would not ever read one of my books again. Took me a while to get my confidence back after that one, and I concentrated on my single titles and other series I’ve got going. It’s good to write more than one kind of book. So, be very well prepared if you attempt the sport romance.
Heroes–do they all have to be smokin’ hot alpha males? Not all of mine are. Football is a team sport and not everyone leads though I did start out with two, Connor Riley, the wide receiver in Goals for a Sinner and Joe Dean Billodeaux, the quarterback, in Wish for a Sinner. These are the glamour positions, the flashy guys. Behind them are men like my fictional Samoan cornerback, a defensive player who is all about the team, and the awesome kickers who often score the field goals that win (or lose) the game like those in Kicks for a Sinner and She’s a Sinner. Characters should not be flawless, winning every game and scoring every point. How boring would that be? They need to lose the Super Bowl on occasion or muff a kick to be real. They don’t operate alone either. The team is their family–and then they have families of their own who present problems because we’ve all got those. The heroine really should not be a fan or a groupie. She needs to have a life and profession of her own (which you have to learn about) and the strength to stand up to often dominant males.
Sex? Of course your readers expect it. My books might have a lot or a little depending on the character or the plot. Many writers to it better than I on paper. What is more important is telling a good story at least to me. In my opinion, there can be too much sex in a sports novel. If your characters are having sex every other chapter, I soon grow tired of it and want the story to move along. Possibly, that is just me. I’d rather work on their problems like should a severely injured player return to the game or how long should they play before retiring? It’s a matter of personal taste I guess.
Not too long ago, say as much as six years, sport romances were no long acceptable to agents and publishers. I guess too many writers jumped on the boat and sunk it after the success of SEP. Yet my fellow RTJ authors wrote them anyhow, and eventually found a niche, mostly in e-published books. What do you know? Fans of the genre were out there and hungry for more. Long may the genre reign. Of all my now nineteen published books, my Sinners Sports Romances remain my most popular, but if they should peter out, I’ll move on. It’s good to have a backup on the bench.