Monday, September 24, 2012

The Modern "Rake" in New Adult Romance

ETA: Photo from I wouldn't have that kind of moss on my patio or a rake that looked like that. But the photo is free to use.

The modern "rake" in new adult romance is a new concept in many respects. But it's not something that hasn't been done before. It's just a new spin on something that's already been done thousands of times in the past. I don't know if Prince Harry is a classic rake, but he has shown some very exciting rake-ish qualities over the years and I would consider him a harmless new adult rake.

Here's wiki's definition of "rake."

A rake, short for rakehell, is a historic term applied to a man who is habituated to immoral conduct, frequently a heartless womanizer. Often a rake was a prodigal who wasted his (usually inherited) fortune on gambling, wine, women and song, incurring lavish debts in the process. The rake was also frequently a man who seduced a young woman and impregnated her before leaving, often to her social or financial ruin.
The reason why I'm posting about rakes now is because I was asked by a publisher to write several books with billionaire rakes as characters. I almost turned it down. I've never actually written a rake character...not in the literal sense. The closest I've come was with my self-pubbed book, "Chase of a Lifetime," with Cain Mayfield. He's sort of rake-ish, but not what I would consider an actual rake.

But I agreed to do the series and signed the contracts mainly because it IS something I'd never done before. The only thing I asked during the time we went back and forth with outlines was that I could write most of the books with new adult characters set in the present instead of the past. I may do one historical/western. But I'm not sure about that yet.

I also did as much basic research as I could about rakes. It's not like I've never read a romance novel with a rake...I've always loved them. But my goal in this series is to apply the classic rake concept in historical novels to a gay man living in the present. I also wanted all the main characters to be between eighteen and thirty years adult.

I'm a huge fan of a lot of the new adult fiction being written and published these days, and I've already written and published a few new adult gay romances myself. I have eclectic reading tastes, I've never been a genre or literary snob, and I like the idea of combining new adult with gay romance for many reasons. One of which is the technical/writing aspects. I am a snob about writing techniques. I don't like too many adjectives; I don't like overly-written narrative. Adverbs in dialogue tags turn my stomach, and said bookisms (he grumbled, he mumbled, he called) done too many times look ridiculous to me. I find that *kind* of writing in many romances I read and I don't see why a tighter writing styles (and word economy) with less of these awful writerly self-indulgences can't be applied to romance novels. I've been thankful enough to work with more than a few great editors who've taught me a great deal over the years. And tight-er writing is one of those things.

I found that modern rakes are not as simple as they sound. Social standards have changed drastically, so I couldn't get away with a rake who got women pregnant in a new adult romance and still have the same impact an author would have had 100 years ago. In the same respect, I couldn't write about a gay rake who infects other gay men with STDs (although this would, indeed, be the ultimate rake today) without a care in the world. I don't want to go there in romance, so to speak. STDs are way too "cringe-worthy" to me. In other words, I can't make it too realistic because it would wind up too dark. And no one reads romance novels for their darker qualities. We read them for escapism and entertainment and HEA, so they can bring us to places in our minds that are not as dark as the realities of the world we live in today.

So I came up with a character who is the heir to a billion dollar empire that is focused on hundreds of different varieties of chocolate ice cream. He's young, gay, extremely attracted, and can get any man or woman he wants. And he knows this. But in order to get control of his billion dollar empire, he must get a college degree from Harvard University. It has to be Harvard and without the degree he can't take control of the company. For him, this is less difficult than it is time consuming. He never had to study to get a grade, and if he finds something too difficult, he's not opposed to cheating (the best rakes cheat a lot). He's sexually promiscuous, his moral standards are always questionable, and his only goal is self-fulfillment.

Until he meets his new roommate at Harvard, a quirky, dirt poor, geeky guy who wears bad clothes, eye glasses, and gum-soled shoes. He's in Harvard on an academic scholarship he worked hard to get. He's there to study, he's there to work hard at building his future, and he's not there to entertain the whims of his billionaire roommate who doesn't seem to have any moral fiber at all. However, like many romance novels with rakes, the rake finds himself fascinated with the one guy at Harvard who does not show him any interest at all. The rake becomes obsessed with the nice guy to the point of stalking him on social media. I think a good new adult rake would sock puppet, use fake identities, and manipulate people online nowadays. In fact, I know he would from personal experience :)

I'm still learning about rakes as I write. I don't think a day has gone by since I started this new adult romance where I didn't look something up just to be sure about it, with regard to rakes. I also added a few new twists I thought would be relevant to modern day rakes. And even though I've never actually written an awful rake-ish character, I have to admit I haven't had this much fun in years. And I'll post more in the future as I get closer to a publication date.


Barb said...

Sounds like it will be a fun story! I look forward to hearing more about it!

ryan field said...

Thanks...I'm having fun with it.