August 29, 2013
Hi All! Cynthia D’Alba here. I so happy to welcome Alina Adams to ENALR today. I didn’t “know” Alina until we both found ourselves with stories in the Mammoth Book of ER Romance. Since then, I’ve checked her out and what I found was a funny, delightful writer that I can’t wait to get to know better! She has a fascinating professional history and experience that can’t help but bring all kinds of color and flavor to her writing. Today, she’s talking about medical romances and why she loves them. You might want to ask her about her love of soap operas too! Take it away, Alina.
I read medical romance in order to live vicariously through the characters.
Not the romance part. I’m actually pretty good on that front. My husband is ridiculously romantic. He listens to me go on and on about subjects he’s not interested in. During the great blackout of 2003, when I was eight months pregnant, he got up every hour during the night to wipe me down with a wet cloth so I wouldn’t get overheated. And, when the kids throw up, he cleans it. (What? Those aren’t traditional romantic gestures? I’ll take them over flowery poetry or a coat flung over a mud puddle any day of the week.)
No, the living vicariously I prefer to do is of the medical variety.
I love biology, physiology, anatomy. In college, I seriously considered majoring in genetics, but, alas, the lure of the writing life was too strong. (I realize now I probably could have combined both… but that simply didn’t occur to me then.)
I also love the intrinsic drama of a hospital. (This, I presume comes from a childhood – and okay, adulthood – spent watching… General Hospital.) When I read a hospital-set romance, I love reading about the characters and the progression of their relationship, sure. But, I also love digging into the nitty-gritty medical details. Exotic diseases, make-shift treatments, heroic sacrifices, fancy Latin terms… who doesn’t love fancy Latin terms?
I love the precision teamwork of a well-oiled Emergency Room machine in action as well as the idiosyncratic brilliance of each individual within it. (Yes, I do enjoy House. But, my otherwise very obliging husband won’t watch it with me, because he says it’s no fun when I figure out the mystery diagnosis halfway through.)
I read nonfiction books set in hospitals, too. And, I admit, I’ve been known to… borrow a particularly dramatic case or procedure for my fictional work. My 2000 Dell romance, When a Man Loves Woman, asked the question: Can men and women ever really be just friends? (Since it’s a romance novel, I’ll let you guess the answer to that one.) But, it also took place in a hospital, with the hero an Emergency Room specialist and the heroine a pediatric neurosurgeon. Sometimes, affairs of the heart had to take a backseat to affairs of the… heart – literally. I tried to weave the medical procedures into the story so that they weren’t merely something for the characters to do in between kisses, but so that what happened inside the hospital and interactions with their patients actually affected the eventual outcome.
Ultimately – outside of the voyeuristic and/or science geek aspect of it – I think the primary appeal of a medical romance is the life and death stakes that exist outside of the main, romantic plot.
It’s very easy – in real life and in books – when engrossed in the first flush of attraction, romance and relationship to become… unpleasantly self-absorbed. The outside world disappears and the one only thing of importance becomes the other person (even if, like in the other kinds of stories I like, the characters first assume that they absolutely loathe each other). It’s not a great attitude to embrace in real life, and it’s even worse in books, where it’s imperative that the hero and heroine be at least somewhat likeable people, or else why would we want to spend any amount of time with them?
In a medical romance, if the characters are even somewhat good at their jobs, they can’t afford to think only of themselves. They have to engage meaningfully with others and remember that, in the great scheme of things, there are bigger issues out there than their own current problems.
It’s hard to believe that the potential end of a romance is the end of the world when, right in front of you, are people possibly facing the end of their lives.
And that, in my opinion, is what makes not only medical romance particularly appealing, but the characters that appear in them. They don’t only care about themselves. And that, in the end, makes me care more about them.
Alina Adams is the NY Times best-selling author of soap opera tie-ins, figure-skating mysteries, nonfiction, and romance. Her short story, “To Look For You,” featuring a Russian Jewish American heroine (as Adams herself is) appears in the September 2013 “Mammoth Book of ER Romance.” Visit her website at http://www.AlinaAdams.com
Okay gang…Cyndi again…Don’t leave us hanging here. Are you a medical romance reader? If so, do you have a medical background? Do you ever pick at the medical aspects (not that I would do that!)?