As families across the country sit down together this week for Thanksgiving, New York Times best-selling author Melissa Foster shares how her personal insights into the large-family dynamic helps her experience the joys and appreciate the challenges of writing big-family romances. The latest novel in her Love in Bloom series, Seaside Sunsets, is available for pre-order now.
As the only girl in a family of seven children, writing about siblings—brothers, specifically—and large families is kind of my thing. The danger of writing these big-family romances is that I become attached to my characters and never want to let them go. This is why my Love in Bloom series is the umbrella for five family subseries so far, with two more planned for the future. Characters from each family appear in future subseries, which is not only exciting for me, but it gives fans a chance to read about the growth of characters after they’ve reached their happily ever afters.
Jealousies, secrets, trust, and loyalty all come into play in real-life families, and bringing those challenges to life for my fans in a realistic way is one of the most challenging and exciting aspects of writing big-family romance novels. Large families often have significant issues that those outside of the family rarely see, and since most of my characters tend to have emotionally rooted barriers rather than typical tropes of conflicting goals, I explore rich backstories with intimate, and often conflicting, relationships between siblings and parents.
While it’s important to know a character’s image and style, who a character is goes far deeper than physical appearances. We must understand what their lives were like before the story begins—from the schools they’ve attended to their previous relationships with friends and lovers and the emotional scars endured—and the ones they’ve left behind. Characters’ failures and successes help to form their fears and insecurities as well as their confidence, and each plays a major role in their development as an adult.
Understanding the roles between family members and how they will grow and change over the life of the series is also imperative in family romances. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but overcoming them within a family circle is vital in order to move forward as confident alpha heroes and smart, sexy heroines of romance novels. It would be easy to gloss over the families and make them happy-go-lucky, but that would not reflect real life, and I’m all about reality. The relationships we have with our siblings as teenagers are not the same as the ones we have as adults, and I try to bring those changing dynamics into the story. Although I have to admit that while certain parts of those relationships change, others never do—like the teasing and wrestling that goes on between brothers even as grown men.
For those of you who are wondering, no, my brothers do not mirror my heroes. However, at times in their lives, they certainly have played the parts. My older brothers were quick to come to my defense as teenagers, and they were just as quick to lock me in the basement with the crickets when I was too short to reach the light switch.
Creating large families isn’t about creating perfect, beautiful people. It’s about creating beautifully flawed characters with believable bonds that stand the test of time and provide a solid foundation for when a member of the family needs it most. My Snow Sisters, Bradens, Remingtons, Ryders, and even my Seaside Summers characters (who have become a family among friends) were all developed with that in mind. And, of course, family loyalty is a big theme in all of my books, because as Hal Braden reminds us often, family knows no boundaries.
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