Last week at the RT Convention I had an opportunity to participate in a panel discussion with authors Brenda Rothert and Toni Aleo — our topic was “How to Write a Hot Sports Hero”. Too bad the session wasn’t recorded but I thought I’d share some of the discussion. I don’t remember everything that was said, so this is mostly my thoughts.
We talked about why we like to write sports romance and for me it’s obvious —it’s because I love hockey. I have since I was a little girl watching Hockey Night in Canada. My high school boyfriend played hockey, so I went to his games, and he taught me a lot about hockey watching our town’s major junior team. Then I moved to the big city of Winnipeg where there was an NHL team—so exciting! Then we lost our team. Boo. Then we got it back. Yay! Go Jets go!
One thing I like about writing hockey is the players and their personalities. I talked about how hockey players are some of the most humble professional athletes there are. Sure, there are some guys who are full of themselves and have a cocky attitude, but generally the culture of hockey is to be very modest and respectful of the team. When players are interviewed after games, you don’t hear hockey players boasting about themselves. Even if they just won the Stanley Cup with a breakaway all by themselves, they’ll still give credit to the team. I love the juxtaposition of a tough, physical game on the ice and often quiet, modest players off the ice.
I think that professional athletes make good romance heroes because they have all the qualities that you want in a hero—they’re good at what they do, they’re dedicated and determined, they're willing to make sacrifices, they’re honorable because they play by the rules… and they have muscles :-)
We talked about how much sports action we put into our stories. For me, that depends on the story. Some of us have had readers say there’s too much hockey, others say there’s not enough, and you can’t please everyone, so it has to work with the story. I think the on-ice action (because I’m a hockey writer I mostly referred to hockey) has to move the story forward in some way or show us something about our hero’s character. Some of my Aces books feature a story line where the team is desperately trying to make the playoffs, so the games are an important part of the book and add tension to the story because if they lose, they’re out.
Other authors write sports romances where the game isn’t such a big part of the story, and it’s just the hero’s career and is kind of in the background.
Another thing that came up was how much knowledge you have to have of your sport. We talked about the importance of research and how each of us have done different research and gotten to know the sport. One thing I would say though is that just because someone knows the sport doesn’t mean they can write a romance about it — I believe you have to hone your writing craft and learn how to write well before writing any kind of romance, even if it's about a sport of which you have a lot of knowledge.
I love talking about hockey and hockey romance, so it was a great discussion! Thanks to Toni for arranging the panel and to her assistant Lisa for doing a great job moderating the discussion!