Tag Archives: Marian Keyes

what i’ve learnt about writing (and life, probably) from reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips: part I

I think Marian Keyes is probably my favourite contemporary romance writer, but as far as romance romance writers go, Susan Elizabeth Phillips wins hands down.

I’ve been reading  a lot of her recently. And watching NBA matches on the telly. And eating American pancakes.


I just can’t help it! She makes me want to be a superhero woman with just the right amount of vulnerability just arrived in a small American town!

The standouts, I think, are the Chicago Stars books. Most recently I read Match Me If You Can. It made me laugh out loud. A lot. And it left me feeling a bit like a big, schmoltzy, bubbling, human-shaped balloon of goodness.

So. Back to topic.

The first thing I love about her writing is the way the oddball/eccentric/anti-social/nasty characters all end up being absorbed into the sense of family. It’s very like Miyazaki, but that’s probably a whole post in itself.

For example, in Natural Born Charmer the nasty, old, villainous woman who owns the town, Nita Garrison, becomes the heroine’s family “till death do us part” – and it’s the first real family Blue’s ever had. The two of them still insult each other every chance they get, and the closest they come to signs of intimacy is when Blue rests her head on Nita’s shoulder. But you don’t doubt their loyalty and love for each other for a second.

There’s something very powerful about this device. The hero/heroine has a kind of human empathy and brash, stubborn acceptance of others that is intoxicating for a reader. It allows the characters to be vulnerable and flawed without necessitating that they’re so cheesy they also make you want to vomit.

So, 1. Who does your hero/heroine attract? How does contact with these people transform everyone concerned? Does this transformation make you want to cheer or vomit?