1. MY, WHAT A NOVEL-LA IDEA
I’ve explained that I decided to write a novella as part of an anthology call for royal novellas. Before that, I’d never even considered writing a novella—I’ve read some, but not many, and I’m definitely far too wordy a writer to pack an entire story into half the space I’d normally use. But seeing the call sparked an idea, something that shaped itself into “Bad Princess,” and had the unexpected effect of convincing me that not only could I write a novella, I could write it quickly, because it was short!
So, I did write it fairly quickly, but that’s mostly because it was one of those blessed occasions where the story just flowed. It definitely wasn’t any easier than writing a full-length story, because you still have to make sure you have a solid structure and an interesting plot and unique characters and sizzling chemistry and believable dialogue and all the things that make a book, regardless of length, worth reading.
When the anthology didn’t go ahead as planned, I knew I loved this story and wanted to publish it regardless. And for a brief moment, I considered beefing it up a bit, adding more scenes, more chapters, more words—my favourite—and making it a bit more substantial than a novella. But here’s the thing: I wrote a novella. Not a book that was missing pieces, but a complete story, in 40,000 words.
I thought maybe I could add the wedding scene, but I really didn’t want to. Or insert a chapter before they’re caught kissing—but that would be filler. Or I could change to a more omniscient POV and show other characters’ thoughts and activities, but that would just be different angles on the same plot points, not new information. Or maybe I could create an entire subplot to generate another 30,000 words—but…but I didn’t need to. I’d told a story, and the word count was right for it, so I left it as it was.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to write, and other times it’s hard to determine what *not* to write. It’s always a balancing act, and whether or not you strike the right balance is entirely subjective. This post is meant to give you the overall perspective I had while writing the novella, and a couple of the posts coming later in the week will discuss some of those decisions in more detail. Until then, thanks for reading!
2. FEMINISM QUESTION & ANSWER
Thank you to Brenda for her question!
Q: I find a lot of romance novels today obsessed with overtly rogue dominant masculinity and power. Titles like The Bad Billionaire, The Bad Boy Player Billionaire, The Prince Who Seduced Me, and so on, seem to suggest this idea. You have chosen a princess to be in the lead or least in the main title of the book. The synopsis also seems to suggest that the female is in the driver’s seat of where this novella is going or at least has the more executive point of view. Do you feel that feminism makes it across in your books in the way you choose to write?
A: This is a really thoughtful question and I appreciate you asking! To address the first part, overly masculine titles—I think that’s a marketing technique. It’s on trend and it doesn’t require any real effort to deduce what the story’s about. (Would “Time Served” have sold more copies if I’d called it “The Ex-Con Ex-Boyfriend Who Re-Seduced Me”? Hmm…maybe. It certainly rolls off the tongue.)
In “Bad Princess,” the heroine is definitely the protagonist and it’s her actions and her willpower that determine the course of the story. (It’s also told in third person, from Brinley’s POV only.) For me “feminism” in romance isn’t necessarily a declarative statement from a character that says “I’m a strong, independent woman, dammit!” It’s in her actions, and that’s why I always try to make sure that my characters’ actions speak just as loudly as their words. Brinley has lived her whole life—quite comfortably—in the shadow of her perfect older sister, Elle, but when Elle abdicates and the spotlight is suddenly on Brinley, the expectation is that she’ll undergo one of those movie makeovers and learn how to be better. I didn’t want to tell that story, because I’d seen it before. Instead I wanted a story that suggested we re-write the definition of what type of behavior suited a “good” woman, and to send the message that it’s possible to be good enough, just the way you are.
To me, feminism isn’t about being pretty and perfect, or even stubborn and strong. It’s being yourself and having the courage to accept it, and the determination to surround yourself with people who accept it, too. Brinley didn’t need Finn to tell her it’s okay to be herself—she was always going to be that way, no matter what. But she’s happy to have an ally, and I was more than happy to give her one. After all, a bad princess can get in twice as much trouble with a second set of hands.
What do you guys think? Is it important to you to have a more expressly stated position of female strength in novels, or does subtle work?
3. THE FOURTH DIMENSION
We all know we’re supposed to write three-dimensional characters, and if you read my books, you know I like to write character arcs and mess with tropes and general expectations. That’s why Finn starts this story as little more than a cardboard cut-out in the shape of a prince (which is, in fact, the number one item stolen from the local airport by his fans).
When he’s first described with his lapels and epaulets and brass buttons, that’s my childhood memory kicking in, transcribing its earliest memories of what a prince was. A sketch, a concept, but not a real, flesh and blood man. And Brinley, despite having known Finn since childhood, knows him as little more than this ideal as well. I’ve gotten comments that it took a bit of time to get to know Finn, and that’s very much intentional. Not only did I want someone more reserved to balance out Brinley’s impulsiveness, I wanted to play with the concept of a “cardboard” character and slowly use the fourth dimension to show his third dimension.
See how clever I am? I know about the fourth dimension! (The fourth dimension is time, if you’re wondering.) I read about this in a gardening article once—you plan your garden for all its 3D glory, but need to factor in time, the way the plants will grow, change, die. In this story I wanted to use time to transform that cardboard into not just a prince, but a man.
When we first meet Finn he’s in a formal suit, greeting Brinley politely but cautiously. On their wedding night he eats a burger while wearing his royal wedding pants and a plain T-shirt, straddling the line between traditional prince and regular person eating a burger. He wears funny socks and boxers, hidden beneath his royal finery. He explores the castle’s hidden tunnels with Brinley, and the farther they descend, the more they leave behind the royal expectations, the more real they become with each other. He slowly reveals tiny parts of himself, becoming more accessible to Brinley, and accordingly, the reader.
With Brinley leaping off the first page without a care as to what awaits her, I wanted to counter that with Finn’s slower, more methodical approach, and transform him from a cardboard idea of Prince Charming to a real prince we can believe and invest in. I think I accomplished that, but I’ll leave the final judgment up to you fine (brilliant, beautiful, hilarious, generous, incorruptible) readers.
Do you have a favourite type of hero? Alpha, beta, billionaire, dom, athlete, computer whiz? I used to lean toward the strong, silent (sometimes jerk) type, but the more I write the more variety I want, so my “favourite” is much more flexible.
4. DO YOU POV WHAT I POV
Point of view (POV) is a big consideration when determining how to tell a story. As both a reader and a writer, I tend to prefer stories told from one POV. There are exceptions to everything, of course, but I think the reason I like it so much is because when you’re inside one character’s head, it gets a bit easy to “tell” the reader things, rather than show them. When we only learn about the other characters through their actions, it forces you to “show” more, and if you’ve read any of my earlier rants, you know I’m a big proponent of showing vs. telling.
I decided to use just one POV for this story because it’s called “Bad Princess” and the whole world is already telling us how they feel about her (spoiler: they think she’s bad), so more POVs seemed unnecessary. I chose third person POV because I liked the fairy tale feel of the voice and felt like it lent itself better to that “royal” tone. If this were a movie, the opening pages would be an omniscient camera floating down through the sky as the narration rolled over, describing beautiful, obedient Elle…and ending with “then Elle ran away and left the world with…Princess Brinley.” Record scratch moment as we settle on Brinley, sitting in a pile of dirt in a torn dress with steak sauce on her face.
I think single POV is helpful when both characters are living the same story, and not venturing terribly far apart. Because Brinley and Finn are thrust together very early on—like it or not—there’s no need to have Finn echo Brinley’s thoughts on the plot, since they’re sharing the story. Because Brinley is so lively and haphazard, I wanted Finn to be more reserved and calm, to contrast and complement her. It also helps that Brinley is unsure of Finn’s feelings, and I didn’t want to tell the reader something the heroine herself didn’t know. (That can work in some instances when you’re trying to develop a certain kind of tension, but that’s not what I wanted here, because it’s a romance and the HEA is guaranteed anyway. It felt redundant.)
I imagine a scene from Finn’s POV to be him peeling a boiled egg, then eating it, then looking out a window, then end. Very Finn-like, but not really an interesting chapter. He’s interesting because we view him and learn to love him through Brinley’s POV, through the way he changes her and she changes the way she sees him, and how that changes how she sees herself. It’s kind of like getting his POV…without actually getting it.
I feel like I already know the answer to this because I see an overwhelming number of comments that say “I wish I had the hero’s POV” – but do you have a strong preference for what type of POV you like? Single? Dual? Omniscient?
5. STRUCTURE ME THIS
I saved this post until the last day of the week to hopefully give people enough time to read “Bad Princess” before this went up. If you haven’t read the book yet, you might want to wait—this post is about the structure I used for the story, and by design, it’s a little bit spoiler-y. I tried to think of a way to talk about structure without discussing the plot, but that turned out to be mostly impossible.
If you’re not familiar, I use a basic (and very well-known) three-act structure for most of my stories. There’s an Inciting Incident (which is the moment that gets the story rolling), the First Act Turning Point (which is kind of the moment where there’s no going back), the Mid-Point (when something shifts and sends the plot in a new-ish direction), the Second Act Turning Point (aka the climax), and the Resolution. I broke this down in some of my On Writing posts, but I basically use the “big” romantic moments as the turning points in my stories, and here’s how that worked out with “Bad Princess”:
Inciting Incident (15%): Brinley and Finn get caught red-handed in the library. If they kiss but don’t get caught, there’s no story!
First Act Turning Point (25%): Wedding night. If Brinley and Finn don’t get married, they can still go back to how things used to be. I’ll be honest—I really didn’t want to write a wedding scene, and if I had, it would have been exactly the same as every other royal wedding. So I skipped to the “after” part of the wedding, and the unexpected: a bawling princess bride on her happiest day.
Mid-Point (51%): The trip to the dungeon. The farther Brinley and Finn descend beneath the castle, the more they shed their “royal” images and reveal their truer selves. That’s why the sex happens at this point—they’re at their most vulnerable and honest. And it changes the story from “will they-won’t they” to “yes they will” and makes them a legitimate pair instead of two individuals simply stuck together.
Second Act Turning Point (72%): The party at Castle Lenora, and the egg. This is the moment that jeopardizes everything, for everyone involved, and forces them to make choices that will determine the outcome of the story. I think it’s important that this happen at Finn’s home, because it finally gives us some insight into Finn and his upbringing, and helps us better understand his choices to date, and the choices he’ll make going forward.
Resolution (the rest): What happens after the party, the choices, and the results of those choices. You know how Coke has those different bottles during the summer? When I was writing this I randomly grabbed a bottle from the cooler and it said “Saving the Princess.” That inspired a certain white knight idea and influenced the ending of the book. Thanks, Coke!
(Not a structural thing: The Brinley kicking bricks idea was inspired by a memory of my sister when we were younger. She thought I was standing on the other side of the wall so she came whipping around and kicked it as hard as she could. I was, of course, on the opposite side of the room, so I saw the whole thing and nearly died laughing.)
So that’s the structure I used for this book! I didn’t necessarily know how the moments themselves would play out, but I knew what types of events they needed to be, and where in the page count they had to fall to keep me on pace. If it’s not obvious, I kind of love talking about this stuff, so feel free to offer your comments (or questions, or suggestions) below.
And…that’s it for the release week posts! Thank you so much for being part of this release, and, as always, thanks for reading.
Princess Elle Vida was born at precisely 12:01 a.m. on a snowy January 1st. The nurses swore she was the most beautiful baby they had ever seen, and not just because she would one day inherit the throne of the Kingdom of Estau, but because even at just one minute old, Princess Elle was astonishingly beautiful.
Though Estau was very much a 21st Century kingdom, Elle had the flaxen hair and sky blue eyes of the fairy tale princesses of old. Her skin was like satin and her smile could be seen for miles. Her parents, King Luke and Queen Vivienne, were delighted with their daughter, as were her royal subjects. Growing up she was kind, bright, curious and obedient. Elle Vida was the epitome of Estau’s motto, Be good and be gracious. Elle Vida was everything she was supposed to be.
Until the day after her twenty-fifth birthday, when Princess Elle Vida of Estau abdicated the throne and ran away with a lumberjack to live a life of hedonism on an unnamed island in the South Pacific. Or so that’s how it was interpreted. It was hard to properly decipher all the words scrawled in the drunken goodbye message left on her bathroom mirror with red lipstick.
Elle’s younger sister, Princess Brinley Cantrella, was born three years later on October 31st, a night filled with ghouls and demons, and she was, to all accounts, a baby born possessed. She was not a good baby, not quiet or sweet, always wailing and red in the face. While Elle was an appropriately curious child, Brinley was dangerously so, hanging out of windows and sliding down banisters and attempting to scale the inside of a fireplace to see if she could reach the castle roof, which she had been forbidden from visiting lest she try to fly again.
Rumor had it that Brinley had been born blond, and her now-dark, tangled hair had been permanently stained by soot and guilt. Her ever-broken fingernails and uneven smile were considered further proof that not only was she not fit for the throne like her saintly sister Elle, she was not in any way, shape or form, a good princess.
In fact, Brinley Cantrella was a bad princess.
All the tabloids agreed.
There was hardly an issue published that did not carry at least one photograph of Brinley doing something bad. A gust of wind blowing up her skirt to expose a gold thong, sticking out her tongue at a shouted insult from an unseen passerby (to be fair, that had only happened five times), a grainy shot of a woman assumed to be Brinley making out with one of her university professors. (To be even more fair, it was her in the shot, and the man was a professor, but he was in the English department and she was in the science program and there was no conflict of interest at all.)
Elle had done wonderfully in her castle mandated etiquette classes; nine exasperated tutors had given up on Brinley. Elle had never picked up a sword; Brinley had accidentally sliced the queen’s official portrait in half while fending off make believe bandits. Elle had never cursed in her life; Brinley had been secretly recorded during a drunken karaoke night at a pub, singing an expletive-filled rap song while twerking. It was actually an excellent performance and the internet loved it, but the powers that be had not, and they had threatened to drag her home early from university if she were caught misbehaving again.
Fortunately she had not been caught again.
Brinley Cantrella may have been a bad princess, but she was quite good at it.
Notorious for leaping off roofs, maiming foreign royals, and that twerking incident, Brinley Cantrella of Estau is nobody’s definition of a good princess. She’s fearless and bold, not good and gracious. And after a lifetime of being told she’s unfit to be queen, wearing the crown and helping to usher Estau into a new era is the one dream she’s never dared chase.
But when her older sister abdicates the throne, all Brinley has to do to inherit the role is not twerk, not maim anybody, and definitely not get caught fooling around topless with Prince Finn, her childhood crush, the only man she’s ever loved…and her sister’s former future husband.
Finn embodies the definition of good. Tall and handsome, serious and honorable, he always does the right thing—including agreeing to marry his ex’s sister to cover up this latest scandal. Brinley has fallen down stairs, broken teeth and broken bones, but this is the first time her heart has ever been broken. She now has the crown and the prince, and on the surface, life is good—but is being married to a man everyone swears could never love her back good enough?
This is a novella of approximately 39,500 words.
What a fun read! I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read by this author before but didn’t know what to expect with this rather fanciful royal romance. The fictional alpine countries and palace settings are delightfully laid out, as are the opposites attract characters of Finn and Brinley. Read the rest here!
If you’ve never read a book by the talented Julianna Keyes now is your chance. Bad Princess is a fun, quick read with a royal theme that readers will just adore. Keep reading here!
Eater of Books
These two have serious chemistry! You would think, with this story being a novella's length, that the chemistry would be rushed and the romance would be clobbered together, or something like that. But no, the chemistry and the tension were built up and made for some very steamy times. His Royal Stuffiness is really not so stuffy in some ways... as Brinley finds out. Read more here!
Red Hot Books
Brinley is a great character with so much life to her. She’s delightful and you know she’d make an excellent friend and wild drinking buddy. Finn is staid and steady, and just ready to be led astray. He is the polar opposite to his new bride, but tries hard to be what she needs. Read the rest here!
Shh Mom's Reading
This was a cute although short story that made me want more. I kept looking at how much time I had left on my Kindle and tried to slow down my reading to enjoy every second. Julianna Keyes created such fun loving characters in Bad Princess. Keep reading here!
Rolo Polo Book Blog
Brinley and Finn are the very definition of opposites attract meets forbidden romance. In order for Brinley and Finn to be happy together, each has to face a few demons and that means dealing with some ugly truths. In the process, each discovers a genuine affection and passion for the other which makes this read even more delightful! Read more here!
A Novel Glimpse
I don’t always read princess stories, but when I do they’re by a trusted author. I had faith that Julianna Keyes could make me fall in love with her bad princess, and she totally did! Bad Princess was delightfully fun. Keep reading here!
The Romance Reviews
I really liked reading this. I've read and enjoyed two other of this author's books so when I saw this one, I wasn't afraid to give it a go. The idea of a princess being bad at her only real job and getting mixed up with her sister's previously betrothed was a recipe for a good time. And it was. I was entertained from the first page to the last. Read the rest here!
Release Week Posts
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Scroll down for reviews, an excerpt, and release week posts!