Hildred Billings talks tropes – the fire that fuels your fiction on this episode of For Love And Money with Rae D Magdon.
- tropes and how they can help you market your books to your ideal audience.
- Using tropes to sell your work
- Combining tropes into unique narratives
- Ending the stigma around tropes
Listen to this episode here
Hildred Billings Online
please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect
[Music] hello everyone and welcome to the lesbian talk shows for love and money I’m your host Rae D Magdon and today we have a very special guest who I’m excited to talk to you Hildred Billings thank you so much for agreeing to be on the show this week thank you for having me it’s my first time doing a podcast well that’s exciting I’m really honored that you chose 4:11 money and I hope it’s gonna be a fun experience for both of us so when we were having our email exchange about what we wanted to talk about for the podcast you brought up some really interesting stuff about tropes and that got the gears of my head turning to be honest because I love tropes and I do think that they can help sell books and sell you as an author so why don’t you talk a little bit about that tell me what you think a trope is in the context of this conversation and how you’ve used to them okay well when I’m talking about tropes I’m specifically talking in genre fiction and in my case that would be romance in the sub-niche of lesbian romance which has all their own sub-niches as you know but let’s just talk generally in the cloud of lesbian romance or romance if you want contemporary romance there we go contemporary romance but so tropes are the things that sort of define your book they are the things that your readers look at your blurb they look at your cover they look at your title and they go this is the book I want to read and this is why and it’s usually because of the trope you have presented in your book like for example my latest major release with Cindy Cynthia Dane was called bad girl love and I put the trope right in the title the bad girl trope I didn’t I didn’t go for the virgin angle that’s very common in bad boy bad girl tropes is to have their foil be completely inexperienced completely new to this whole you know having sex thing but on this case I decided to go with someone with a little bit of experience but she was brand-new the whole you know getting with somebody outside of my class you know the person from the wrong side of the tracks and right there I just listed three different tropes and I the reason why I kind of harp about tropes in writing groups is because there is a big stigma against them and it’s something that’s ingrained in literary society because tropes are associated with genre fiction even though you could pick up any little so-called quote unquote literary fiction title and you will still find tropes in there because we are human we like to categorize things it makes our brains happy and we pick the tropes that we like and we gravitate for them and as an author I think it’s partly my job especially if I want to make a full-time living at this to understand the tropes that I like the tropes that my readers like the tropes that are kind of trendy right now you know so I can maximize my production time so I’m writing something that I think will at least be a moneymaker for the rest of the year or the next couple of years personally I love troops I love diving into them and using them in my own work and there’s this misconception like you said that tropes are a bad thing that they make a book boring but like I found it’s totally the opposite they’re what gives the book flavor and life and I love them so you mentioned trendy tropes and following certain trends what trends have you noticed in less fix specifically that had been very popular recently oh man I don’t do I even have to say it fake girlfriend yeah no I was I I didn’t get into that one on purpose I wrote a book god I can’t they all blur together was it last year I think or two years ago kiss it had it been two years ago kiss and tell came out and it was a fake well I took it from fake boyfriend over from my contemporary MF writing career as Cynthia Dayne and translated over to lesbian fiction I want to see a fake girlfriend would work if my readers would like it had not read a fake girlfriend book yet unless and I’m not saying I was doing anything totally original it’s just how my brain was turning to gear so to speak and going oh that could be fun and so I presented that to the world it was a big hit people were recommending it everywhere and next thing I knew I I this is gonna sound really bad but I have not read caste lacey yet and i hear that’s a that’s a fake girlfriend book and that’s probably like one of the biggest titles from last year if i’m correct and yeah i’m seeing a lot of it i’m seeing a lot of people saying that they want more of those kinds of books right now and i think it was Oh God apologies if I’m saying her name wrong but JJJ yeah she had her a lesbian yeah J she had her lesbian book bingo and I think one of the results she put out just last month at the end of it where she listed the most popular tropes that people told her about it was like doctor veterinarian and fake girlfriend and military there is a nice font of inspiration you just have a you know have your vet become the big fake girlfriend of the town doctor and now they joined the military and it’s all good that’s like but the cool thing about tropes though because they overlap and like link together and then you can combine them in all sorts of interesting ways yeah and some of them naturally go together like I have my background in billionaire romance both let Cynthia Danes whole brand and that’s another subject entirely is building pin names around trope of brands but well actually building our romance is a sub-genre of contemporary romance and the tropes are what helped make it because the central trope in Billy no romance is the Cinderella story which is a trope in itself you know poor girl is destitute but she has a heart of gold and she’s trying to help her family trying to keep her pets alive and nothing ever seems to cobble together a month a month and suddenly here’s you know prince or princess charming with all the money and all the connections who comes in and saves the day and that’s the fantasy is that it’s a I call it the millennial fantasy it’s like we say here going on capitalism is bad you know eat the rich and then we go and reread our billionaire romances blank on in my little corner of my head it’s perfect I feel really good excuse you well I’m that’s my job is to call people out in my books going you like this don’t you yeah in our romance we have two conjoined tropes that go together very well which is usually you know enemies two lovers and fourths proximity cuz you know how do you get an enemy to love her stroke happening it’s usually through force proximity which is another trope I throw together I was just gonna say I’m a huge enemies two lovers sucker I do it whenever I can in my books I mean I also like friends to Lover’s my favorite is enemies to friends to lovers actually no my favorite is friends to lovers to enemies to back to lovers mm-hmm oh yeah cuz you have to have those you know you gotta hit the beats yeah okay so can we can you talk about tropes in relationship to pacing and how the tropes you choose can influence the pacing of your book and how that can like make light bulbs and readers heads go off yeah because I was just thinking about this yesterday the more tropes you choose especially tropes that may not naturally occur together like I just said enemies to lovers and forced proximity which right there is your plot but the more tropes you choose to put together into your genre soup so to speak the longer your book is probably going to end up being because you’re going to be introducing more subplots more characters to carry out these subplots and it’s something you have to keep in mind when you sit down to plot I naturally write very long very meaty stories anywhere between seventy thousand to one hundred and thirty thousand words and it’s usually because I’m I usually have the central trope that I mark at my book bond but then there’s the other tropes that make up the Jon receive so to speak so it’s one thing to keep in mind I recently just launching this year a new series of novella a month set in the same small town it’s gonna be called a year in paradise hit hit market drop right there and so each each book takes place during the month of the year and each book will have a central trope to it and I had to sit down and really force myself to stick to one trope so I didn’t go out of my word count because if I wrote the same length of book that I usually write I wouldn’t be able to put out one a month they would no longer be novellas they would be epic novels which always happens to me so I had to really challenge myself to sit down and just do the one trope per book and if I really want to I can weave subplots in between the different interconnected books that sounds so fascinating I’ve never heard of someone writing like a year long thing where a new short story is coming out every month based on the month based on a trope that’s so incredibly creative and that’s such a great way to keep reader engagement through the whole year I mean they’re never gonna like stop thinking about you that’s brilliant I love it I hope so that’s the plan so it’s a small-town romance sub-genre which is also really big in contemporary romance in general but again that’s sub-genre that’s made up of other tropes and the big major trope you usually see in small town romances is the one I use for book one to introduce the town and the townspeople and it’s you know the native girl who grew up moved away broke some hearts behind her and then has to return for whatever reason and face her ex like a hallmark kind of except with a more cursing and more sex well they have a system really works for them apparently well yeah it’s popular especially around the holidays but yeah that’s that’s so brilliant I can’t get over that can you pre-order them is there a way to like pre-order the the year-long thing and then they’ll get delivered to you when they come out oh I don’t do pre-order simply because one I don’t trust Amazon into I like to give myself a little wiggle wiggle room but I so have proven to myself and my readers that I can get books out when I say there’s gonna be a book a month there will be a book a month short of me getting like mononucleosis knock on wood but the first book is called January embers and it will be out as of recording this this Friday the 11th January 11th and I’m hoping to have the others out within the first two weeks of their months so you can just pick it up read it enjoy it during the month that it’s set and I’ll see you at Christmas time for the big Christmas novella that’s great I will absolutely link to that when this podcast comes out because it’ll be shortly after that so I just throw a link in the show notes so people can go by it and it will be NKU so for those who uh don’t like paying for novellas there you go by kayuu you mean Kindle unlimited yeah Kindle unlimited have you had success with putting some of your stuff on Kindle unlimited I’m I’m curious cuz I’ve heard different opinions from different authors about whether it’s worth it or not it’s worth it to me because like I just said I write big meaty books so that’s a lot of page reads but that that only works if you can keep your readers hooked for the whole length of the book so I put out one hundred and twenty thousand word novels on average hundred one hundred twenty thousand words I think bad girl love was about 100 hundred and twenty thousand words and it’s you know they usually make me they make me a good amount money for a few months without much promo it’s very nice you’re listening to the news Ben talk show the lesbians auction your hub of podcast information how do you sustain the fuel and the fire of these tropes throughout 120 thousand words what what tricks do you have to keep the tension and the suspense going for that long oh I’m just worried I I do use a lot of subplots in my books because that’s just how my brain turns it I throw these characters together and the next thing I know she’s this one wants to escape her past and this one is trying to embrace her future and then their worlds collide and that creates all usually what happens is I’ll sit down to write a book go oh this will probably end up being around 70,000 words and by the time I reach 110 thousand words I go where is the end so I can’t really say how exactly my books end up this long other than I write very long sex scenes which probably helps oh and flush them out because these are technically erotic romances so readers come expecting some hot sex and that’s what I try to deliver well that’s what I come to and I’m trying to find a romance animal so here’s okay that’s that’s another one what are some of your favorite tropes surrounding sex and erotica now that we’re on the subject mm-hmm well what’s popular I mean obviously enemies to lovers will never die yes I’m sorry I have to say I’m sorry to my girlfriend because she hates that trope so badly she’s of the opinion that if you hate somebody there’s a reason but the whole point is in fiction is that it’s an it’s a redeemable reason yes it’s a redeemable just because they’re awful they’d be terrible book if mister real estate developer is running around kicking puppies on his way to demolish your grandmother’s home he’s probably not very redeemable and enemies to lovers was probably good reason you hate that guy yeah but you know if he’s Oh well nobody’s living here and it’s considered a health hazard but it’s you know also historical monument and that’s why people are up in arms well I still have to do my job it’s gonna hurt people blah blah blah now here comes you know the local uh the local community authority going no no no I can’t let you knock this down this house means a lot to us people got married here they had babies here blah blah blah and that’s when their worlds collide because they think the other it comes down to they think the other person is wrong you have to get a both saying and that’s where the conflict yeah you have to give both sides equal weight and make them like make the reader see both points of view or else it just seems like one is bad yeah that’s a hard one to pull off with only one point of view because you really need to get into the head of the quote-unquote opposition I don’t think I’ve read many enemies to Lover’s books where there aren’t multiple points of view I’m sure they’re out there I’m sure there’s some that are done very well but like you I don’t think I’ve ever come across one that was the central trope was enemies to lovers yeah it seems like you just be making it harder on yourself when you wouldn’t really need to I’m sure they’re out there though yeah so back to back to erotic tropes what other erotic tropes have you found sell really well and resonate with readers well we already talked about faint girlfriend and but that’s coming from another angle because the whole thing about fake girlfriend is that oh we’re just pretending to be together but deep down we really want each other so it’s again it’s that simmering sort of lust for one another cause I’m talking about erotic romance so sex and lust are on the table whereas in sweeter romances you’re building up toward like the kiss at the end but in my in my books it’s it follows more of the pattern of we shouldn’t be doing this oh but oh my god it’s so good that kind of like forbidden feeling and then they decide oh we can’t do that again because it will it’ll trash what we’re trying to accomplish in the meta of the story or we’re really not good for each other so we got that out of our systems only we need to do it again and again and again and finally we admit that we’re in love oh my gosh she used one of my favorite tropes my favorite trope possibly to write ever in terms of erotic tropes is to people having sex before it’s a good idea and then regretting it and then getting back together I mean that’s my whole career right oh my gosh I need to read everything you’ve written now because that is my favorite trope like everyone loves the slow burn and everyone’s all about the slow burn I know the tension and I’m like I want them to have sex and then have feelings about it I often I often read on the bus that’s my writing my oh my I hope that’s not like any time my reading time and a lot of times I end up with these sloper and romances I’m just sitting there really wanting to scream already I feel like we’re hivemind right now it’s great I mean obviously it works because I kept reading waiting for it to happen yeah do you have a fanfic background I gotta ask cuz like tropes and fanfiction always go together you know I’ve never written or read fanfiction in my life oh my gosh like tropes I recommend picking up a fanfiction or two on archive of our own because like you know that’s what it’s all about I hear a lot that’s I hear a lot about that but I’m not really media I’m not really connected to a lot of pop culture media like that so it kind of flies right over my head well that’s very you’re creating your own stuff out there yeah that’s I got into it I was tired of everything else sucking so I started making my own that I was a real pretentious little kid okay well we’re coming up on 20 minutes this has been a whole lot of fun this has been an absolutely fabulous conversation I only have one more question before we have to go and it’s a little bit unrelated to tropes you there are a bit of a facebook marketing guru so I’ve heard through the grapevine what is your you well I’m not that familiar with Facebook I put all my eggs in the tumblr basket before they banned not-safe-for-work content and now I’m having to go to Twitter and Facebook and up my presence there Oh what are your recommendations for authors who want to up their presence on Facebook and make good use of it well just for the record we’re not talking like Facebook ads or that kind of marketing we’re talking like the the groups right yeah yeah anything to do with Facebook really but I was thinking less the paid ads and more the attracting followers yeah so I have a private Facebook group both for just Cynthia and for Cynthia and Hildred that way I can divide my MF and my les Vic there there is some cross-pollination which always surprises me but so the thing about groups versus pages is that pages are kind of worthless right now unless you need to have an ads account basically because you have to have a page to do ads on Facebook but they’ve really lost their effectiveness you basically have to pay to get your post shown to people who follow your page so even if they follow your page they’re not gonna see your post unless you pay for them to see it and it’s just ridiculous so the nice thing about groups is that they’re a lot easier for a viewers to see the more you interact with the group the more it shows up on your feed and you start getting notifications about it because I have noticed that when I post something to my group the same few people tend to show up within 10 minutes regardless of the time of day so that to me is saying that they just got a notification on their phone or in their web browser that says Hildred just posted to the backroom parlor you want to go see it we hear you like that group so um the thing about these Facebook groups is that I make them secret so not just anybody can join yeah so the groups are private but I link to them in the back of every book and in the front I think sometimes so it’s an it’s an open secret kind of thing and the nice thing about the closed group is that it allows me as the administrator the filter who’s joining so I can keep out you know the trolls and in this case that the lesbian fetishes because they try to get in sometimes and I can spot them a mile away and I think it also especially in a sub-genre like lesbian fiction where you might have a lot of people are using their real names on Facebook because that’s what they want you to do and some people might still be in the closet or they don’t want the fact that they join you know lesbian topia group to show up on their friends feeds so the nice thing about the secret close groups is that they don’t they don’t do that as far as I know so it kind of creates this this private kind of down to earth atmosphere where the members can feel a little better about participating I’m not I’m not asking any like risque questions because I’m not but just just being able to say oh what was your favorite book of mine this year and I think it creates this atmosphere where it’s a little more trusting and I’ve been noticing more and more authors have started to do this and I think it’s a great idea because readers who have a Facebook account can just join and of course if your readers don’t have Facebook accounts you might try other avenues that I’m not familiar with because I’m at the point in my career where I just want to focus on one or two social media accounts at a time so I focus on Facebook and to a lesser extent Instagram which isn’t so much about engagement like it is on Facebook is just kind of keeping a presence and the things you can post in your groups I get they’re a great way to get marketing research done like Oh through I I have thrown out polls that are just a list of tropes asking my readers to vote on what trope they’d like to see next that’s great I you’ve blown my mind a little bit because I will admit because of my age I am less of a facebook aficionado and I as I said before I put all my eggs in the tumblr basket so now that tumblr is gone I I was trying to do tumblr I’ve been doing this for about six and a half years now and way back in the day when I started in 2012 I tried the tumblr thing but I just my thing about tumblr losers is they ain’t putting their money where their mouth you know that’s true handsome or poor poor young people who don’t necessarily have the money to buy stuff they want to support or they just are cheapskates you know both are probably true yeah yeah I feel like tumblr is more about putting on the show of what you support than actually supporting it yeah it’s really performative but that’s all changing how so I’m gonna make a group on Facebook for rady meg didn’t cause I don’t have one I was using my age which was apparently not the right way to do it so thank you if I honestly would not be on Facebook probably at all if it wasn’t such a core part of my business and because I occasionally do ads but that’s either here or there but I mostly go on there to interact with my readers once a day once every other day either just posting teasers you know snippets or posting a video or asking them who would they cast as this character or you know do like a week oh that’s a good one do a weekly what are you reading post here’s what I’m reading this week except I don’t get to read as often so I don’t do that one as much so I just have to make a quick note before we say goodbye did you publish your first novel in 2012 yes late 2000 we published our first novels in the same year this is so old and jaded oh my gosh me too especially because lots of my reader base is younger so like hmm I feel old and I feel responsible for them okay all right it is unfortunately time to say goodbye but I’m grateful for the time we had this was a wonderful conversation I had so much fun thank you so much for being on the show and talking about your work I will add all of the links I can do stuff in the show notes so everyone listening you should definitely go check out Hildred Billings work what pen names do you write under like list them all I am active as Hildred Billings and Cynthia day Cynthia is the m-f fiction billionaire romance and I also co-write together lesbian billionaire romances with her well unquote her also me and they’re usually set in Cynthia Danes billionaire universe so that’s the crossover and I’ve just completely populated that poor universe with a lot of hot single lesbians it’s so tragic let me tell you where are they where are these hot single billionaire lesbian this is I I want to meet them or fantasizing I just my Hildred brand is mostly just whatever Jon Ray it is whether it’s fantasy or romance mostly romance but sometimes more literary type romances there’s gonna be lesbian characters in it hooray mm-hmm thank you so much for coming thank you for having me this was fun you’re listening to the lesbian talk shows for love and money with Rae D Magdon and special guest Hildred Billings today we talked about how tropes can add fuel to the fire of your fiction and we talked about how Facebook groups can enhance your presence in social media if you want to interact more with the lesbian talk show please check out our Facebook group right there and talk to other listeners and also please check out our patreon page where you can hear exclusive clips that don’t get posted on the regular podcast site thank you so much and we will see you in two weeks you