Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Need for Speed

I was born 19 days before “The Intimidator.” We were born in the same hospital, my mama knew his mama and we attended rival high schools, though he dropped out to begin his racing career. However, my earliest memory of NASCAR is when my daddy would spend Memorial Day weekend cussing because the traffic from the World 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway would back all the way up to our little town 9 miles away.

That speedway is now called the Lowe's Motor Speedway and the Memorial Day weekend race is called the Coca Cola 600. I'm sure if my daddy were still alive, he'd still be cussing the snarled traffic.

Harlequin signed a deal with NASCAR last year to publish racing-related romance novels (I’ll be giving away some copies of NASCAR HOLIDAY today to new commenters on this blog) and I’ve been curious about why they picked NASCAR to pair up with romance. What’s romantic about motor oil and fiery crashes?

Fellow Heart of Dixie author Debra Webb, whose novella Unbreakable appears in NASCAR HOLIDAY, told me the draw of racing is the excitement: the speed, the sound and the energy of the crowd. She said the drivers are a different kind of draw because a man capable of handling the raw power of a race car is a real turn-on. Debra said while writing Unbreakable she learned just how skilled a driver is, and he must have an unbreakable focus to stay in the race. Mix in some danger and you have a winning combination, not unlike the gladiators of old who fought to the death before cheering crowds. “Bottom line, a man who can handle a car like that, especially one who can triumph over danger and his competitors and win, can surely handle his woman with the same expert focus and attention to detail.”

But he drives a car for heaven’s sake. I drive a car. My seventy-nine-year-old mother drives a car. What makes this hero more special than a CEO, a cowboy or a bad boy biker? According to Abby Gaines, whose book BACK ON THE TRACKS will be out in May 2007, the NASCAR hero embodies the qualities of all the above: the aura of wealth and power, sharp intellect, courage that’s rough around the edges, and a thrill-seeking, individualist mentality that makes him irresistible to women. Plus, he wears a “uniform” so that sticks him up there with cops and firefighter heroes in some readers’ minds.

“A NASCAR hero has reached the top ranks in an incredibly tough sport through grit and determination. By the time he’s racing the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, he’s proven he’s a winner. He’s a team player, but when he’s in that car out on the track, it’s mainly down to him whether he wins or loses – he’s got to have the confidence (and the ego) to handle that week after week. There’s huge pressure involved in earning that multi-million dollar paycheck, but at the same time there’s the thrill of setting a race strategy, picking off the competition one by one and, of course, driving at incredible speeds that most of us would be too scared to attempt. All that is pretty sexy.”

Okay… unbreakable focus, aura of wealth, courage, thrill-seeker, uniform. But all they do is drive around and around and around. I heard a surprising response to that from an acquaintance whose son is autistic. He loves NASCAR and can spout off statistics like a seasoned television sportscaster. According to his mom, watching the race allows him to give into his need to watch things go round and round, but in a socially acceptable manner.

According to a press release from Harlequin and NASCAR, women are drawn to the family-friendly atmosphere of racing and to the charisma of the drivers. Some immerse themselves in the culture and follow a driver or team. NASCAR estimates that 40% of its fans are women, more than the NFL and Major League Baseball. And in 2006 they predict women will buy $250 MILLION in NASCAR-licensed merchandise. Now they have romance novels to accompany the t-shirts, coffee mugs and ball caps. One friend told me “if he’s that fast on the track, what moves could he make in bed?”

And then there’s the whole NASCAR racing lingo thing. What romance author could resist writing about revving engines, hot-lapping, handling and that ever-desirable pole position? However, if you’re looking for racy writing, no pun intended, look elsewhere. Because of that concern for the family-friendly atmosphere, any book with the NASCAR logo on it won’t have sex, violence, cursing or cheating. But they’re still packed with racing action and romance and they deliver the promised happy-ever-after ending.

I suppose it’s all about what cranks your tractor. Or your stockcar engine as the case may be.

So… are you a NASCAR fan? How did you get into racing? Where have you traveled to watch your driver chase the checkered flag?P.S. Three lucky NEW commenters (tell us who referred you!) today will receive a copy of NASCAR HOLIDAY by Kimberly Raye, Roxanne St. Claire and Debra Webb. And three people who referred them will receive a copy of KILLER CURVES by Roxanne St. Claire or A COLBY CHRISTMAS by Debra Webb plus some racing-related goodies.

Ladies and gentlemen… start your engines!

P.P.S. Kimberly's winner from yesterday is Rachael. Please send your snail mail address to Problem Child to arrange for your prize.


Karen T. said...

No, I never got into Nascar, but would enjoy a Nascar book. I am a baseball fan.

Happy Holidays to all.
My Mom sent me over - Pat L.

Roxanne St. Claire said...

Hey Play friends! I love this topic! Remember, a NASCAR driver is an athlete and I absolutely adore athlete heroes because I find that much control over mind and body to be very, very sexy.

My first NASCAR book is a lesson in how unpublished writers should sometimes ignore the rules. I wrote my first NASCAR book (which someone will win on this blog!) called KILLER CURVES in 2001, before NASCAR hit the peak it is enjoying today and before I'd ever sold a word. I was watching the Indy 500 and decided the south American drivers were yum-o, as Rachel Ray would say. At the time, I was trying to come up for an idea for another book; I had one with an agent, but hadn't started another yet. When I suggested a racer to my husband, he looked at me and said: "NASCAR is going to be hot." And I said, "What is NASCAR?" I was clueless.

Still determined to write about a south American hero, I started to research open-wheel racing. But as I did, the concept of stock car racing, the dirty, earthy, American history of the sport, and the colorful, emotional people it attracted started to emerge as far more full of potential for real conflict. Who would thrash the most in a world full of oil and speed and danger and southern fried living...a Connecticut debutante who has blue blood and no red neck, that's who. Except, what if her blood is literally part of that world..and she's wanted to hide it all her life....?

That's how the premise of KILLER CURVES was born for me, and I know you are not supposed to say this about you children, but it is one of, if not my very favorite of 14 books I've had the honor to see published since then. As I researched the world of racing (easy since I live an hour south of Daytona), I caught the fever. I mean, I *caught* the fever in a big bad way. Speed and danger and grit and competition and big money and bad ass guys.

When I sold my first book to Pocket (TROPICAL GETAWAY), they asked what else I had. I had KILLER CURVES. My editor said "Eh? Racing? I don't think so. I'll look at it, but we probably won't want that as the second book on the contract." She accepted it one week later. She loved the STORY. BUT...the publisher was still nervous about the race car driver hero, which historically didn't "appeal" to romance readers. (Damn those rules, ladies!) So they had me write FRENCH TWIST next, and hold KILLER CURVES for yet another year. In that time, I saw NASCAR explode, and other NASCAR books start to hit the market, which sort of broke my heart. But my book was finally released in 2005 (requiring a heavy edit to update the constantly changing rules), and did go on to win Booksellers Best in Romantic Suspense, and final in many, many contests. And it certainly hit a chord with my readers -- even those who don't like racing, but took a chance because they like my books. I'm so proud of that!

In the end, it's all about the story, right? Who cares if the heroes are astronauts or race car drivers, bodyguards or baseball players, thieves or garage band players, KGB, CEO or CIA (I've done every one of those). It's all about the story! (And the hotness of the hero!)

I'm excited to have two books in the new HQ/NASCAR deal and I think it will be VERY interesting to see how the NASCAR series does. I can't wait to read the other three books in the February launch -- all fantastic writers and good storytellers!


Theresa N. said...

I haven't watched NASCAR in years.
I think it's so popular now days because of Tom Cruises's movie DAYS OF THUNDER. The movie most likely introduced a lot of people to the sport. When I did follow the races, I enjoyed going to the dirt tracks and watching.
Who referred me? Honestly it's been so long ago I don't remeber other than it was a writers web site.

Kathy said...

Nascar is very popular! Wishing you lots of luck with the book, Ms. St. Claire.

My DIL's family is really into racing. I can get the rod cars slapped with thousands of colorful stickers, the roaring engines, speed, the crowds, pretty girls fawning all over the winners, the trophie waiting at the end of 50+ laps, but...the driver is concealed underneath tons of metal! At least in football and baseball, you get a good look at the players derriere's as they tackle one another or race around the diamond. Rodeo riders are extremely popular because they RIDE, breaking/taming horses and bulls. In almost every other sport, the athlete's muscular physique displays youth, strength, and vitality, and that strength, mental superiority, is what leads them to victory.

Tom Cruise's movie, Days of Thunder, was a huge hit proving racing has great appeal. I suppose timing, having a gentle yet, at the same time, strong touch in order to control a speeding car, and knowing what your opponent will or won't do, has appeal. But I just can't get into watching cars go around in circles.

(IMHO, I always thought people went to the races just to see cars crash.)


Angel said...

I, too, have wondered about the appeal of racing. But then I'm not a sports enthusiast... of any sport. I know my Dad watches racing now, but he didn't when I was growing up, so I wasn't exposed to it then. I won't tell you what my husband thinks of racing.

Through your explanations though, I can really see the appeal for some readers. You are getting the same kind of appeal we want in our heroes, plus the unique situational issues, which makes a great combination for readers.

Roxanne, great story about breaking the rules!!! Loved it.


snowflake said...

Hi, I don't think I've commented here before. Not really into Nascar but maybe reading a well-written Nascar romance would change my mind!

Jen said...

Had to pop in and mouth off about NASCAR since I'm knee-deep in NASCAR revisions as we speak -- my book, THE ROOKIE, will be out in August '07.

I'm not a rabid fan but it's a fascinating world. My hero is a rookie driver for the NEXTEL Cup Series. One of the things I find fascinating is that these guys are part of a very elite group. There are only 43 (that number may be off by one or two) NEXTEL Cup drivers out there. As my hero says, driving at that level is an "out" game -- "Outsmart, outmaneuver, and outdrive the field. Just as simple and just as complicated as that." And these guys are only as good as the team they're working with.

Okay! So, I've probably said enough about my book. I did travel to Talladega and Atlanta to watch two races in the name of research. Both very different experiences. At 'Dega I was in the stands with 100,000+ other fans. What I didn't count on was the 3 hours to get from the parking lot to the expressway afterwards. No lie.

In Atlanta, we had garage passes and passes to the NASCAR suite. THAT was so incredibly cool. Yep, it means we could wander around in the garage area where they were getting the cars ready, watch the cars go through tech, wander out on pit row where the crews were setting up the pit boxes and watch the comings and goings at the haulers pre-race. Being in the NASCAR skybox overlooking the start/finish line with really good catered food was an experience as well. It was two extremes of research.

The other awesome piece of research was a trip to Charlotte and a tour of Rousch Racing (both their corporate office and the garage where we saw the cars actually being built) -- one of the top racing groups out there.

I've tried very hard to share all of those experiences with the reader in my book, but the bottom line is it's a romance between a great guy and the one woman destiny threw his way.

I've come to have a whole new respect and appreciation for NASCAR and the men and women involved in the sport.

Smarty Pants said...

Funny. I have nothing against NASCAR, but I can't watch it because of the wrecks. Some car flipping through the air and bursting into flames is not my idea of a fun afternoon. Not quite as romantic when the hero is paralyzed from the waist down, you know? I am intrigued about the new NASCAR books though...they've picked up some great authors to write for it so they're bound to be good.


Anonymous said...

I love NASCAR and am so happy that I get to read books with this theme now. Pat Lie mention this blog to a friend who mentioned it to me!!!

currently reading:


amy*skf said...

If you were married to my husband, you would have an affinity for all sports. That said, I like racing, always have, when I was little we'd go to our tiny raceway here in Minnesota to watch the races.

Now, I agree with Smarty-Pants, hate the crashes--but I hate it when athletes get hurt in any sport.

I never thought of the uniform angle--I love me a man in uniform--especially tight fitting ones, with zippers.

Meljprincess said...

Not a NASCAR fan but I am reading NASCAR books.

Congrats Rachael!

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments re readers not liking the crashes in NASCAR. The heroine in my book BACK ON TRACK is a sport psychologist hired to coach the driver hero back into a winning mindset, which of course he's just thrilled about :)

To write this story, I spent some time with a sport psychologist who works with race drivers, and I learned that drivers don't actually see what they do as dangerous. In fact, most extreme sportspeople are surprisingly risk-averse. They do what they do because they've carefully weighed the risks against their capabilities and have decided they're perfectly safe. To me that's another part of the NASCAR driver's appeal as romantic hero - he has the courage and the self-insight to make those decisons, and although he loves the thrill of a high-speed race, he doesn't just jump in a car and switch off his brain so he ends up doing stupid things.


kim said...

wtg rachel

Barbara said...

I love the NASCAR’S books. Just to think about those sexy drivers gives me goose bumps.
I wish I could see a live competition someday, it always appeal too me as a very exhilarating sport.

Rachael said...

Thanks you guys! :)

Linda Jett said...

Hi there! Melissa Lawson referred me to your website, and I'm glad she did. Thanks for some good and interesting reading!

Anonymous said...

RobynL referred me. I love racing but we only have drag racing where I come from. Love the power! Thanks.

R. Marie

Dee said...

As one who has also been caught in that Charlotte NASCAR traffic (and race traffic around Darlington, Indianapolis and Talladega), I can sympathize with your dad's complaints.

However, I know lots of NASCAR fans, and the traffic and crowds are nothing to them. They are some of the most loyal, enthusiastic people I've ever known!

What an interesting blog! I was sent here by Melissa Lawson (alias Melprincess), and I'm telling her thanks, for pointing me to an interesting read.

HAppy holidays!


Anonymous said...

Have those Harlequin people actually been to a race? Yeah there's lots of family's, but there's also lots of beer-drinking rednecks and there women who will flash there boobs for a string of beads. So it's not as innocent as they make it out to be.

But that's not to mean the drivers aren't talented. It takes a lot to handle those big engines and come up with a strategy to win when every other driver is out to get you.

I've read some of the Harlequin NASCAR books but I'm not as crazy about them as there other books cause they don't have any s-e-x in them. LOL!

I've been lurking for a while and today's my first post. I can't remember how I found out about y'alls sight -- maybe on eHarlequin or something?


Teresa said...

Joan Raleigh refered me. I have always loved nascar. i am glad there is an author who writes about it. Is the stories you write about the real drivers or fictional? I like Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace.

Joan said...

I like to watch NASCAR on TV. I won some tickets to truck races and some other car races. I usually give them to my brother and his family so they can experience going to a race track. I went to NSCAR event when I was their age in Nashville, TN. I think NSCAR is a great sport especially for young people.

Playground Monitor said...

Teresa mentioned Rusty Wallace and I just have to tell a funny story about that.

Back when I used to work for Boeing, a co-worker was a HUGE racing fan. He'd take vacation time to go to Talladega. One night he was reading a story book to his young son and the boy asked what a particular animal was. Spud (yeah, in the south we have folks nicknamed Spud) told him it was a walrus, to which his son replied, "You mean like Rusty Walrus?"


blueberri said...

I'm a NASCAR fan after reading KILLER CURVES! Wild wave to Rocki! {{{HUGS!}}}

Amy S. said...

Hi everyone! Readingissomuchfun just reffered me to this blog. Happy Holidays!

readingissomuchfun said...

Have not got into nascar books. I seen one recently though from an author who I heard of and they do sound good but have not read them. I would like to try one someday.

Happy Holidays To You All.


Anonymous said...

i am new to nascar, never been crazy about it or understood the excitement of watching cars drive around and around in circles, making me dizzy....but....then i actually watched one, wow, i was amazed, so i am starting to like nascar

oh does the movie Cars count as nascar racing.....i loved that movie, just an FYI.....giggles

i am so glad that readingissomuchfun referred me to this blog website

Jen said...

I've been gone all afternoon and all evening and now everyone's gone home. :(

Smarty Pants, got to tell you so maybe you can relax and enjoy it -- they've got safety measures out the wazoo. Fire retardent suits, gloves, boots, neck braces, helmets, 5-point harness, legs go into channels to keep them from flailing around in case of wreck, same kind of bracing on the side of the head, rollcages. Driver safety is a HUGE issue. My husband drag races and I hold my breath every time he goes down the track, but I also know all the safety equipment he has and NASCAR has even more.

Marilyn, I LOVE the Rusty Walrus story. Too funny.

Anonymous said...

I have been a race car fan since high school. In college one of the
guys I dated raced and I got hooked on both drags and circle races.
Then I moved to Denver where we have a Grand Prix and it is soo

My DH Charlie used to race stock cars here. I was his assistant mechanic and practice driver!

There is nothing like knowing you can push the limits as far as you
can and not get into trouble as long as you have control!!!

As for the men of racing... They have a cowboy mentality. Maybe that's why so many sound like they are from Texas! LOL!

I think the same thing that appeals to riding a bull appeals to a

It's you against time and mostly against your own limits.

Now, not all of the drivers I have met are handsome and hunky. They
do tend to be trim and muscular. A fat guy just won't fit in the car
and it takes real power to hold that wheel to the course for hours!

They have a certain charm, a certain daredevil twinkle in their eyes.

( harlie's car was called *Charlie's Angel* after me!)

The best part for me was being with a team so I could be in the pits
where the action is. It can be smelly, dirty ( like your eyes, ears
and nostrils have black rubber caked in them after a race from the
rubber that comes off the tires into the air.)

It is also a place of comraderie and support and just a great time.

Gosh, now I want to go out and drive fast....

Hmmmm better not.

Kathi H from the Hood (Marilyn sent me)

Cathie said...

I've grown up with watching racing both at Oswego Speedway (track in Oswego near Syracuse NY) and too watching the Indy and NASCAR on TV. We as a whole family would leave after my Dad got home and get there on a Friday night and camp out visiting the pits and watching qualifying til the racing on Sunday and then head back home!
When my brothers were older, they started working in the pits but too worked in the garages in NY for the Bodine's (They don't race now in NASCAR except for maybe Geoff occassionally). My brothers now have their own familes and work with a crew at Oswego Speedway (I have to get a link of my brother's team he works on). I love NASCAR I never miss the racing on a Sunday or Saturday night! (love watching Bristol at night). To read the stories in the Harlequin books is just the best! I watched them a s heroes on TV and its wonderful to read about drivers being heros too. Heros and heroines are all over and now we get to have them in the NASCAR books!!

Cathie said...

Hi Loretta!!! Loretta is my pal too that we used to every time we could, talk on email after the race! She's Dale Jarrett fan! I was Rusty Wallace but he retired. I haven't picked just one favorite yet. Many I enjoy now.

Cathie said...

Hi Rocki!!
You were the first with the NASCAR books to HQN. Do you know if there will be a site on these Harlequin books that we can keep up with whats coming out and all? I know they do it for others like Nocturne thats out now, so it would be so great.

Your stories are wonderful to read!

Cathie said...

Hey also ReadingIsSoMuchFun referred me here. Glad to find this blog!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the South in the 60s, where racing, in some form, was always around. Everyone I knew could "straighten a curve." Even now, my idea of a fun vacation would be a week at Richard Petty's driving school.

Having been to a few NASCAR races in the early 90s, I can't believe the "family friendly" crap NASCAR is spouting!! I'd no more take AC to a NASCAR race than I would to the French Quarter in New Orleans on Fat Tuesday!

However, I think racing and romance are a natural match. One of my favorite racing sayings that lends itself to romance is "If you're not rubbing, you're not racing."

PC's Mom

Tessa Radley said...

Rocki said: 'I absolutely adore athlete heroes because I find that much control over mind and body to be very, very sexy.'

I have to agree with that! Rocki, I'm looking forward to reading your Feb NASCAR release.

I've already read Abby's Feb release, BACK ON TRACK, and it's fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!!!


Meljprincess said...

Thanks Linda and Sweet Dee! You're the best!

Cathie said...

Thanks so much!!!

Anonymous said...

Am I too late to qualify for a book? Or am I disqualified because I'm related to one of you. After all, knowing Dale Earnhardt's mother and Dale Jr's grandmother ought to count for something. My favorite driver is King Richard (Petty)...he's more my style. I saw him stand for hours one day in the Cannon Mills Outlet Store in Kannapolis (Dales' hometown) and smilingly sign autographs for every kid who asked for one. PM's Mother

sindhuhappygoluckyhollygolightly said...

I have bought about 8 nascar books, starting with nascar books by pamela britton, abby i just bought back on track on friday and finished reading it yesterday.

sindhuhappygoluckyhollygolightly said...

hi abby: I bought back on track on friday and finished reading it yesterday. pamela britton got me hooked on nascar as i have read her three recent novels.

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