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Writing in the Sunshine. Writing in the Shadows.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Does being different come naturally, or do you have to work at it?

It’s no secret that it took me a while to discover the kind of books I wanted to write. I finally found my niche in romantic thrillers; what are known in the States as romantic suspense.
It’s a big genre there – but not so
much here in the UK. So that’s my first instance of being different. I’ve had a lot of comments from UK readers about the unexpected nature of my work – it’s a surprise to find crime and romance given equal page time in quite that way. In most UK crime writing it is quite common to have a love interest, but in romantic suspense the romance and the thrills are neck and neck, one feeding into the other. The realms I work in are not the gritty realistic stuff of the crime novels that portray criminal investigations by the police force. The crime element in my writing usually involves twisted plots and larger than life scenarios. Suspension of disbelief is required – in generous amounts - but it brings hero and heroine together - and keeps them that way- staying alive and defeating very nasty villains. Nothing like dodging a few bullets to let you know who your friends are – and if this hot guy that the heroine has hooked up with happens to be super cool at keeping those bullets at bay … It’s all good.

Predictability is one charge often levelled at romantic fiction – that certain themes repeatedly recur. That’s true, to a certain extent – but they’re popular because readers like them, so why not? One essential that I certainly adhere to is the happy ending. The relationship between my hero and heroine may not be without its problems, but the readers have to know that this couple is making a commitment to each other. Out of Sight Out of Mind has another popular theme, or trope – amnesia. It was an idea that interested me – a somewhat scary one. How would it feel to wake up one morning and not know who you were? But there was another element too – the tiny kernel of a notion that it might on some level be liberating – a fresh slate and the chance to start again, with no past and no baggage. Both those ideas are issues for Jay, the hero of Out of Sight Out of Mind. He’s desperate to retrieve his past, but he also comes to see the possibility of a brand new future … Of course, it’s really not that simple, because his loss of memory is accompanied by a deep unease about what might be hidden in his mind. With justification ...

Out of Sight Out of Mind is a bit different in that I have bucked the trope in one way – Jay did not acquire his amnesia by the traditional method of a bang on the head. It’s a lot more complicated than that. And he and Madison are being watched …

When I was working on the story – and it was unusual because I wrote down parts of it before I had it all planned out in my head – I didn’t have a way in. I had my heroine, Madison, a somewhat unusual one as she is a successful scientist with a bitter/sweet talent – for reading minds. (There’s that suspension of disbelief – king size.) I knew how the two of them would interact, but I had no gateway into how Jay got into the state he was in. I was thinking of the conventional romantic hero – the trope – good looking, well presented, in control of his life…

But what if you turn that on its head? What’s the opposite of that conventionally perfect guy? How about a homeless man, who has been sleeping rough for months, who doesn’t look like a hero should? At least, not with his clothes on. And he doesn’t smell like a hero should, either …
The idea clicked with the parts of the book I’d already written and suddenly I knew exactly how Jay had got where he was, and why. It’s a fabulous moment when that happens. One of the highs of being a writer.

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