Monday 24 November 2014

Does romance kill a good murder mystery?

I can't help myself. It just keeps happening...

Every time my ghostwriter Roxy Parker embarks on a new and gripping murder mystery, she stumbles into the arms of a potential love interest. It's extraordinarily annoying. I don't want her to find love, honestly I don't! It's murder and mayhem I'm after, yet time and time again, some handsome bloody hero appears on the scene to sweep Roxy off her feet and I am left tapping words into the keyboard that I had never intended. Things like "he took her in his arms and he kissed her". Eweeegggh!

Bucket, anyone?
I have absolutely nothing against the romance genre but I have never been a fan, no matter how hard I have tried. And boy have I tried. I've tried reading them (on a tiny Pacific Island when nothing else was available) and I have even tried writing a few. The first book I ever wrote in fact, when I was just 13, started as a romance set in bustling New York city. By chapter five I had killed off the romance and produced a dead body. I couldn't help myself.

Then, in my early 20s while frantically saving to go backpacking through Europe, I approached Mills & Boon about writing a novel. I wanted to earn some quick cash, and really? How hard could it be? I outlined a rough plot, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Within weeks M&B had replied, sending me their infamous How To Template and asking me to get back to them with the first three chapters pronto.

Overjoyed, and not a little smug, I sat down and began to write. Scratch that. I sat down and attempted to write. It was the hardest three chapters I had ever tried. And the strain must have been obvious in the prose I produced because it didn't take long for M&B to return my three chapters with a polite cover note telling me thanks but no thanks. My writing, they explained, was simply "not convincing enough". My heart sank and my pride took a nosedive.

I knew exactly what they meant and I didn't blame them one bit. Of course it wasn't convincing and why would it be? I never read romance. Didn't even like the stuff, and no amazing plot was going to fool anybody. Through my own words I had exposed myself. I was a romance fraud and I should stay out of the genre for good!

So I filed it into the 'Oh Well' basket and got on with what I have always read and adored, crime fiction. Seven books later and I've been relatively successful with that.

So, why then, does romance keep cropping up?
I know that some of my readers love it, I know others wish it would bugger off. Me? I'm not sure either way. I don't mean for my books to get mushy but they always seem to. There was romance in The Agatha Christie Book Club, in An Island Lost and in four out of five of my Ghostwriter Mystery novels. For some exasperating reason, my heroines keep locking eyes with handsome types and can't seem to behave themselves.

And it's really got me baffled. (And not a little annoyed.)

My latest book, Roxy's sixth adventure and the one I have JUST finished —hurrah!— is the worst offender yet. It's buzzing with romance, this time between Roxy and a new man who's more brooding even than Max. Yet again I am as surprised by this as many of you will be. Again I declare my innocence and assure you I had not intended that to happen. It just did!

It makes me wonder, though ...
Do you like a little romance with your crime fuction? Does it annoy you as much as it annoys me? Does it get in the way of a good crime plot or does it enhance it? Can murder and romance walk hand in hand or should they be kept as far apart from each other as possible?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and I'm keen to warn you, too. I wasn't kidding about Ghostwriter Mystery #6. It's Roxy's most romantic adventure yet, and it had nothing to do with me! Honestly it didn't.

Happy (mushy?) reading everyone!
xo Christina