If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


Our reason for creating WWK originated as an outlet for our love of reading and writing mystery fiction. We hope you love it, too, and will enjoy our holiday gifts to our readers with original short stories to celebrate the season. Starting on 11/16 stories by Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Paula Gail Benson, Linda Rodriguez, KM Rockwood, Gloria Alden, and E. B. Davis will appear every Thursday into the New Year.


Our November Author Interviews: 11/8--Ellen Byron, and 11/15--Sujata Massey. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


November Saturday Bloggers: 11/4 Margaret S. Hamilton and 11/11 Cheryl Hollon.


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," just published, will appear in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Romance in the Mystery Novel—Yes, No, Maybe, Only Under Very Specific Circumstances?


My second Skeet Bannion novel, Every Broken Trust, is under production in New York right now. It will launch in April 2013. I’m playing around with an idea for a very different kind of series before I have to start my third Skeet book. This new series would not be first-person and would have two protagonists, a man and a woman who were teenage sweethearts with a disastrous ending, involved years later in a murder investigation with high stakes for both of them. The unresolved feelings from their earlier relationship, their reluctant attraction for each other as adults and the sexual tension it causes, their concerns about blame, trust, and commitment—all of these standard romance-novel elements will play a role in this series, but the primary focus of the series (and of these elements) is still solving the mystery and preventing great harm to people they care about.

This is a far cry from the Skeet Bannion series. In those books, there are men who are interested in starting or resuming a romantic/sexual relationship with Skeet, but she’s too busy taking care of a kid, an ailing father, friends in danger, and solving cases—and too afraid of commitment—to bother. I suspect it’s Skeet’s problems with intimacy and commitment that draw men after her.

All this has me thinking about romance in mysteries and thrillers. I have strong feelings about the place of romance in these books and movies. I can enjoy sexual tension and romantic relationships in books as much as anyone—but mysteries and thrillers are about high-stakes quests to stop murderers and/or to save the city/country/word from destruction. I have been known to scream at the screen when a hero has only seconds to prevent death or destruction with no assurance that those few seconds are enough—and he or she takes much of that precious time to engage in a passionate clinch with the love interest. After the earth is saved, after the murderer is arrested, or earlier in the story when it’s not an interruption of a vital action, romance is fine, but I don’t want it to interfere with the high-stakes quest the hero is on.

Julia Spencer-Fleming is someone who has used romance well in a mystery series. The romance progressed over the course of seven books, and it was always tied into the mystery as a subplot. Margaret Maron also followed that pattern in her Debra Knott books, as did J.A. Jance and Susan Wittig Albert. These are just the first names that come to mind, along with, of course, Deborah Crombie’s partnered British police officers, who finally marry after many books and must come unpartnered at work because of that.

I hope to use these authors and others as guides when I write this series of books with such a strong romantic subplot. Passion, sexual tension, romance are all allowed, as long as the mystery quest takes top precedence.

What are your thoughts about romance in crime fiction? Do you like it or hate it? And who are authors that you think do a good job at mixing the two?


9 comments:

Reine said...

Linda, I have been thinking about this recently and trying to see why sometimes I enjoy the romance and why I often do not.

When it seems like romance is dropped into the middle of a story, separate from it, I get annoyed, perhaps because it feels manipulative. When romance and sensuality develop as an integral part of the story and evolving characters, it gives depth to the book and is very nice in a series. Deborah Crombie's characters you mention are a perfect example, as are the others... all favorites of mine.

I love your idea for a new series, and I look forward to seeing what you do with it. But right now I am very excited about the next Skeet Bannion and thrilled to hear it's in production now!

E. B. Davis said...

If romance is presented in mystery like any other backstory then I applaud its inclusion. When the story is confined to just solving the mystery, characters can seem too one-dimensional. Having friends, going through normal daily tasks, etc. increase the story's authenticity. But, I'm not a fan of hot, steamy detailed sex scene, which detracts.

Authors can include these other elements briefly alluding to them without bogging down the story. It's the backstory about the characters and their development, which keeps me reading a series.

Go for it, Linda. The new series sound like a winner. I had to laugh about your "Skeet" comment. Men are drawn to her because she has commitment issues. The irony is real. You hit that one dead-on.

KB Inglee said...

Two things I always skip when reading novels are sex scenes and high speed chases. They seem like a waste of time, and don't always read well. I like a good amount of sexual tension but I wonder how long is can be sustained in a series. God luck with the new series.

Anita Page said...

Linda, I agree with you. First the quest, then the sex. Actually, not sex, which often reads as silly, but sexual tension which is much more interesting. And,yes, Julia Spencer-Fleming did that beautifully with Clare and Russ. I also admire the way Donna Leon weaves Brunetti's marital relationship into her books.

Best of luck with the new series.

Gloria Alden said...

I agree with you, Linda, and the others who left their comments. I've included a romantic interest for my protagonist, but only to more fully develop her as a character. Neither, she nor the police chief are looking for romance. Both have reasons why they're not. My critique partners have been pushing for more, but I'm holding back. Gradually it's growing, but I'm not in a hurry, and I won't include torid sex scenes. I haven't figured out how to deal with his sixteen year old son, either. :-)

I'm looking forward to your next Skeet Bannion book, too, Linda, and I think your idea for another book or series will be of great interest to me. I hope you pursue the idea.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I pretty much get bored with sex scenes. That said, character development is important and sexual relations are certainly a key component of human relations and one of the ways a character can grow throughout a novel.

Your new series characters sound interesting.

~Jim

Warren Bull said...

I thought the character of Lord Peter Wimsey was strengthened by his love of Harriet Vane, although she did not show up in the first books in the series. Parker's relationship with Susan Silverman gave the character a human touch when he could have been just an unstoppable superhero. Obviously, it can be done well.

It can also cause the reader to cringe when done badly.
You have an interesting challenge deciding which character will be primary and/or will they be equal. I'm looking forward to your decision.

Warren Bull said...

Robert B Parker was the writer. Spenser was the character.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Reine, you absolutely have the right idea. Romance needs to be an integral part of the story. My agent and I wanted the 2nd Skeet book to come out much sooner. They've had the finished manuscript since Jan. and wanted few edits. The publishers want to keep it on a yearly basis, however. xoxo

EB, isn't that the way of it, though? I've sen it so often. Women who have commitment problems or who are happily married often find themselves pursued by men who shy away form commitment with women who want to marry them. And absolutely, no torrid sex scenes.

KB and Anita, you guys have it right. Sexual tension is the name of the game, not sex scenes. Not interested in writing 50 Shades of Murder. :-)

Sorry for lumping all replies together, but I'm posting away from home and don't want to stay on this wifi long.