Two months nearly in to 2021 and this is my first blog post of the new year. Where have I been? What have I been up to? Has anyone missed me?
I know we’re all struggling to remain upbeat. My world has got smaller. This morning’s Facetime with a friend revolved around a discussion on our attempts at knitting, extreme jigsaw puzzling, and the weather. The only consolation I’m taking out of this lockdown is that at least I haven’t got children who need home-schooling.
Blogging has been way down my agenda, but next week marks the 2nd anniversary of the publication of my second book, Your Secret’s Safe With Me. A book birthday is always worth celebrating.
Your Secret’s Safe With Me was very much intended as a romance; it’s a story about repairing hurt and love conquering all, although then some pesky modern-day smugglers crept in, and a wedding fiasco, and an unexpected baby, because why stick to one theme, when you can include several.
It would be a lot easier when people ask me what my books are about if I could just reply ‘it’s a romance’, or ‘it’s a thriller’ or ‘it’s the greatest, funniest thing you’ll ever read.’ How do you fit 300 odd pages of love, laughter, action and angst into just a couple of words?
And talking of crossing genres, I do have another reason to be cheerful this week. The completed manuscript for my new novel is off for a professional edit. Yes, the plunge has been taken and step one to self-publishing is underway. Learning from my experiences with the first two books, originally I was adamant I was going to stick to one theme – the cosy mystery. Both my previous two books contain elements of intrigue and I liked revealing new layers of plotlines, dropping in subtle hints and clues. As I know nothing about police procedures and I don’t like reading, let alone writing, about blood and gore, whatever ‘crime’ story I created was always going to be ‘cosy’ in the extreme. My new novel wasn’t just planned as a snuggly suspense, it was going to have its slippers on too.
Yeh, right, slippers, me? Naturally I wanted my heroine to have a job that was different to any of the other amateur sleuths/female crime busters currently out on the market, so I gave her a set of a golf clubs, and made her a professional sportswoman, which as I’ve since been told, is a commercial no-no. I can untick that ‘cosy crime’ marketability box straight away.
And there weren’t going to be any dead bodies turning up at the church fete in my book. Oh no, my heroine was going to investigate something original, a vintage mystery she uncovers while poking her nose into her grandmother’s past, and then I thought it would be quite amusing if Granny told her side of the story too.
Okay, so I haven’t written a cosy crime at all. I’ve written another mash-up. I’ve included a dual timeline, a heroine with career crisis as well as a moral dilemma, I’ve divided family loyalty, and sprinkled it all with some local history, yet again.
But what about the romance, I hear you cry. You’re in luck. I’m a romantic at heart and I just couldn’t, even though I tried, write a book without an element of romance in it.
So what exactly do readers want from a leading man? At least here, surely I can’t go wrong, can I? Literature is full of flawed heroes. Sorry for the spoilers but Heathcliff digs up his ex’s dead body, Mr Rochester locks his first wife in the attic, Christian Gray is a sexual deviant, and when we think Mr Darcy, we don’t think rude snob in Pride and Prejudice, we just see Colin Firth in that white shirt (or in Bridget Jones). Flawed doesn’t come anywhere near it. Men I’d want to steer well clear of is the correct term.
However, we all want escapism, including me. Romance readers don’t mind a defective hero because by the time the story ends ultimately he will have changed; smitten, humbled, moulded into our idea of perfection. And we all want that fantasy because it simply doesn’t happen in real life. I’ve been married to Mr T for thirty years, love him to bits, but he still can’t replace a toilet roll.
Book three, working title A Crisis At Clifftops (it could all change) is out of the building, and will no doubt come back, covered in red ink.
And reason to be cheerful number three? Successful completion of dry January. I won’t be doing that one again in a hurry. And definitely not during lockdown.