I think I may be having a mid-life crisis. Not the normal sort — I don’t feel any urge to buy a Harley Davidson, have a fling with a tomboy or go to India to find myself. It’s a writer’s crisis. And actually it isn’t really a crisis. It’s just a need for change.
I write romance. That’s because I like a happy ending. But romance, like every other genre, has its rules and if you strain too hard against those rules your audience don’t like it. In a sense that’s the problem of genre, and genre is something I’ve always struggled with. But still I write romance. Sometimes it’s contemporary romance. Sometimes it’s new adult romance. Sometimes it’s romantic suspense. Once I struggled against genre and shimmied into mystery/women’s fiction, but it was still romance.
Though I like my happy endings and suspect I always will, I’ve recently felt the need to try something different. I’m having a flirtation on the side with women’s fiction, but does anybody really know what women’s fiction is? And something’s happened. A couple of people have asked me if I write crime.
Of course I said no. In my head, crime involves hard-drinking, hard-swearing men without souls, and unflinching descriptions of gruesome violence and eventual, unavoidable death. But I love reading crime and the crime I read isn’t too grim. I read detective novels, with a fondness for the classics of the 1930s, and I love cosy crime.
When I thought about it I realised that I’ve always written crime. My first ever attempt at a novel (that is, something longer than a couple of thousand words) was about a stolen ruby. Later I moved on to a cold war thriller which found subsequent expression in a psychological suspense based around a man who killed his best friend. None of these will ever see the light of day: they’re too ill-formed and badly plotted, though in all of them there are characters who will reappear. My second book, which I considered romantic suspense, centres on a murder. My current series of romantic suspense book features a detective as its hero.
Reader, if this isn’t crime, what is?
In the past my view of myself as a romance writer has held me back. I’ve allowed it to tie me to genre. I’ll never give up on romance but I’m not going to be tied to it.
I don’t know quite how, or who’s going to be involved, or anything else, at this stage. But I’ve come to a decision. I’m turning to crime.