Romantic fiction – and Richard III

I love it when authors engage in online conversations. Here Alex Marchant ponders an article I wrote for Authors Electric Blog and the discourse is well worth sharing.

The Order of the White Boar

Well, here’s a rather different blog post – not specifically about King Richard III* or his times, or even about Master Matthew Wansford. But a little musing on an interesting blog that one of my fellow Authors Electric bloggers, Jane Thornley,  posted about ‘romance’ fiction: ‘I should have been a romance writer’.

http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/i-should-have-been-romance-writer-by.html

After pointing out that writers of romantic fiction can tap into the largest pool of readers (and buyers) of any genre, Jane questions why the genre is looked down upon – and especially in terms of gender – with romance generally being seen as the preserve of female authors. As she says, love and what goes with it are what perpetuate the species and can offer some of the best aspects of life – though they can also be responsible for (and/or inextricably entwined with) some of its worst throughout history (from the ostensible reason for the…

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DOWNSIDE UP is Here!

Jenna on roof banner

Have you ever taken a stroll on a summer’s eve and chanced to glance into someone’s window? Maybe there were people inside and maybe not but, either way, it was a glimpse into another world, and perhaps it caused you to pause long enough to wonder what those lives were like. Yes, I know that most will pull their gaze guiltily away for fear of invading another’s privacy but some of us don’t. Some of us are curious bold-faced observers of the human condition and reality is a thousand times better than TV. And who are we harming, anyway?

We humans are fascinating and we love to see how others live, even speculate on how those lives may differ from our own. Are our neighbors happy or miserable, richer or poorer? Do they keep secrets, delicious, dangerous secrets? Chances are, whatever we speculate is wrong because people are both more ordinary and far more complex than we can ever imagine. Looking through a window only scratches the surface.

Now, supposing you are a person with a craving for high places, specifically mountains in nature and, maybe in the urban world, roofs. Supposing that your only way to think, to relax, is to literally get away from it all by climbing up into those nether regions far above where you can breathe and just be. Nobody will bother you up there, nobody will even try. Yes, you are an introvert but also a searcher and a risk-taker. You are not easily daunted. So, when it seems that your predilection can provide valuable information to solve one crime and stop another, while simultaneously putting your grieving aunt’s mind to rest, what do you do?

You jump.

Meet Jenna Elson. In my new suspense series None of the Above, you will meet a woman driven by love and her own inner desires to do what is wrong for all the right reasons.  In Downside Up, book one, you will find out that scratching the surface of others’ lives is one thing, but crashing through those walls of illusion is something altogether more … deadly.

Downside Up is available for purchase now in all online bookstores and in both e-book and print formats. For Amazon: Downside Up on Amazon

 

MY CRIMINAL MIND

I admit to having a criminal mind, and consider it to be an absolute necessity for mystery and thriller writers. We need to be devious by nature in order to contrive the dastardly acts we describe.
 
Imagine the interesting, potentially questionable, and possibly arrest-worthy situations such a brain such as mind can cause. For instance, I once spent an hour leaning over the side of a footbridge in Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy trying to phantom how best to run a Maserati over the edge. While discussing the possible scenarios with my husband, at least one eavesdropper was seen inching away from me as quickly as his sneakers would carry him. 
We must also be dogged researchers. 
 
While researching that same novel, Beautiful Survivor,  I also plunged deep into the world of Campagna citizens living with the realities of the Camorra crime families. One reader accused me of giving into the Italian Mafia/Camorra stereotype–you know, the one were every Italian family must know or have experience with one or two major crime families? But that stuff is real, folks. Check out the garbage collection woes in Naples, if you don’t believe me.
 
Which brings me to my new series,  Downside Up, launching this year. For this setting, I’ll be journeying to London to research details of how to spy at roof-level, specifically Victorian terrace house roof-level. My character will be tracking down a serial killer above ground in the Chelsea area, which requires me to peer at homeowner’s rooftops for an unseemly amount of time. The question is: will I have the courage to ring the bell and inform said homeowner that I am but a lowly author and not a prospective cat burglar? These are dangerous times in London. I can only hope my look of innocence holds up under scrutiny.

“Old School” is Open

“These stories are EXACTLY what I like to read, and I don’t say that lightly. So many books today are all plot with little description and minimal character development. Jane Thornley writes “old school”. You understand her characters and their motivations. You see the exotic locations. You taste the food and feel the breeze. You have no idea what’s behind the mystery until it all comes together at the end. Oh, and you’ll need a vocabulary that exceeds fifth grade. These books are chock-full of adventure, romance, and mystery…and knitting, but you don’t have to be a fiber-fiend to enjoy them (I’m not). Can’t wait to read more from Jane Thornley! –Maria Romana, Romantic Suspense author
Once in awhile, I troll through my reviews, re-reading each one, searching for pithy lines that illuminate problem areas or places where I seem to have hit my stride. I came across the review above not long ago and was floored. I do not know this author, I hasten to add,  but I’m very grateful to her for illuminating something about my writing that hadn’t occurred to me before: I’m “old school”.
 
So what does that mean? You see, since I write a form of thriller, I frequently attract criticism that my novels are slow-starting, meaning that I ease the reader into the lives of the characters before hurling them along the Amalfi coast, plunging them into ancient tombs, and otherwise accelerating the action into breathless. I don’t shy away from description; I want you to feel that sense of being there. I also want you to get to know the characters, and become a part of their lives before the thrills begin. OLD SCHOOL. And, my friends, please note her comment that “…you need a vocabulary that exceeds fifth grade.” My readers are literate. Thank you for that, everybody. Hey, I’m okay with all of it, in fact.
 
So,  book four of the Greater of Two Evils  is ready to roll, and you’ll have a bit of time to spend with the characters you love while the suspense thickens. though I’m still holding off until my return from Italy (more research) in November. In the meantime, I have a riddle for you: what does knitting socks have to do with Ivan the Terrible and Phoebe McCabe? Ah, there’s the dilemma. Of course, Russian rulers wore socks in the 15th century–this was Russia, after all–but Phoebe doesn’t knit socks. That’s more Sir Rupert’s domain. In any case, those seemingly diverse elements come together in book four of Crime by Design in a way that will keep you at the edge of your seat and in stitches. In the end, I aim to thrill and surprise.
 
Remember that, as well as being available on all online vendors, the Crime by Design Series is available as REAL books in paperback format, too,  for my old school readers.

Sanity, Disembodied Voices, and the Writer’s Life

I am crazy. Certainly by some definition, I probably qualify. I walk around the house talking to people who aren’t there; I live in a parallel universe which can seem as real as the one surrounding me; and there are always multiple voices chattering away inside my head. In other words, I am a writer.

I am also a murderer, a liar, a manipulator of emotions. I can’t help myself. When a story begins taking hold, the morality inside my fictive world shifts polarities constantly. In order to write emotions, I must feel them.

Once, while lunching with a friend, she commented on how troubled I seemed. I confessed how I had just flung a character down the stairs and left her bleeding, alone and afraid. Equal parts guilt and worry interrupted my enjoyment of both her company and the chowder. It didn’t make sense by anybody’s definition, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the longer I stayed away from my desk, the more I risked Phoebe dying a long and painful death. I mean, I’m not completely heartless. Let’s just say I skipped dessert.

And then there’s talking to myself.  You remember the sayings about people who talk to themselves?  In my case, this means I’m holding a lively debate with a character, testing dialogue, and sussing out the authenticity of a tone in certain circumstances.  Yes, I’m the one in the otherwise empty car chatting away to the nonexistent passengers, something I did long before hands-free cell phones. You’ll also find me in the kitchen arguing away to the invisible while  busy with some menial task.  My life runs a parallel course, with me coexisting in both worlds simultaneously, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s me, crazy and loving it.