Mystery, romance, genre, and expectations

I know there are a lot of authors out there who don’t read their reviews. Maybe I’ll get to that point at some time in my writing journey, but I’m not there yet. I still read reviews. And for the most part I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. Most people like the books. Some people LOVE them, and that’s more gratifying than I can say.

Some reviewers are very detailed about issues they have with a particular book. One complained, about Researched to Death, that there was no University of Bavaria. Well, no, there’s not. I made that up. It is fiction, after all, and I don’t want some real German university coming after me because I wrote that they let a fraud onto their faculty. Getting sued for something is always in the back of my mind.

Another complained, about Cited to Death, that Jamie would have been able to access the articles himself; he wouldn’t have needed to go to the medical library to get access. That is not true. At both the University of Central Florida and Florida State University medical schools, you have to be a medical student or a member of the medical school staff to get access to the specialized medical databases. It’s common practice. As a librarian at a University of Central Florida library, I have access to all the UCF databases – except the medical school. That’s the way it works. The reasons have to do with vendors and licensing and something called FTE – interesting to librarians but virtually no one else, so I won’t go into it here.

One of the readers of Psyched to Death has now reviewed the book – thank you! – and the complaint this time is that Jamie and Pete’s relationship is moving too slowly. I find that very interesting.

When I first got the idea for Cited to Death, Pete didn’t exist. I planned to write a pure mystery. The only characters that did exist were Jamie, Kevin, Jeff, Valerie, Dad – and Ethan. My original intention was that Jamie and Ethan were still together, had been since college, and always would be. Then I took a class on mystery writing, and the instructor talked about conflict. Not only does there have to be external conflict, in the form of the mystery, but internal conflict. The protagonist has to have something to overcome within him- or herself in addition to solving the mystery.

So Jamie’s conflict was born – Ethan left him, and now Jamie fears commitment. Then I created Pete, and the story of Pete and Jamie began.

I read a lot of m/m romance, and the main issue I have with it – especially in standalones – is that the characters declare love for each other so quickly. A book may only span a couple of weeks in time, and by the end the couple is riding off into the HEA or HFN (happy ever after or happy for now, for those of you who aren’t up on the acronyms). It’s not realistic. I know that’s a thing – a trope – in romance of any kind, and readers of romance expect it.

I don’t consider the Jamie books to be m/m romance. When I’m publishing a book and I have to choose a category, I choose gay mystery. That’s what the books are, and they’re Jamie’s story. That’s why they’re written in first person. The books are in Jamie’s voice. The romance with Pete has developed naturally – and most important to me, realistically. At the time of Psyched to Death, they’ve been together less than a year and a half. They’re living together, they’re saying “I love you” to each other, they’re doing all the things that connect two people as a couple. In real life, these things take time, especially when one of you is afraid of love.

The books are reality based, not romance based. That’s because Jamie – and I – are both realists, not romantics. Pete’s the romantic, but he’s not telling the story. πŸ˜€

And – be patient. The next book up is Stacked to Death, which is in a way the conclusion of Psyched to Death. The first draft is finished, and I’m now working on it with my writing group.

The next book, which I’m beginning to write now, is called Stoned to Death, and I think it will make the romance fans very happy. πŸ˜€

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4 Comments

Filed under Books, Writing

4 responses to “Mystery, romance, genre, and expectations

  1. Cark

    What I like about your books is that they are reality based. Understanding people is one of the reasons I so love reading. Also your books are well written, so I don’t find myself screaming in frustration or trying to rewrite the book in my mind as I plow through bad writing. (Or give up entirely.)

    • Thank you! I know what you’re talking about with trying to rewrite as you read…I usually give up pretty quickly. I’m glad you appreciate the reality approach!

  2. Guybrarian

    I’m an academic librarian and a gay man. I love these books and Jamie is a bit of a hero for me πŸ™‚ he has a brain, is a well functioning human, not a sap and not a porn character…

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