I have a confession: I have an aversion to being pigeon-holed.
I manage to avoid it most of the time, but the fact is that by appearing on this site I might very well be accused of false pretences given I don’t claim to be a ‘crime writer’ as such. After all, my current series is classified as a ‘romantic thriller.’
“Ah, you write romance.” I detect the lift of an eyebrow accompanied by a slight curl of the lip.
Well, yes, there is a strong element of romance in The Secret Of The Journal series, it’s true; but could I be called a writer of romantic fiction? Well, that might depend on your point of view. It makes marketing a book easier, of course, if it can be planted squarely beside a shelfful of ‘crime’ or ‘historical’ novels, but the fact is, some books don’t fall neatly into one category or another.
I grew up on a diet of thrillers and crime – literarily speaking – starting with the Blessed Enid, who drip-fed adventure into an impressionable imagination, followed by Rosemary Sutcliff and Anya Seton. This quickly evolved into a taste for Hammond Innes and Desmond Bagley. Romance didn’t get a look-in until Jane Eyre made her appearance when I was about thirteen. Even then, hers was a romance sharpened with mystery and suspense. Most books have two or more elements, with an overarching theme that pegs it firmly on one shelf or another: cross-genre writing is hardly new.
When I started writing Mortal Fire – the first book in The Secret Of The Journal series – the romantic element was part of a wider story against which other genres rubbed to create friction. As the series continues and develops with Rope of Sand, the weighting changes and, while the romance is still evident, it is the thriller and suspense aspects that come to the fore.
Romance, or more accurately from my point of view, relationships, is the perfect vehicle for causing the tensions that drive plot. Relationships – past, present, and potential – make a story whole. Jane and Rochester; Morse and Lewis – you get the point. So, if you ask me what I write, I might hesitate before answering, ‘romantic thrillers’. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, you understand, but the tag of ‘romantic writer’ puts one in mind of pink lace and polite conversation, whereas my books are anything but ‘comfortable’, as one male reader commented the other day, a thought mirrored by the number of positive reviews which have started, ‘I don’t normally read romantic fiction, but…’
Now with the release of Death Be Not Proud in April, if I had to find a pigeon-loft in which to perch, I would plump for ‘mystery-suspense with a slash of romance.’ Sure, the potential relationship between the two main characters is important in the developing story, but if you spot a lace hankie anywhere, it will probably be soaked in blood.
Death Be Not Proud by CF Dunn is published by Lion Fiction, £7.99