I was on the radio earlier this week (thank you, News 95.7 and The Sheldon MacLeod Show !) promoting my Spy Games series and one of the questions was about romance writing and why I chose it. (My husband once asked me the same question, btw–“Shouldn’t you *be* romantic?!?”)
But honestly, that’s not what interests me the most in my writing.
My contemporary books come in with a fairly even mix of romance and plot. I’m as interested in my characters’ daily lives as I am in their developing relationships.
(And I don’t only write romance. I have a dystopian fantasy series—previously published as the Demon Outlaws, now rewritten and with brand-new covers!—coming in the fall of 2017, and they have much more plot to them now. They’re no longer classed as romances.)
I have a background in social anthropology however, and it’s the snapshot in time that fascinates me about romance novels in general, both from a macro and micro perspective. For example, romance novels track the feminist movement. When I started reading them in the 1970’s, heroines were secretaries and nurses, and submissive to the more powerful heroes. We then saw the rise of the “bodice rippers” which showed women asserting themselves more. Now heroines are CEOs, doctors, pilots, (and spies!) and the relationships are more of a partnership. There’s room in these books for the alpha hero, but also the beta. These trends are reflected in the other genres, but I write contemporary romances so I’m talking about what I know best.
Culturally, romances also show glimpses into today’s society and what’s happening in daily lives. They reflect what’s relevant to the Real World. Characters are using Blackberries. (ßThat’s meant to be a dated reference. Who uses Blackberries anymore?) They’re traveling to popular destinations. We now have same-sex romances and multi-cultural romances. You see a lot of romantic suspense involving Navy SEALs. A few years ago, they were all searching for Osama bin Laden… I got tired of those so I wrote about Canadian spies. (If you want to know why, then read more about me here. It turns out I have useful knowledge!)
Even the romantic relationships themselves are snapshots. “Falling in love” is the first step to a lifelong commitment. Women’s Fiction (a separate genre) often follows what happens next in human relationships–or perhaps the murkier, messier side of them.
I know I have a lot of writer and reader friends out there. What’s your take on romance? Why write it? Why pick one up to read?
Why would you not?
I’m interviewing the three men from the first books in my Spy Games series today!
Each of the first three books is a standalone romance, although for anyone interested in the overall series plot (there really is one!), they’re best read in order:
Her Spy to Have ~ Book 1
Her Spy to Hold ~ Book 2
His Spy at Night ~ Book 3
If you don’t want to read them in order, no worries—the main plot doesn’t contain any deep dark secrets or major spoilers. We know who did it from the very first book. The rest of the stories are spent gathering enough information to hang him.
Although we haven’t literally hanged anyone in Canada since December 11th, 1962.
Now that we’ve cleared all that up, let’s get back to my guys so I can introduce them….
Word of warning–these guys are a little camera-shy, for obvious reasons.
First on the scene is Garrett.
He’s in love with Isabelle, a woman with a sketchy past. His pastimes include wandering around Khao San Road in Bangkok dressed like a tourist.
Next we have Kale.
He made quite the impression on Irina, who’s a brainy software engineer and weapons systems placement designer. Kale likes extreme sports—kitesurfing, rock climbing, and longboarding down mountain roads in Nova Scotia for starters.
Last but not least, we’ll introduce you to Harry. Oh, Harry…
His girl is Marlies, an expert in money laundering and hawala systems of exchange, but she has other skills that Harry puts to good use. (Yes, that’s a naughty reference.) When Harry wants to get away from the embassy office in the Netherlands, he likes to take after-hours canal tours. (Yes. Another naughty reference.)
Only two of these men are spies, however. That’s okay. Garrett and Kale like Harry a lot and they can totally sympathize with the problems inherent in his relationship with Marlies. (Marlies goes by Lies for short. Pronounced Lees. Even if the pronunciation is different, it is so, so appropriate for her…)
Garrett and Harry have a lot in common. They both work at Canadian embassies. They’re quiet and good at blending in. Kale is even better than they are at listening, but he prefers a bolder approach to information gathering. If you want an analogy, he’s more of a hurricane to their warm summer rain. (ßThat sentence right there is why I’m a writer.)
I know you guys are busy so I’m going to go with 3 easy questions for you:
- What set you on your career paths? Harry, I know you’re a diplomat and trade commissioner, not a spy, but still, there’s a level of intrigue in what you do. You constantly have your ear to the ground and one of your friends happens to be the director of Canada’s spy organization.
(Heads turn. Garrett and Kale stare at Harry.)
Garrett: You’re friends with John Carmichael?
Harry: No offense, but he’s the only one of you people I even remotely trust.
Kale: None taken. (Arches brow.) But what about Lies?
Harry: Not even as far as I can throw her.
Kale: Right. What was I thinking?
Garrett: To answer your question—I’ve always been restless if I stay in one place too long, which comes from me, not my upbringing. My family is pretty stable and ordinary, and I love them, but I want to serve my country. I like the challenge. What I do isn’t especially exciting, at least not on the surface, but I really enjoy the game of matching wits with people who believe they’re smarter than I am.
Kale (nodding head in agreement): Yeah, I like that whole game aspect of it, too. I’m a linguist who speaks seven languages. My dad is a career diplomat who travels a lot, particularly in the Middle East, so I’m comfortable with the different languages and cultures. I don’t fit my stereotype and I love it when people look at me and see a dumb jock. You wouldn’t believe the conversations people have in public when they think no one around them can understand.
Harry: I seem so dull in comparison to these two. I started off working summers as an unpaid intern for the UN, then after university, went to work for several different aerospace and defence companies in their international marketing departments. I speak a few languages too, so between those and my business connections, it was an easy progression to Canada’s trade commission. I like helping companies do business in other countries. It increases Canada’s profile worldwide and grows the economy.
- We’re all friends here. What do you find hottest about your women?
Garrett: Not that it’s anyone’s business, but I love the fact that Isabelle is such a mystery to me. I’m always trying to figure out the best way to please her.
Kale: No secrets here, man. I straight up love the way Irina can be talked into anything. And I mean anything. Still waters. Gotta love them. (Shifts restlessly in chair and eyeballs clock on wall.) When is this interview over?
Harry: Since we’re oversharing (stares pointedly at Kale), Lies can be very (clears throat) forthright about her preferences. It’s refreshing to spend time with a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it.
Kale: That’s what we’re calling it? Refreshing? Wait until I share that with Irina. (Starts to laugh at what is clearly an inside joke.)
- Since we’re on an honesty roll, and next week the ladies will get their chance to rebut, what do you like the least about them?
Garrett (answers a little too quickly): Isabelle’s father. Did I say that out loud?
Kale (speaking to Garrett): Is that an option? Because I like everything about Irina, including her parents. She’s smart, she’s pretty, she’s sexy… I mean, her father was once a Soviet double agent, sure, but it’s not like I can cast stones. I do get why you don’t like Isabelle’s dad though. The guy steals military weapons and intelligence and sells them to hostile nations. That’s got to make Christmases awkward.
Harry (thoughtfully): Lies can be really inappropriate. The phone sex, for instance. I can’t figure out if I like or dislike it. Once I got over the initial shock, it can be— You know what? Forget it. I take it all back. I’m not answering this question.
Kale (stares): Dude. What the hell. You like it. (Again glances longingly at clock.)
And on that note, guys, it’s a wrap. Thanks so much for joining me today.
If readers are interested in learning more about these three, you can check out their stories on my website. I have links to the first chapters, online retailers, and to a sign-up form for my newsletter so you can follow upcoming releases for the Spy Games series.
Next up is Dan’s story in Her Spy at Dawn, Book 4, which should be making its appearance at retailers in February 2017. Dan’s not as camera-shy because he works behind a desk these days, but this guy has a PAST. I’ll just leave you with this:
I have a contemporary romance spy series coming in March!
And it feels pretty amazing. I love the concept, the characters, and pretty much everything about it.
But first, before we talk about me…
I had a chance to read an Advance Review Copy (ARC) of Samanthe Beck’s newest book, Emergency Engagement, releasing tomorrow. And, as usual, her book is fantastic. I hope she feels good about this first book in her newest series, because she has every right.
There are a number of reasons I love Ms. Beck’s books. She writes the best dialogue. Her sense of humour shines through. Her books, for the most part, are fairly low angst, even when they’re angsty.
I love the angst in Emergency Engagement, but it’s not at all depressing. Her hero has issues, but he’s no moody EMO. If you’ve got a soft heart though, you might need some tissues about 3/4 through. Fortunately for me, I’m heartless. I was totally there for the laughs. Plenty of those, too.
And Ms. Beck can write. I can’t stress that enough. I love the way the words flow in her stories. It’s like reading poetry. Naughty poetry mind you, but a step or two up from the dirty limericks you passed around in fifth grade. Or maybe that was just me.
You can check out Emergency Engagement here if you don’t believe me. (FYI, Amazon offers free samples.)
Now, back to me…
(Cues the drumroll.)
I finished the second book in my upcoming Spy Games series today.
The first book, Her Spy To Have, (featuring Garrett and Isabelle), releases March 15th. As soon as I get a cover I’ll share.
Book 2, Her Spy To Hold, (Kale and Irina’s story) is tentatively scheduled for May.
Book 3 is now officially in the works!
What are you reading this week?