The Romance Writers Of America just ended their annual conference (https://www.rwa.org). For those readers who look down on these types of books they should reconsider. Most mysteries/thrillers/historical fiction has some relationship happening; look no further than a Brad Taylor, Daniel Silva, or Nelson DeMille novel. Below is a chat with authors who attended the conference on why they like this genre.
Nora Roberts has been a New York Times Bestselling author for 206 weeks combined. Since her first bestseller in 1991 she has topped the charts with her novels. Readers will find her latest, “Obsession,” to be a mystery/thriller with a tinge of romance. The plot is as intense as any other book in the thriller genre. It has a young girl, Naomi, finding out her father is a serial killer, and having to escape a copycat who strove to make her life a living hell. But within that plot line is a relationship that develops between Naomi and someone trying to help her open up and get her life back on track. Nora believes, “Novels that celebrate relationships and the human connection are vital to everyone. Books I read should touch me. The writer needs to explain or show the reader why that character became whom they were. The why is really, really important.”
Historical novelist Jennifer Robson wants readers to understand, “If the book is marketed as historical romance people who read historical fiction many times will not cross the aisle. Yet, romance attaches to many genres. I write about the World Wars and try to show how throughout the ages it appears no one gets treated worse than a soldier after the war is over. I consider it a disgrace. But having attended the conference here in San Diego I think this city understands those who have served and are serving.”
Karen Rose feels characters must come alive and relationships help them do it. She commented, “The readers are invested in the characters with clues to solve the mystery. I write thrillers, specializing in crime with romance. The character saves themselves and others at the same time the mystery is being solved. The mystery is the central part of the story although I will say that my books have relationships that do not end at the bedroom door.”
The plots of these types of books are very believable. Rose’s next book involves sex trafficking while Diane Kelly’s next book will involve an IRS agent who tries to protect individuals against financial scams. Leslie Jones whose stories involve Special Forces figures wants to write what she knows best. Having been in army military intelligence she noted, “While writing I draw on my experiences. I guess I straddle two worlds, appealing to those readers who enjoy action/adventure and those who want somewhat of a romantic relationship.” Roberts also weighed in during her chat, “Words and images on the page becomes what’s true. Perception is reality. What we do as fiction writers is to tell a great big entertaining lie. But the lie is the truth within a bubble of that story and must be real or at least plausible.”
One major requirement is to make sure there are happy endings. Before a reader turns their noses up to this type of story remember that as with most series thrillers/mysteries the featured main character never gets killed and lives on to fight for justice once again; thus, a happy ending. Roberts noted, “It is important in the story to understand the characters and root for the good guys to win.” Robson, like so many others sees the tragedies of Nice, Dallas, and Baton Rogue as “calamitous events that make me really upset as I try to put it in some kind of perspective. Reading books hopeful in nature will possibly make readers feel better about their world. Regarding my World War books people can see that we have been in dire circumstances before and survived. There is a quote that I follow, ‘It is better to light a single candle than curse the darkness.’”
Rose dismisses the criticism that knowing ahead of time there will be a happy ending ruins the plot. “I need happy endings, which is why I write them. The only predictability in my stories is the ending where you know everything turns out OK. I always have the reader go on a different journey. I have a rule/contract that the hero, heroine, pets, and children are safe with the bad guys always defeated. It is delivering the expected in unexpected ways.”
Diane Kelly, the President of RWA, stated, “With book stores closing and fewer book signings these conferences allow readers to connect in person with authors. We can actually sit and talk to people and have an enjoyable conversation. In this conference we added a new category, Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance. The theme or elements other than romance are integral to the story with an optimistic resolution.”
Anyone picking up a novel that has some romance should give it a try. They might just find that the plot is gripping and riveting with well-developed characters that are likeable or evil, and a lot like books they have read.