Although I’d like to think of myself as a romantic, I know I’m not.
For example, why buy someone a bunch of flowers when they’ve then got to stand at the sink and sort them out, dig out a vase, and spend time arranging them? I don’t quite get why that’s a nice thing to do. As you can imagine therefore, I never intended to become a romance writer.
In fact, I’d been writing for eight years before I realised that, without noticing, I’d become just that. I would probably still be unaware of my accidental stray in to the realm of the romance genre if someone hadn’t pointed it out to me.
I remember the moment clearly. I was sat in the corner of the cafe in which I write every day, when a friend bounced up with a big smile on her face. She had a copy of my novel, Abi's House in her hand for me to sign. Plonking herself onto the chair opposite, she smacked the book against the table and declared, “Best romance ever. How the hell do you do that, and when is the next one coming out?”
Her expression changed from delight to confusion when, after thanking her very much for her kind words I said, “But I don’t write romance, I just write about people.”
Rolling her eyes, she shook her head and laughed, “Of course you write romance. All your books have a love story in them.”
A cup of coffee later, having failed in my protests to the contrary, and listening to my friend list off all of my book titles on her fingers, from Another Cup of Coffee to Christmas at the Castle, followed by a list of all the books I’d written under my Kay Jaybee pen name (erotica), I conceded defeat. She was right. I do write romance. I just hadn’t noticed. I was so busy trying to write decent stories that I hadn’t spotted the romantic relationships within them had sneakily taken centre stage.
Up until that time, I was firmly under the impression that I wrote contemporary women’s fiction, sometimes of an erotic persuasion, but mostly of a friendship and life-adventure type. The fact that romance is a major part of life’s great adventure for nearly all of us makes it a natural part of any contemporary fiction - but only part.
Deliberately writing romance always seemed the hardest of literary challenges to me. After all, everyone has their own idea of what fits the genre. What appeals to one person as romantic, could be another person’s idea of suffocation.
The best romances, to my mind, are those that give the reader the romance they crave, while never losing sight of the fact that no relationship can happen in isolation. It has to fit alongside whatever else is going on in the lives of those involved. For me, the danger of swerving, however accidentally, into the sucrose world of waves crashing on the beach, or choirs of angels sounding as the bedroom door shuts, was reason enough to leave the genre well alone.
It appears my subconscious had other ideas. Apparently, in my quest not to write anything twee, I’ve ended up creating everyday romances without any forethought whatsoever.
All of this happened a few years ago now. After the initial shock subsided, I remember being rather pleased by this accidental genre writing discovery. I was also a little daunted, as only a few days prior to my friend’s revelation, I had signed a contract to write a sequel to my bestselling novel, Abi’s House – Abi’s Neighbour.
I was instantly gripped with insecurity. It’s hard enough to make a sequel as good as the book it follows - but now I had to make it romantic on purpose! Could I do that? I suddenly wished she hadn’t told me I wrote romance until after I’d written the next - well - romance!
Whether I achieved my aim isn’t for me to say, but now that Abi’s Neighbour is published, and has some pretty good reviews (thank you!) I’m beginning to accept the facts - I do write romance...but not always.
Happy reading everyone.