Friday, October 4, 2019

Mystery & romance: Oil and water? Maybe not...

HALLIE EPHRON: Mystery and romance. They occupy two very different niches, though we know some of our favorite authors :-) write both. 

Today I'm happy to welcome Katlyn Duncan to Jungle Red. The author of romance and young adult novels, she calls herself an author, a dreamer, a storyteller, and a ghostwriter. Today we're thrilled to host her as she talks about her twelfth novel, Wrapped Up For Christmas, and about the elements of mystery that are just as at home in a romance.



KATLYN DUNCAN: Thank you so much to the Jungle Red Writers for hosting me today! Wrapped Up for Christmas, my twelfth published novel released this Tuesday, and I’m thrilled for it to be out in the world.

As this blog is made up of some fantastic mystery writers, I wanted to delve into how mystery can fuel a romance novel. Most of the time, when we meet someone new, there is a lot of mystery surrounding that person. We want to know what this person’s passion is, or what makes them tick.

We’re drawn to it.

We’re captivated by it.

We create this image in our minds of this person and who we want them to be. Usually, they disappoint us; shattering the impression we had of them.

I love this moment in a book.
No matter if you’re writing a mystery novel where the detective or sleuth has underestimated a suspect, or in a romance novel where the heroine reveals a big secret about her past, there is always that shock value when the truth finally reveals itself. It’s a big moment of conflict. The will-they/won’t-they catch the killer/be together for the rest of their lives.

That conflict is delicious and sweet, and it makes us grip the pages (or our eReader) in anticipation of how the story is going to turn out. Romance as a genre usually leans toward the happily ever after side of things, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make our characters work for it. That’s the thing about mystery. We’re drawn to the unknown while creating our version of the truth.

The mystery and the unknown was how I wanted to challenge my two leads in Wrapped Up for Christmas. My heroine, Angie, just got out of a terrible relationship where her boyfriend lied to her, then she lost her job (he was her boss, yikes!), and had to move back home. While that was the lowest of the low for her, she then met a guy who seemed to be the perfect pick-me-up. But he was hiding a significant part of his life from her. He encompassed the one thing she never wanted to trust again.

When adding the mystery element into my women’s fiction/romance novels, my number one tip would be not to reveal all too soon. Leaving those little breadcrumbs (as you do with a mystery novel as well) ramps up the tension. If the reveal comes too fast, there’s not enough stake in the relationship to have a payoff. If the reveal comes too late, then the reader may put the book down with frustration without waiting for the payoff. Or worse, it doesn’t leave enough time for a satisfying ending.

The mystery can be a part of the attraction and the fun, but it can also threaten to tear everything apart. And once that mystery reveals itself, we beg the question…Can they make it work?

I would love to know what you think about mystery and romance working together in books!

HALLIE: It's a great question. I'd say romance is front and center in a many of our books. Lucy's Haley Snow has a main squeeze, Detective Nathan Bransford, and will they/won't they is a major subplot. We love to watch the dynamics of Hank's Jane/Jake and Deb's Duncan/Gemma and the drama of Lady Georgie and her Darcy (guess what: Rhys wrote a series of YA novels called The Boyfriend Club... romance, anyone?); and Julia kept us panting as Claire and Russ overcame the obstacles between them; and Jenn writes brilliant romance and romantic comedy as well as mystery novels with a juicy romance tucked in.

My books tend to be more about women who aren't sure if they can trust the man in their life, so I'm an outlier. But my take on it: as mystery writers we need to know our audience and adjust the heat accordingly.

What do you think? Romance and mystery: oil and water or pepper and salt?

Katlyn is doing a book giveaway THIS WEEK! Best of luck! 

ABOUT KATLYN DUNCAN: Coming from a small town in Western Massachusetts, Katlyn Duncan always had her head in the clouds. Working as a scientist for most of her adult life, she enjoyed breaking down the hows and whys of life. This translated into her love of stories and getting into the minds of her characters. When she’s not writing, she’s obsessing over many (many) television series’. She currently resides in Connecticut with her family. SCBWI & RWA Member.

ABOUT Wrapped Up For Christmas 
 It’s the most wonderful time of the year… but not for Angie Martinelli…
Having lost her boyfriend, job, and apartment all in the space of a week, Angie has no choice but to leave California and return to her family in New England.
Determined not to let life weigh her down, Angie finds work at the local mall where she worked as a teenager. After an embarrassing run-in with a handsome stranger, Nick, she’s convinced her luck is about to change.
But Nick has secrets of his own… and as the first flakes of snow begin to fall, Angie can’t help but wonder if she’ll ever find love.

40 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Katlyn . . . .

    I think romance and mystery make a perfect pair. Each works well alone but together they can be compelling and, at the same time, highlight the vulnerability of the characters in the unfolding plot . . . .

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    1. Hi Joan! Thanks so much. Yes, I love how you can highlight vulnerability of characters by adding more emotion to the relationships.

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    2. It also can add complications and conflict... essential to mystery.

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  2. Congratulations, Katlyn!

    I learned early on in my Zoe Chambers Mysteries series that my readers may be more vested in Zoe and Pete's relationship than in the murders. The roller coaster ride between the first and last pages is all well and good, but by the end of the book, Zoe and Pete had better be in a good place or I'm in deep trouble. Salt and pepper. Definitely.

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    1. Thanks so much Annette. I agree with this as well! I love following series where there's ups and downs in the relationships which keeps me glued to the pages as much as the mystery!

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  3. Welcome Katlyn! I love reading romance when I need a palate-cleansing from all the murder and darkness. Of course if we're writing a series, the will-they, won't-they can't go on forever or readers get annoyed, right? Suggestions for keeping the magic going over the long haul?

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    1. Hi Lucy! From my reading/writing experience, I would say making sure the romance subplot moves the relationship forward at least a little bit in each book to keep the readers invested without getting too annoyed.

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  4. I enjoy the romantic aspect of mysteries--and Lucy, I think Debs is showing how a couple can come together and stay together and remain an interesting and vital part of each book in a mystery series. And this works even for minor characters--gnashing my teeth waiting to see what happens next, Debs, with a certain pair of characters!!

    What I don't like is starting a book--romance or mystery or romantic suspense--and knowing from the get-go what the resolution will/will not be for the characters. Boring!

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    2. Thanks for stopping by FChurch! I think a talented writer can always make us invested in the lives of our characters. Hope your "ship" works out in the way you'd like :0)

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  5. And then there are the mystery series where you know ... if there’s a love interest she’s going to be dead (or close to) by the end.

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    1. Adding that emotional factor and either the LI dying or close to it always makes me heart race!

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  6. congratulations on your new release! I write a little romance into my mysteries, both to lighten things up and provide another source of conflict.

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    1. Thanks so much Margaret! That's great that you insert the romance into your mysteries as well :0)

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  7. I love mysteries that have a nice dose of romance in them, too. Especially in series, where there is time for the romance to play out at a leisurely pace. But Lucy is right -- as a reader I become very annoyed if the will-they, won't they stretches on too long. Or if a writer strings me along for enough time to become fully invested, and THEN kills off the love interests or introduces a deus-ex-machina complication. (Maybe it's diablo-ex-machina at that point?)

    Two of the best examples of mystery writers who got the romance oh so right are Margaret Maron and the Reds own Deb Crombie. I love that in both those series, the characters were established as separate individuals, there was a lengthy build up, and then after they got together, they remained interesting, fully formed separate characters, who just happened to be a little happier than before.

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    1. Yes to everything above! ��

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    2. Thanks so much, Susan! I struggled with this, because people kept telling me that if I let Duncan and Gemma get together, it would kill the series. I disagreed. I thought their lives as a couple would be even more interesting, and in this case I'm happy to say I was right!

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    3. The Duncan and Gemma romantic progression was handled eloquently and in a very believable story line progression. One of the best I have read.
      Margaret Maron did the same with her main character Deborah Knott.

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  8. I enjoy reading both mystery and romance. I think there is a place in a mystery story for a bit of romance and also a bit of a mystery in a romance story.

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    1. I agree! I think mashing genres together creates a unique experience for the reader. ��

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  9. I absolutely love mystery and romance mixed together. The main characters have to react to both events and to each other. They have to sort through objective and personal observations which may hamper their progress in finding the answers. It’s fun to watch the relationship evolve. Will they work well together or knock each other off balance?

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    1. Yes, I love how these elements work together and as a reader can be torn between wanting to know more about the mystery and the romance, which makes every scene/chapter compelling! ��

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  10. I am captivated with mystery and romance. Many of the novels which I enjoy combine both of these ingredients and are memorable.

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    1. Yes, I agree that they are memorable when you have both elements. ��

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  11. hello from South Dakota! And what a wise post… I think if there is no romance in a book, it is not about real people. Even lack of romance is romance, right? Even avoiding it. Because real people think about it. Congratulations on the new book!

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    1. I love your take on this, I absolutely agree! ��

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  12. Mystery and romance intertwine perfectly. The relationship and the intrigue gives the book an unforgettable experience.

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  13. Hi Katlyn! I love mystery and romance together. Romance is a mystery, isn't it, because you want to know what's going to happen. And which ever way a book is classified, what I want to read about is relationships, and characters who seem like real people.

    Love your cover, by the way--makes me want to fall right into the book!

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    1. Characters can really make or break a book, and its even more fun when there is chemistry as well. Thanks for stopping by, I'm such a fan of my cover as well, is it Christmas yet?? ��

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  14. I write in both genres and I have to say I find romance infinitely more difficult than mystery to write. The conflict in romance is emotional and I hate torturing characters I like, seriously, it's my biggest struggle and my editor and I have spent hours working on this. I just want to tell jokes and move along but for a romance to be solid, as you mentioned Katlyn, the tension has to be authentic - brutally hard for me. That being said, I think romance in mystery is great because it makes your characters vulnerable, which I love. And a mystery in a romance is nice because it gives an external conflict on top of the emotional one, which ratchets up that tension! Looking forward to your Christmas romance!

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    1. I love how you and your editor work together in that way. I had a lot of trouble early in my career with these emotional levels with characters, and I'm always trying to improve. :0)

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  15. Kaitlyn, welcome to Jungle Reds!

    Great question about mystery and romance. Although I gravitate towards mystery novels, I enjoy the romance thrown in the mix of the story if it works with the mystery. There are a few romance novels that I love because it has a lot of history in the stories.

    Which publisher? I will look for your book in the bookstore and the library.

    Diana

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    1. I'm also a big fan of series which carries over relationships. I find myself easily slipping back into the story when a new book comes out.

      I'm with HQ Digital. The digital release was Tuesday, and the paperback and audio is in December. Feel free to request it at your library if it's not there on Overdrive. :0)

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    2. Thank you! HQ is Harlequin Romance, right?

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    3. It used to be, now we're under the HarperCollins Publishers brand :0)

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    4. Thank you. I was not sure what HQ stood for :-)

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  16. Romance and mystery go together like chocolate and peanut butter! And since Reeses are the favorite Hallowe'en candy in many states, you know how popular that combination is.

    Katlyn, I am definitely a romance reader, and I have a special weak spot for Christmas romances. My reading during the months of November and December is pretty much 100% Christmas romance or Christmas mysteries (and I confess without shame to devouring Hallmark Christmas movies online.) I think it's the perfect combination - you escape from the real life stress your OWN holiday brings, while juicing your seasonal spirit and getting to relive the magic of Christmas over and over again in each story. Which is a long way to say WRAPPED UP FOR CHRISTMAS is going on my download list!

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    1. Julia, you made me hungry with this comment LOL.

      We're cut from the same cloth because I am all about the Christmas starting when Hallmark begins their movies (I feel like they start earlier every year, I believe October 25th this year!).

      Thanks so much for your support and I do hope you love Wrapped Up for Christmas!

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  17. Since I alternate mystery and romance books, I like both genres. I don't mind if my romances have some mystery in them but really enjoy romance in my mysteries. It makes the characters more interesting.

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    1. Yes, I agree that any mixing of elements is sure to make a story more interesting for a reader, especially those who appreciate a wide range of genres. :0)

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