Genre Bending

One of the things that catches me up at the end of a project is selecting the best genre for the book. Seems like it should be a no-brainer but it isn’t really. Of the five complete novels I’ve written in The Bucks County Series, all of them have a romantic component, so I’ve listed them under the romantic suspense genre. Nevertheless, all but one are crime stories: mysteries with clues to be followed and criminals to be apprehended. The one exception —Run For It— is even more hard to define; there are elements of suspense and romance, but no crimes get committed nor are there secrets to uncover. What is that? Realistic fiction, maybe? The thing is, I feel like I might be misleading the reader by including the ‘romance’ part in describing the genre.

Do romance readers expect steamy sex scenes? Or is that now classified as erotica? While the stories I write include the development of romance/relationships between my main characters, I abstain from depicting any sort of physical relationship beyond kissing. I think a romance reader might be a little disappointed. In any case, writing romance was never my objective, it was to write a good story in which a relationship might develop. In fact, I have nearly removed the romantic components from two of the five books because I felt the stories could stand on their own without it. I just liked the books better with the relationship left in.

I’m not a good, traditional romance writer and I know it. And perhaps that’s because I’m not particularly traditionally romantic myself. Candlelight dinners? I like to see what I’m eating. Chocolate? Ok, I’ll take the chocolate but not one of those samplers – half the stuff is inedible in those things. Flowers are nice but eventually they will dry up and all the petals will fall off and make a mess. I can never remember where I keep the vases anyway. New jewelry is lost on me – I always wear the same favorite pieces every day. You see what I mean… I feel like a hypocrite writing those sorts of things into my books. My characters feel as silly as I do in traditionally romantic situations.

So how does a romance go in a book by Meg Sorick? Most of my female leads are self-rescuers – they don’t actually need their men to bail them out of their crises. That is not to say my male leads are not capable of rescuing; I like strong male characters, just not Neanderthals. No offense Neanderthals (I hear that’s actually a thing … Neanderthal DNA showing up in all the ancestry testing everyone is having done to find out your real lineage, not the one your grandma lied about. But I digress…) Anyway, except for the non-mystery in my collection, the women find themselves as the target of some sort of criminal activity: burglary, stalking, attempted murder, and finally vandalism/arson. The men are there to help follow the clues, discuss possibilities and ultimately assist in solving the mystery. This is how I like the relationship to develop — the couple works together to overcome an obstacle or withstand a series of terrible events. They will genuinely like and respect each other, they will definitely be attracted to one another and they will learn to trust each other with their very lives. Not a bad formula, I would say. But then I arrive back at the original issue: how to classify the stories I write. I have some thinking to do. And I may give romance a rest altogether after I finish my next stand alone book —a historical novel set partly during World War One. I have plans for a sweet romance in that story, but after that? I think I should part ways with love…

Writing romance in the #MeToo era

This is not a political article.

I stumbled upon a Twitter feed yesterday that made me think… Are books, TV and movies giving men the wrong ideas about how to approach women? How does it usually go? The hero meets cute girl at the grocery store/park/gallery/whatever, is immediately attracted and pursues with great (creepy) enthusiasm. He is relentless and she finally acquiesces to his charm. Sigh… True love!

Here’s what happened to the young woman on Twitter. She’s walking her dog in the park. Dog stops to sniff near a bench where Man is sitting. He makes friendly gestures, offers dog one of the pretzels he’s eating, smiles at Girl.

“Beautiful dog.” Man

“Thanks!” Girl

“Haven’t seen you around here before. You live nearby?” Man

“Um, yeah. Not too far.” Girl

“Nice, me too.” Man

Blah, blah, conversation about the weather….

“Are you single?” Man

At this point girl is getting nervous. He has left the bench and stands nearby. He’s waaay too familiar. Touches her arm. Moving closer, invading her space.

Still she tells the truth. “Yes, I’m single.”

“We should get together sometime…” Man

“Ummm” Girl. “I have to go.”

Girl leaves, walks along park pathway, stops to answer a text from a friend. Finds Man behind her. Now she’s scared.

“Hey, I thought you had to go.” Man says with a grin.

“Just answering a text.” Girl

Anyway, she got away safe. Was a little freaked out and plans on taking the dog on another route for their daily walk. My point is, isn’t this a typical scenario for a romantic comedy and/or romantic novel? The woman is reluctant, the man is relentless and in the end they fall madly in love. What we, as writers/film makers, are reinforcing is this idea that creepy behavior wins the girl! Now believe me, I love the idea of instant attraction and that intial spark of chemistry that transmutes into life-long love. But… How do we write that without sending the wrong message?

Isn’t this the exact same formula that romance writers and film makers repeatedly use? It never occurred to me that it was a ‘thing’ until I read the experience of this young woman. Even though I’ve never used a scenario like this in any of my stories, I still feel like I need to reevaluate the way I approach romance in my writing. As a woman and an author I feel like I have a responsibility to write creatively but with conscience. If we women write this kind of story, aren’t we telling men that this is what we want? What say you, fellow writers? This is important stuff….

The Bucks County Novels, Book 4

And finally…. (last one, promise)! Tainted Inheritance is the fourth novel in the series, set in Doylestown, the seat of Bucks County and about twenty minutes from my home in West Rockhill. This book sets up the plot of my current work in progress. So for those of you who read along as I posted Breaking Bread last year, this is what happened before. Here is a synopsis of the story:

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Why would anyone want to hurt Olivia Sutton? Her life was finally coming together after her divorce. She’s found new love with contractor Leo Donovan and made a fresh start in a new home. When she becomes the victim of one too many random accidents, she realizes someone is stalking her. Has something in her past come back to haunt her? And can she and Leo discover the secret before it’s too late?

Available on Amazon, find it here.

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And check out my Amazon Author Page for other titles.