Evonne – mixing romance and crime at Crimefest

As a ChocLit author, I’m definitely at the dark end of the selection box, writing what is known in the States as romantic suspense – in other words, mixing crime with the passionate stuff. I write that way because it’s what I enjoy reading. I hope that enjoyment comes over in my books. And as a side benefit it also lets me out to play occasionally with writers who specialise in crime – which is what I was doing at the Crimefest convention in Bristol at the beginning of the month. And I must say, I had a great time. It’s an event for readers and authors, with multiple panels, social events, informal discussions in the bar …

The authors who attend write just about every kind of crime imaginable, from the graphically gritty to the genteel murder at the village fete, and set it just about everywhere under the sun, or in the snow – from Africa to New York, by way of Greece, Alaska, Thailand, and ancient Rome. There are sleuths in holy orders, hard bitten private investigators, police officers of every rank. At a guess, most of the writers who attend have some sort of love interest in their books. What makes me different is that the romance in my books is an equal part of the action with the nefarious stuff. I like to do the creepy, the scary, the occasionally gruesome, although not too much of that. Protagonists face up to evil and sometimes to demons in their own mind, but alongside the dark elements runs a developing love story. It’s not always a smooth path – in fact I prefer it when it isn’t. My characters have baggage – whole trunks full, sometimes – and not everyone will make it to the end of the book. But whatever I write has to have a positive ending and one that holds the distinct possibility of a Happy Ever After. I’m an old fashioned romantic in that respect. However high the bodies get piled, everything has to work out in the end.



It’s World Book Day, but it’s also publication day for the paperback of Out of Sight Out of Mind.

My second book for Choc Lit. A paranormal romantic thriller – mind reading, love and mayhem.

A big thank you to everyone who has wished me well with it.

Evonne – What am I working on? Um …

Happy Monday.

osom_packshot-2I’m supposed to be talking today about what I’m working on at the moment.

That’s a bit difficult, as the answer is precisely nothing! Nothing in the way of a book, that is. With a month to go until paperback publication of Out of Sight Out of Mind I’m doing plenty of interviews and blog posts – the airwaves are going to be swamped with them in the next few weeks. But a book? Well no, not at the moment. I have a novella that I have been threatening to finish for ages – it doesn’t  have that far to go, so it will be completed soon. It will. It will! It’s crime, but more of a rom/com than my full length books. Two people with romantic history – she claims to hate him for dumping her, he can’t see what the fuss was about – running around the Riviera chasing bad guys, sorting out past misunderstandings and falling in love again, without realising it.  Men in dark glasses hiding in the shrubbery, mysterious shuttered houses, theft, kidnapping, people falling in the pool – you know the sort of thing.

I had in mind the kind of crime caper from movies like To Catch a Thief and the Thomas Crown Affair.  As a treat to myself, I decided to watch those films over the Xmas holiday – and then I began to think what fun it would be to write my own full length version of a heist story. But with a darker edge. And the idea began to grow …

I’m still at the idea-gathering stage at present, but it’s fun, and it is still growing. So, maybe …

Oh — and I have the perfect excuse to stare dreamily into space, and call it plot planning.

Evonne: Remember, Remember …

the fifth of November – gunpowder, treason and plot.

It’s bonfire night – when the UK celebrates the thwarting of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. One of history’s most famous conspiracies.  Plotting – of a different kind, is always a matter of interest to authors. Thriller writers in particular love a good conspiracy. In fact there are whole sub genres of conspiracy thrillers – some are based on real events, murders, assassinations, robberies. I confess that I’ve got a weakness for the more fanciful kind, the ones that are based on a chase, or a treasure hunt, and feature ancient secret societies and missing artifacts with terrible powers which must not be released on an unsuspecting world.  Of course the hero and heroine have to stop all that. And probably fall in love in the process …

My favourite real life conspiracy story involves the death of the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was killed in a tavern brawl. Was he a spy, as well as a playwright? Was he murdered to keep him quiet – if so, why, and who gave the orders? We’ll never know, but there are numerous fascinating books that speculate about it.

Fictional conspiracy adventures of the fantasy kind have an essential list of ingredients – a secret organisation, with roots in the past, to do the conspiring, an object – often a book, or a piece of art , missing or hidden, that has to be discovered, or maybe kept hidden, or destroyed. There are usually significant historical buildings involved – libraries, churches, museums, abbeys, old houses – and to drive the plot, some sort of dreadful secret, that poses a threat to someone in the present world.

With all those, its tempting to play a variation on the famous detective board game and assemble your favourite ingredients. Although I hate caves (damp, dark and cold – three of my least favourite things) the Hellfire Club has always exerted a certain fascination. It was a group of 18th Century noblemen who met in caves in Buckinghamshire to get up to all sorts of debauchery and supposed black magic. The real thing was probably pretty nasty, but the romantic  trappings are very strong, when viewed from a distance. And plenty there for my chosen secret society. My artifact would probably be a book, and my building a castle or a ruined abbey. (My Gothic leanings are showing again!) My plot – ah, now we get more complicated – but it will have to involve a chase, and cryptic clues … Excuse me, I think I have an idea coming on …

I’d love to know what other people’s fantasy conspiracy ingredients would be. Or is it just me that plays games like this? (she asks, worriedly.)

Have a happy bonfire night, and if involves fireworks, please stay safe.

Evonne – What-nots and Words

If it’s Wednesday, it must be W. I was looking in a very small, very old dictionary, for inspiration, and the first world I lighted on was what-not. In that dictionary it was defined as a piece of furniture for the display of books or ornaments. Book-case, I thought. I could talk about book cases. But in fact. what came to mind was interesting words. That one has changed meaning and is now one of those portmanteau words for something you don’t know, or can’t remember.  Portmanteau is another favourite – makes me think of journeys that involved large ships and steamer trunks.  Another one is epergne (ee-pern) which is an old fashioned centerpiece for a dining table. That one came to me by way of my Mum, who as a child had to polish theirs, along with the other dining silver, on a Saturday morning. A lot of cutlery was silver in those days, which always makes me wonder exactly how much silver polish was accidentally consumed along with the food.  And then there’s antimacassar – the protective cloth put on the back of upholstered chairs to prevent stains from the macassar oil the gentlemen used in their hair. A real does-what-it-says on the tin word, and a bit of social history to boot.

So – that’s my Wednesday waffle – favourite words. Anyone else have one or two to share?

Evonne – Don’t go there!

Where-ever they are, writers tend to look for ideas and settings they can use.  I’ve been spending a disproportionate amount of time lately in inhospitable places, like waiting rooms. Which has led me to the conclusion that there are some places that are unlikely ever to feature as a setting in any novel I might write.

  • Hospitals – I know these are very popular in books and on TV – I have even been known to watch a few of those, particularly ones with favourite actors in them, but as a main setting they are not for me. Short scenes, where necessary, yes – a whole book? No way.
  • The great outdoors – There seems to be a high level of interest lately from some of my favourite authors for books that feature hero and heroine battling against the elements, using their survival skills to, well, survive. Again, not for me. And especially the great outdoors with creatures in it. Anything small and fluffy that will sit on your lap is fine – anything with more than four legs, or which is bigger than me and has sharper teeth – no.
  • Sporting venues – Yes – there will probably be an upsurge in these, after the Olympics and I will be there, cheering them on, but I won’t be writing them. Anyone who once witnessed my attempts at school netball will perfectly understand this.
  • Caves and other small spaces – although I must say that  I am considering trapping a future hero in a coffin – but I will not be following the example of crime writer Peter James and experimenting myself. I can imagine all I need, thanks very much. Caves, being dark, wet and cold, at least in this country, tick all my boxes for places I do not want to be.
  • Eras with no satisfactory indoor plumbing –  this is a border line one, as I have to admit to having written historicals and hoping one day to write more. I don’t think I will ever be venturing into the historical based on real life characters – too much nitty-gritty to contend with.

As you will have gathered, I’m a fair weather romantic thriller writer – I like glamorous places, warmth, and comfort. Then I like to throw a spanner in the works, and watch my characters cope, in a setting that should be idyllic. I get the nice stuff, they get the headaches. Works for me.

We all have our preferences. I’m sure my ‘don’t go there’ list would be the top preferred locations for a lot of other writers. Being different is part of the fun of reading and writing.

So – anyone else have a setting to shudder at? Or is it just me than?

Evonne – asking ‘What are you like?’

“What are you like?”

Sorry – I couldn’t resist that one. Of course, it should be “Who are you like?”

A hot debate in several of the sessions at this summer’s Winchester Writing Festival (more “Ws” for a Wednesday) was “To Compare, or not to Compare?” (Sorry Will – getting carried away with those “Ws”)  Advice to writers about submitting to agents and editors, and writing that all-important covering letter, often suggests that they should refer to a publisher author, or more than one, whose work theirs resembles. But it appears that some hapless writers are now being told that this is not wanted and comparisons should be left to the professionals, when they are needed. Fair enough, but conflicting advice. Exit, stage right, poor confused would-be best seller. T’was ever thus. (Hmm, I think Will has got into the keyboard this morning!)

The discussion got me thinking about the sort of information that is useful when you are buying books.

Most authors of my acquaintance have an idol – writers they want to be when they grow up – and would probably swoon if someone else compared them to that idol. But they are much more nervous about suggesting it themselves. We may spend our time listening to imaginary people having conversations, inside our heads, but we do have some grip on reality. Mostly.  We do know we’re not Dan Brown or EL James or JK Rowling – really, we do. But if someone else says we are …

And knowing the style of an unknown writer, before you invest in their book, can avoid a lot of throwing at the wall moments.

So – that’s my question for this morning. Do you find it useful when writers are compared? Or would you rather make up your own mind – “What are you like?”

Evonne – going for …. goodies

This is Evonne, by the way. I forgot to put my name in the heading first time round and now WordPress is ignoring my attempts to add it. I could throw a sulk, but I won’t.

Anyway, to get to business. The conference season is upon us, which has turned my mind to one very important question – What’s in the goodie bag? The swag from the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference in Penrith was excellent. I’ve heard a rumour that the goodies from the Romance Writers’  of America Convention that is currently taking place will weigh very heavy indeed. Rachel’s recent visit to RomCon produced bags and prize baskets.

And that got me thinking, and curious – what might the perfect goodie bag contain?

So today I thought I’d try a Q&A.

Question – What would you like to find in your take-home party bag from your favourite romance event?

Answers – well, that’s down to you. I’d really love to know. If you normally read the blog but don’t comment, how about coming out of lurk to give an opinion?

My thoughts on the possibilities – books, of course. Practical things, like pens and note pads, paper goods – bookmarks and cards, stuff that is cute but not useful, like those little fluffy blob things – I have a family of them.  Jewellery. Things to eat (Chocolate) and drink (may contain alcohol). A gift basket that is offered as a prize is slightly different and might be to a theme, with larger, more specialised items. Rachel’s, if you look back at her post, had a collection of items related to Scotland, which was the theme of the quiz she won. (And that’s where the alcohol comes in!)

It’s nice to get presents – but what information would you like along with the gift? Details of the authors’ books, blog, website, newest release, extracts from a book?

I think my favourite goodie bag would have a mix – possibly tending towards the practical – but I am a bit of a sucker for fridge magnets. I like brightly coloured ones, but to prove I’m not just a big kid, I also I have an (almost) X rated one of a gentleman who seems to have forgotten to zip his jeans all the way up.  Very tasteful, I hasten to add.

I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas, so it’s over to you. A small trifle from Tiffanys or dinner with Richard Armitage might be on every-one’s wish list but, were he to get that close, I’m not sure the Choc literati would be prepared to share Mr Armitage, even with each other. And he wouldn’t fit in the bag.  So, can I make a plea for some realism along with maybe one flight of fancy?

Looking forward to seeing the suggestions/opinions.

And while I’m here, a small anouncement – if you haven’t yet shared the big secret, you might like to nip over to my blog

http://evonneonwednesday.blogspot.com  After you’ve left a comment here, of course.

Evonne: On the Run

pad3I’ve just come back from a quick visit to London. I always claim these trips are ‘running away to the wicked city.’

Running away is an evocative idea. There can’t be many people who have not stood under a departure board at some time and briefly  wondered about selecting a destination and just getting on the next train/boat/bus/plane.  You can run away from, run away to, run away with

A lot of characters in books are on the run in one way or another – from a threat, from an old life – when the book opens so many heroines are on the brink of a different life. They may be starting over (now that has a familiar ring to it) – but usually with plenty of baggage that somehow creeps into the new story. And it’s not just being physically on the run – it can be mental distance – a character who is in denial about the past, one who is trying to forget, to live down an event, to break with destructive behaviour, simply to live a different kind of life.

The choice of destination is often crucial to the story. Characters coping with a new lifestyle are interesting to write and to read. I like to send mine to beautiful places, then pull the rug out from under them, but that’s just me.

So – it’s Friday. The weekend is looming. Tonight thousands of people will be getting on planes, boats, trains, buses – or into their cars – to make a journey. If you were going on the run – where would you go?

Evonne: Wednesday: W is for William


Globe Theatre Flyer

William – as in Shakespeare.

Shakespeare as in Henry V.

Henry V as in the Globe Theatre production that is currently on tour around the country.

Henry V as in Jamie Parker, the actor who plays him.

All right. Confession time. I’m cheating. I’d been eyeing up Mr Parker as this week’s Wednesday Hot Hero, but now, instead of admiring his brown eyes and his biceps, delightful as they are, I get to talk about his portrayal of Hal. It’s very fine indeed, and I’d recommend it if you like theatre, but the thing that struck me most about it was the balance in the performance between the warrior king and the fallible man.

Many actors, portraying Hal as the reformed wastrel, eager to prove himself on the battle field, concentrate on the military leader and only soften in the delightful late scene where he attempts to woo the French Princess – he with no French and she with no English. Jamie Parker’s prince was a soldier desperately trying to come to terms with his life, hiding his grief at the death of his former mentor, Falstaff, revealing his insecurities to the audience alone as he prepares for battle, rallying his soldiers with the power of his personality, while disguising his private doubts.

For me, it was romantic hero just as I like to write them, an action man, with a vulnerable soul. Woe betide anyone who sees that side of him … until the heroine comes along.

So, thank you Mr Parker. You’ve given me another set of images and emotions, especially emotions, which I can draw on when creating my next hero. I can see him now. He won’t have Hal’s crown, but he might have your conscience … and your tortured brown eyes.