My good friend and fellow Jodi-Pioneer, Mary Coley is a mystery/suspense author who says no story is complete without a little romance. Recently, Mary gave me her thoughts on writing mystery with a touch of romance.)
Q: You write mystery/suspense, but there’s always a little love included. Why?
COLEY: No matter what genre, every good story always has a mystery or a quest, and at least a touch of romance. From an early age, I was reading authors like Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Sherlock Holmes as well as historical romance from M.M. Kaye, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers. Soon I discovered Mary Higgins Clark, Phyllis Whitney and Sidney Sheldon. In my head, I spun mystery stories with a bit of romance. Now, that’s true of the books and stories I write. They’re not really romantic suspense, the emphasis is more on the suspense and mystery.
Q: Why include romance at all?
COLEY: Life is all about romance. I understand why romance, as a genre, has such a large audience. Every woman in the world is either in love, on the verge of love, or longing for love, aren’t they? To write a book without mentioning thoughts of love would be unrealistic, and even though we are writing fiction, there has to be a semblance of the real world. There has to be love.
Q: Give me an idea how much love is enough for you in your books, as a mystery writer?
COLEY: I limit my love scenes to suggestions of intimacy or romantic thoughts. The romantic action all happens ‘off the page.’ In my mystery trilogy, The Family Secret Series, the main character, Jamie Aldrich, falls in love midlife. In each of the books, she is dealing with a family secret of some sort, and she ends up having to solve a murder connected with that secret. At the same time, she is working through her own quest for love.
Q: Does Jamie, your protagonist, have different love interests in each book?
grieving. But she meets a man she knew as a child, and her grief begins to lessen. It is a confusing time for her, as she feels guilt at the idea of ‘moving on’ after her husband’s death. She’s not sure she can trust this man.
The second book, Ant Dens: A Suspense Novel, takes place about four months later. She is separated voluntarily from a man she has begun to love. In this book, which is about the deceased husband’s secret, she is torn between honoring her husband’s memory and the stirrings in her heart. It is tough for her to accept that her husband had kept a very big secret from her, and that he may have been complicit in a string of disappearances as a young man.
The third book, Beehives: A Suspense Novel, which is just now available, has Jamie and her love planning their wedding at a forested Oklahoma park. Unfortunately, the planning is interrupted by their discovery of a body, the park’s resident hermit. On the heels of that event, the pair finds a ‘love’ inscription on a wall written in 1954, and Jamie’s own mother’s name is half of the couple. In this book, the couple are staying in a cabin together, and there are references to taking joint showers and sleeping together but again, all the action takes place ‘off the page.’ The plot emphasis is on the death in the park, while subplots include a misunderstanding and miscommunications between the couple.
COLEY: Good question. Probably. Love has been a central theme in my life! A string of boyfriends, a marriage, a divorce, a string of boyfriends, a second marriage … I’ve either been in love or searching for love most of my life. I’m sure I’ll tackle a romance of some kind in the near future.
Mary Coley’s books are available at online retailers in paperback and ebook formats. They can also be found at several independent bookstores in central and northeastern Oklahoma. Learn more about her on her website: www.marycoley.com; her blog: www.marycoley.me; on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MaryColeyAuthor or on Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/mmcint2415/ or on Goodreads and Amazon where she has author pages.