Anyone who has checked out my website or who follows my blog knows that I don’t really restrict myself to a single genre. I’ve written contemporary romance, historical romance, sci fi, thrillers, paranormal, urban fantasy, lesbian and gay fiction, even a bit of humor. Unlike many authors, I can’t say “I write...” and finish the sentence with a nice, neat summary of my work.
I make no excuses for my lack of consistency! I like variety in my reading, and that’s true in my writing as well. Still, there are some constants, some characteristics you can pretty much depend on when you pick up a book I’ve written, whatever the genre.
1. A vivid, usually specific setting
As I mentioned last week, I’ve done a lot of traveling and lived in quite a few places. I tend to use my experiences as background or inspiration for my stories. For me, the setting is almost another character.
This is particularly true of the Asian Adventure series I’ve been publishing over the last six months. Each of these books is set in a different Asian locale. In fact, the latest Asian Adventure tale, Dragon Boat Blues, just came out yesterday. It takes place in Ha Long Bay, northern Vietnam. I did a dragon boat cruise myself a number of years ago. I’ve tried to bring my memories to life in this story.
2. Characters who break stereotypes
I don’t usually write alpha male heroes or fragile, innocent heroines. I try to make each character as distinctive as I can. I love nerdy, intelligent guys and brilliant, assertive women. My characters also cover a wide range of ages, from late teens (e.g. NecessaryMadness) to senior citizens (Gray Christmas). Oh, and they’re not all beautiful or physically perfect, either. For instance, the heroine of Dragon Boat Blues is disabled.
3. More or less explicit sex
I don’t close the bedroom door on my characters. I’m fascinated by sexuality and not ashamed of that fact. Some of what I write would be considered erotica. My romance tends to be pretty steamy. The tone depends on the story and the characters. I can write raw and I can write tender. However, very few of my books could be rated G.
4. A plot with some real conflict
Without conflict, there’s no story. All my characters face obstacles, internal, external or both. They make decisions and face the consequences, hopefully growing and changing in the process. In some books (for instance, The Gazillioniare and the Virgin) the conflict arises from the characters’ differing values and priorities. In others (Quarantine, Exposure, BangkokNoir) I have hostile forces threatening the characters’ happiness. Either way, I don’t make it too easy for my characters.
I really hate predictable books. So I try to work at least some suspense or surprise into everything I write. I want my readers to turn the pages, wondering what’s going to happen next. Actually, surprise goes hand in hand with realistic conflicts. In the real world, you can’t necessarily know how some difficult situation will turn out. Writing romance, which requires a happy ending, it’s a challenge to keep the reader guessing, but I do my best.
6. Interest in and respect for diversity
Although I’m a white, middle class woman, my characters often are not. I have written black, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and European characters. A number of my stories are told from a male point of view. Quite a few of my tales would be categorized as multicultural and interracial.
I also value diversity in sexual orientation. I want to explore the richness of human experience in my stories.
7. Decent editing and correct grammar
If a reader pays to buy one of my books, she deserves a quality product. I am now self-publishing most of my work. I try very hard to make sure readers won’t be annoyed by the sort of typos, messed up formatting, or grammar gaffes that I find in many self-published books.
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I hope you sample some of the other Saturday Seven posts today. You can find a full list at the Long and Short Reviews blog.