In this feature, we ask our Crime Cymru authors to name six things that influenced their life and shaped them as a writer. This week Evonne Wareham gives us a fascinating insight into things that steered her into the genre of romantic suspense.
I write in might be called a hybrid genre – romantic suspense. The reader gets a full scale mystery/thriller and a full scale love story – both elements are expected to have equal weight. It’s a genre better known in the US than the UK, but the doyen of this mix of love and mayhem on this side of the pond is Mary Stewart. Through the 1950s and 60s she produced over a dozen novels featuring independent heroines finding love in dangerous situations, set in memorable locations from Scotland to the Greek Islands. (She later also produced a very successful quartet of novels based on the Arthurian legends) As a teenager I ate these books whole, nursing my own ambitions to one day be an author. Unfortunately it took me a long time and a few false turns before I finally cottoned on to the fact that these were the kind of books I wanted to write, but I know now that her work has had an influence on the character of my heroines and my choice of locations in particular.
The Reef, by Nora Roberts
Nora Roberts is possibly the most famous romantic suspense writer in the world. (Readers who like their crime with a harder edge will know her from her other incarnation – J D Robb) I’d been writing romance unsuccessfully for a long time, trying out every kind of variation from regency romance to romantic comedy. I didn’t want to give up the romance – I’m a sucker for a Happy Ever After ending – but it was gradually dawning on me that everything I wrote had an element of crime in it. Then I picked up this book – danger, love and treasure hunting in the Caribbean. Originally published in the USA in 1998, the story is somewhat dated now, as styles have moved on, but when I read it, it was like a light finally going on. Could I do something like this, but with UK and European settings? It turned out that I could, but even then it took a while for me to actually sell to a small independent publisher who was prepared to take on an author whose romance had more crime and dead bodies than was usual.
One TV Series
1980s American comedy/drama/romance
I’m cheating just a bit here as I want to cite the clutch of American TV offerings from the 1980s that featured sleuthing duos who were romantically involved – I’m thinking of Hart to Hart, Moonlighting, Scarecrow and Mrs King, Remington Steele. Detectives, spies, romantic tension – they were pure escapism and that’s what I like to write – sunshine, glitz, beautiful locations …
My current “Riviera” series is a little lighter than my first two published novels. With three published and four more planned, the books are free standing, with a new central couple in each. They are loosely based around a fictional detective agency in Bath, but all end up eventually on the French or Italian Riviera. If you can hear the echoes of those American TV series here, I don’t think you’re wrong. The place I have chosen is Portofino, the location of my most recent book – A Villa in Portofino. It is a place I visited briefly, a long time ago, off a cruise ship, but it stuck very vividly in my memory. It was an evening visit, the sea was choppy and only a few of the passengers were willing to risk the ship’s tenders to get to shore. I recall a magical evening wandering the town, the shops, restaurants and galleries as the sun slowly set. It’s the kind of location that perfectly represents the mood I’m trying to create. The book was written during lock-down so I had to rely on memory, guide books and the good old Internet. It seems to have worked, as readers who know the area have commented favourably. The book was also nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award 2022. I wasn’t the winner, but just to be a contender was a dream come true.
To Catch a Thief
Totally predictable that I should chose this one. One of the most glamorous screen couples ever in Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, my favourite location – the Riviera – thieves, jewels, romance. How can I resist? Its style and ambience inspire me. If I manage to conjure a little of the glamour and excitement that director Alfred Hitchcock and his two stars generate, I’m a very happy author.
One Piece of Music
Mozart Requiem in D minor
I’m not particularly knowledgeable about classical music, but I do enjoy attending concerts and I find this work particularly memorable – possibly because it featured in the Shaffer play Amadeus. I saw the original National Theatre production with Paul Scofield and Simon Callow. When I do go to concerts I very often find that my mind is working out plot points or plans for a book. Probably sacrilege to the true aficionado but it works for me. Again in lockdown I was working on edits which involved taking the end of the book in a new direction. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it when I remembered that music could sometimes unravel knots. I found a recording of this on-line and listened. By the time it was over I had my new path worked out. The magic of Mozart.
Evonne Wareham is the author of the “Riviera” romantic suspense series. Read more about Evonne at her website- www.evonnewareham.com