Today Evonne Wareham talks about the compulsion to write, the Riviera and the thriller in romance.
When did you start writing, and why?
The compulsion to write seems to be in the DNA. I’ve made up and written stories for as long as I can remember. I always hoped to be a published author one day, but it took me a very long time to arrive at the genre that I wanted to commit to, which is romantic suspense AKA romantic thrillers. It’s a genre better known in the US than the UK. Basically it’s what it says on the tin – a romance and thriller combined. I like writing romance – I’ve been a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association for many years and experimented with many genres in that time, as part of their scheme to encourage new writers. What I wrote always seemed to have a crime in it and although I like the story to have a positive outcome – alright, yes, a happy ending – I also like a healthy dose of mayhem. When I discovered the romantic suspense genre, by way of the American novelist Nora Roberts, something clicked. Could I write that kind of book and set it in British/European locations rather than in the US? The answer was that yes, I could – so now I write romances with a higher body count than you might usually expect. I consider what I write to be entertainment and escapism, even if it is a crime story. Crime writing is an amazingly popular genre, read for recreation. We will happily read (and write) about things that we would never want to experience in real life. With my books you get a love story as well. In addition to a twisty plot a key ingredient for me is the emotional development of the relationship between hero and heroine. I have to say that throwing my protagonists into a succession of scary situations is a very good way of getting them on the fast track to falling for each other. And yes, there are love scenes.
Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?
I’m not afraid of a high body count, and people meet nasty ends, and not always the bad guys, but I don’t go for extremely graphic descriptions – you won’t find any scenes on the autopsy table. I’m also careful about the situations I put my heroines into. They might be frightening scenarios but I try not to make them victims – they are strong women in unusually challenging circumstances – not damsels in distress, but damsels who might need the help of the hero to sort out the mess I have dumped them both into.
Which do you like to write, series or standalones? If you write both, what do you find the difference?
I’ve done both, and I hope to continue that way. I have standalones that are at the grittier end of romantic suspense and I’m currently writing a series that is much lighter – high jinks in various locations on the French and Italian Riviera. Those are loosely based around personnel connected with a detective agency in Bath, with a new central couple/love story for each book and some overlapping characters. They are much frothier, heavier on the romance – and great fun to write. I think of them in terms of those 1950s films with glamorous people zipping about in fast cars in sunny locations. One of the things I like about writing those is the chance to interchange characters, with cameo appearances, and minor characters promoted to central stage. It’s fun when writing to find unexpected places where someone from a previous book can pop up because they have special expertise that I need.
Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
This is difficult because I always fall for my heroes and admire my heroines – if you’re spending a lot of time with them, you have to enjoy it. If pushed, I would probably cite Cassie and Jake, the couple from my first Riviera book – Summer in San Remo. That book is not one for die hard crime fans. It’s the lightest I’ve written, no dead bodies and the crime element is very low key – it’s much more about the romance. Jake dumped Cassie twelve years ago, and she hasn’t forgiven him. The interaction between them jumped off the page at me, and they have continued to do that when they make guest appearances later in the series. That book was meant to be a one-off romp-on-the-Riviera holiday read, but I enjoyed writing it so much that it became the first of a series. Now my dark side is slowly surfacing and the crime element is sneaking up the scale. I was delighted when my editor agreed that I could kill off a couple of people in the second one.
Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
I’ll take this as nastiest character, rather than least favourite, as I have to feel a connection to all the people I write about and I love writing villains. Nastiest would probably be Luce – the villain from Never Coming Home, which was my first published book. It’s a standalone from the grittier end of the spectrum, with a double plot – the heroines’ missing child and something dangerous from the hero’s past that has suddenly resurfaced. Luce is a hired killer who enjoys his work and he has a score to settle with Devlin, the hero. There’s a trail of bodies and some collateral damage in that one. It’s always disturbing to wonder exactly where in my subconscious he came from.
Tell us about your last book…
The latest book is A Wedding on the Riviera, the second in the Riviera series. It’s my version of those films and TV series with gangs of professional hustlers. This one has a group of friends taking on a con man who is running a scam which leaves a trail of broken-hearted brides at the altar. They set up a counter con, with a fake prospective bride. Of course there is also a hot romance and it ends with a spectacularly OTT wedding …
What’s coming next…
I’m currently at work on Riviera 3 – this one is set in Portofino on the Italian Riviera and starts with an unexpected and slightly mysterious inheritance. I’m hoping that it will be out later this summer. I have a fourth circling in a holding pattern – it’s at the plotting/research stage – Egyptology, stolen artifacts and a showdown in Monte Carlo. I’m really hoping I get to research that last bit in person, instead of relying on memory, the Internet and guide books. After that I want to go back to the grittier stories – I have a few of them pushing at the door, clamouring to be let out.
Anything else you want to share?
Two of my standalones – Out of Sight Out of Mind and What Happens at Christmas have a chunk of the action set in the Welsh National Parks – Pembrokeshire and the Brecon Beacons. I want to set more stories in my native Wales to use both the romantic and dramatic possibilities of the landscape. It might be time to give Snowdonia a turn, although I do have plans involving a fictionalized version of the South Wales coast where I live.
Evonne is an award winning Welsh author of romantic suspense – more crime and dead bodies than your average romance. Born and brought up in Barry, she is a Doctor of Philosophy and an historian, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Crime Writers’ Association, International Thriller Writers and Crime Cymru. Her first book, Never Coming Home, won the Romantic Novelists’ Association award for a best debut novel and also awards from chapters of the Romance Writers of America.
Evonne, I am right there with you, my latest is a romantic thriller, love the genre! It’s where I positioned my last novel too.
Tomorrow we’ll be talking to Victoria Dowd.