Readers like what they like. Personally, as a reader, I’m fond of mysteries. I read a little romance from time to time and I certainly don’t mind a little romance mixed with my mystery stories but, if I had to choose between the hottest new romance book on the shelf and the hottest new mystery book, all other things being equal, I’d probably go with the mystery. That’s just my preference. Yours will likely vary.
When I decided to actually put my money where my mouth is and write the stuff that I read and that I said I could write, I naturally gravitated toward my favorite genre and then toward a more recently (for me) discovered niche within that genre, the lesbian themed mystery. I knew I wanted a lesbian protagonist in my story. The whole time I was playing Relic, my first book, in my head before I wrote it, I had a lesbian oriented Sheriff going after a small town criminal. As I started writing though, the story didn’t work without a foil for Sheriff Mel. Enter Dana, Mel’s Customs Agent counterpart and soon to be love interest. Oops! Did I forget to say spoiler alert?
Relic lays the foundation of a relationship between Dana and Sheriff Mel but the story is 90+% mystery and that’s the way that it sells to readers who have thus far taken a chance on me – thanks for that! Interestingly to me, book 2 – Busy Bees, a story that focuses more on Mel and her investigation to catch a killer, has sold better as a romance than as a mystery since it’s release in late February. The story line between Dana and Mel continues in the book and there are certainly romantic elements to it but they are by no means the focus of the story. Readers apparently see it differently than I do.
Intrigued at the possibilities of developing their relationship more and in adding fuel to the sex scene/no sex scene debate I previously wrote about, I started researching making book three, Dana’s Dilemma, a true romance with a mystery as the central conflict dividing my two protagonists Dana and Mel. I’ve done some rereading of some lesbian themed romances I already own and, recently, I also purchased and am now devouring Leigh Michaels’ book, On Writing Romance and another very well regarded book on writing erotic scenes. I’m about a quarter of the way through Michael’s book and I’ve learned so much about what makes the romance genre so popular (what works for readers) that my head is swimming. The plot and conflicts that I planned for book three are basically the same but oh so different now too. I’ve been inspired!
A couple of days ago I ran across this blog post by Karin Kallmaker. There’s lots of food for thought there. I know I can write a successful mystery. Can I write an actual romance or a 50/50 mystery romance novel that’s successful? I’m going to give it my best shot and let the readers decide.