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Kris DeLake | Romance and Imaginary Worlds

March 22, 2012

Kris DeLakeASSASSINS IN LOVEWhat’s the most important thing about a romance novel? Why, the romance, of course. Folks who’ve never read the genre seem to believe that all romances are alike. Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl live happily ever after.

People persist in believing this even though the romances they’ve had in their own lives are never the same. Did your first love follow the same pattern as the love you have with the person you later married? Did your flirtation with a guy on the subway turn into a romance or into a pleasant memory or did you forget it the moment you got off the train?

What makes each romance different, in our lives as well as in our fiction, is who we are now. And who we are is a product of our age, our live experience, and our environment.

Which is, oddly, why setting is so important to any romance. Navy Seals are different from stockbrokers, in part, because of where they work. Drop your average stockbroker into a war zone—with guns and bombs and chaos—and that stockbroker might break. Drop your average Navy Seal into a brokerage, and that Seal might go crazy with boredom.

I can tell you all that because you have an idea about war zones and brokerages. But if I tell you about a space yacht—well, I better describe it. And if I tell you about a world where assassination is legal and even encouraged in some instances, I better make you believe it.


Through something the science fiction people call world-building. It means, simply, that I add details that make you think you’re in a real world, even if it’s a made-up world. Full disclosure: all good writers do that. The small towns of so many contemporary romances—all built from the ground up. The difference between what a contemporary romance writer does and what I do in the ASSASSINS IN LOVE series is minimal. I get more credit because you’ve never been to anything like my made-up world, but you’ve all been to a small town. The good writer makes her small town distinct from all the other small towns.

And that’s no simpler than describing a universe where space yachts travel between planets and assassins ply their trade in seedy back rooms.

So yeah, you know that I’m making it all up. But that’s what we fiction writers do. We lie for a living. Which means we have to be good at spinning our little fables or you won’t read our work.

I’ve had thirty years of fable-spinning in a variety of genres under an entire pack of names. (You can find out more at I like world-building, and I love romance.

I finally had a chance to combine them in ASSASSINS IN LOVE.

Do you agree with Kris on imaginary worlds off-planet or on a cruise ship as perfect settings for a romance? two commenters will win a copy of ASSASSINS IN LOVE US / Canada shipping only.

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