I just finished writing the third book in my Body Movers sexy mystery series (Three Men and a Body, due out August 2008) in which the main character, Carlotta Wren, works for Neiman Marcus by day and helps her brother move bodies from crime scenes by night. Carlotta’s life is further complicated by the three men in her life: her first love, a cop who has reopened the case of her fugitive father, and her brother’s body-moving boss. For me, romance and mystery are a natural fit, because one helps to foster the other in the story. The suspense of a mystery is further heightened when the players are emotionally involved. Likewise, the romance between characters is heightened by the adrenaline pumping from the suspense scenes. Nothing gets the heart racing like danger!
In writerspeak, mystery and romance make for a great intermingling of external and internal conflict. The mystery is the external conflict of the story, but if, for example, two characters are on opposite sides of solving the mystery, it makes their internal (personal) conflict more real, and more complicated. This is why I love combining the elements of mystery and romance—they are better together than on their own. (An example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.) And it’s why I think we’ll see more and more “hybrid” books on the market in the future that contain two or more elements of separate genres—because readers appreciate the blending of both worlds. When I sold the Body Movers series to Mira, I suggested that instead of making the reader guess what kind of story it is, that we simply tell the reader what to expect, which is why each cover plainly says, “A Sexy Mystery.” In other words, it lets the readers know that there will be dead bodies, and there will be naked bodies.
(Am I the only person perplexed by the phrase “A novel” on the front of books? What the heck does that mean anyway? If it’s fiction, of course it’s a novel!)
The only downside of blended genre books? Booksellers aren’t quite sure where to shelve them! In mystery? In romance? Both places? In some chains my Body Movers series is shelved in romance because that’s my background and where readers will most likely recognize my name; in other chains the series is shelved in the mystery section, and in others, general fiction, which doesn’t exactly help the reader find what they’re looking for. But I’m confident that bookstores will someday have blended genre sections and that more publishers will begin to tell the reader what to expect, either by spine designation or on the cover itself. Until then, if you don’t find what you’re looking for in one section of the bookstore, don’t be afraid to ask a bookseller for help. And expect more genres to be jumping into bed with each other!