Today I welcome JoAnne to my blog to talk about how she came to write M/M Mysteries.
I never intended to write m/m mysteries. I never intended to write m/m anything. It just happened, most likely as an offshoot of the fan fiction I’d spent years writing and having a great time with. I always figured mystery novels were much too difficult to write: you had to know ahead of time what was going to happen, who was going to die, who did it and why. It sounded like an awful lot of work – kind of like my Master’s thesis, only not as interesting and certainly not fun. Not for me, I decided. I’d just write regular novels.
The first time I tried to write a novel, I decided to follow that old advice about ‘write what you know’. So my first novel was about baseball, a sport I followed ardently at the time. (Since my favourite team have taken to losing just about every game they play, my ardour for the sport has cooled somewhat.)
I started with a character, a man who was a professional baseball player. In the tradition of all the romance novels I’d ever read, he’d be an unhappy, conflicted chap (think Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights) with a bad temper and not very many friends. Then I decided the poor man ought to have at least one friend, so I gave him one: a Puerto Rican shortstop, a real baseball superstar beloved by the fans, with a diamond earring and a winning smile:
“I live next door.” He swayed a little closer, a coy gesture, and Eamonn caught the spicy scent of him, the heat emanating from the dark satin of his skin.
“Right, next door.” Eamonn returned the smile, realized he was standing too close and backed away. “And you are…?”
“Domingo Janovar. I play with the team.” His eyes were dark and liquid, fringed with thick, black lashes.
I just bet you do.
I figured my character could talk to his Latino friend about whatever happened to be bothering him (he was bothered quite a lot, as it turned out) and that would be that. Pretty soon, however, I started colouring in my Puerto Rican character: I gave him a family back home in San Juan, and an impoverished childhood:
Janovar remembered the last game he’d played back home in Puerto Rico: he’d played brilliantly, barefoot and in rags, catching the makeshift ball barehanded, chopping off the opposing team’s runners as they came flying around the bases.
During the course of the novel, he acquired a stalker, an obsessed female fan determined to end his career. By the time Janovar had been shot, I realized I was writing a mystery. I wasn’t just writing a romance: someone had tried to kill a man, and my other characters needed to find out who’d done it and why. My nice little m/m romance had turned into a murder mystery, without so much as a by-your-leave. It wanted to be a mystery. I had no say in the matter.
Since those early days I’ve written a number of different mysteries, exploring various subsets of the genre. I’ve dipped into the Victorian/Jack the Ripper/Gothic side of things, most recently with the Inspector Raft series, wherein a secretly gay Scotland Yard inspector must match his wits against various evil geniuses, miscreants, and guttersnipe ne’er-do-wells. The most recent of these is Come to Dust, which has now been released as an audiobook by Audible.com and featuring the considerable vocal talents of actor Joel Leslie.
Other historical/period mysteries include Oasis of Night, the tale of expat American restaurateur Jack Stoyles, who finds himself fighting off spies and other baddies in WWII-era Newfoundland.
A Little Night Murder also takes place in Newfoundland in the 1940s, and features intrepid insurance investigator Frank Boyle on the trail of the heinous Roarke sisters who may or may not have killed their own mother for the insurance money.
Because You Despise Me is a direct and unshamed nod to 1942’s seminal movie, Casablanca, and features brothel owner Jake Plenty, a man with many secrets. When Feldwebel Horst Stussel is murdered in Jake’s brothel, local police chief Captain Nicolas Renard suspects Jake’s involvement in the crime – but with an Allied invasion of North Africa mere days away, Jake and Renard must combine their wits, their cunning and their courage to defeat the Nazis for once and for all.
I can’t say that I have any favourites among the mysteries I’ve written – but some continue to intrigue and enchant me, long after they’ve ‘gone to print’. The book I’m probably most proud of (for right now, anyway) is the upcoming Skid Row Serenade, the tale of Tony Leonard, a disenchanted war veteran in 1947 who finds himself the prime suspect in his estranged wife’s murder. With the help of a sexy detective, Ed Malory, Tony learns the truth about not merely his wife Janet’s murder, but a lot of other less than savoury things as well.
I never intended to write mystery novels; it just happened that way. I started my career as a writer of literary novels, only to find myself infinitely susceptible to the siren call of genre fiction.