Splits, Murders and Happy Endings

by Janis Patterson

I have a split personality. No, really it’s true. I do.

Part of the time – as Janis Patterson – I delight in writing the foulest murder, stories of people who exterminate their fellows without a thought or qualm – and what is really scary is that I like it! I delight in finding new and obscure ways of killing someone, and am absolutely over the moon when I discover how such a heinous act can be gotten away with scot-free. (The only unfunny part of this was when in real life a truly creepy person asked me if I do consulting. Brrrrr…..)

However – the rest of the time – as Janis Susan May – love-across-time-cover I’m an unabashed romantic who writes tender stories of two imperfect people surmounting obstacles and finally find the perfection of true love. I adore giving them trials and misunderstandings and difficulties and differences of opinion, making it seem that they will never get together… then just when things look darkest bringing them together in a satisfying happily-ever-after ending.

And never, hopefully, shall the twain meet.

So what causes this rather radical dichotomy? I have no idea. I just know that some stories demand romance and hearts and flowers, while others have to have revenge and murder. Those of you who know me know a little about my working process – I don’t plot and I don’t do character sheets or anything like that. The stories just come… and so do the characters, independent people who simply walk in, tell me their name (and Heaven help me if I try to change it) and what they’re going to do. Far too many times I don’t feel like I am writing but instead merely transcribing.

It makes for an interesting work process. On the other hand, I am never bored. And neither are my readers.

For example, my Ancient Egyptian time travel romance PASSION’S CHOICE is now not only a standalone novel, it is also included in the Love Across Time box set – ten full novels by bestselling authors, right now on sale for 99 cents at Amazon! An unbelievable bargain you should go get immediately! PASSION’S CHOICE is the story of Elissa, an average young American woman on a tour in Egypt when she falls over the railing at Deir el Bahri, temple of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut. The only thing is, when she hits the ground the temple is under construction, and the general in charge of the project believes her to be a pleasure woman. (You can guess what that is, can’t you?) Before she knows what’s going on, Elissa finds herself in a dangerous masquerade at the pharaoh’s court, one that not only puts the life of the man she loves at risk, but the fate of Egypt – and perhaps the future – as well.pc-web-small

By contrast, my newest murder mystery release is about arrogant, wealthy, aged sleuth Flora Melkiot, who has been called the dark side of Miss Marple. In MURDER IN DEATH’S WAITING ROOM, Flora has been confined to a rehab facility by her painfully conventional daughter, an act that infuriates Flora, who says it was only a little traffic accident and she could manage perfectly well with a broken wrist in her own home. Then first one of the patients and then another are brutally murdered, and Flora once again finds herself in the position of solving the crimes. As always, Flora is convinced that she can do anything… and usually she not only can, she does. When drugs get added into the mix, what should be a place of healing comes perilously close to becoming a death trap. midwr-web-promo-small

See? Two completely different kinds of writing, genres, even characters, but just one of me. One of my longtime beta readers – who has read almost every word I’ve ever written – looked at me one day and asked how I did it. How did I manage two such different genres, two such different conventions, two such different worldviews and do both of them equally well. I thought for a minute, then gave her the only answer that was possible.

I don’t have a clue.

The Mystery of Romance – or is it the Romance of Mystery?

by Janis Patterson

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be included on the panel at the public library sponsored Romance in Bonham, a nice county seat town a little over an hour away. The ladies of the library hold this event every other February, and it’s great fun. After the panel discussion and the book signing and everything is all over they provide the panelists and the family members they bring along a down-home potluck lunch. Always some of the best ‘lady food’ I’ve ever had! (Wish they’d do a cookbook…)

Although this is a romance-centric event, I brought several of my mysteries and was slightly astonished at the interest they generated. Apparently there is a growing interest for more mystery in romances – or more romance in mysteries. Both of which, I think, are a very good thing. For far too long readers and writers both have been pigeonholed into fairly rigid and unforgiving categories. Mystery was mystery. Romance was romance. Romantic suspense was a step in the right direction, but unfortunately it was soon codified into so much a percentage romance, so much a percentage mystery/adventure by most traditional publishers.

Now, almost in the manner of a superhero, self-publishing has started to break down the artificial barriers between genres, allowing them to become just stories with all kinds of elements. Want a mystery with lots of blood and danger and nary a kiss between characters? It’s out there. Want an exciting mystery where a couple falls in love while evading the bad guys/saving the world/whatever? It’s out there. Want a tender romance where a couple falls in love happily ever after while solving a usually gentle mystery? It’s out there. Want any combination of the above? Or just about anything else, including vampires, shapeshifters talking cats or kung-fu knitters? Even all at once? It’s out there.

I don’t know if the traditional publishers – the kind one finds on the shelves of your local bookstore, if there are many of those left – have twigged to how complete this revolution of thought is, but the virtual aisles of electronic/print on demand publishing are full of proof. You can find almost any permutation of any storyline now. Self and small publishing have opened up the world of stories, and readers/writers are no longer bound to restrict their desires to the small and rigid genres the trad publishers have decreed will make them the most money. True, in the days when traditional publishing reigned supreme and controlled not only content but distribution, print runs were enormous and had to be done ahead of release, then stored in gigantic warehouses. The publishers had to look to what would give the best return on their not-inconsiderable investment. Now, though, in the burgeoning world of electronic and print on demand self-publishing, such considerations are no longer the end-all and be-all of what’s available. Niche markets that were too small to interest the trad publishers are now flourishing and expanding.

And that’s all to the good. Choice is a good thing, and genre-blending is a good way to expand reader interest. If there is a downside, it’s that the freedom of self-publishing has opened the floodgates to an unbelievable amount of pure dreck. There are people who believe that not only putting down X number of words is writing a book, but that doing so will guarantee them fame and fortune. We can only hope that their number dies off quickly, because this wave of badly written, badly conceived and badly formatted messes is reflecting badly on self-published books as a whole. There are self-pubbed books (usually written by veterans – or perhaps we should say survivors – of the trad publishing industry) whose quality is unquestionably equal to or better than anything from the Big 5, but they are shadowed with the prevailing belief that all self-published books are rubbish. That’s a misconception that only time and persistence can alter. But it will, it surely will, and writers and readers the world over will benefit from it.