The house is quiet. Bruce is at work, the kids are off doing their own thing, and the only sound is the steady rain on the windows and my fingers tapping the keyboard. This is the best time to write.
I made some progress on Crimson Crimes today, and I'm always pleased to be moving forward. I'm struck though by how much slower this is going than Sapphire Sins. I read a beautifully written blog by romance novelist Teresa Medeiros about the genre, and in a tangential way, her post gave me a theory on why writing this book is harder than the first.
The romance genre encompasses a wide range of characters and stories, but the basic structure is always the same. Girl meets boy, obstacles block their happiness, obstacles are overcome, happy ending. Sapphire Sins follows the rule. Now don't get me wrong. Rule-following does not translate to boring. I love my characters, and I think I did something different within the paranormal subgenre of romance. But because I followed the basic romance rule, I always knew the ending.
Crimson Crimes is a sequel. I really did love my characters in Sapphire Sins, and while they found their happily ever after, the future was uncertain. This book is my attempt to see what happens after happily ever after. I've stirred the pot in my couple's relationship, added new villains, a mystery, and girlfriend issues. Extending a love story is not a new or revolutionary idea. Some of my favorite authors keep the same characters searching for happily ever after in book after book. An example that comes immediately to mind is Rachel Vincent. Her characters, Faythe and Marc, have been fighting for happiness through four books. Pride and Prey, her third and fourth books, have gut-wrenching endings, but left me absolutely begging for more when I hit the end.
Here's the thing. Rachel's books aren't shelved in the romance section of the bookstore. They are considered fantasy, or more accurately, urban fantasy. I'm beginning to suspect I've inadvertently switched genres mid-stream. Without the built-in structure of romance, I'm floundering a little. I'm not sure how the thing ends, and so as I build to the climax, I feel blind. I know how the mystery ends, and I know the fate of my villains. It's the relationship stuff that has me flummoxed. How open do I leave the end? Is there another story after this one? I'm pretty sure there is, but everything I write in this series is predicated on selling Sapphire Sins. If I don't sell Sapphire Sins, should I rewrite this to stand alone? Should I just move on to a different idea? Should I quit worrying about what's going to sell and write what's in my heart?
I think the answer to the last question is yes. I fantasize about seeing my books on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, but ultimately, I'm going to write even if I never see them there. I'll keep plodding along with my characters and hoping for a happy ending. I'm a romantic at heart. I always have been. Regardless of the evidence I've seen to the contrary, I believe in happily ever after. Sometimes you have to slog through a lot of crap to get there, but it's the crap that makes the happily ever after so sweet.