A tease of what I’m working on…

Cathy Pegau tagged me, and thus here are my answers!

1) What am I working on?

I just finished a novel for Bold Strokes Books (Betting on Love), and I’m back in gear with The London Game (the sequel to The Paris Game).

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work has been called ‘gritty noir-romance’, so I tend to work with anti-heroes, and characters of questionable morals.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I’m intrigued by how people can justify doing things that are morally questionable, and how they can still be good-intentioned people even though what they’re doing is wrong. This goes back to reading old noir and detective stories, where the detective or PI is pretty much as morally bankrupt as the guys he’s trying to beat. In one of my favourite books, pardoned gangster Roy Earle (in WR Burnett’s ‘High Sierra’) takes part in a robbery because he owes the man who pardoned him, but yet he still yearns for the everyday: love, marriage, settling down.

4) How does my writing process work?

I’m more of a plotter; at the very minimum I have an outline or a plot summary, and all the main characters have been sketched out. On ‘Betting on Love’, I did up a plot summary, blurb, and sketches for the four mains. It helped, and I wrote quickly and well. (or at least, I think I did! When I get edits back, we’ll see 😉 )

I haven’t tagged anyone else, but if you want to play, drop me a comment and I’ll link to your post!

Black, White, or Grey?

I was watching an old Humphrey Bogart film the other day – HIGH SIERRA, from 1941 – and it got me thinking about the portrayals of good and bad in stories. Not only that, I started thinking about some of my favourite stories, and why I like them.

One of the things they had in common? Morally ambiguous characters.

Roy Earle, Bogart’s character in the film, is a hardened criminal. He’s released from prison and hired to help pull off a high stakes robbery of a resort in California. Should be easy, right? As was standard in films, he even looked the part: dark clothes, a scowl, and his lines delivered with the right amount of toughness. Except… it’s just not that easy. Roy Earle is humanized for the viewer with his desire for Velma, the charming young woman with a club foot. He even dreams of marrying her. He adopts a dog, Pard, while waiting around for the heist to go off. And most tellingly, he hooks up with a street-smart taxi dancer named Marie, telling her time and again that she doesn’t mean anything to him, and that if the going got tough, he’d have to park her. However, his actions belie his words and he takes care of her and tries, albeit awkwardly, to make her happy.

It would be hard for a film-goer to have any sympathy for the gangsters portrayed in the 1930s by Cagney, Robinson, and Paul Muni, but Bogart’s Roy Earle was a game-changer in the world of film. Audiences were rooting for the man that, not even five years earlier, would have been portrayed solely as a heartless killer.

If a villain has been written as soulless and unquestionably evil, my interest in the story will quickly wane. Even Lasher, in Anne Rice’s novel THE WITCHING HOUR, wasn’t all bad. His goal was destructive to others, but his desire for that goal was entirely human and understandable. Rowan, the lauded neurosurgeon with her life-saving powers, is not the knight on the white charger. The decisions she makes are just as flawed, just as human, as anyone else’s would be.

Humanizing the villain, giving them an opportunity to be in conflict with themselves instead of just with your hero, goes a long way towards making a story linger after the last page has been turned.