Romance, crime, and writing genre hybrics

Just under a year ago, I started a story about a writer on holiday in Australia (where I wish I was most days). Back then she was called Emmy, but she’s since been renamed Poppy.

I started telling her story as a way to escape reality (as most great pieces start). I was hiding from my dissertation, which required heavy amounts of research into WWII. It was emotionally draining to write in places, so I really needed the distraction.

My family and I on holiday in Tangalooma back in 2007.

I have an obsession with Australia, just for future reference. This is a photo of my aunty (who’s Australia), my mum, and me, in 2007. Not on the Gold Coast, but Tangalooma.

Emmy befriended a handsome surfer (because I like handsome surfers) called Thom, and things got a little 18-rated from there.

About a third of the way in, a plot point popped into my head: a body had to wash up on the beach.

No, I told myself. This is a romance story. You’re writing this to escape seriousness.

But the idea wouldn’t get out of my head.

So Emmy and Thom stumbled upon a body on the beach and from then on, my simple, escapist romance, turned into a crime novel.

Romance and crime are two VERY different genres. Is it possible to combine them in a story? Meet the romance crime genre.

I finally accepted that it wasn’t a standard romance novel anymore. My head then started spinning with ideas.

I rushed to finish the first draft—something I’m very bad for doing, leading to rushed endings that need far more work than the beginning—concluding with a tidy(ish) crime and a messy relationship. And an idea for a sequel.

Romance and crime are genres I certainly never thought I’d be combining, but I’m enjoying working on Poppy Winslow (the WIP title) as a side project to The Adventures Of…

When I’ve discussed the idea with other writers, they’ve been mostly intrigued. Crime and romance are two genres that are seldom combined, but why not? It’s the literary equivalent of horror/comedy films or hiphop/rock songs—you don’t think it will work, but it can. That’s not to say it will every time, but you never know until you try.

I’ve written romance for a long time, but have seldom written crime. I watch and read a lot of it, however, so it’s seeped into my writing from that. That being said, it didn’t occur to me until recently that the first piece I ever wrote would fall into the crime category. It was about a china teacup that gets stolen and included (terrible) drawings. It was written in that typical seven-year-old way, but perhaps it was a sign of things to come.

I don’t remember writing another crime story until I was 19 or so. That was another genre hybrid—about a PI that discovers she’s a witch. I adored writing her, but I struggled with the complicated plot that I’d laid out for myself and fell into stereotypes with a plot that fizzled out towards the end. I’ll probably revisit her one day, but I’m not quite ready to yet.

After that, it wasn’t until Poppy that I had an idea for a crime novel. Most of my stories are much more driven by relationships than crime. However, the crimes in Poppy Winslow are very much relationship-driven, and I think that’s part of how I came by the idea.

I’ve just finished the second draft of Poppy Winslow. She’s found her voice, Thom has almost found his, and I’ve got the basics of the plot. The next step is for me to do more research around the crimes involved and make some edits instead of just leaving sarcastic comments for myself.

Stay tuned for more updates on Poppy Winslow and The Adventures Of… as I continue to work on them!

You can also keep up with what I’m doing (I tend to live tweet when I’m (avoiding) writing) over on Twitter!