Trick and treat: romance with a side of horror
If you ask me what I write, I’ll say romance.
If you fold your arms and tap your foot meaningfully, I’ll admit that I write romance with scary stuff. Romance first, but with horror as a partner, an undercurrent, a constant possibility. The two might seem opposed at first glance, but they go together beautifully. Two sides of the same coin. Chilli and chocolate. Snow White and Rose Red.
Both genres aim to do the same thing: to provoke an emotional response. That’s not all they do, of course; the best work in both areas provides great writing and fantastic plotting and all the other trappings of a terrific book – but they need more as well. If a romance or a horror doesn’t evoke a powerful emotional response, one you feel in your body, it has failed.
I used to be an editor at a large romance publisher. I can’t tell you how many slush MSS we’d see that were well written, competently plotted and utterly inert. They’d come in from people who believed that you could knock out a quick romance novel and make a few quid, who’d written with absolutely no emotional commitment, and they were like getting dead fish in the post. They were also, to a manuscript, unfixable. You can take an absolute mess of a poorly-written MS where the feelings blaze off the page and edit it up to a good read, but there’s damn all to be done with a manuscript where the characters have no emotional impact on the reader.
In these genres, you need the feelings. The endorphin hit of love, the erotic arousal; the goosebumps of terror, the squirmy visceral response to horror. The word ‘horror’ comes from a Latin root meaning ‘to make your hair stand on end’. It’s all about the physical-emotional reaction.
I needn’t go on. Everyone knows the close link between fear and sex. After all, what piece of furniture do the monsters live under? And we all like to go bump in the night…
So I write horror, fear and scary stuff in my romance. Not too much, because in the end I read romance to have hope. I need something good and bright to hold on to. But enough horror to keep the edge sharp, and remind you about the bad things love saves us from. I like the heightened emotions, the switchback between feelings, keeping the reader on the edge of the seat. I like pulling my heroes to the edge of what’s bearable, and seeing if they can take it like a man.
And therefore I wrote some full-on gay romance spookiness. Well, it is Halloween.
My ghost stories are about a Victorian ghost hunter, Simon Feximal, and his narrator, sidekick and lover, Robert Caldwell. The Caldwell Ghost deals with their first encounter in a house haunted by a particularly frustrated ghost; Butterflies continues the story of how Simon and Robert became a partnership as they face an ancient power and a modern evil.
And, since it’s Halloween, Butterflies is completely free at Smashwords. My treat, no tricks. I hope you enjoy it!
Do you like your romance spiced with scary stuff? Find more great UK gay romance paranormal titles here https://ukgayromance.co.uk/2013/10/17/uk100-10-paranormal-gay-romance-books/. Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments!
KJ Charles is a writer of gay romance. She blogs at kjcharleswriter.wordpress.com, and tweets @kj_charles. Her first book, The Magpie Lord , is out now from Samhain.