NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A. Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson

Monday, June 23, 2014

When World’s Collide


Elliot Mills is a former FBI agent, now working as a history professor at the fictional Puget Sound University. He’s slowly -- and not always happily -- adjusting to his change of career -- he’s also adjusting to moving in with his new lover.

 


Now in print!
Christopher Holmes is an author of cozy mysteries, currently suffering writer’s block and career burnout. He’s slowly -- and not always happily -- adjusting to his changed circumstances. He’s also adjusting to moving in with his new lover.

 

What else do these two men have in common? Well, one thing they don’t have in common is each other. They don’t know each other, they certainly aren’t adjusting to moving in with each other! They are the main characters of two very different series. Elliot stars in the All’s Fair series from Carina Press. Christopher is the Holmes in the Holmes & Moriarity series. So I was startled to realize how many similarities there are between them. Especially because the ideas for both books were conceived years ago at very different times. Had circumstances not required me writing these books almost back-to-back, I might not have even noticed how oddly similar they are.

 

And yet, at the same time, I feel they are very different characters and very different books.

 

Coming in September!
 
Elliot is tough, cool, controlled, competent, and a little sarcastic. Kit is not strong,  nervous by nature, impulsive, introspective, and a LOT sarcastic. They are different as two men can be -- especially in their taste in other men. But as I write that, I suddenly realize that they share another unexpected and complicated likeness: their sexual proclivities.

 

Though I write Male/Male romance, sex is not a major element in most of my work, so the fact that both men turned out to be sexual submissives startled me. But of course, again, even in their similarities, they are unalike. Elliot is completely comfortable and at ease with his desires and needs. Kit is fighting every step of the way. He’s not even convinced he needs or wants to be in a relationship.

 

Authors, are you surprised to find common threads of theme, character dynamics, and favorite plot twists in your work? What do you do to keep your stories from being too similar?

 

Readers, how similar is too similar for you?  

 

 

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Josh Lanyon is the author of the Carina Press titles Stranger on the Shore and the upcoming Fair Play.


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18 comments:

J Wachowski said...

I've definitely noticed this in my work, Josh. It's kind of a Schrodinger's Cat thing too--once you've seen it, you can't help but ....think about it.
It inspired me to write something beginning with a different kind of character. Harder than I ever expected, but such a great exercise!

Josh Lanyon said...

It *is* hard because even when we are consciously trying to be different, we are being different in the same ways. If that makes sense.

Which is why writing partnerships can be useful. They do force us into someone else's brain wave patterns. :-)

Leah Petersen said...

I read every book you put out, Josh, and I am (not so) patiently waiting for Boy With a Painful Tattoo...

Sure, there are similarities. But there are only so many themes that can come up in a romance. Write enough of them, and there are going to be some that--on a dry breakdown--sound like the same book.

But you write unique characters (though I "heard" Kit in Griff once in Stranger on the Shore. And if that doesn't tell you I read too many of your books, I don't know what does.) You also write mystery plots that are not at all the same, so the books don't sound like recycled stories, even if the relationships run into familiar obstacles.

Relationship angst is relationship angst. It's pretty similar across the board. Either you want what you don't have, miss what you lost, or are struggling with what you have now. That's every relationship in the world right there in three phrases. Sexually, you can only be a top, bottom, or switch. Any permutation can be boiled down to one of those. Write more than three books and you're going to run into some familiar situations.

Toni Anderson said...

I'm very aware of this Josh. For a long time none of my characters had fathers either. I started adding different family dynamics and found that helps shape who each character is. I think there's always part of us in our characters, which we probably recognize and that a reader might not.
I do like writing about different types of people, but it's difficult sometimes.

KC said...

That's an interesting comparison. These two characters are so different, their worlds, their everyday lives...and yet they both have trouble communicating certain things.

To your question. How much would be too much i'm really not sure...but i would expect this "too much" more from series that have gone on for too long and where the writer would circle back to the same "conflicts" over and over, which would mean that the characters' arc has fallen flat at some point. So not from novels, and not even from shorter series that have a proper arc.

Some recurring issues and themes are pretty much inevitable, but as a reader, when i love a writer's work enough to read all their stories, which sometimes amount to dozens, i actually love finding connections between characters and situations and so on - if i care about the characters, it's a bit like in RL where you have people going through similar experiences. It makes that particular writing universe more familiar, more relatable, and i love it all the more.

Spike Marquardt said...

Josh,

First let me say I've read most of your books. I hadn't noticed that type of similarity. It is more,excuse me for not having a better way to phrase this, alpha male and the underdog, Jake and Adrien spring to mind, or the Ghost wore yellow socks characters. I find those books hugely appealing. but each are individuals, I don't see them as interchangeable.

I see a pattern of strong independent types clashing as in such stories as Fair Game and the Dangerous Ground series, but I would not say the books are similar due to that.

Your books are all unique through their story lines. It's what keeps me reading your works.

I guess the bottom line is the similarities for me keep me coming back for more of your books, but you draw the characters deep enough that I don't find them overlapping in my mind.

As a side comment, I would say that the other reason I like your books as you do not focus as much on the sex and that your characters and stories are the better because of that.

And one last off topic thing, I really find your longer works more fulfilling. Don't get me wrong, but I like the depth of your longer works.

Keep up the great work!

Rita said...

Isn’t our theme a promise to the reader? In every book we follow that theme but the story is different. In my books there are 5 similar things that appear in each book. In different ways to different characters.
Oh bother. This is like trying to figure out time travel.

Susan said...

Hi Josh,

I am in agreement with a lot of what Leah and KC had to say. Having read all your published works I am familiar, as much as anyone can be, with what a JL story is like. And yes, there is a certain cadence to them; I know I am reading something by you. But that is only a positive. Your characters are different and similar at the same time, with some part of you in each one.

But are they ever too similar? They haven't been so far. Your characters always feel like freshly-drawn individuals. I never feel this is a reworked MC from another story. It really is fascinating how you are able to do this.

And as you have said before, there are only so many themes out there. Obviously characters will repeat similar occurrances, but you keep their situations unique enough that the stories always feel brand new. It is hard to imagine getting tired of a JL character creation! :)

Denise said...

At the risk of repeating what everyone else has said, I don't find your characters too similar at all. Each character is a fully realized individual in my mind, and I don't have a problem remembering them as unique personalities. Familiarity is certainly a factor in my continuing to read your stories, but that is due to the promise of a great plot and beautiful writing.

Josh Lanyon said...

Leah, that's a good point. If stories are to be grounded in any kind of recognizable reality, there will have to be similarities because reality creates its own limitations.

Also, the author's character itself creates limitations. I can't abide emotional adolescents guised as grown ups in a romance novel. So there is a built-in cap on how much drama any of my stories will contain.

Josh Lanyon said...

Toni, I think one reason these repeated themes and tropes keep showing up in our work is because writing is a personal exploration as well as entertainment for the reader.

The first reader and the most important reader is always, ALWAYS ourselves.

Josh Lanyon said...

Thank you very much, KC. These thoughtful reader responses are one reason why I continue to think blogs are a good and useful thing. Where else do you have this opportunity to hear lengthy, thoughtful responses from readers?

The genre also places limitations and restrictions on an author's work. It does make me laugh when I read someone bitching about how so many of my stories seem to be about a man trying to solve a crime by going around asking a lot of people questions.

:-D :-D :-D

Uh...

Josh Lanyon said...

Spike, thanks for the kind words -- and for making a great point.

Similarity is also BRANDING. If you like the author's brand of writing, you want to be able to trust that every story is going to contain certain elements. The elements that this author has made their own.

And if you don't like those elements...well, you're probably not going to hang around and explore very far anyway.

Josh Lanyon said...

Rita, I think that's true. First and foremost we write for ourselves -- we are exploring and working out things we need to know. We publish for others, but it is those others who share our interest and curiosity in those same things.

Which is one reason why no book is going to work for every single reader.

Josh Lanyon said...

Thank you, Susan. That is lovely. The characters do all feel distinct to me -- I like some of them better than others, for example -- but at the same time I cannot create what I don't know, can't imagine. We are all limited to some extent by our education, experience, imagination.

In that sense, yes, every single thing we create has to bear some resemblance to us.

Josh Lanyon said...

Denise, thank you for saying so. This is what every writer hopes to deliver to every reader.

Anonymous said...

I Don't think there are similar car acres in your books.They are always different people in my head when I read .I always can feel that u respect your caracters too and I love that.I started reading your books because a review that said about Adrien E books that you ended the series at a perfect time u did not milk it.And he was write although i will like too know more about them.Like unfortunately Jr ward first books were great now i find different people same caracters changing names or one of two thing is sad. You will never find that in your books.And thank you for that.You r the best.
maria

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