Feel the Love: Why It Was Essential For Me To Bring Romance To A Very Dark Tale

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Given the day that’s in it, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about love and how as a writer you get to explore many different types of relationships and iterations of love. When I was fifteen, my friend was having boyfriend trouble. When I offered her some advice, which I thought was pretty sound (probably to the tune of ‘if you’re not happy then maybe he’s not for you’) she turned on me, snapping back that I’d never had a boyfriend so what did I know about it.

Her quip hurt, cutting me deep as put downs from your peers do at that age, but I’ll never forget that feeling of being put in my place. Was she right? How did I know really? But I was angry too because I knew it was advice she could and probably should take on board. The sad thing is I never offered it to her again and by the time school ended the next year, we’d already grown apart and moved onto other friends.

Which brings me to fiction and writing love. I’ve been married for almost sixteen years – I can’t believe it either – and I’d be lying and also doing a disservice to any married couples I know, to say it’s been wedded bliss all the way. Sustaining a long-term relationship, married or not, is hard work and an exercise in coping with ever changing circumstances. But you weather the seas together and hope for the best.

My book Our Destiny Is Blood is not a romance, rather a historical vampire fantasy, but that doesn’t mean that romance and love don’t have a part to play. You can write all sorts of wild and wicked characters, monsters and demons but in exploring the humanity of them, love will always play a part. It’s part of who we are. Part of me.

I’ll give no spoilers away, but there’s a scene in the book where Evelyn, my Irish heroine meets Sasha Dermatov, a Russian vampire on the street in New York. To steal the term from movies, the scene is a meet-cute, meaning it’s the moment two characters destined to be together meet in a charming way before forming a romantic relationship. Up until this point, we have seen both on separate journeys, but their meeting brings both story threads crashing together, as he literally bumps into her almost knocking her over. So far so formulaic you might think, but what she doesn’t know is that he’s a vampire and he already knew who she was and purposely set out to introduce himself. The conversation that follows, what is said and unsaid, sets the groundwork for their relationship beyond that point.

While meet-cutes are often reserved for romantic movies – think Notting Hill (when Hugh Grant bumps into Julia Roberts spilling her coffee all over her), Out of Sight (when George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez meet in the boot of a car) – for me the relationships in my book, bring light and depth to an otherwise dark story. Evelyn and Sasha’s romantic relationship is not the heart of the book, but it must be there when the story takes an unexpected turn and the parameters of that relationship are threatened. They will both need to remember that day they met, when each was irresistibly drawn to the other.

Another relationship in the book is the past relationship between Gabriel and Jude. This is the inferred history of a love turned sour that haunts the both of them and puts them always on their guard – the playing ground uneven, broken. Where does their relationship stand now? Can they trust each other? I’ve been writing a lot more around this in the second book and it’s a testament really to how much trust remains when a relationship has faltered.

It was important also I think to include a relationship that is air tight – two characters who are already a couple when we meet them but who have an undeniable chemistry that constantly propels that relationship forward. Maybe this is the aspirational one but Wade and Velle, two of Sasha’s vampire family bring the sizzle and excitement of being with the right person at the right time. I thought it was important for their stories to tell how they met and the strength that existed in Velle long before she ran into a vampire called Wade. It was one of my favourite chapters to write.

A critic in the Irish Examiner recently said some very nice things about my book and among other things called it ‘feisty’ which I love. These characters have a lot at stake, not only romantically but their future to a large degree depends on these people they love and how those feelings play out on a grander stage. Which brings me back to my teenage inexperience. Did I know what I was talking about then? Yes – because whether you have a partner or not, love is part of our DNA and you’ve felt it for the people around you, your family and your friends ever since you can remember. It’s how we operate. How the machine works.

I loved writing these relationships, the quips and ticks that make each couple unique and maybe they’ve taught me too a little about being in love and what that means. It’s also taught me that if you find something you love doing (like writing) hold it tight and don’t let go. Life is difficult and you have to share it with the people you love, doing the things you love.

So Happy Valentine’s Day all. I feel very lucky that I get to spend my day today with Evelyn and Sasha, writing the next book in the series. I’ll share news of it when I can. For now, get out and do the things you love to do, the things that make your heart soar and hold close those around you who make your world a better place to be in.

Want to know more about Our Destiny Is Blood? You can find it here x

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