Authors on the Edge
An interview with Amy Andrews and Ainslie Paton about taking risks writing romance
Romance readers like what we like. And one of the things we tend to like is consistency. That means an author who consistently provides a satisfying reading experience can turn their books into must-buys or borrows.
It’s a win-win. Readers get a steady supply of stories we expect to enjoy, and authors build and maintain their readership.
It stands to reason that writing something completely different is a risk, which is why many authors take up an alternative name if they make a shift from say the contemporary to paranormal genre.
But what if the story you’re writing isn’t that dramatic a shift, what if it’s regular you plus a ghost or a witch, but not in the way a reader might think?
Amy Andrews and Ainslie Paton have embraced the risk.
Amy Andrews has been writing romance for 23 years and has 50 books to her name. Her fan base is long established and loyal, following her from her category medicals to sexy single titles.
But with her new release Limbo, Amy’s gone out on a limb and she’s worried readers might not like it.
Limbo is the story of an ex-hillbilly punk rocker cadaver make-up artist and a disgraced ex-cop come private eye. It’s an urban family noir with a ghost and the start of a new series.
It’s the with a ghost that’s different.
Ainslie Paton started self publishing in 2011 and in 2012 became a hybrid author. She has written and published 19 novels. She’s known for her hyper-real contemporaries where gender roles get bent and her wealthy protagonists have to go to the office and work like normal people.
Her first series is a contemporary gothic, with a bigger, wilder canvas than her usual work.
The Bliss King is about an underworld drug lord who wants to go legit and the ghostwriter he kidnaps who his tame tribe think is the reincarnation of their most famous witch.
You wouldn’t normally find tame tribes and witch legends in an Ainslie Paton book.
AusRomToday: Why take the risk of breaking with reader’s expectations?
Amy: It’s not really a matter of risking for risks sake. I didn’t want to upset the applecart just to feed my ego. I didn’t do it to try something new or stretch my wings or see which envelope I could push. I like my comfort zone. But sometimes books and characters just come to you whether you like it or not. I think that’s the curse of being “creative”. That thing inside you—your creativity/muse, call it what you will—is by nature a wild and wily beast. Creative brains have a habit of getting creative on you whether it’s convenient or not!
Ainslie: The question of reader expectations is such a trick, especially as it’s said no two readers read the same book. Every book I write is a risk one way or another, a way of pushing myself to see if I can do better, create a more engaging, satisfying story. Every book a reader buys is a risk to a great or lesser extent, even from a favourite author. There’s only so much you can tell from a cover and the blurb. I’m still a relative newbie, I’m surprised anyone reads anything I’ve written. The hero in my August release is a mentally disturbed hermit. Being a writer is embracing risk.
AusRomToday: Why not write under an alternative author name?
Amy: Because, in a lot of respects, it’s not really that different to what I normally write. I’m not suddenly writing books about life-sucking, demented aliens where everyone dies grisly horrible deaths so why shouldn’t I give my readers a chance to go on a slightly different journey with me? I’m aware some readers don’t want to read anything different from me. They like the status quo. But I’d like to give them that choice and the opportunity to try it without confusing them with another name. I think romance readers are romance readers and if they’re a fan and as long as you give them the romance then they’re usually willing to go with you. Initially anyway….
Ainslie: That’s exactly what I was going to do. The Bliss King is more explicitly trope heavy than my other work. But then my beta readers and editor all said variations of “Hey, it’s still you, just with a twist,” so I settled on using my initials to signal that twist, so regular readers are tipped off that it might not be their cup of tea. The Bliss King comes out under AA Paton, but it’s still me, just serialised and more out there. It’s got the angst, the ensemble cast, and more than one happy ending.
AusRomToday: What was your inspiration?
Amy: There was no inspiration. Joy Valentine just literally walked into my head one day as a fully complete individual demanding her wacky woo woo story be told. I fought her for 2 years. I kept thinking, I don’t know how to write that book. Contemporary romance with lots of sex and kissing, medical romance with lots of sex and kissing—I knew how to write those books. So I kept soothing Joy with promises of one day. And suddenly last year, Joy wouldn’t be placated anymore. One project had just finished and I knew in my bones that Joy was next.
Dash’s character was probably a little more inspired by being a fan of Mike Hammer (the TV series) and Moonlighting when I was a teenager. I drew my inspiration for him from a lot of those old style pulp fiction detectives.
I think I was also a little inspired by the ongoing Stefanie Plumb series and how Stefanie is often times just bumbling around with no idea what she’s doing. And the ongoing intrigue with her and Joe/Ranger. I really wanted to write a book where the romance played out over several books and the push/pull of will they/won’t they.
Ainslie: I wish I knew. Or maybe I don’t. I knew I wanted to write something epic and a bit darker than usual. I wanted to experiment with a series and release it quickly and learn from that. But there was no specific lightning bolt.
AusRomToday: How is Limbo/The Bliss King different to your regular romances?
Amy: The most obvious difference is the noir/mystery/suspense/paranormal elements. Yeh… I know, that sounds a lot, right? I hesitate to really coin the novel as anything paranormal but there is a ghost so strictly speaking I guess it does fall into the realm of paranormal. It’s definitely more noir than paranormal with Joy and Dash working together and against the clock to solve a crime. None of my other books have any of those elements.
Ainslie: Despite being another hero-centric story, The Bliss King goes to places I wouldn’t normally go. The hero is a drug lord, an underground king. He has his own tame drug growing tribe who’ve been isolated in the jungle for generations. He kidnaps the heroine because he needs her skills. It sounds like it should be urban fantasy or paranormal but it’s contemporary. There are legends and superstitions, storms and strange animals, all the elements of a gothic tale, except it’s set current day and no one has any magical powers. (They wish!)
Find Amy’s upcoming release, Limbo, at Escape Publishing.
Find Ainslie’s The Bliss King here.
Part two of Amy and Ainslie’s chat about authors taking risks will be published at AusRom Today on Monday 11th May. Amy and Ainslie will be answering questions about what you can expect from their upcoming releases of Limbo and The Bliss King (respectively), happy endings and the structure of the series.