As well as being half way through my ChocLit feature week, it also happens to be ChocLit’s birthday. Happy birthday ChocLit! Today I am featuring Laura E James who writes for the Dark Choc imprint. Dark ChocLit still has a love story at its heart but with a darker edge to it. Laura has written a guest post about her book, What Doesn’t Kill You. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for your chance to win a copy but if you’re not the lucky winner, you can order a copy here: What Doesn’t Kill You
Thanks to the publishers I have an e-copy of the book to giveaway so make sure you click the link below to find out how to enter. This giveaway is open internationally. All giveaways this week are open until midnight (UK time) on Sunday 19th June.
The Dark Side
My writer’s tag, ‘Romance without the soft edges,’ appeared in its original form, ‘A love story without the soft edges,’ from a review of my debut novel, Truth or Dare? It struck a chord with me. It summed up my style of romance writing perfectly. Having obtained permission from the reviewer, it became my tag and a great way for me to describe my novels.
I enjoy reading and writing about complex characters, tangled situations and moral dilemmas. I love researching my characters traits and personalities and pitching unlikely heroes and heroines against one another to discover their imperfections make them a perfect match, and I’m interested in the dynamics within families which these days come in many configurations, but as a romance writer, while I take the reader down treacherous paths, I know they and my characters will see a happy or hopeful journey’s end.
Books 1 and 2 in the standalone Chesil Beach series both explore dark themes. Truth or Dare? asks at what point is a person compelled to do the wrong thing for the right reason, what led them to that point, and are we products of our past? Follow Me Follow You, although lighter in tone, examines the dysfunctional relationship between the heroine, Victoria, and her four-year-old son, Seth, the effect a tragedy can have on a family ‒ Chris and Rick Frampton, and how the troubled and injured parties can heal.
The third and most recent in the series, What Doesn’t Kill You, is the darkest in tone. It is the first title to be released under Choc Lit’s Dark imprint – compelling, emotional, hard-hitting novels. Not your typical romance story.
With WDKY, I wanted to explore a broken relationship, see what tore the couple apart, and work out how they would go about repairing the rift. The question I kept asking was, will the hero and heroine be stronger as a result of everything they go through?
The right to die is a current and hotly debated issue and I wanted to examine the effect that has on a family, especially a family where the hero, Griff, values life above all else, and the heroine, Evie, only feels validated when helping people. Their differing views create immediate conflict. How would they cope knowing a family member wants to die?
The character of Tess, Evie’s fifteen-year-old daughter, arrived almost fully formed. She is a troubled teen who self-harms. When I researched this aspect, starting by asking for advice from a good friend who is a cognitive behaviour therapist, I was shocked at the extent of injuries caused by self-harm. I remember messaging my expert friend and replying I needed time for the information to percolate. At that point I had to either commit to the story or drop the issue, but I was so moved by what I’d read, I knew it was going to be an issue in the book. I was aware I couldn’t go into much detail as to the mechanics of self-harming as I didn’t want the story to be a trigger, and I appreciated the subject had to be handled with sensitivity.
As a conscientious writer, although I write fiction, I try to ensure authenticity when presenting issues. I don’t wish to mislead the reader and so I must present the facts. As with Tess’s self-harming, I was conscious and cautious of how far to go, but the basics were founded on research. That alone meant the story was likely to deviate down a dark alley.
Having researched and gained a firm understanding of an issue, I need to create a backstory. In WDKY, the questions I asked were: why does Tess self-harm? Why does a family member want to die? Why does Griff value life above all else? What is it in Evie that pushes her to help people regardless of its negative effect on her?
These questions led to more research as I investigated the potential reasons, none of which made for light reading. The deeper I delved, the darker it got. The darker it became, the more I was moved.
I realise, in the writing of this post, that if I’m moved and affected by an issue, it becomes a subject about which I wish to write.
I’ve been fortunate that my mum was an open thinker and would discuss all sorts of topics with me, and often we could see light in dark areas. I can continue to explore dark themes, put my characters through the emotional mill, and watch them come out the other side safe and sound, all from the safety of my desk, situated in my bright, sunny, yellow (Egyptian Gold) kitchen.
Blurb for What Doesn’t Kill You
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – but how strong can one person be?
Griff Hendry knows what it is to be strong. After a turbulent past, he’s dedicated himself to saving lives, working as a coastguard along the breath-taking shores of Dorset. It’s Griff’s belief that everyone is worth saving – which is why he can’t forgive his father, Logan, for what he did.
Griff’s future is plunged into uncertainty when his wife, Evie, tells him she wants a separation. The revelation is a shock and leads Griff to question what Evie could possibly be hiding – and she isn’t the only one holding back. Griff’s troubled stepdaughter, Tess, also harbours a dark secret.
As the truth is uncovered, Griff is forced to accept that perhaps he’s never understood what real strength is.
Book 3 – Chesil Beach Series.
About Laura E. James
Laura is married and has two children. She lives in Dorset, but spent her formative years in Watford, a brief train ride away from the bright lights of London. Here she indulged her love of live music, and, following a spectacular Stevie Nicks gig, decided to take up singing, a passion that scored her second place in a national competition.
Laura is a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, a member of her local writing group, Off The Cuff, and an editor of the popular Romaniacs blog.
Laura was runner-up twice in the Choc Lit Short Story competitions. Her story Bitter Sweet is to be released in the forthcoming Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Anthology to be published in 2014. Truth or Dare, Laura’s debut novel, is shortlisted for the 2014 Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Award.