Friday, 3 March 2017

From romance to thriller: the evolution of DEAD HOPE

How does a romance writer get into thrillers, you might ask? It’s a good question, and here’s what happened.

DEAD HOPE was born with the working title of “Deep Cover”. When the idea came to me, I was planning to write a romance—my eighth, in fact—featuring rock stars, and the key nugget of my idea was this: what would happen if you transplanted a world-famous rock star into an office job like you and me might hold down? Moreover, what would happen if you removed that rock star from their natural habitat, the glittering metropolis, and placed them into a sleepy rural town? Romantic and comedy ideas flowed galore. I sat down and started weaving all these ideas together. But there was one central question I couldn’t answer: Why. Why would this whole thing happen? What would bring the rock star to the office job in the middle of nowhere?

To come up with an answer, I did a spider map of all the possible scenarios that could have got the rock star into his unusual circumstances. I allowed myself to really think out of the box, and suddenly one scenario jumped out at me that turned the plot entirely on its head. Funny how a small idea can prompt a cataclysmic change! My hero turned into a heroine, and while she’s the daughter of a famous rock star couple, she isn’t a celebrity in her own right. At that point, the romance theme was still dominant.

I finished planning and started writing. And as soon as I started writing, the thriller and crime ideas just took off. This baby wanted to be something completely different from what I had envisaged, so I had to abandon writing and re-plan. I went deep on the logistics of my core crime, my mystery, and I learned quite a bit about court and police procedures and forensics, more so than is evident in the story but lots of stuff that’ll come in handy in my next stories. In this way, DEAD HOPE turned from a romantic suspense into a crime thriller with a strong romance subplot.

Apart from the theme, there are a few key differences between a romance novel and a thriller. The pacing of a thriller is much faster; the plot is much tighter, and there are many more twists and the infamous “red herrings.” The crime author needs to have a lot more factual knowledge if the story is to be plausible, and therefore I did stacks of research on the British court and policing systems, coroner’s procedures, and forensics. I learned a lot more than I ended up using in the book, but I achieved my goal of getting the basics right. I also discovered that quite a lot of the technology we see portrayed in spy and crime thriller movies doesn’t actually work as advertised, notably thermal imaging. If, say, you wanted to know how many people are inside a specific room inside a warehouse, you actually have to go in and see. Thermal imaging cannot “see” through brick walls; a person’s heat signature is not strong enough to permeate that level of insulation. Next time you see that done in a movie, you can smile to yourself and think, aha, gotcha!

Let me just say that DEAD HOPE isn’t full of blood or gore. I don’t do that kind of stuff. Obviously there is some—a crime has been committed after all, but the focus of the story is for Cat and Kay to puzzle out the mystery. As such, it’s a lot more Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton, although I am no match for these ladies’ respective geniuses. Or am I? Why don’t you be the judge?

Will I write more thrillers? Absolutely! Crime and mystery is my favourite genre to read, and I’ve developed a real appetite for writing it myself. Watch this space, but first up, I hope you enjoy DEAD HOPE, and I would love to hear what you think.


The pros and cons of writing in different genres

“Hi, my name is Nicky Wells. I’m an author of rock romance who’s just thrown all caution to the wind and published a thriller, and it’s really scary.”

The thriller is scary, obviously; it’s designed to be. But the really scary thing for me was making a somewhat unexpected departure from my “home” genre, which was romance and romantic comedy.

I didn’t set out to write a thriller, suspense and crime story. “Dead Hope” was born as a romantic comedy, but the core idea of the plot grew into something different altogether as I was honing it, ironing out kinks, and answering the big motivational questions for my characters.

So why did I run with it? The answer is simple: because I was fascinated by the intrigue and the suspense, because I got carried away, and because I wanted to see if I could pull it off. I read a lot of crime and thrillers, and the genre has always swept me away, so perhaps it was inevitable that I should have tried my hand at writing it myself eventually.

Departing from your “home” genre has its advantages and disadvantages. At first blush, the disadvantages seem many. One of the biggest decisions, and one I wrestled with for some time, was whether to write under the same name or whether to assume a different pen name. Assuming a different pen name would imply starting from scratch in the wild and fast-moving world of social media, and that truly is a daunting task. On the other hand, it would clearly differentiate one genre rom the other and signal to readers to expect a different kind of book. Remaining with the existing author brand, in marketing terms, could be devastating. What if your existing readers don’t like your change of direction? That was why publishing a thriller was a scary venture for me.

As you can see, I stayed with my existing pen name, although I made some adjustments to my brand, the different style of book cover being a case in point. The advantages of doing so were huge: my existing readers were waiting for a book, and I was able to deliver. My existing social media networks and marketing relationships remained intact, albeit with some readjustments.

But I strongly believe the biggest advantage of trying out a different genre is that it is a big win for my readers. By default, cross fertilisation between genres makes for interesting and unique outcomes. Plus, I’ve had to explore and master a different level of pacing, and I’ve had to conceive of, manage, and sustain a far more complicated plot than previously. I’ve done very different kinds of research to give my subject matter teeth and veracity. In other words, I feel I’ve honed my authorcraft through the course of this thriller, and this will come to bear on future romance novels I may write. And lastly, even though the genre may be different, I’ve kept my voice—or at least, so my test readers have told me. Applying my own distinctive style to a different subject matter may help ease my readers into a genre that perhaps they may not have tried otherwise, and hopefully they will enjoy the journey and go exploring further. So trying a different genre could be—should be—a win-win for the author as well as the reader.

Reactions and reviews this far suggest that my existing readership is absorbing “Dead Hope” with enthusiasm and enjoyment, and I’ve had messages letting me know that I kept readers up all night because they simply had to know what was happening. Result! But really, now it’s up to you to judge, and I’d love to hear what you think.


Cat Hope doesn’t want to go to prison. She needs a job, and she needs it fast: judge’s orders.

Kay Mahon, office worker by day and hacker by night, is on the run from a past life that he’d rather not remember.

When their paths cross, they discover that the night that derailed Cat’s future nineteen long years ago also changed the path of Kay’s life. Confused and intrigued, they begin to investigate the truth behind the deaths of the successful rock star couple Jackie and Adam Hope. Little do they know that their quest is putting Cat in grave danger. 

About Nicky Wells: Love & Thrills

Nicky Wells writes captivating romance and breathtaking thrillers featuring famous (or infamous!) feisty heroes and extraordinary villains. DEAD HOPE is her eighth book and the first published novel in her “Wake Up Dead” themed thriller series, with the next two books scheduled for release through the course of 2017 and 2018. Nicky has previously published seven works of romantic fiction both with US publishing house, Sapphire Star Publishing, and independently.

Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. She loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s hopelessly addicted to reading crime novels by the truck load.



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Prize 1: £10.00 Amazon voucher and 1 signed bookmark
Prize 2: £5.00 Amazon voucher and 1 pen
Prize 3: 1 mug, 1 signed bookmark, 1 pen
Prize 4: 1 mug

5 runner up prizes: signed bookmarks

1 comment:

  1. Good morning, Simona! Thank you so much for hosting me with a guest post as part of my launch tour for Dead Hope this morning, I'm delighted to be here. Here's wishing good luck to all giveaway entrants, and Happy Reading to everyone who picks up a copy of Dead Hope. Have a great day! XX :-D