Going Dark Romance

Is there a lie behind the lighter romance?

by Jack L. Pyke

Cover Reveal for Shaded ChainsI’ve got to admit, the following reader question had me chuckling for a while, but it’s a wicked way to start off the Shaded Chains tour, especially when underpinning why we choose what we do when it comes to writing, in my case dark (okay, very dark) psychological thriller romance.

Debra: Will we ever see a fluffy, happy read from you – not that I am complaining about what you write AT ALL, but I wonder what a sappy, happy romance from you would look like.

Light… happy… Sure, I can do that, right? I’m flexible? *Nervous grin*

The short and curlies behind this is that light and happy terrify me much worse than some of the content I handle, and I’ve handled some very extreme real-life and on-page situations that wouldn’t see me published in most mainstream markets: from twists on an already horrendous rape-to-straight culture, psychological reconditioning, domestic abuse, murder, grief, torture, and death. Even with Shaded Chains and following a more contemporary BDSM lifestyle for Ross and Alex, it touches on how life darkens for caregivers when it comes to family and family members in care. But come to the light and happier portrayal…?

I’m always waiting for that fall that’s hidden around the corner, for that darker element to shade life. I can handle those darker elements head-on as they unfold because they’re a reflection of life as I understand it, but when things are going good, there’s that deep-rooted fear that something’s always there to screw it up, but it’s hiding from me. So there’s that lack of trust on my part that life can ever be fluffy and happy, that the lighter side is just playing mind-games with you by not telling you how life’s going to get darker.

I think it basically comes down to the known and unknown, to how I don’t really see happy and light without the darker edges, and if it does have only happy and light edges, then there’s a lie there somewhere.

Because of that, I make my characters hurt, sometimes in the most extreme emotional ways that have had readers loving or loathing what I do. But that hurt is there because that’s when the romance really comes to life for me: it’s honest, it’s raw, it’s exposed, and it’s going through situations that take away the lie that life is light and happy. It’s just life.

But there’s a flip side here too. With running with dark romance, to hit that realistic note, the lighter side to romance needs a firm place to counterbalance the darker shades, simply because of all that ‘you can’t have one without the other’ outlook. And I think that’s what makes a good dark romance novel, that for all the darker shades, the lighter has that “Christ, I just need to know if they can come through all this shit together” draw. But even that final element is never black and white; it has its own shades.

So in a way, I’m always doing light and happy, but just as I see how they fit into the realities of life, as I see life. There’s always a balance that helps take away that fear of the unknown for me, how light and happy needs to come with the fall, because there’s always one there, as much as there’s always that lighter shade to pull you back out of that fall when it does happen. *whispers* I just like to see where the fall comes and how it plays out, so darker romance will always be the choice for me—because there’s nothing scarier than light and happy without those darker, meaner shades playing out on page, where I can see them. And I have to admit, I love those darker, meaner shades that look at the realities of life head-on.

Huge thanks to Debra for this fantastic question, and also to ForbiddenFiction for hosting my 1st day of my seven-day tour with Shaded Chains. Commenting here along with entering the giveaway will also give you extra chances at winning a copy of Shaded Chains, so please say hi below, if you wish. Tomorrow I’m at Kimmer’s Erotic Book Banter, going Scottish Horror and looking at the Shaded Chains setting and why I love the Many Horrors I found in Scotland.  Please check out the darker shades there too!


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