• West Cork Literary Festival 2021

Is There a Place For The Love Interest In A Thriller? by Lissa Olivier

Writing.ie | Member Blog

illustrating a romantic kiss

Lissa Oliver

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‘Where’s your love interest?’ asked the agent.

She was already highly put out that I, a woman writer, was presenting a sports-based novel with, god forbid, a man as its hero. I don’t pick up books with pink or pale blue covers and I certainly don’t want to write one, but I persevered.
‘He has enough on his mind, a love interest wouldn’t fit the plot,’ I pointed out.
‘Nonsense, you can’t have a main character without a love interest, write one in,’ she snapped, before telling me that she couldn’t market a sporting thriller anyway about a man, written by a woman. Fortunately it took a man to be less discriminatory and my subsequent publisher accepted both it and the next two sporting thrillers featuring heroes not heroines.

My characters are my invisible friends and frankly I prefer hanging out with good-looking young men far more than I like keeping company with strong feisty heroine types. Love interest? That’s like sharing him with another woman! But one thing she had said did strike a chord.
‘Love is such a powerful dramatic tool. It makes characters behave irrationally and take risks. You must have it.’
Maybe so, but I don’t do romance. Our wedding song for our first dance was high speed punk by Siouxsie And The Banshees. And yet… I dwelt on her words, first indignantly and then with the interest of an author. I liked the sound of irrational risk-taking. If that was what love could do, imagine the cruel havoc I could wreak with unrequited love!

So in Chantilly Dawns Marcel was introduced to Madeleine. He was indeed in no fit state mentally to have any interest in her, but she had a dangerous interest in him, given that her father was the prime suspect in his downfall. I could just picture her father’s face, meeting a bath-robed Marcel at breakfast in Madeleine’s house; all I had to do was write him there. Actually – plot-spoiler alert! – I wrote him there, but he contrived to spend the night conked out on her sofa, a little to her disappointment. But, yes, he fulfilled my wishes by inducing apoplexy in her loathsome father.
Romance may not be my thing, but this pang of heart business was a brilliant find. It was planned in advance for Pete, my Gala Day hero, and Sophie was made for him. Well, actually she’d been made for someone else who kept haunting me for a story, but this realistically seemed Sophie’s only chance to be brought to life. I gave a nod to The Other Man and put him in her past as she and Pete did all the right moves. Pete wasn’t brave, but fought like a hero to protect her. There was definitely something in this love interest malarkey.

So who was that boy in Sophie’s past who had haunted me from the moment I’d created Marcel? Dominic was a complex character and there were many threads needing to be woven before he could become a main player in Sainte Bastien. Several of those threads included love. I was really getting the hang of its power now and the emotional torture it could inflict. Unrequited, tainted, lost, longed for – there were endless possibilities and not a hint of romance among any of them.

Romance? No thank you; but love interest? They don’t call it interest for nothing!

(c) Lissa Oliver

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