My British corporate thrillers are 99% about emotions, of which love and hate are the headiest of all. As we approach St Valentine’s Day, love is all around us, served up with red hearts, fizz (the pinker the better) and soft-centred chocolates. Poor old St Val could never have predicted the events and gifts industry that would grow around the anniversary of his death. While love is in the air, cash is jingling through the tills. For instance, February 14th is the one day of the year when restaurants are guaranteed to make a killing. “Let’s phone up and book a table for three,” my partner hissed subversively. “They’ll never cope with that.” I imagined an eaterie dominated by a single noisy ménage a trois among the cosy diners a deux – and I bottled it, not least because we’d have to find a third cynic to join us. We’ll leave the jam-packed restaurants to the lovers and hopefuls; ditto the cards and gifts. For their manufacturers, St Val is a welcome opportunity to make money – in fact, literally a licence to print it…
As a thriller writer, I appreciate St Valentine’s Day more for the opportunity it presents to move a plot forward, as love blossoms at the water cooler. It’s not just about sweet, sugar-coated romance, either. The anonymous presents and cards bestowed on cheating Gemma in thriller Up In Smoke set tongues wagging, and posed a problem – had her partner sent the chocolates or the flowers to her office? She dealt with her dilemma very cleverly, telling her partner they were so gorgeous, she left them at work so everyone could enjoy them with her… Similarly, thriller After The Interview explores Jed’s enduring passion for music and a beautiful flute player, although it’s played out against a backdrop of double-crossing corporate deal-makers and murderers.
I’ll be exploring the darker boundaries of love even further with Donna Marie Finn’s Hearts of Darkness event in Birmingham tomorrow evening, joining other British writers to read live fiction at Brewsmiths Coffee & Tea. Bright, warm and welcoming as it is, the venue has a sinister edge, tucked away under railway arches in the newly fashionable Jewellery Quarter. Donna has organised several events like this, and they’re always great fun. I love being entertained by other writers’ terrific tales, I adore meeting readers, and Andrew and Angela from Brewsmiths can bask in the warm glow of supporting the cultural scene. They make cracking cakes as well. I’ve written a short story set in Birmingham especially for Hearts of Darkness.
If you’re in the Midlands tomorrow, why not join us? Entry is free (book your free ticket here), there’s unlimited free street parking, and you’re guaranteed a great time.
UPDATE 10th February 2015:
Thanks to everyone who came along to Brewsmiths last night. It was a great evening, with some fantastic stories of obsession, revenge and jealousy – definitely the darker side of love. Special thanks to authors Ali Elsey, Heide Goody, Andrew Killeen, Giselle Thompson and Adrian Middleton – it was a privilege to join you all on stage.