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Unnatural: my first friends-to-lovers book
When Susan and I were arranging this post, she suggested I talk about the friends-to-lovers aspect of Unnatural. And I thought…oh yeah – it is a friends-to-lovers book, isn’t it?
And then I thought: you know what, this is my very first FTL book! I have never written a FTL story before—normally I am all about the enemies. How the hell did this one slip through the net?
It’s probably to do with the origin of the story. When I wrote Seasons Pass (available free here) I deliberately wrote a mysterious little encounter between Iain (already an established character in the Enlightenment universe) and a new character called, simply, “James”. And when I say mysterious, I mean that in a very personal sense: at the time I wrote that little confrontation, I had no idea about Iain and James’ history. I put words in their mouths without knowing what they were talking about. I had them allude to events that were unknown to me.
And then I worked back.
It was a puzzle, and it was a fun. And eventually I had a storyline I liked, and characters that fit with the whole enlightenment theme. Characters who had been friends since childhood. Who knew each other inside out and who were already completely emotionally entwined. And it was then I realised – the FTL trope gives you a completely different emotional dynamic to work with as an author. The characters have a pre-existing intimacy that new-to-each-other characters can’t possibly share. They have a deep understanding of each other’s history and family circumstances.
That realisation led to another one, about the possibilities this presented—that I could literally show Iain and James learning about each other through a series of significant events as they happened. Of course, to really maximise the power of that, I’d have to structure the story in such a way that the reader would be going back-and-forth in time…Well, I’ve never liked to make things too easy for myself.
So, that’s how it came about – the back-and-forth narrative and the FTL aspect. And just thinking about all that has made me reflect on my own favourite FTL books. So, here are a few of them. I’d love to hear yours:
All Kinds of Tied Down by Mary Calmes (another Iain! And wonderful loved-by-everyone-even-a-scary-psychopath Miro)
The Dangerous Ground series by Josh Lanyon (Will and Taylor are both fantastic, but especially Taylor (you bad, dirty boy). I still keep waiting for David Bradley to get a book though…)
Promises by Marie Sexton (a fabulous Out For You story – I particularly love how Jared is such a macho hardass mountain biker)
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell (so good, so wrenching. Mikey and Nunzio, gah!)
Trust the Focus by Megan Erikson (lovely, heartfelt NA that warmed the cockles of my heart).
Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. In between studying, finding a proper grown up job, getting married and having kids, she spent many hours staring at blank sheets of paper and chewing pens. That changed when she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna’s muse likes red wine, coffee and won’t let Joanna clean the house or watch television.
Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter.
Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down.
James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another.
In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.