Using Undercurrents to Lift a Story

What do I mean by undercurrents? I write women’s fiction, mainly romance, so each story has an exploration of love at its core and the promise of a Happy Ever After at its end. But I want each book to have its own unique sense of atmosphere – that almost intangible, often emotional, awareness that stays with you long after you have finished the book. While this is created by a number of different factors, such as the plot, the style of writing, the setting, the personalities of the characters, the weather and so on, there is a subtler tool that you can also employ.threadsMost people refer to this as a motif: imagery or symbolism that is repeated throughout a narrative. I call it an undercurrent because of the way it weaves and threads its way through a story, like a secret message, often hinting at something sinister or unexpected to come.undercurrentsFor example in Kindred Hearts, the undercurrent I chose was water – not the refreshing, life-giving aspect of the element, but rather the lurking, conductive, slippery power of water and its potential threat. Near the start of the book my characters are innocently playing in the water as children, but as the story progresses the water resurfaces, several times and with varying degrees of menace – like waves eating away at sand – right through to the epilogue. It isn’t a theme I expect a reader to consciously pick up on, but my hope is that it underpins the atmosphere and helps tie the story together.

seedlingsSo what other motifs tease a reader’s subconscious? Aside from the remaining three elements (earth, air and fire), there are an unlimited variety of objects, actions, sounds, colours and phrases that can be employed as symbols. For instance in Safe With Me I use plants to echo my main characters’ struggle to put down roots and grow, and in the second book of my Wildham series, Before We Fall (due to be published August 2018) I use the colour scarlet to hint at blood, sex and death.scarlet motifThere is often more than one undercurrent running through a story, and if you are a writer you may find that they develop naturally through your writing anyway, but I suspect the key is to be both subtle and consistent.

Which undercurrents run through your favourite book?

Cover Reveal – Safe With Me

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to share the brand new cover for my latest book with you – I think you’ll agree Accent Press have done me proud!

Safe With Me by Grace Lowrie

An emotional and evocative story about the deepest bonds of friendship.
Abandoned as children, Kat and Jamie were inseparable growing up in foster care. But their bond couldn’t protect them forever.
From a troubled upbringing to working in a London greasy spoon, Kat’s life has never been easy. On the surface Jamie’s living the high-life, but appearances can be deceiving.
When they unexpectedly reunite, the bond they share becomes too intense to ignore. But as secrets come back to haunt them, are they destined to be separated once more?
Perfect for fans of Hilary Boyd and Nicholas Sparks.

Safe With Me, a standalone novel and the first in The Wildham Series, will be published in both paperback and e-book on 22nd June 2017 – in time for the summer holidays – and is already available to pre-order online here:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071F2QZB7

A massive thank you to the team at Accent Press for all their hard work in bringing this book to life!

Ten Favourite Book Romances

I enjoy reading a wide range of fiction in a variety of different genres and my favourite authors range from Iain Banks to Sarah Waters; Chuck Palanhiuk to George R.R. Martin; and Kate Atkinson to Stieg Larsson. But I write Women’s Fiction and mainly Romance so I’ve come up with a list of ten favourites.10 Fave Book RomancesWhile not all are classed as ‘Romances’ these books contain love stories that inspire me. I am drawn to those with an unusual quirk to them, a sinister edge or a tragic undercurrent – traits that I try to bring to my own work. To narrow down the selection I’ve excluded fave classics such as Pride and Prejudice, and focused on those published within my lifetime. (The list is arranged alphabetically, because that was easier than trying to order them by preference).

Archers_VoiceArcher’s Voice by Mia Sheridan

Archer Hale, the tortured male lead in this story, is both original and beautifully compelling and the main reason this book made such an impression on me. Bree Prescott is a girl with her own problems, but has the right combination of skill and determination, to draw Archer out of his shell.

AtonementAtonement by Ian McEwan

A masterfully written book, by one of my favourite authors, which starts in 1935 and takes us on through the Second World War. The potential relationship between Cecilia and Robbie, is witnessed second-hand through the eyes of Cecilia’s younger sister Briony, and yet it is as romantic, powerful and moving as any I’ve ever read.

ControlControl by Charlotte Stein

I’m a huge fan of this author’s work – she has a distinctive, almost neurotic style of writing, which quickly becomes addictive. This is the story of a woman torn between two, very different, potential lovers and the book is both erotically charged and laugh-out-loud funny in places. I can’t recommend it enough.

Gabriels_InfernoGabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

For those who like a bit of taboo, this explores the relationship between a university professor and his student, and has a deliciously Gothic feel; woven out of literary themes of sin, hell and spiritual love. I must admit I didn’t enjoy the second book in this series as much, but I highly recommend this first one.

Night_OwlNight Owl by M. Pierce

This book also features an enigmatic male lead, in the form of reclusive writer Matt Sky, who is as bold and darkly intriguing as he is secretive. This book is the first in a trilogy, and although I’ve yet to read the third, I definitely recommend the first two.

One_DayOne Day by David Nicholls

The quirk of this book is how it cleverly follows the relationship between two people over twenty years, but only on the same day of each year. The characters of Emma and Dexter are brilliantly written and believable and the story moved me to tears.

On_The_IslandOn The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

The enduring appeal of this gem of a book for me, aside from the main characters being stranded together on a desert island, is the unusual dynamic between the two – Anna is thirteen years older than TJ and was due to be his tutor before they found themselves marooned. But as they struggle to survive, with only each other to rely on, the years pass and their relationship strengthens and deepens.

OutlanderOutlander by Diana Gabaldon

A gripping time-slip novel set in rugged Scotland. Claire, the heroine, is feisty and determined, and Jamie Fraser – a true hero in every sense of the word – is perhaps my favourite leading male character of all time. I don’t usually choose to read historical novels, generally preferring a contemporary atmosphere, but I am in awe of this author’s epic work and am currently reading the eighth book in this phenomenal series.

The_Bridges_Of_Madison_CountyThe Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

I first devoured this book, in one sitting, when I was just a teenager and I have never forgotten it. The poignant story of two people who meet and have a brief tender affair in middle age, is as memorable for its quietly beautiful setting, as it is for the fact it made me cry.

The_Time_Travelers_WifeThe Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

An enduring favourite and one of those books that really made me want to write. Henry is a sporadic time traveller but with no control over his ability, which often leads him to some dark places. The journey of Clare and Henry’s unusual relationship (she has known him since she was a child) is deeply emotional and told from both points of view.

What are your ten favourite book romances?

Apologies to Librarians

Hello world – welcome to my new website and my first blog post!
I’ve finally got this sorted because it’s Easter weekend (time off from the day job) and quite frankly I needed a break from my WIPs.

writer, Grace LowrieDon’t get me wrong, I love writing – nothing beats being sat at the keyboard letting my imagination pour out onto the page like glorious fresh wet paint. But then I have to go back and coax some order out of the chaos – get right in there up to the elbows, move things about and check every last detail makes sense – and that can be messy. I’m currently working on three separate novels with overlapping time-lines and reoccurring characters, so the editing process is proving to be even more complicated and protracted than usual. But hey, the end is almost in sight!

As you’ve probably gathered, I write stories – mainly romance – but like most writers I’m also an avid reader. I tend to prefer the pure escapism of fiction and generally something with a touch of darkness. Whether it’s a thriller, sci-fi, historical, contemporary, horror, crime, supernatural or romance, it makes no difference. I do enjoy a good bit of humour, but I’ll take a sinister undercurrent over chick-lit any day. Not sure what that says about me, but probably best not to dwell on it.

I have too many favourite authors to list and I hate the idea of leaving someone wonderful out, so here is a random selection from one of my blue shelves:blue books, Grace Lowrie

Yes, rather than organising my books in alphabetical order or by genre, I display them by spine colour for a cheerful rainbow effect – a habit which no doubt horrifies Librarians the world over, and often makes locating a certain book difficult. What can I say? It must be the installation artist in me. Unfortunately some of my best loved books are relegated to the bedroom floor, where they form three wobbly stacks in the corner; because who wants to look at a shelf full of black book spines?

So anyway, that’s a bit about me, what about you? Do feel free to say hello, I promise I don’t bite.

Brighton beach, Grace Lowrie