Balancing the External Plot: Witchmark

romance writers chat graphic what do they do besides kissThis week on #RWchat, we’re discussing the non-romance plots in our romance novels. In other words, what do the characters do other than kiss? Author C.L. Polk talks about balancing a mystery plot, a fantasy world, and romance in her upcoming novel, Witchmark.

How did you come up with the non-romance plot?

I knew I wanted to write a romance plot, but I really wanted them to have an adventure while they fell in love even though Tristan and Miles are from very different worlds. It took a long time trying to put the pieces of the story together because it’s a mystery that reveals terrible secrets at the end. I had some images firmly in my mind, like Miles’ tiny office at work and Tristan’s townhouse full of mirrors. The story didn’t come together until I had a vision of Miles being horrified, watching his fellow soldiers marching in their victory parade. When I figured out why, all the pieces fell into place, and I was ready.

What do they do besides kiss?

Miles and Tristan work together to unravel the mystery of a poisoned patient Tristan brings to Miles’ hospital. Between them, they expose a deep conspiracy that hides despicable actions taken for the sake of the country’s prosperity and power. Daring, audacious Tristan goads the more cautious Miles into breaking and entering, chasing suspects on bicycles, stealing mail, posing as legitimate investigators while nosing around the victim’s workplace, and faking their way into an insane asylum in pursuit of the truth.

How does the non-romance plot affect the romance?

Honestly, I think it does the same thing all romances do: It pushes them together, and the close proximity means that their feelings and attraction get stirred up. It gives the story a ticking clock–they only have so much time to solve the mystery, and the deadline along with their interpersonal resistance to falling in love creates tension between them. It’s just that the non-romance plot is big enough to be considered an equal plot in the story, instead of a secondary consideration.

What elements of the non-romance plot didn’t make it into the book?

There were entire scenes cut and re-written because they were throwing off the balance, but I didn’t leave out anything huge…in fact I had to add things, because my first draft came up short. Really short. I was trying to write a romance novel and a mystery novel in a fantasy world, and I didn’t want to relegate the romance to the “B” plot, the way so many non-romance stories do.

What’s next for the sequel?

The consequences of Miles and Tristan learning the truth behind Nick Elliot’s murder reach across the nation and into Tristan’s world. Dealing with the aftermath of Miles’ final decision falls to his ambitious sister Grace, who will need all the help she can get to set things right. Some are unwilling to wait for reform and incremental change. Others see Grace as an upstart and an obstacle in their own path to power. Between controlling devastating winter storms with magic and managing the power-hungry aristocrats who vie the highest seats of government, Grace has to watch her back before someone sticks a knife in it. Maybe literally.

Join us for a Twitter chat on the non-romance plot this Sunday, June 18th, at 7pmEST/4pmPST! Follow along with #RWchat.

chelsea_picC.L. Polk is in a love triangle with fantasy and romance. After short story sales and contributing to the web serial SHADOW UNIT, she’s written fantasy and contemporary romance novels. She lives in southern Alberta. Her debut novel WITCHMARK will be published in 2018 by She is repped by Caitlin McDonald of Donald Maass Literary Agency. Find her on Twitter at @clpolk.

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