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  1. Allison Brennan's Avatar
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    Default Welcome! What is romantic suspense?

    Hello everyone! Thank you so much to Coffee Time Romance for letting me be here for the next two weeks. Sorry about the delay yesterday--once I could figure out how to post, I had to head off to the high school graduation where my sophomore daughter was singing the National Anthem.

    It's been that kind of week for the last . . . month in the Brennan household! My youngest graduated from Kindergarten last Thursday, my #2 daughter graduated from 8th grade on Tuesday, and I've had numerous end of the year field trips, parties, and . . . a book due Monday!

    But now I'm here, and very happy to spend time talking with everyone about Romantic Suspense.

    For those who don't know me, I'm the author of 13 romantic suspense novels for Ballantine, the last one a paranormal romantic suspense/urban fantasy. I have a novella and three short stories (the last in the Horror Writers Anthology coming out this October.) I love romantic suspense--everything about it. My favorite thing about romantic suspense is that when the stakes are raised--when there's a killer on the loose, or a crime to solve, or a disaster to stop--that when someone you love is in danger, everything matters more. I love the pulse-pounding excitement of external conflict, and the nerve-wracking fear of internal conflict.

    Romantic suspense has become its own genre. Love and danger can be blended with any other genre to create something a little new and different. You can blend it with the supernatural, with historicals, science fiction, and yes even horror! You can write heavy on the romance or heavy on the suspense; you can write dark or light; you can be serious or humorous. There are so many things you can do with romantic suspense that it because a little overwhelming.

    Some people will say that romantic suspense must be 50/50 romance to suspense. I disagree. For Harlequin, they generally prefer a 50/50 or 40/60 suspense to romance blend, but even they have some flexibility. The important thing is to write what feels natural to you and go from there.

    So what is romantic suspense? Everyone has their own definition. Mine is: a suspense where two people work together (or parallel) to solve the crime or save the world, and fall in love (or back in love) in the process. There should be the promise of a happily ever after, or at least a growth in the relationship (this more in a continuing series) where the two characters resolve a conflict and are closer together by the end of the book.

    So Welcome! Introduce yourself, let me know what you're writing, and if you have any questions. I'll try to incorporate answers into my "lectures" (I really don't like that term!!!) or answer in the thread.
    Allison Brennan
    CARNAL SIN 6.22.10
    www.allisonbrennan.com
  2. lavagrl's Avatar
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    Hey Allison

    I write some mix of fantasy, suspense, mystery, and romance (and yes, I just lump it under fantasy because it's easier) so I'm looking forward to your seminar.

  3. #3

    Rolling Eyes Intro

    Hi - I'm Mary Ellen from Pennsylvania. Pub'd in non-fiction and one poem, but not in fiction. And not for want of trying. I lean toward writing thriller-romantic suspense. I write in a former Inn built in 1812 and work as a paralegal and restaurant owner. Looking forward to your posts.
  4. Dawn Chartier's Avatar
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    Allison,
    I'm in revisions on my first mystery romance novel, but my problem is I'm not sure how to go about dropping clues here and there. Do I give the readers enough clues so they can figure it out if they want to or just little tiny pieces that it makes it really hard to know who the killer is. I know this is geared more toward mystery romance, but I'm guessing its close enough...and one more small question. How many characters do you think should be in a mystery (romantic suspense) novel without it being "too" many people...or not enough..

    Thanks,
    Dawn Chartier
  5. Kellyann Zuzulo's Avatar
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    #5

    Smile Thanks for the guidance

    Hi Allison,
    Really appreciate the insight you're offering. I have a few paranormal romance novellas published with Sapphire Blue Publishing. I just finished my second novel length book. While the first was primarily a thriller--not focused so much on the relationship--I really geared this one toward being a romantic suspense -- so I found your definition helpful.

    My two main characters are on the fly (literally) trying to save their child and their respective species from obliteration. He's a genie, she's a human. I'm midway in rewrite mode and polishing some one-on-one scenes. Do you think there's a mainstream level of sex scene for a romantic suspense, or does it vary...just as it does in the romance genre in general.

    Thanks again,
    Kellyann
    btw, just started following you on twitter
    www.twitter.com/kfzuzulo
  6. KatieO's Avatar
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    #6

    Default Looking forward to this seminar

    Hi Allison-
    Looking forward to following this seminar. Love your books, and love the romantic suspense genre.

    My debut novel is a romantic suspense with a touch of paranormal, in that the heroine is a psychic and the story is populated with a lot of ghosts trying to help her. My second novel should come out this summer from Moongypsy Press, and is a romantic suspense with more emphasis on the romance.

    You mention that Harlequin likes to see 50/50 or 60/40 between romance and suspense - what do you think is the optimal mix?

    Thanks for taking the time to share your insights.

    Katie O'Sullivan
    Unfolding the Shadows, available from Cerridwen Press
    Perfect Strangers, coming soon from Moongypsy Press
  7. Allison Brennan's Avatar
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    Default reply to Katie

    Hi Katie!

    Psychic romantic suspense would be "light" paranormal in the sense that most readers will accept light paranormal in their standard reading material (psychics, ghosts--if not horror, etc.)

    I gave the Harlequin split because that's what I've heard from Harlequin authors--that in the romantic suspense lines (not superromance or other HQ lines) they like the more 50/50 split because they want the romance to be as important as the suspense to the overall story. Some authors write a little more romance, some a little more suspense, but HQ likes the balance because that's what their readers expect.

    In single title, you can you'll find a much broader range of romantic suspense titles, from heavy suspense (me, Mariah Stewart, Karen Rose) to more balanced (Linda Howard, JD Robb, Christy Reece, Cindy Gerard, Suzanne Brockmann) to a bit more on the romance side (Roxanne St. Claire, JoAnn Ross.) And "romance" doesn't mean "sex." Romance is how much time in the story is the relationship between the hero and heroine the focus of the story. You can have sexy RS and sweet RS -- Mariah Stewart, for example, writes very "light" (non-explicit) sex scenes and her suspense is dark. Roxanne St. Claire has a lot of romance and hotter sex scenes, but not erotic romance sex. Her suspense is more adventure than dark.

    I don't think there's one right way to write romantic suspense. I think there IS a right way FOR YOU. Write what comes natural. If you're forcing the relationship because you really want to write more suspense, that will come across in your writing. If you love the emotion and really don't like dark suspense elements, but try to write it, it'll fall flat.

    Every scene should advance the romance OR the suspense plot, or both. If you're adding paranormal elements, then the paranormal elements should either impact the relationship (in the heavy paranormal, like shape shifters, etc. would have a lot more impact on the relationship than, say, the demons I'm writing about in my seven deadly sins series which makes the plot/suspense more scary, but only tangentially effects the romance.)

    I hope that helps!
    Allison Brennan
    CARNAL SIN 6.22.10
    www.allisonbrennan.com
  8. Allison Brennan's Avatar
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    Default Reply to Kellyann

    Quote Originally Posted by Kellyann Zuzulo View Post
    Hi Allison,
    Do you think there's a mainstream level of sex scene for a romantic suspense, or does it vary...just as it does in the romance genre in general.
    Great name! My daughter is Kelly Ann (two words) . . ..

    The level of sex absolutely varies just like in romance. You can have hot, erotic romantic suspense (Shannon McKenna comes to mind) or light, non-explicit romantic suspense (Mariah Stewart.) And everything in between.

    In romantic suspense, my biggest pet peeve is when the characters have sex at an inopportune time--like when they're in immediate danger, or when they should be looking for a missing person, etc. No sex when bullets are flying!!! It isn't realistic. This doesn't mean that you can't have them caught unawares, but they really shouldn't expect that they are going to be caught. Or that they are in danger.

    This is probably why often in my books my characters have sex right AFTER something big happens, or in the middle of the night when they should be sleeping
    Allison Brennan
    CARNAL SIN 6.22.10
    www.allisonbrennan.com
  9. Allison Brennan's Avatar
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    Default Reply to Dawn

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawn Chartier View Post
    Allison,
    I'm in revisions on my first mystery romance novel, but my problem is I'm not sure how to go about dropping clues here and there. Do I give the readers enough clues so they can figure it out if they want to or just little tiny pieces that it makes it really hard to know who the killer is. I know this is geared more toward mystery romance, but I'm guessing its close enough...and one more small question. How many characters do you think should be in a mystery (romantic suspense) novel without it being "too" many people...or not enough..

    Thanks,
    Dawn Chartier
    Hi Dawn!!!

    These are hard questions. Why? Because there is no one right answer.

    If you're writing a mystery, there should be enough information in there that a sharp reader can figure out who did it. There's nothing that mystery readers hate more than the author pulling a fast one--meaning, not giving them the information they need. This doesn't mean you need to beat it over their head.

    I don't write straight mysteries, but my readers learn the important facts with the hero and/or heroine as they investigate the crime. Sometimes, they learn something that they don't realize is important until later. Or someone lies to them, but they don't realize that until they learn additional information. There's so many ways you can write this. In romantic suspense, the mystery aspect is usually secondary to the suspense, and usually savvy readers know who the bad guy is.

    I was once lambasted by a reviewer because they felt I didn't give any information as to who the killer was in one of my books, and just pulled the guy out of thin air. The ironic thing is I thought I gave too MUCH information. I went through the book (because I'm neurotic--most authors are--and feared she was right.) I found six places that gave clues as to who the killer was, but those clues had to be put together to see the whole picture. The killer was a cop, and there were three cops who were secondary characters to the story--herring part was (I thought) who the guilty guy was, NOT that he was a cop which was pretty obvious.

    You don't want to hand-hold your readers, but you want everything there somewhere!

    In terms of too many characters . . . there should be enough characters to tell the story. Some stories will naturally call for more characters; other stories won't. I tend to write with a large cast of characters, but I do take some out in edits if they truly don't contribute to the story.

    For example, in the book I just finished writing, I had a character--my heroine's brother--whose sole purpose (not intentional!) was to introduce the hero to the heroine. I didn't realize that, but I'd painstakingly put him in scenes where he really had nothing to do, and he sort of got lost. I took him out and everything worked beautifully. He was still (indirectly) the catalyst to bring the hero and heroine together. It was hard, though, because he's a favorite character! But I'll bring him back

    Another example is that in the same book, my editor felt that I had too many characters introduced too early, and that it would be hard for the reader to keep track. So I went through and cut two characters from chapter three which was a briefing scene in an FBI office. The characters still come in later, but they didn't have to be there so early. The chapter still worked well, and there was less to keep track of.

    So when you're editing, consider whether another character can take on some of the rolls of secondary characters who don't seem to add anything. I'm not talking about the people your characters meet in the course of an investigation--I love having those one-scene characters who walk in and the hero learns important information. Think LAW & ORDER. Elliott and Olivia go interview a guy, he gives important information, they go find a dead body. You never see the guy again, but you NEED him because how they find the information is important.

    I hope that helps!
    Allison
    Allison Brennan
    CARNAL SIN 6.22.10
    www.allisonbrennan.com

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