Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Toni Noel - Why I Write Romantic Suspense

Romantic suspense stories are my favorite, and the reason I write suspense, which never fails to shocks me, since I didn't like mysteries at all growing up. I didn't consider Zane Grey westerns mysteries. They were just stories about cowboys chasing cattle rustlers through dust canyons. Women seldom found their way into his novels.

I refrained from reading anything scary, avoided Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books like the mumps. I preferred the Bobbsey Twins. Now that I think about it, those books were mysteries, too, about trivial things disappearing while on vacation, then miraculously being found. Nothing scary. Never anything life threatening. I didn't read mysteries, but read everything else I could get my hands on. Historical novels and biographies were my favorite. What young girl didn't dream of marrying a Duke or a Prince?

Once I'd raised my family and found time to read again, a friend at work introduced me to books by LaVyrle Spencer and Kathleene Woodiwiss and I firmly believed I'd found my niche. I'd always planned to write when I retired, and now I knew what I'd write, novels about unlikely people meeting and falling in love, the same books I loved to read, romance novels about lost souls finding safe harbors for the heart.

I didn't discover romantic suspense until I stumbled on Heartbreaker, a novel by Karen Robards, a tale so scary I had to pop nitroglycerine tables every few minutes for stress-related chest pains, in order to finish the book. No way was I putting down that book until I'd read the last page. The author so completely reeled me in that I became the mother racing through the woods with my teenage daughter to escape the gun-toting bad guy on our trail. That's romantic suspense at its absolute best.

Law Breakers and Love Makers, my first romantic suspense Desert Breeze Publishing released, is best described as a roller coaster ride, where dramatic high points and bits of humor vie for the reader's attention in the hero's desperate race to keep the heroine safe.

Temp to Permanent, my June 1 release, also from Desert Breeze, didn't start out to be a romantic suspense, but unbeknownst to me the heroine ran into a former boyfriend a few days before the novel begins, and I didn't discover he was out for revenge until I'd written over a hundred pages. Thank goodness I'd characterized the hero as a man quite able to take on anything that came his way.

In my dark October release, Decisive Moments, there's romantic suspense of another kind. A determined photographer and a reclusive architect bump heads over her need to photograph a boarded up house he hasn't entered for years. The heroine's unexpected attempts to teach the hero to smile opens a chink in his armor that lets the heroine's five-year-old daughter slip through, and allows painful memories of the hero's devastating childhood to again monopolize his thoughts. Only love can heal his wounds and allow him to build a future for the three of them in a house he's refused to enter for most of his life.

Writing romantic suspense is far different from writing a contemporary romance. The writer has to think ahead and plant seeds of doubt while remembering to not make it so difficult the reader can't figure out who dunnit. Red herrings help, but the writer must simultaneously build the attraction between the hero and heroine even though they have a mystery to solve, and give the budding romance time to blossom before something really awful happens and spoils their fun. If they can catch the bad guy before someone dies, he's free to ask for her hand in marriage. Yes!

I like to think of It as a juggling act. How many story lines can I keep in the air without dropping one? So far my mysteries are straightforward, not convoluted like some I've read. I dearly love complicated plots, but am yet to plot one with lots of twists and turns, although one is simmering in the back of my mind.

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Nancy Kay said...


We seem to have more than one mutual interest! First the Bobbsey Twins, and now Kathleen Woodiwiss. I like the way you express how our romantic suspense characters often lead us on their personal journey. I look forward to reading your stories.


Toni Noel said...

Thanks for dropping in Nancy Kay. I think in my heroine's POV log after I've typed THE END, and often wonder if that happens to other writers.

Hope you enjoy my books.