One of the questions I get asked the most when talking about the Rookery Rogues with readers is how I’m able to work in stories of suspense alongside the romance. I dabble in reading contemporary romantic suspense, but in truth my love for the grittier elements came from my intense love for Agatha Christie. Growing up, I read every one of Christie’s Poirot mysteries, often times more than once. Of course, my favorite is Murder on the Links, in which Captain Hastings falls in love. I love the way Christie was able to paint a picture of every secondary character, so insightfully that you knew who they were in just a few sentences.
Of course, as a romance writer, I’m more concerned nowadays with the relationships between characters than I am with the “whodunit.” I’m not a particularly clever person at solving mysteries, and I’ll admit I’m often along for the ride instead of actively detective solving. I never pursued a career in criminology because of this, despite my extreme affinity for crime shows. When I work on the suspense elements for The Rookery Rogues, what I want to create is a perilous situation—or a series of situations—that either furthers the bond between hero and heroine, or does something to estrange it. In A Dangerous Invitation, I use a combination of this. There’s a scene where Kate and Daniel are running from the villain and they’re trapped in a wool warehouse. A closeness grows between them, for they’re forced to depend on each other. This startles Kate, who isn’t willing to deal with her reemerging feelings for Daniel. So in a sense, not only has the chase brought in an element of action, but it has increased the conflict.
One of the books I read when drafting A Dangerous Invitation is Conflict and Suspense, which I’ve talked about before. I loved this book because not only does it give you exercises to work on, but it also examines different techniques. For me, I like to approach a book with both proverbial guns blaring. I don’t pull puns in the first draft—I’m going to throw everything I can at the book and see what sticks. Sometimes this means awesome scenes get cut, and sometimes it means I move things around so that I can include this new fight or mystery.
But what I really have to remember when I outline a book is that yes, this guns blasting approach is great, but you need to give your readers time to rest. There needs to be a break between the tense moments. I love emotional angst (no one is surprised) and that’s obviously one of my favorite things to write. Last Saturday at my chapter’s holiday party, I was talking to fellow author Kianna Alexander, and she mentioned that often the sex scenes in a book are the “rest period” for the reader. This is especially true in romantic suspense, when the stakes really are often life or death. The reader needs that time to breathe and recharge for the next crazy explosion.
What I recommend to other romantic suspense authors is finding a critique partner who is as equally interested in all your action-centric elements as you are. I found that when I met Jennelle Holland through Teatime. As many of you know, Jennelle also writes romantic suspense and she’s a martial artist. I’m so fortunate to have Jennelle because not only does she correct the fight scenes I write but then she tests them out with her husband to make sure they’re feasible. Because I have no actual fighting training, this is so helpful to me. I run into a lot of problems visualizing just how a fight should go. I see the movements in my head, but I don’t always know the best punches or kicks to insert to get the right effect.
But mostly, I just love to write things that go boom.