Thanks so much to Kendra for inviting me to hang out over here today! I’m thrilled to be celebrating the release of my first romantic suspense novel on the 26th. Hard As It Gets is the first in the Hard Ink series which is based around the surviving members of an Army Special Forces team disgraced when they were discharged from the Army under suspicious circumstances and follows their efforts to recover their stolen honor.
When I first conceived of the Hard Ink series, I was thinking it was contemporary romance. Because I write contemporary romance. Not romantic suspense. LOL But it didn’t take long to realize that my contemporary story had morphed into something a bit different, a bit more. Now, I’ve written the first two in what will be at least a four-book series. So, today, I thought I’d share my newbie lessons learned from writing my first romantic suspense series.
The importance of plotting. I say this as a pantser. I do not like to plot. I’ll even go as far as to say that I feel it steals some of my mojo. Well, at least, normally. But I’ve found that I can’t write romantic suspense without at least some plotting. With romantic suspense, you have two main plots – the romance and the suspense, and interweaving them within an individual book and across a series is too complicated to wing, at least for me! And for the suspense plot itself, figuring out just when to drop the suspenseful breadcrumbs in a book and which elements of an overarching suspense plot to address and resolve in each book in a series takes more pre-planning than I’m used to.
The importance of raising the stakes. Having written the first two books in my series and started plotting a follow-on novella and the third full-length novel, I feel like you need to constantly raise the stakes, within the individual books and between one book and the next. In a series like mine where the suspense plot unravels across several books, the mountain needs to seem higher to climb with each new story to continue to build conflict and tension, and to offer something new to the reader in each story. That’s not as easy as it sounds, but plotting out the stakes helps.
The challenge of balancing the romance and suspense. In contemporary romance, your heroine can think about the hero’s sexy shoulders all day long, and your couple can pretty much get it on any old time. And if they want to spend the day lounging around in bed together, they totally can. Now, throw in life-and-death threats and unseen dangers around every corner and the sexy times become a bit harder to weave in. For example, if your brother’s possibly being killed by big bad guys, are you really thinking about the hero’s shoulders? LOL Well, yes, you can, but it takes a bit more finesse. And, if you know a bomb (literal or figurative) might go off at any minute, are your characters really going to stop to have sex? You get the point. At a minimum, the characters need to think about why it might be okay—even good—to engage in a little diversion in the middle of crisis. But it’s a challenge to balance these elements for sure.
I hadn’t realized the skill and finesse involved in writing romantic suspense until I tackled one for the first time. I found it incredibly exciting and rewarding by the end, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t look at my best friend and writing partner across our table at Panera and say, “I’m never writing another romantic suspense again.” LOL (Her responses amounted to, “Uh huh.”) So I have tons of respect for folks like the ladies here at Murder She Writes who do it again and again and make it look so effortless!
If you write romantic suspense, what other lessons would you offer? And can you suggest a favorite RS novel you enjoyed?
Flash Giveaway: Two commenters (include your email address) will win a signed ARC of Hard As It Gets. Content ends at noon EST on Saturday 11/23! Open to international. Good luck!
Thanks for reading!
About Hard As It Gets:
Five dishonored soldiers.
Former Special Forces.
One last mission.
These are the men of Hard Ink.
Tall, dark, and lethal…
Trouble just walked into Nicholas Rixey’s tattoo parlor. Becca Merritt is warm, sexy, wholesome–pure temptation to a very jaded Nick. He’s left his military life behind to become co-owner of Hard Ink Tattoo, but Becca is his ex-commander’s daughter. Loyalty won’t let him turn her away. Lust has plenty to do with it too.
With her brother presumed kidnapped, Becca needs Nick. She just wasn’t expecting to want him so much. As their investigation turns into all-out war with an organized crime ring, only Nick can protect her. And only Becca can heal the scars no one else sees.
Desire is the easy part. Love is as hard as it gets. Good thing Nick is always up for a challenge…
Read an Extended Excerpt of Hard As It Gets
About Laura Kaye:
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.