When you write a novel, you’re always hearing about “conflict.” Although that doesn’t mean a knock-down fight, that’s what it often amounts to. Start your book with a bang, hook ‘em in.
But conflict doesn’t always mean fighting. It means the inner struggle and the outer. One of the biggest challenges is to balance all the conflicts, because too much and the reader will get breathless—not in a good way.
Although I haven’t written any “romantic suspense” recently, I do tend to write books where there are things that belong in romantic suspense. I really don’t know where the line is drawn, I mean, I won a major romantic suspense award for “Harley Street,” a historical story featuring Richard and Rose. True, there was a murder in chapter one, and the couple spend the book discovering the murderer, and thus, other things about Richard’s past, but it’s never to my knowledge been shelved in that section.
In "Brutally Beautiful," my hero is an ex-gang leader, and he has some serious things to accomplish before he can save his princess and have his happy ending. Definitely erotic, but the suspense element is high. The villain is fairly obvious, but will they catch him or her in time?
My newest release, coming next month, is “Sixth Sense,” and again, I’m not sure where it belongs. Romance, I guess. It’s part of the Symbiotics series, but can be read alone and it starts with a real life experience. Yes, I did lie in an isolation room in a hospital once, wondering if I was about to lose my leg. It seems strange to anyone who doesn’t write, but I can almost see the authors reading this saying, “Yep, it all goes in to the writing pot.”
I never forgot the experience, and the memories remained vivid. The emergency didn’t last long and I still have two legs, thanks to the doctors at my local hospital, whose prompt action and careful diagnosis made sure I got better. But for the two days of the emergency, I was scared, and then resigned. Because, after all, what could I do? If it happened, it happened, and I was in the best place.
In the room next to me was a sailor, in quarantine after suffering a tropical disease. He was perfectly well, but he had to stay there until they said he wasn’t infectious any more. I couldn’t talk to him, we just exchanged a couple of sympathetic smiles.
So I put my heroine, Poppy, in the same situation. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? Her conflict is an internal one—how does she cope with this unexpected and terrifying thing? It happened to her as suddenly as it happened to me. Not an accident, an unexplained swelling of the leg, so much that it threatened to burst. Blood clot? Septic arthritis? I had no idea and neither did she.
Instead of a middle-aged sailor, I gave her a hot, wealthy geek to play with. One who has inner tensions of his own. He’s in the hospital recovering from cholera, contracted during an exotic holiday.
Oh, yes, and by chapter two, the plot has thickened. The external conflict appears. Her condition isn’t, like mine was, an unexplained occurrence. She’s being poisoned.
So there you have it. Is it romantic suspense? Some of the story is certainly spent hunting the perpetrator, but the majority is the love story between two unlikely people who meet by chance. Both are sexually naïve, being too busy and too shy to explore. They have satisfactory sex lives, but finally, together, they can play with the basket of toys that have been lying in Jim’s closet since he left his job in England.
So which is it, romantic suspense or erotic romance?