Harlequin Books
Q&A with Carla Cassidy!
Q: What makes for a thrilling suspense story?
A: Give me people I care about, people I like well enough to worry about and then screw up their lives with danger that is powerful and palpable.  Give me a villain I believe is smart, perhaps even smarter than the main characters.  Make me believe it’s possible he might win.
As the story unfolds scare me. Give me danger in the middle of a day of sunshine, at a place and time that should feel safe. Make it impossible for me to close the book at the end of the chapter.  Let me believe I know where the plot is going and then surprise me.  For me as a reader, these are the elements that make a thrilling suspense novel!

Q&A with Carla Cassidy!

Q: What makes for a thrilling suspense story?

A: Give me people I care about, people I like well enough to worry about and then screw up their lives with danger that is powerful and palpable.  Give me a villain I believe is smart, perhaps even smarter than the main characters.  Make me believe it’s possible he might win.

As the story unfolds scare me. Give me danger in the middle of a day of sunshine, at a place and time that should feel safe. Make it impossible for me to close the book at the end of the chapter.  Let me believe I know where the plot is going and then surprise me.  For me as a reader, these are the elements that make a thrilling suspense novel!

BONUS! Extra Q&A post…with Carla Neggers!
Q: What makes for a thrilling suspense novel?
A: The great writing teacher Gary Provost once described how he creates a character he cares about: digs a hole, throws him (or her) in the hole…and then, tempted to help his character out, he instead throws dirt and rocks on him. That, to me, is the essence of thrilling suspense. I love to dive into a story with a character I care about who is forced into a difficult situation where the stakes are high, the hurdles keep coming and the outcome is uncertain. That’s guaranteed to keep me turning the pages, as a reader and as a writer.

BONUS! Extra Q&A post…with Carla Neggers!

Q: What makes for a thrilling suspense novel?

A: The great writing teacher Gary Provost once described how he creates a character he cares about: digs a hole, throws him (or her) in the hole…and then, tempted to help his character out, he instead throws dirt and rocks on him. That, to me, is the essence of thrilling suspense. I love to dive into a story with a character I care about who is forced into a difficult situation where the stakes are high, the hurdles keep coming and the outcome is uncertain. That’s guaranteed to keep me turning the pages, as a reader and as a writer.

Q & A with Deanna Raybourn!
Q: What Makes for a thrilling suspense story?
A: I ought to confess something straight off—I don’t read contemporary suspense. It’s far too scary for me. I’m the girl who peeks behind the shower curtain and under the bed to make certain nothing is lying in wait. I certainly don’t need to be frightened by a book! But I am a devotee of the Gothic novel which offers up a healthy dollop of suspense along with, customarily, a historical setting and a heroine who usually stumbles around with a rueful expression lamenting, “Had I but known!” In these books, the suspense is usually entwined with the fate of the heroine. Will her dashing employer turn out to be a bigamist whose first wife is a madwoman with a penchant for arson? Will her wealthy young charge succumb to the tiny doses of arsenic being administered in his bedtime cocoa by a jealous relation? Will the ghost of her husband’s first wife wreak revenge from beyond her watery grave?
You might have recognized in those questions the plot lines of Jane Eyre, Nine Coaches Waiting, and Rebecca, classics of suspense, albeit of the gentler variety. What these novels all have in common is that the terrors they hold all happen in the home. In these books, the bastion of safety and security is undermined by hate and greed and vengeance, warping what ought to be a refuge into a place of unspeakable fear. And surely discovering that that one’s home is a place of danger is the greatest horror of all?

Q & A with Deanna Raybourn!

Q: What Makes for a thrilling suspense story?

A: I ought to confess something straight off—I don’t read contemporary suspense. It’s far too scary for me. I’m the girl who peeks behind the shower curtain and under the bed to make certain nothing is lying in wait. I certainly don’t need to be frightened by a book! But I am a devotee of the Gothic novel which offers up a healthy dollop of suspense along with, customarily, a historical setting and a heroine who usually stumbles around with a rueful expression lamenting, “Had I but known!” In these books, the suspense is usually entwined with the fate of the heroine. Will her dashing employer turn out to be a bigamist whose first wife is a madwoman with a penchant for arson? Will her wealthy young charge succumb to the tiny doses of arsenic being administered in his bedtime cocoa by a jealous relation? Will the ghost of her husband’s first wife wreak revenge from beyond her watery grave?

You might have recognized in those questions the plot lines of Jane Eyre, Nine Coaches Waiting, and Rebecca, classics of suspense, albeit of the gentler variety. What these novels all have in common is that the terrors they hold all happen in the home. In these books, the bastion of safety and security is undermined by hate and greed and vengeance, warping what ought to be a refuge into a place of unspeakable fear. And surely discovering that that one’s home is a place of danger is the greatest horror of all?

Q&A with Brenda Novak!

Q: What makes for a thrilling suspense novel?
  
A: The most important element in any story is characterization. We have to care about the characters, identify with them, before we care about what happens to them. But second to that is conflict. A suspense novel is typically not a subtle kind of book. The best way to write a page-turner is to make the conflict very personal to the characters, thereby creating emotionally intense situations. There must be tension on EVERY page. The type of tension has to change (or even that will get tiresome), but without it there is nothing to compel the reader to read on. 

I often use the analogy of a sporting event. The more we worry, the more we fear, the more we enjoy the resolution. If the team you’re supporting has it too easy, if they sail through the whole game without any real challenge, you’re tempted to leave in the third quarter. It just doesn’t hold your interest, even though you’re getting what you wanted (a win). But a come-from-behind, one-point win in overtime is considered a great game. Those who come to watch wait until the last second to leave. They talk about the game and remember it far longer. It’s the same with a book. We, as authors, can’t be afraid to pit our characters against very challenging situations, maybe even painful ones, because it makes the overcoming of those problems so much more satisfying—even inspiring—when they conquer in the end.

Q&A with Brenda Novak!

Q: What makes for a thrilling suspense novel?

  

A: The most important element in any story is characterization. We have to care about the characters, identify with them, before we care about what happens to them. But second to that is conflict. A suspense novel is typically not a subtle kind of book. The best way to write a page-turner is to make the conflict very personal to the characters, thereby creating emotionally intense situations. There must be tension on EVERY page. The type of tension has to change (or even that will get tiresome), but without it there is nothing to compel the reader to read on. 

I often use the analogy of a sporting event. The more we worry, the more we fear, the more we enjoy the resolution. If the team you’re supporting has it too easy, if they sail through the whole game without any real challenge, you’re tempted to leave in the third quarter. It just doesn’t hold your interest, even though you’re getting what you wanted (a win). But a come-from-behind, one-point win in overtime is considered a great game. Those who come to watch wait until the last second to leave. They talk about the game and remember it far longer. It’s the same with a book. We, as authors, can’t be afraid to pit our characters against very challenging situations, maybe even painful ones, because it makes the overcoming of those problems so much more satisfying—even inspiring—when they conquer in the end.