When I set out to write Captive, I had no idea I was writing a romantic suspense. None. I was blissfully oblivious, just truckin’ along thinking I was writing another contemporary romance—a very difficult and time-consuming contemporary romance, but a CR nonetheless. And then a while later, well after I’d turned in my final copy to my editor, I saw a pre-reader classify it on a virtual bookshelf as suspense.
It was a light bulb moment.
The entire time I spent writing Captive, it was an uphill battle. Not because I didn’t like the characters or the world (I loved both), but because it was so different from anything I’d done before. When I saw that virtual bookshelf proclaiming it suspense, it was then that I realized exactly why it had taken me three times longer to write than anything else I’ve written thus far: Writing romantic suspense is hard.
Well, writing anything is hard, but when I compare it to the other genre I know and can speak to—contemporary romance—it’s like night and day. So much so that I’m going to go on record right now and say it’s at least twice as hard for me to write, if not more.
Why is that? Writing is writing, and coming up with characters and worlds and plots all involves lots of imagination and planning (whether on the backend or during writing). The main difference is the content within.
In contemporary romance, nearly everything that happens within the pages of that book could happen to the writer, or may already have happened, whether to them or to someone they know. Romantic suspense, on the other hand, is packed with stressful, sometimes life-threatening situations. Car chases and gun stand-offs and kidnapping and heists. For most writers, our lives aren’t anything like that—well, mine isn’t anyway, and to any writer out there who lives the life of a word slinger by day and a vigilante by night, I tip my hat to you.
For me, when I write contemporary, I just sit down and write. That’s it. It’s not a big production, and I produce a pretty steady stream of words each day. When I write romantic suspense, however, it takes planning. Research. There are stops and starts and fact checking. Whatever I’m writing about within my romantic suspense books is not something I’ve ever endured, nor is it something I can bluff my way through. I have to dig deep to get answers on everything from how long chloroform lasts to how to write a realistic fight scene to how to treat a gunshot wound. And, yes, I’ve researched all of those things. And, yes, I’m probably on the FBI’s list somewhere by now (but hopefully my editor can vouch for me).
While oftentimes difficult, writing romantic suspense also opens up a whole slew of possibilities one wouldn’t otherwise have in a straight contemporary romance. The tension is always higher, the stakes perilous. And that’s where the fun comes in. As a writer, I can make my characters go through the craziest things—events I’ve only dreamed about or seen in the movies. And that makes for a much more adventurous writing—and reading—experience.