Old movies have always been a favorite of mine.
From the time I was ten years old and watching the late show on one of the few television channels we received in rural Colorado. Every Saturday night the late movie started at 10:30 and usually ended around 12. My mother went to bed at ten with the caveat that my sister and I were in bed before midnight, when Dad got home from working the late shift. Like so many parents of those times, they set a curfew for our TV watching and all electrical equipment had to be off at midnight or before Dad got home.
My brother and sister went to their rooms early, which meant I had the television all to myself. I chose to watch the late show movies, usually from the 30s and 40s. I loved the old romances like Pride and Prejudice, but my particular favorites were the movies that contained not only romance, but a touch of mystery as well. In other words, I was hooked on romantic suspense.
As I began reading in adult genres as well, I again found myself searching out not only romance novels, but those that contained great romances and confounding mysteries. Just like the old movies, nothing touched me more than the suspense movies, especially those that contained romance. Films like Rebecca that mixed the possibility of a lover who was also a killer was one of the first I remember really enjoying. Nothing seemed worse than thinking that the person you loved may also be a killer. While the idea of falling in love quickly was romantic, I was also drawn by the idea of finding out frightening details about a person after being forever committed to him or her. What if he could kill his first wife? Could he kill his second wife too? I was hooked.
Ever since then, I have always loved the genre of romantic suspense.
Mixing in romance and suspense is not only a fun writing endeavor it makes perfect sense. Don’t we sometimes feel like our loved one might harbor dark thoughts? That is why I love to write romantic suspense. As I am fond of telling students when I teach classes, I always loved writing romance, but then the bodies started falling. I tried writing suspense, but I also found that I couldn’t write a straight mystery either, without bringing in some semblance of a romance. Having to solve a murder wasn’t enough for my heroine or hero. I needed to include some romance—a personal issue that went beyond being buddies. Romantic suspense puts your heart and your soul on the line along with your body.
Years ago I worked for a time with a male co-author and we discovered that what we both had in common in our writing was the idea of mixing romance and suspense. He loved writing suspense, but even he found he liked the idea of bringing in a female character who could give the hero depth, show him as a caring person and make him more real. We wanted—no, needed–that romance to make our characters become more sympathetic, more human, more realistic. What could be more like real life than bringing in a love interest? We also discovered that age didn’t matter. One of our characters was in her sixties and we found our story really came alive once we got her involved with the unknown neighbor down the block, an older man who had just moved into the neighborhood.
Why mix romance and suspense? Why not?
When we’re involved in an actual romance in real life, it can often make us question motives, what we’re doing, who the person might be and often everything else around us. Naturally, that can make a good mystery story if someone close to that person is suddenly killed. But what if more than one person has died under suspicious circumstances? Now we have even more of a question. Voila! Romantic suspense.
The fun thing about writing romantic suspense is that it can go either direction. The hero or heroine might fall in love with a person and start to suspect him or her, but it can be reversed. What if the hero or heroine finds him or herself falling in love with a person suspected of a crime? That has been done as well. Think about the many stories where the hero or heroine is dealing with a suspect and then finds him or herself intrigued by the person. That’s the sort of behavior that might be frowned upon in real life, but it can and does happen. Why not put it into a story? What happens then, and is the person the killer? What if the detective finds out the truth the hard way? No matter the outcome there is a good story to be told.
This is one of the reasons romantic-suspense has remained so popular over the years. We always may wonder if we’re doing the right thing when we fall in love. Nothing can be more chilling than discovering that person we thought we knew might be capable of something unspeakable. How well do we really know him or her? That can bring lots of questions in a romance, but it is just the right thing for a romantic suspense.
But there is more to romantic suspense than whether that person the hero or heroine might be falling in love with might be a killer. The search for the culprit can bring out the real inner core of the hero and heroine. They are forced to make choices by the suspense in the story and that can test their feelings for each other. That constant mix of tension and emotion draws out the best and worst in a character and makes that person come more alive on the pages.
Now you may say, that someone who really loves the person might not question their feelings or the other person, but that makes for good romantic suspense as well. That blind, loyal trust may be just the thing to bring conflict to a story. What could be better than that in a romance?
Suspicion, fear, concern—all these elements make good fodder in a story, and mixing the two together works well for an author looking for ways to really show off or test a character’s inner strength. No one is perfect and that can add to the mix of romance and suspense. Characters may make mistakes, but if that can lead to murder, that makes the stakes even higher. The story is not simply about whether the couple will live happily ever after. It is whether the couple will make it through the story at all!
Death or love can change a person’s life and putting that combination into the pages of a story keeps the reader turning the pages – the writer’s ultimate goal.
It’s why I keep writing romantic suspense.
It’s why the bodies keep dropping in my love stories and why romance keeps popping up in my murder stories. I want a solid connection between my main characters and nothing puts everything together like romantic suspense.
Next week, I’ll begin my class on writing romantic suspense — one of my favorite classes to teach. Romantic suspense involves not only developing good, emotional, real people to be the heroes and heroines, but it also will include a plot where life and death can be on the line. What would be a more compelling combination?
It’s what kept me up at night watching those old suspense movies on TV and occasionally having to explain to my dad why I was still up so late on a Saturday night.
Love this? Check out Becky’s class right here at SavvyAuthors!
When Stacey Moreno goes undercover on Evergreen Island, she’s looking for answers to a friend’s mysterious death, not trouble. After all, Stacey’s not adventuresome–she lives vicariously through her cartoon creations and can’t tell left from right. But from the moment she moves into spooky Redfern Manor and meets her sexy new boss, trouble starts and sparks fly.
Hobbled by injuries from a plane crash, former journalist Mack Warren came to Redfern Manor looking for escape, not romance. He intends to focus on the biography he’s writing of the manor’s former occupant and ignore the strange feelings his lively new assistant inspires.
As Stacey digs for answers, she’s drawn to her mysterious boss, but he is obsessed with a ghost. With danger drawing near, can Stacey persuade Mack to face the shadows from the past that threaten to destroy their future? .