Welcome to a genre very close to my heart. Suspense adds a whole new element to a romance, whether there are lives at stake, or a good mystery. Our guests today have a diverse range of favourite authors and I’m quickly adding to my TBR!
We are joined by three thrillingly awesome authors who do more than simply lay down the clues… they let us tiptoe along behind to watch and learn.
Please help me welcome Michelle Somers, Elisabeth Rose, and Peta Flanigan writing as P.L. Harris.
Q1. Tell us about your passion for writing. How long have you wanted to be an author, and where are you on your journey?
MICHELLE: I feel as if I’ve wanted to be an author forever. Funny—or not so funny—I never thought I could do it, so it took me a long time—and way too many years—before I dredged up the courage to try. It was about 8 years ago, when my youngest toddled off to kinder, that I suddenly thought, ‘why the hell not?’
I sat down, started to write, and six weeks later I had a story. Not a great story, but I’d discovered I had stories in me, and that was a great start. I decided the next step was to improve on my writing craft. I found writing groups—the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild and RWA—and that was the moment I found my tribe. With the support and encouragement of ‘my tribe’ I wrote, I learned and I wrote again. When I began to place and win in competitions, I knew I was on the cusp of something amazing.
Then, in 2015, I signed a contract with Penguin Random House for my debut novel, Lethal in Love. And I haven’t looked back since.
These days, I spend my time writing the stories I love and teaching the skills I’ve learned to others. Both are facets of this writing journey that I love.
ELISABETH: English was always my best and favourite subject right through school. I loved reading and I loved writing essays but it wasn’t until 2000 that I began writing with the goal of publication. My first book was accepted in 2006 by a NY publisher, Avalon, and in August 2019 my twenty second book will come out with Escape. I’m amazed!
P.L.: I loved to make up stories in my younger days. My imagination would always be racing ahead of me. I loved being in a world of make-believe, maybe that’s why I went into the theatre and became a director and drama teacher. A few years ago, I started reading again and I realised I could forget the worries of the world for that moment while I was immersed in the story.
I realised I wanted to write stories and this was something I could do for me, something that made me happy. Over the last few years writing became an outlet where I could escape reality, and because I write fiction, it allowed me to put a little of myself, my life experience into my stories. A world where I have no worries except where to put a comma and if I have used the correct tense.
Currently, I have about 10 books published, mostly novellas. My first romantic suspense novel was released in April and I am working on book 2 of my full length Burrum Ridge Romantic suspense series, Homeward Bound.
Q2. Why Romantic Suspense?
MICHELLE: Soon after I learned to read, I discovered a passion for mystery and crime. Discovering Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and, later, Agatha Christie along with many others, cemented this passion. Then came romance. Sweet Dreams and, soon after, Harlequin and Mills and Boon. Add to that my fascination with the psychology of both romance and crime. What makes two of the unlikeliest people fall in love? What makes a murderer? Romantic suspense explores both of these concepts which I totally love.
The problem was, no matter how hard I looked, I never found the perfect mix of my two favourite genres—a novel which encompassed both equally. That’s when the idea of writing a story with equal parts romance and suspense—the kind of story I’d love to read—started to grow. And soon after my debut, Lethal in Love, was born.
ELISABETH: My earlier books were romances and I’ve only branched into romantic suspense for the last five titles. I’ve always read more crime than romance and it was probably natural for that to seep through into my writing. I think it’s the puzzle element that I enjoy about crime/suspense novels and the endings aren’t always predictable. My stories feature regular women and men thrown into dangerous situations where they have to use their wits rather than weapons to survive. Emotions are heightened and the romance aspect adds to the tension and fear in dangerous situations.
P.L.: I think I am drawn to not only the danger and what could happen, but the dramatics of the suspense storyline. I enjoy writing heroine’s that get themselves in danger, but also realise they have the strength to survive without the help of a handsome man, although it couldn’t hurt. I love reading novels that keep me glued to the page and knowing that one slip up could mean disaster
Q3. What challenges does a romantic suspense author face?
MICHELLE: Pretty much the normal challenges of a writer. This includes crafting an intriguing and exciting plot with characters who interest and inspire readers to read on. Then, of course, there’s the added challenge of suspense. The amalgamation of romance and the crime thread, and balancing the highs and lows of both. And just as important, ensuring the ‘whodunnit’ portion of the story comes as a surprise, with more of an ‘of course!’ reaction rather than a ‘what the—!’
All challenges I happen to love ☺
ELISABETH: Technology changes so rapidly it’s hard to keep up with it in a storytelling sense so if a manuscript takes a while to write chances are some details will need adjusting. In my upcoming release facts got in the way of my plot in regard to the micro chipping of race horses for ID and I had to rethink that element.
Mobile phones have made communication much easier for characters when sometimes it’s better to have them unable to contact someone. I get around that in my rural settings by having dead spots in network coverage.
P.L.: For me, I think the biggest challenge I face as a romantic suspense writer is developing my own writing voice so that it stands out from others. Developing plot twists that the reader doesn’t see coming. The reader should be on the edge of their seat, unable to put the book down until they know the outcome. Keeping the suspense driven plot line is something I work extremely hard on.
Q4. Is there an author/s or book/s you adore and use as your inspiration to write?
MICHELLE: Agatha Christie inspired and then cultivated my love for crime, and a legion of authors have followed since, but I think she—and my extensive paperback collection of her works—will always hold a special place in my heart.
These days, I’m a huge fan of Harlan Coben. I love his writing style, his stories and his amazing, unpredictable plot twists.
ELISABETH: Sandra Brown and J. D. Robb spring to mind in the romantic suspense genre but in suspense I’m a big fan of Australian author Michael Robotham. Other favourites are Michael Connelly, Philip Kerr and Lee Child.
P.L.: Maya Banks is one of my all-time favourites. She writes all types of romance and heat levels and does each category really well. Her KGI romantic suspense series gave me the bug to write in the suspense genre and I love it. Other authors are Lori Foster, who I got to meet last year when I was in the US. WA’s own Leah Ashton, Carolyn Wren. Heather Graham, Sylvia Day and Lynda La Plante all hit the top of my reading list.
Q5. What advice would you share with someone just starting out?
MICHELLE: There are so many things I’d love to share, but if I had to choose, I’d choose these three: always write, always keep learning, and find your tribe.
The more you write, the more the words flow and the more you can consolidate point two, keep learning. No matter how far you are in your writing journey, there will always be something you can learn, something you can improve, something you can do better. And whilst you keep on writing and keep learning, your tribe will keep you sane and keep you focused. They’ll be a voice of reason when the doubts try and wheedle their way in. They’ll be a source of knowledge when you’re stuck and support when times get tough. And they’ll be your cheering squad (as you’ll be for them) every wonderful step of your journey.
Incorporate all three of these aspects into your writing journey, and you’ll definitely go far.
ELISABETH: Be secure in the basics of the craft and by that I mean grammar, spelling and punctuation. Without the correct tools it’s difficult to express clearly what you want to say. Make it easy for an editor to love your work.
P.L.: My main piece of advice would be to learn from those who have gone before you. Learn from others mistakes and know you will never get it right all of the time, but if you do some of the time, than you are on your way.
Ask advice, don’t be shy. You can’t edit a blank page as the saying goes. Enter competitions in both Australia and the US, even if it’s just for feedback you can learn so much. Take courses and learn from those who have done it. If you can attend a RWA conference I would highly recommend it. It’s not a cheap exercise, but well worth it.
Michelle Somers is a bookworm from way back. An ex-Kiwi who now calls Australia home, she’s a professional killer and matchmaker, a storyteller and a romantic. Words are her power and her passion. Her heroes and heroines always get their happy ever after, but she’ll put them through one hell of a journey to get there.
Michelle lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her real life hero and three little heroes in the making. And Emerald, a black furry feline who thinks she’s a dog. Her debut novel, Lethal in Love won the Romance Writers of Australia’s 2016 Romantic Book of the Year (RuBY) and the 2013 Valerie Parv Award.
She loves hearing from readers, so please visit her website www.michelle-somers.com, or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Elisabeth has been an avid reader all her life. She dabbled in writing as a teenager but gave it away to study music which has also been a lifelong passion and is why musicians are often, but not always, her main characters. She plays clarinet in a community orchestra. Tai Chi is a part of Elisabeth’s life and has been since 1987. She and her husband travel widely and she also plays tennis on a regular basis for social and exercise enjoyment.
P.L. Harris writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense with a twist of mystery and intrigue. Her books are rich in storyline and location with characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. She is a proud member of Romance Writers of Australia and America, Peter Cowan Writers Centre, Making Magic Happen Academy and has a Certificate in Romance Writing. P.L is multi-published and now publishes the majority of her books with Gumnut Press.
P.L. Harris is an award winning author. Hidden Secrets was a finalist in the Oklahoma Romance Writers of America’s 2017 IDA International Digital Awards, young adult category. Callie’s Dilemma, also a finalist in the Virginia Romance Writers of America’s 2017 Fools of Love Contest, short contemporary romance short category. Her latest romantic suspense, In His Protection was a finalist in the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Pro Award. (Due to receiving a publishing contract from Gumnut Press it had to be withdrawn from the contest)
Phillipa grew up along lonely Australian beaches with wild seas and misty cliffs. From a young age she wrote stories and dreamed of being a writer.
These days she spends half her week running part of the family business and the other writing. Currently she is working on the third in her River’s End series.
Living in regional Australia on a small acreage close to a mountain range, Phillipa’s great loves – apart from writing – are her family of two young adult sons and husband, their Labrador, music, fine wine, and friends.