Drive-By Q&A with Romantic Suspense Author Leslie Tentler

I first met Leslie last fall at the Georgia Romance Writers Moonlight & Magnolias conference, where I picked up the second book in her Midnight trilogy, Midnight Fear. I had heard of her, since I tend to pay attention to new voices in romantic suspense, but I hadn’t had a chance to try her books. What I found when I dove into Midnight Fear was a complex, character driven novel that broke new ground in the genre.

Her February release, Edge of Fear, is another fresh take on a familiar story, which even the blurb shows:

The writer becomes the story when crime reporter Mia Hale is discovered on a Jacksonville beach – bloodied and disoriented, but alive. She remembers nothing, but her wounds bear the signature of a sadistic serial killer. After years lying dormant, The Collector has resumed his grim hobby: abducting women and taking gruesome souvenirs before dumping their bodies. But none of his victims has ever escaped – and he wants Mia back, more than he ever wanted any of the others.

FBI agent Eric Macfarlane has pursued The Collector for a long time. The case runs deep in his veins, bordering on obsession…and Mia holds the key. She’ll risk everything to recover her memory and bring the madman to justice, and Eric swears to protect this fierce, fragile survivor. But The Collector will not be denied. In his mind, he knows just how their story ends.

Now, without further ado, here’s Leslie Tenter!

MC: Hi Leslie, and thank you so much for stopping by KISS AND THRILL to be interrogated…uh, interviewed.

LT: Thanks for having me!

MC: Let’s get this party started! First off, when and why did you begin writing?

LT: Writing is something I’ve always done, just like I’ve always been a reader. I remember being in maybe fifth grade and sitting at my dad’s typewriter, pecking out little stories and then trying to get people to read them.

I didn’t fully realize that I wanted to “be” a fiction writer until after college, however. Making a living got in the way, though, and it wasn’t until many years later that I got serious about writing and completing a novel.

MC: Yeah, I think we’ve all been forced to choose between eating and writing at one time or another. So you said you were a reader. What book do you remember loving as a child? What was it that you loved?

LT: I checked “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell out of my elementary school library so many times! I was fascinated with the idea of a young girl living alone and surviving on an island for so many years. There’s a really sad scene in the book that would just kill me every time I read it, but then I’d go back and torture myself by reading it again.

I was also really into Nancy Drew mysteries. I always enjoyed the danger and near misses Nancy and her friends got themselves into. It’s what probably started my interest in suspense stories.

MC: Yay! Another Nancy Drew Fan! I think there are lots of us out here in Romancelandia. Or Romantic Suspense-landia, rather. We should have a convention or something. Do you remember the one where Nancy and Ned got trapped in the…*offstage throat clearing* Okay, okay.

Moving on, you say that you were always a writer, but when did you first consider yourself (or feel like) a writer?

LT:  Probably when I took a job as a staff writer at an Atlanta PR firm. It wasn’t really the type of writing I wanted to do, but at least it put me in the “writer” category. One reason I took the job was because it was right around the corner from the Margaret Mitchell house, which to me was really exciting.

Before my first book, “Midnight Caller”, was published, I spent nearly 20 years supporting myself working as a writer and editor in public relations.

MC: Oh, wow! How cool to work so near where Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind. That must have been so creatively stimulating.

So, moving into your writing career itself, what is it about romantic suspense (aside from the Nancy Drew factor) that draws you to it as opposed to other sub-genres of romance?

LT: I love the elements of danger in romantic suspense stories, and the heightened passions that come along with that. While no one really wants that kind of danger in his or her real life, I’d think, it’s exciting to see it play out from the safety of a book. I’m especially drawn to male characters that act heroically and can be brave even to the point of foolishness when the stakes are high.

MC: I love your male characters. They’re tough, but also very human, which I think adds real depth to your stories, and takes some real craftsmanship.

Speaking of, what is the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest is the business part of it, for sure. I have a lot of anxiety surrounding contracts and deadlines. That’s something I didn’t realize about myself until my first book sold as part of a three-book deal and I suddenly found myself facing a large contract and two additional looming deadlines. That was way scarier to me than a serial killer. 🙂

MC: No kidding! I feel the same way. But let’s not dwell on the tough stuff. What do you find is the easiest part of writing?

LT: The easiest part for me probably stems from my being a non-fiction writer and editor for so many years prior to writing fiction. I feel very confident with my self-editing skills and have been told by my editor and agent that I’m a very “clean” writer.

MC: I am so jealous! You’ll have to teach me your clean writing ways one of these days. For now, I’ll settle for hearing what you’ve been reading lately. Do tell!

LT: I’m reading “Evil at Heart”, the third book in Chelsea Cain’s series about tortured (literally) Portland detective Archie Sheridan and serial killer Gretchen Lowell. I also just started Nora Roberts’ “The Next Always.”

MC (updates her TBR list): So, can you tell us what you’re working on now? Inquiring minds want to know!

LT: I’m working on another romantic thriller that revolves around a homicide detective and is set in Atlanta, where I live. The other main character in the story is the detective’s ex-wife, who is an ER trauma doctor. And while the book deals with a high profile, multiple homicide investigation, it’s also just as much about what happened to this couple – their shared tragedy – that tore them apart.

MC: Ooh! I love the sound of that! Especially the Atlanta setting. Can’t wait to read it!

Leslie, I can’t tell you how much fun it was to have you as our guest today! Thanks for a great interview and for adding some great books to my all time favorites list!

Now, gentle readers, I have a question for you! Did you have one book in particular that, like Leslie, you checked out again and again from the school library? Or one that you owned but read again and again? One commenter will win a copy of Leslie’s latest book, Edge of Midnight.

Posted on March 14, 2012, in Author Interview, Manda Collins. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Hi Leslie! Thanks for joining us on Kiss and Thrill today!

  2. I don’t remember checking books out over and over. I found my love of books around 11 or 12. I think I read every young adult book my library had .. Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys. And I.haven’t stopped reading since.

    Great interview. I always enjoy getting to know “stuff” about my favorite authors.

    Don’t enter me in the giveaway. I have read all 3 books and LOVED them.

  3. My school library go-to book begins thus: “It was a dark and stormy night.” Can you guess what it is?

    No, no, not George Bulwer-Lytton’s famous (or infamous) opening line. 🙂

    A WRINKLE IN TIME. This Newberry Medal winner begins with a chapter entitled Mrs Whatsit and a playful allusion to GBL. Of course the literary allusion went over my 2nd grade head, but I was hooked! Meg, a girl genius who has to rescue her father from the mysterious Tesseract Project. Side kicks like Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which. BMOC Calvin who likes the smart girl!

    I’d never ready anything like it before and apparently neither had the publishing world. Madeleine L’Engle’s manuscript was rejected by 26 publishers before Farrar, Strauss & Giroux recognized its total awesomeness to the one hundredth degree!

    Leslie, my first introduction to Atlanta was through GWTW (another book I read a time or ten in 6th grade). Looking forward to reading your thriller-in-progress set there. In the meantime, I’m eager to start the Chasing Evil Trilogy. Thanks for stopping by K & T!

    Great drive-by, Manda! And thanks for the excuse to wax nostalgic! 🙂

  4. Hi Lena, thanks for having me! And Trish, a BIG thanks for reading the trilogy! Thanks sincerely for the compliment. 🙂

    Krista, I think GWTW was my first introduction to Atlanta, too. I lived in East Tennessee growing up and I think it was one of the first “adult” books I read cover to cover. In my hometown, the schools used to take field trips to the theater to see GWTW. It was that important!

  5. I reread the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of books about 5 times and am going to read them to my niece.

  6. Legend interview! I always love learning more about my favourite authors 🙂

    I pretty much checked out every book I could get my hands on at the library at school when I was a kid– not so much into re-reading then, but I definitely read many Agatha Christie books multiple times (especially ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘Murder in Mesopotamia’). I guess it’s no wonder I favour thrillers and romantic suspense as an adult! [Incredibly, Nancy Drew wasn’t even a blip on my radar… not so big in Asia when I lived there!]

    My most re-read book isn’t even a RS… I think that honour belongs to Judith McNaught’s ‘A Kingdom of Dreams’. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read it!

    Absolutely stoked about the new release– and the one in the works! Once I’m no longer buried under a pile of science papers for a thesis committee meeting, I’m getting caught up on the trilogy!

  7. Hi Deborah, I loved those books too!

    Cris – a pile of science papers for a thesis committee? I’m in awe!

  8. Yay! Welcome, Leslie! I’m so glad you so graciously allowed me to interview you! I do not lie. Can’t wait for that next book of yours!

    My childhood library book of multiple reads was LITTLE WOMEN. Even though I was so mad that Jo [SPOILER ALERT} heartlessly rejected Laurie like that! Why on earth did she settle for that old guy, Baehr? Now that I’m a grown up I can see why, but as a little girl, I would have picked the hot young dude every time;)

  9. Hi Leslie! Manda! Great interview.

    I guess I’m a Nancy Drew girl through and through. I just bought some prints of early book covers to hang in my writing space. Who wouldn’t want to be Nancy? I think that’s why I write suspense today.

    Thanks for stopping by.
    Diana Belchase
    http://www.DianaBelchase.com

  10. Leslie,
    Thanks so much for joining us today! Your books are on my TBR pile, right at the tip top. Your stories are exactly the type I love.

    Manda, I have to admit to being both a Nancy Drew girl and a Little Women girl.
    Then after I read Little Women, I had to read the biography of its writer, and LMA became a role model for me.

    Great interview!
    Congrats on everything, Leslie and we’d love to have you back anytime!

  11. I don’t remember checking books out of the library over and over and I don’t really have just one favorite book that I reread. When I find an author I like, I keep all of the books and reread the entire list of books. Like Iris Johansen (Eve Duncan series) and numerous others. Thanks for the new books to add to my TBR list – can’t wait to go shopping!

  12. When I was seven or eight, Santa brought a Disney Classics Treasury. Four books that included classic fairy tales, adventure stories, nature stories, and Disney tales (stories they made into movies). I read that set of books til they fell apart, but I managed to save them and read them to my children.
    In junior high I discovered Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Hardy Boys… and then Jane Eyre entered my life.
    Summer wasn’t complete without Jane and Mr.Rochester….

    And I am reading Edge on my Kindle now!

  13. Hi, Diana! Nancy Drew prints? Wherever did you find those?? Sounds wonderful!

    Manda and Carey: Confession time – I’ve never read Little Women. I know! Terrible, huh? Don’t worry, you didn’t spoil me. Rachel spoiled Joey on Friends, so I guess she did me, too. 😉

    Hi Karen, I love Iris Johansen!

  14. Pamela, where have you been? Great to see you here!

    You know, I learned to read with Disney books. I was four when my brother was born, and to keep me occupied my parents bought me all these Disney books that had albums that went with them. You could listen to the album, which “read” the book aloud to you if you couldn’t read yourself. That’s how I learned! (At least that’s the story I was told.) 🙂

  15. Hi, Leslie and welcome to Kiss and Thrill. I have your first two books but am waiting to read it when I go on vacation in two weeks. And after reading Manda’s interview, I can’t wait! Congratulations on your success.

  16. Hi Sharon, thanks so much for having me! Vacation sounds wonderful – I hope you have a great time! (And thanks for taking my books with you!)

  17. I remember reading The Island of the Blue Doplphins. I found the girl’s survival story fascinating and heartbreaking. When I heard it was inspired by true events I sought out more information about the story. Some stories I kept going back to included the Little House on the Prairies and the Nancy Drew series. They were quite different but their worlds were ones I wanted to re-visit. There’s something about a story that can transport you to another time or have you putting on your own detective cap.

  18. Hi Na,
    Thanks for stopping by – glad someone else remembered The Island of the Blue Dolphins. : – )

  19. Welcome, Leslie, what a great interview…your premise sounds chilling…as in, I must buy it immediately. The Collector. Shiver!

    I went from Bobsie (sp?) Twins to Nancy Drew to Victoria Holt. Have always been fascinated with clues and trying to solve the story before the author can wrap it up. I’m annoying to watch TV with, or so my husband says. 🙂

    Good lunch with your sales, it was so nice to meet you!

  20. Grrr…iPads.
    Good LUCK with your sales.

  21. Hi Sarah, LOL, once you start thinking like a writer, it’s really hard to just enjoy a good TV mystery, isn’t it? 😉

    And ‘good lunch’ was perfectly acceptable!

  22. Hi Leslie, thank you for joining us today! So many great favorite childhood reads listed here. Between the ages of twelve and fifteen, I think I read every Mary Higgins Clark book I could get my hands on at least five times.

    At fifteen, I read Ashes in the Wind and Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss so many times the spine broke on both books. I still have my broken copy of Shanna.

  23. Hi Rachel! Thanks for having me! Ooh, I read Mary Higgins Clark, too! And Kathleen Woodiwiss. 🙂

  24. Janice Bennett

    Hi Leslie!,thanks for being here today. I was given my first Nancy Drew book when I was 7 and read every one that I could get my hands on and I’m still buying them, now for my Granddaughter, and I still have a dozen or so from my Mother’s library when she was young, It seems that Nancy started a reading frenzy in our family that is still going on today. I’m so happy to find so many others with the same need to read that is such a big part of my family and friends.
    Much success to you…

  25. Okay, it was “Gone with the Wind” that I read at 16. I guess because it made such an impression on me at that age.
    Now, it is “Silence of the Lambs”.

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