Allison Brennan: let’s talk books and TV shows!

Brennan_official_photocred Brittan Dodd We welcome back one of the modern day Romantic Suspense Greats: Allison Brennan! Besides being a wife and raising 5 children, she’s presently writing 3 separate series. 1)Her best-selling Lucy Kincaid novels, 2)A new series featuring Max Revere, a spunky investigative reporter and 3) the Moreno and Hart Mysteries collaboration with colleague Laura Griffin. Crash and Burn cover

Therefore, it’s a quite an honor she took time out of her busy schedule to write this:

I am thrilled to once again guest blog here at Kiss and Thrill!

Sarah asked me to write something totally fabulous. There’s nothing that kills the muse faster than expectations. Which got me thinking about reader expectations for Romantic Suspense.

Romantic Suspense is a broad and thriving genre where any of us can write a story about two worthy people battling against all the odds to defeat the bad guy and live happily ever after. Any way you get there is a win. Because the only REAL expectation in a romantic suspense (other than a good story well told) is that the hero and heroine should at least be one step closer to a commitment. They need to overcome internal and external conflicts so that, even if there are no wedding bells or shared bedrooms, the readers know they will make it, together.

I wrote 12 romantic thrillers–each book with one hero and one heroine who were together by the end of the book. It was clear in the structure and set up, and I felt I had a broad canvas to play with, so I did. But after 12 of a similar type of story, I was a little burned out and ready to try something else…and was inspired by J.D. Robb’s successful IN DEATH series (which is one of my all-time favorite series.)

I was nervous about launching a romantic suspense series–where there is the same hero and heroine throughout multiple books. But I’m glad I did. Lucy Kincaid and Sean Rogan have had their ups and downs, but they are together in San Antonio in DEAD HEAT, the 8th book of the series, that comes out today!DeadHeat-1

But even though I’ve followed Sean and Lucy over the past years, and readers know they will stick together, I never want to get complacent about their relationship. One of the things I love most about Eve and Roarke (J.D. Robb’s characters) is that their personal conflicts are organic to who they are as people–so their arguments are never contrived, and while we know they are going to be together by the end of the book, how they overcome the conflict is an integral part of the story and keeps us turning pages as much as the mystery plot.

The season 5 finale of CASTLE illustrates how they do it right. The swing scene. Rick and Kate love each other, but there are some very real conflicts in their relationship. Where are they going? Kate has an opportunity to do something amazing with her career–a once in a lifetime shot at advancement that will take her out of New York City.

Rick has had two failed marriages and his mother has been a bit of a naysayer regarding whether he’s truly committed to the relationship. Add in external plot issues that highlight their core emotional and relationship problems, and you go into the last two minutes not knowing what each of them is going to do.

What I loved the most was that Kate said she was taking the FBI job, Castle proposed, and said they would make it work. Their love and respect for each other would not only help them overcome any hurdles, but empower them to do so. The first four episodes of season 6 were outstanding in how they handled Kate’s job and the transition back to New York. The wedding proposal and subsequent job conflicts were true to character, as was how Kate got fired and how she got her job back at NYPD.

There is nothing I dislike more than a contrived story plot point in order to keep characters together or apart. (Like the season finale of CASTLE 6 … they’d better nail Season 7 or I’ll be really mad.)

I thought a lot about the job conflict for Kate because in many ways Lucy has a similar conflict. After graduating from Quantico, the FBI rarely assigns an agent to the office from which they were recruited. So I knew if I assigned Lucy to the Washington DC office, it would be a contrived plot point to keep them in DC and Sean as a principle of Rogan-Caruso-Kincaid. So I thought back over the course of all the books to identify core conflicts.

One of Sean’s core conflicts, going back to even before the Lucy series when Sean’s brother Duke had his book (CUTTING EDGE), was that he never felt that he lived up to his brother’s expectations. I worked with that, and broadened it by diving into more back story in how Sean got to be who he was. There were tidbits spread throughout the series, but in STOLEN readers get to learn all about Sean’s criminal past and what he’s willing to do to protect Lucy from his past mistakes. And in the end, it feels right that he walks away from the family business and seeks to find his own path.

So moving Lucy to San Antonio, it’s a no brainer that Sean went with her. And right now, in DEAD HEAT, they are at a perfect place together – Sean has made friends (including a good friend working in Lucy’s FBI squad); Lucy loves her job and is working hard; and Sean has spent time fixing up their new house. But he doesn’t have a job and while he doesn’t need one, he would be miserable without something to do – or get into a lot of trouble. Lucy sees it now, while Sean hasn’t quite gotten there yet because he’s in the happy bubble of having the woman he loves living with him. But it’s a real conflict that they are going to have to address, and hopefully it’ll be organic to the story.

There are other issues that will have to be addressed, things that are partly resolved (like Lucy’s past) but that can and will come up. Whether they’ll get married and when and why. And there are a few unresolved issues from Sean’s past … maybe things that Sean didn’t even know were unresolved. 

The fun thing about writing a continuing series is that I can explore more issues between two people—and a strong secondary cast–while also keeping the suspense on the front burner. Series like CASTLE, and to a lesser degree BONES, help promote such storylines.


What do you think? Do you like continuing characters? Let’s talk about series … or Castle or Bones! I’m a bit of a television addict, so I’m game to talk about whatever you are!


One lucky commenter will win a signed first edition hardcover of NOTORIOUS, the first book in my new Max Revere mystery series, OR a signed copy of DEAD HEAT, the latest Lucy Kincaid thriller – winner’s choice!notorious-final

Thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts on creating a series with organic, ongoing conflicts, Allison! Readers, for more information, please visit her at:



Twitter: @Allison_Brennan




About Sarah Andre

Romantic Suspense That Keeps You Up All Night! I live in sunny FL, love daydreaming, reading and chocolate. I write in the wee hours of the morning before my helpless hubby and 2 male Pomeranian pups awaken with their demands. :) My debut LOCKED, LOADED and LYING is available now.

Posted on June 3, 2014, in Author Spotlight, Guest blog, Sarah Andre and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 50 Comments.

  1. Welcome back, Allison! I’m afraid I can’t gab about any of the examples above because (gulp) I haven’t read JDR and rarely watch TV…it competes with my TBR list, which I’m determined to get through.

    Did you watch True Detective though? Given the hottie actors, I thought I’d just watch the first episode, no harm no foul…then go back to my books. Man, I was sucked in like a Godzilla-sized vacuum! Their personalities and inner demons were SO different that you’re right–the organic conflict was right there every time one of them opened his mouth! I’d literally cringe, watching the other guy’s face tighten in disgust or contempt and wouldn’t have long to wait before he went OFF in the return exchange. And yet they were fighting the ‘bad guy’ together and totally had each other’s back. Fabulously written and acted.

    Happy Release Day! I know you’ll be busy with all the congratulations, so thanks again for being our guest. Turns out your muse worked just fine! 😉

  2. I love to read a series that has continuing characters.

    I’m also a huge Castle fan but the season six finale was kind of a bummer. (It reminded me of when Lois & Clark got married but he’d really married a clone.) So yes, season seven better rock. LOL

    Congrats on your latest release!

    • Yes, especially the last ten minutes just made my stomach sour — it seemed like another trite element that this series was too good to employ. Thanks for commenting, Mary!

    • allisonbrennan

      Here’s the primary problem with Season 6 finale: viewers (and readers) will only wait so long for a payoff. They built up this wedding with tons of obstacles (and I love that Kate was married in Vegas — it was a great obstacle!) and they needed to deliver the pay-off. What they SHOULD have done was have the wedding and then had a reason for Castle to leave to get something that was forgotten for the reception, and THEN have the kidnapping. Viewers were simply annoyed that they had so much invested and didn’t get what they thought they were going to get after diligently waiting for two seasons of Kate and Rick being together.

      • I have a feeling that by the end of the day we’ll have enough outraged CASTLE season 6 viewers to sign a petition.

  3. Happy Release Day, Allison! Thank you for being here with us at Kiss and Thrill.

    I love that you are writing the Lucy books with continuing characters. I can never get enough of characters I love, so this series is right up my alley.

    What I wonder, however, selfishly trying to figure this out in my own writing, is how do you balance the romantic elements in the book to not get those “offended by romance” reviews from your mainstream mystery/thriller audience? You’ve managed to straddle the two genres perfectly — how do you do it?

    Sending you a super hug for the new book!

    • allisonbrennan

      Hi Diana! Great to *see* you again here at K&T! … I don’t know if the story is “perfect” but I write what I love to write. My books tend to focus more heavily on the suspense than the romance, they’re not a true 50/50 balance, but I think in romantic suspense you don’t need to jump through hoops to have that 50/50 balance — I think RS is broad enough to encompass a breadth of stories. Lisa Gardner no longer writes romantic suspense, but because she’d started in the genre, her books still have a depth of character and touch upon relationships and how they impact the story (or more, how the suspense main plot impacts her character’s personal relationships, particularly D.D. Scott of late.)

      The other thing is that I don’t write to “fit” in a specific slot. I try to tell the best story I can. Because Lucy is romantic suspense, the only guarantee I give is that Sean and Lucy will be together at the end of each book. Their relationship needs to continue and grow. They aren’t going to cheat on each other (for me, I hate that subplot in romance.) They aren’t going to break up. They will have rough patches, but they will find a way to survive and be better because of it. I think that’s the beauty of a continuing series — you can have a slower burn.

      Anyway, mystery/thriller readers sometimes think I have too much “romance” or “sex” in my books, but rarely. There’s two Lucy books that had no sex in them at all — but one of them (STOLEN) I think is my most romantic (because it’s about what Sean will do to secure his relationship with Lucy.) To me, that is the turning point in the series, where they both realize that nothing and no one can stop them from finding their happily ever after.

      Long answer! I hope it helps 🙂

  4. I like Castle and Bones, but I LOVE your Lucy KIncaid series. So excited for DEAD HEAT! Thanks, Allison.

  5. I like continuing series. I love castle. I can’t wait to read Dead Heat!

    • allisonbrennan

      Thanks Deborah! 🙂 I think Castle has done everything right, except for the season 6 finale. They blew it big time. But they can redeem themselves. Bones did after screwing up the romance between Booth and Brennan.

      • You know what drives me nuts? Hearing about all these romances on popular TV shows and knowing the majority of those viewers would stick their nose up at READING a romance. I don’t see the difference based on what Allison described above comparing Lucy with CASTLE.

  6. Happy release day Allison! I don’t watch much tv so can’t comment on Castle or Bones. The only series I’ve followed is The Walking Dead…. and long term relationshis tend to have an early “expiration” date.

    I love series books as long as there are strong secondary characters. I recently started three different stand alone books and couldn’t get though the first few chapters of any of them. I, almost, thought I had lost my love of reading since I had never before had a problem getting through any book. (If I start a book I NEED to end a book… or so I thought) Anyway, I picked up the latest in a series I love ( Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum) and found I definitely still have my love of reading. I just missed being invested in the characters. And, I think that’s what is special about a main characters series…. we form a type of relationship that is unique to devoted readers.

    Sigh… I rambled… sorry.
    Julie O
    blameitonabook at gmail dot com

    • allisonbrennan

      Rambling allowed! 🙂 … I’ve seen the first two seasons of TWD but haven’t finished. My son wants to watch it, so I think I’ll start over again and watch with him this summer. It’s the only television show that gave me nightmares, maybe because it’s so realistic I think it could really happen …

      • Sounds like a show about zombies…

        Julie- I totally get what you’re saying. As writers we have so much craft hammered into us that we think about ‘journeys’ and pace and tension on every page…and forget that it’s really about exploring the depths of characters and their emotions.

        • Allison, TWD definitely hands out nightmares. But, I have had nightmares all of my life that would put Stephen King to shame. So, zombies are a breeze in my “night life”.

          Sarah, It is a show about zombies, zombies and more zombies with a bit of human interaction thrown in… until they become zombified too. 🙂

          Tension and pace are big components in a book. But, if I’m not feeling connected to the character why am I investing time in their story? For an author to write a stand alone book and have me connected to their characters instead of just wanting to read a good story is rare. One of the best ever was your very own Carey Baldwin’s First Do No Evil. I was smitten with Danny in the first few pages.

  7. Hi Allison! Happy release day! I can’t wait to read Dead Heat, but I just started Notorious so I guess I’ll wait a day or so 🙂 I am currently writing my first book that features an ongoing couple, so I’m aware of the challenges and thrilled to have your wonderful books both to read for my own enjoyment and to help me see how it’s done right.

    TV shows. Getting a little burnt out with Castle though it has been a favorite of mine and has that “comeback” potential if they step it up. Bones, I love! Am all about Bones and Booth.
    I had a hard time getting into True Detective but I found another series on Netflix recently called Luther. Wow. I highly recommend it for binge watching.

    Allison, thanks so much for the guest post. Please keep those awesome books coming. I love them and I don’t care at all whether they fit into a “slot” or not.
    Great job as usual , Sarah! Thanks!

    • allisonbrennan

      I love LUTHER. I’ve been a fan since Season One and bought it on iTunes — originally, they released it on iTunes before the US aired it, which I loved. They don’t do that anymore 😦 Idris Elba? Yowsa. Love him!

  8. I am so happy to see you back at Kiss and Thrill today, Allison. I am a huge fan, from your very first book, and I absolutely love your series with continuing characters.
    At the end of a book I often wonder if the couple is happy, if they go to counseling, if they have kids, etc. But with continuing series, I feel like I’m living their life along with them, with all the ups and downs that come with relationships and life and love. 🙂

    • allisonbrennan

      I totally agree … there’s also the opportunity to grow, especially in romantic suspense when there is so much external conflict and tension. To have that person to come home to, who will love you no matter what, who understands what you do and why you do it … it really doesn’t get any better!

  9. Mona Kekstadt

    Happy Release Day Allison…I love the Lucy Kincaid books. I have read just about all your books and this series is my favorite. I went back and read some of the earlier books before Lucy entered the FBI. She is one tough cookie. I don’t want to read too much I haven’t got my book yet. Soon though.
    My favorite show is Castle..Detective Kate Beckett, and Richard Castle love how they first met. It cracked me up.
    Anyway drove me crazy how they ended things. What’s your favorite thing about Lucy and Sean?
    I’m new to Kiss and Thrill…

    • Welcome, Mona!
      Yeah, the novel with Lucy’s introduction to us was just about the most chilling book I’ve ever read! One of those examples where you can’t fathom a happy ending for ANY of the characters.

    • allisonbrennan

      Hi Mona! I agree, Castle started strong … and got better. It’s a completely character driven show with strong actors, and I love how they’ve expanded and improved the secondary characters (the first season they were weak.) Of course, I’m a huge Nathan Fillion fan! (FIREFLY! Whoot!)

      As far as Sean and Lucy … I love how Sean is so self-confident about everything in his life, except he doesn’t think he’s good enough for Lucy. And Lucy is not confident about everything in her life, but she thinks Sean is too good for her. Lucy’s learning to trust her instincts and training, and Sean is learning that he’s worthy of Lucy. I also like how they never question doing the right thing. They might disagree on the how, but they are both willing to risk themselves to save others.

  10. Welcome back to Kiss and Thrill, Allison! I LOVE Castle, but I watch it with my 14-year-old daughter, and we’ve barely had TV time these last weeks, so we’re behind. I avoided reading comments above on how the season ends, but I’m glad to know ahead of time it’s contrived – it eases the disappointment to be braced for it. 🙂

    I thought they were jumping the shark with the 70s episode this season (which is the last one I’ve seen, I think) yet I enjoyed that episode anyway and felt they somehow pulled it off.

    • allisonbrennan

      The 70s episode was simply fun — and they got away with it because they played it fun, and they’re good actors. But I thought it was a bit weird. My FAVORITE was season 5 when Rick had the hurt leg and thought he witnessed a murder, the Rear Window scenario. I loved it!

  11. Reblogged this on DIANA BELCHASE and commented:

    A great guest post by darling Allison Brennan. Enjoy!

  12. So great to “see” you back at K&T with more Lucy Kincaid books. I love books that straddle genres and have strong mystery/suspense plot lines like yours.

    Happy release day, Allison!

  13. I seriously doubt my wit would thrill anyone. 🙂 But I’ll take a stab at responding. I’ve always been an avid TV watcher too, but not of shows like Castle or Bones (continuing romantic relationships). I’ve always gone for shows like the NCIS series and the CSI’s and the like. But in reading habits, I’ve done something different: read stories by Elizabeth George, Patricia Cornwell and John Sandford, David Baldacci and the like, where there are continuing relationships. Odd, now that i think about it. So I guess I DO like serial romantic suspense stories. Once I started thinking about it and typing in my comment, it became clear to me. 🙂 So continue doing what you do best, Allison, whether it be with a continuing relationship between the two main characters or a stand-alone romantic mystery with new characters. I’m sure I’ll love whatever you write.

    • Thanks so much for replying! Sounds like you ‘figured out’ your reading and watching habits by explaining them!

    • allisonbrennan

      I love NCIS! CSI I used to love, but it became blah for me. I also love The Blacklist, a new show, which has been so much fun this year. My new favorite show! James Spader is amazing.

      As far as what I write — I love the continuing relationships, and then I started the Max Revere series which focuses on Max … and she doesn’t have one love interest. She has two — and I’m not necessarily going to limit her there. It’s really more about her journey, and how the men in her life fit into her life. And, it focuses more on the mystery than the relationship. 🙂

  14. Well, wow, this day went fast, Allison! Thank you so much for writing such an interesting blog that got the discussion rolling all day.

    We wish you the best of luck with the release and sales of DEAD HEAT…kind of wish I was in the running to win too. 😦

    Are you coming to Murder By The Book in Houston soon?
    If so, I’ll be in that comfy armchair on the right…
    Thanks again-

    • allisonbrennan

      Hi Sarah! I don’t know when I’ll be back to Houston … hopefully next year with COMPULSION comes out! Thank you so much for hosting me today, I love visiting your blog!

  15. Welcome, Allison! Congratulations on the release!! I really love your explanation for how you made the decisions about planning for Lucy and Sean’s move to San Antonio. I hate contrived separations too. Which is why if I watched Castle I’d have been super frustrated by that season six finale! I hate stuff like that!

    Can’t wait for your next one with Laura Griffin. I really thought the first one was fun. 🙂

    • allisonbrennan

      Laura and I are having fun with it — there will be at least three books. More if we can fit them in, but we both have pretty full schedules!

  16. I do like continuing characters. I enjoy watching them learn and grow. If they just stay the same, what fun is that? Thanks

  17. Sorry I’m a day late–I’m going crazy getting ready to move to Boston–but I wanted to thank you for joining us again, Allison! 🙂

  18. I *sooo* agree with you about Castle season 7!

Thrill us with your wit...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: