Posted by Sarah Andre
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.
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!
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!
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:
Posted by Sarah Andre
Thank you so much for helping us launch our Kiss and Thrill Blog, Allison, and congratulations on your new release: If I Should Die, your 17th novel that was published last week!
You are a prolific, multiple NY Times and USA Today Bestseller. Which current Romantic Suspense authors are absolute favs or impulse buys for you? (Online, airports, bookstores…)
J.D. Robb is an auto-buy. I have all her books. Love Eve Dallas and Roarke! Laura Griffin & Roxanne St. Claire are auto-buy romantic suspense; Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Gardner and J.T. Ellison are auto-buy suspense “with romantic elements” for me, too. I also recently bought a Shannon Butcher book on impulse—can’t wait to finish my revisions so I can dive into my towering TBR piles!
You do a fabulous job scaring your readers- what situation in daily life/news event scares you the most?
Crimes against children. There’s a special place in Hell reserved for anyone who hurts the most innocent in our society.
If you could interview a serial killer (alive or dead) who would it be, and what would you ask?
Oh, just one? Actually, I don’t know that I’d want to go face-to-face with a serial killer. Maybe Dorathea Puente, because she’s from Sacramento and killed her boarders for their social security checks. Right after I moved to Sacramento when I was 19, a friend drove me past her house and told me all about her crimes. She’d just been arrested, but the trial wasn’t until several years later. I think she got away with it for so long because she was a little old lady and no one thinks that “grandma” is capable of murder.
How do you separate the twisted violence of your plots from your hectic life with 5 kids? (Meaning go straight from describing a serial killer butchering a victim to fixing dinner.)
I don’t think I’m that gruesome in my books! LOL. I write when the kids are at school, then take the afternoon and evening “off” to do kid stuff (sports, homework, dinner, etc.) Then I write at night. I think about other people who have far more difficult jobs—like the cops and coroners and crime scene investigators who have to work with real victims and killers. They, too, go home and have families, but they deal with far more violence than I do. Mine is fiction! But I probably compartmentalize in a similar way.
I know you’re a pantster (write by the seat of your pants, instead of plotting a story out), and your research is impeccable. Do you research first for ideas (i.e., cyber stalking/burying an IP address in cyber space like a needle in a haystack) or get an idea first and then research specifically what you need?
I prefer “organic writer.” <g> I do both forms of research. I read a lot of true crime and participate in a lot of research “field trips” that aren’t specific to any book I’m writing, so I have a lot of ideas and information I can pull up when I need it. But for the details, I research as I need information. For example, I wanted to confirm a crime scene detail that I thought I had right, but couldn’t find the specific in my forensic books, so I emailed a friend (the fabulous writer D.P. Lyle) who confirmed my set-up, and also gave me the whys (which helps!)
The Evil Series (Speak No Evil, See No Evil, Fear No Evil) were all published in 3 consecutive months in 2007. Please tell me you were not on a book-a-month deadline?! If these were not previous stories you’d written, how difficult was this to pull off?
I had two back-to-back trilogies. The first (The Prey, The Hunt, The Kill) were all written before the first book came out, though The Kill was on a tight deadline. We contracted for the second trilogy in February of 2006, and I had tight deadlines, but not each month!
Practically, when writing these trilogies especially since Ballantine wanted them out sooner to capitalize on the success of the first trilogy, I had to juggle all three books at one time. I didn’t have any of these written, though because I focused on one setting (San Diego) and one family (the Kincaid’s) it made the story research easier.
That meant while waiting for revisions on SPEAK, I started writing SEE. When I got revisions back, I put SEE aside, revised SPEAK, then went back to writing SEE. I turned in SEE and worked on copyedits for SPEAK. Then turned those in and worked on revisions for SEE.
The Evil Series and part of the FBI series features heroes and heroines from the Kincaid family, (brothers and sisters of your new series heroine, Lucy Kincaid.) What was it about Lucy that inspired you to give her her own series?
Lucy is a strong and compassionate heroine who suffered great crimes and in turn killed her attacker—in cold blood. He was unarmed when she shot him. She has some issues she hasn’t addressed yet; she’s complex and believable. Better, I can focus on one protagonist from the beginning of her career, building her over time.
I had wanted to write a series, and after writing FEAR NO EVIL I knew that I wanted to write about Lucy. When I met Sean Rogan briefly in Fatal Secrets and Cutting Edge, I just knew he was perfect for Lucy. I was thrilled when I put them on the page together that there was chemistry! Sean has a very interesting backstory as well, most of which hasn’t been revealed. I can’t wait to see what pops up for him over the next few books!
As a follow up, this is the first time in your publishing career that you’ve centered a series around one reoccurring heroine. Are you finding that difficult? (For example, your books have a romantic Happily Ever After, and now you have Lucy Kincaid and Sean Rogan together in more books. Is it difficult to keep the conflicts and growth going?)
Yes and no. I like being able to build Lucy & Sean’s relationship over time—one of my problems in romantic suspense is the HEA after two days. With Lucy & Sean, I can add layers to their relationship, to give them a solid foundation that will withstand the pressure of their careers and conflicts.
I thought I would have a much harder time with conflict between them. Once they’re together, how can I keep them together while also growing their relationship and have conflict that’s organic to the story? I start with the foundation: they are together and are willing to fight to keep their relationship. Then I look at who they are: Lucy is driven to fighting bad guys, sometimes at the expense of all else. She internalizes the pain of the victims, she understands the motivations of the criminals even though that makes her uncomfortable and depressed. She is battling her own feelings of right and wrong. Sean is fun-loving, arrogant and super smart—but he has some very justified animosity toward law enforcement. Yet he’s in love with Lucy, who wants to be an FBI agent above all else. As Sean’s reasons for distrusting cops come out, it’s going to increase the tension between them. Plus, Sean is no saint—even I don’t know what he’s capable of. But I do know that anything he does that might be illegal he does for the right reasons.
Anyway, I’m having fun exploring the grey areas in crime and punishment and justice, and I can think of no two better people to tell these stories than Sean and Lucy!
How many books do you plan for the Lucy Kincaid series? What’s after that?
I don’t have a set number. When I feel there is no more room for growth or conflict that’s organic to the story and characters, I’ll probably end the series. I’d like to write at least ten books in the series because I don’t think Sean’s past is going to really come out until after book six.
The third Lucy Kincaid series, ‘If I Should Die’ came out last week, 11/22/11. And the next is ‘Silenced’ coming in April 2012. Can you give us a sneak peek of ‘Silenced’?
SILENCED: Washington sex scandal and a cold-blooded killer. Lucy risks her career and her life when, three weeks before she’s supposed to report to Quantico, she and her training partner Noah Armstrong are assigned to investigate the murder of a known mistress to a powerful congressman.
For Kicks: Which Hollywood stars would be great to play Lucy Kincaid and Sean Rogan, if the series became a TV or movie deal?
Oh, how fun! Hmm … It’s hard to pick, because I have a picture of her in my mind, and no one quite matches it.
For Lucy, I think someone like Salma Hayek or Jessica Alba or Natalie Martinez or Serinda Swan.
For Sean, Henry Cavill is probably leading right now … though I also like Milo Ventimiglia or Matt Bomer might work. Matt has his eyes …
Now, for Noah Armstrong, an important secondary character, I’d love to see Mark Wahlberg play him!! Actually, I’d love to see Mark Wahlberg play anything …
Would you ever consider self-publishing the remaining paranormal series Original Sins?
Yes, I’m considering it. I’d prefer to find a publisher for the series, but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll look at doing it myself and publishing it the way I want—as urban fantasy/supernatural thriller, not paranormal romance.
Thank you so much for hosting me this week! I’m excited about this new blog, and hope to visit often!
Thank YOU, Allison! For more info on Allison Brennan, her books and future speaking engagements please visit her website at www.AllisonBrennan.com
Do any of you have questions, comments or want to share your favorite Allison Brennan novel with the rest of us?
***All participants are eligible for the Thurday, 12/1 drawing! Allison is giving away a copy of: Love Me To Death. Check back to see if you’re the winner!