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 Gwen Hernandez
Allison and Laura have co-authored a new book called Crash and Burn. Part anthology, part collaborative work, Crash and Burn combines two stories starring former cops Scarlet Moreno and Krista Hart who are now partners in a private investigations firm.
Allison Brennan’s Crash has Scarlet Moreno hot on the trail of a killer, while trying to avoid a hunky police detective who wants her off the case. Burn, written by Laura Griffin, follows Krista Hart as she hunts down a missing defense witness and fends off a playboy PI competing for the same fee.
Danger, intrigue, and a few hot kisses ensue.
If you like mysteries with intelligent, kick-ass female leads, you’ll love this book. I know I did! I tracked down Laura and Allison to learn more about the genesis of Crash and Burn.
Gwen: How did the idea to collaborate on a book come about?
Laura: Allison and I had been talking for years about how fun it would be to write a book together. When we came up with the concept of Moreno & Hart Investigations, the ideas really started flowing back and forth. I knew we’d found our characters.
Gwen: The two of you are good friends. Did your friendship survive the book? 😉 Seriously, though, was working together on the book tricky? What was your process?
Allison: Amazingly, the process was painless. Laura and I knew we wanted to write about two female PIs who bonded over something in their past. We picked Orange County as the setting because it’s a place that has a lot of natural potential for stories, it’s familiar, and we both know the area. We each created our own character—Laura developed Krista, and I developed Scarlet. We each wrote our own novellas and incorporated each other’s character, then read everything and edited where our characters came in so that it was consistent. Then we hired an editor to go through both stories looking for any inconsistencies we missed, in addition to standard editing issues.
Gwen: Crash and Burn has some light romantic elements, but it’s a bit different from your usual thriller/romantic suspense titles. Was there a specific spark that drew you toward mystery?
Laura: From the beginning we wanted this to be a series, so I don’t think we were in a hurry to resolve each heroine’s love story right away. Both Scarlet and Krista have a romantic interest, but it is something that will develop over time.
Allison: I love mysteries where there’s a love interest, but the love story isn’t the focal point of the book. In a true romantic suspense, like Laura and I generally write, we spend more time with the hero and heroine working together. As a writer, I like to stretch and write new and different things, while sticking with my core suspense foundation.
Gwen: Allison, your character Scarlet Moreno reminded me of a modern day Kinsey Millhone (from Sue Grafton’s alphabet series): loner, former cop turned PI, not looking for commitment with a man, can’t walk away from a mystery. Was Moreno inspired by any other authors you read or shows you watch?
Allison: What a great question that makes me think! I watch a lot of television and read a lot of books, and can’t really point to one character who inspired Scarlet. When Laura and I were first talking about this series, we thought of a female Elvis Cole and Joe Pike from Robert Crais’s fantastic series. But Scarlet and Krista are definitely different from the guys ☺ … I think with any lead character, there are elements that get pulled from the author’s current reading and viewing habits. I watch a lot of crime drama, from Justified to Longmire to Person of Interest. Outside of Castle and Rizzoli & Isles and Bones, there aren’t a lot of really strong female leading roles. I hope there will be more in the future!
Gwen: Me too! Tell us about Moreno and Hart. What makes them tick, and why do they work well together?
Laura: These two women are both strong and independent, but after the harrowing incident at the beginning of the book they are bonded together by loyalty. They are determined to make their business work, to uncover the truth in their investigations, and to tackle the obstacles in their path. Despite their different personalities, their loyalty runs deep and no matter what happens, they have each other’s backs.
Gwen: You definitely left me wanting more of this duo. When can we expect to see more from Moreno and Hart?
Allison and Laura: We’re thrilled you enjoyed the book! We hope to write another Moreno and Hart mystery (or two or three!)—whenever we can fit it into our schedule. Hopefully sooner rather than later!
Thanks so much for being with us today, ladies!
Laura and Allison are giving away an e-book of Crash and Burn to one lucky commenter. Tell us about one of your favorite strong female characters for a chance to win.
More about Crash and Burn:
Trial by Fire …
Three years ago LAPD Detective Scarlet Moreno and rookie cop Krista Hart were nearly killed during a botched sting operation. Now, they’re best friends and partners in the Orange County private investigation firm of Moreno & Hart. But their routine assignments are anything but safe …
Scarlet Moreno has her hands full with a cheating spouse case when the bartender at her favorite pub becomes a murder suspect. Worse, the detective in charge of the investigation threatens to arrest Scarlet for obstruction—even when she tries to give him valuable information. Scarlet risks her PI license and her life to find out the truth, absolve her friend, and track down a killer—with or without the help of the arrogant, mysterious Detective Alex Bishop.
And Burn …
Krista Hart is burned out on catching deadbeat dads and philandering husbands when a big-time criminal defense attorney hires her for a choice assignment: find the sole witness to murder the day before the trial. The case could be a boon for Moreno & Hart, but the witness is in hiding, someone is following Krista, and her own client is withholding information. The last person she wants help from is sexy investigator R.J. Flynn, but he claims he’s willing to share intel—for a price. If she can solve this case, it’ll elevate Moreno & Hart above being divorce voyeurs, but first she has to survive, with her life and heart intact.