As part of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s 60th anniversary celebrations, I thought I’d use the romantic month of February to chat to some fellow writers, all of whom write suspense but with differing takes on the romantic or relationship element of their novel.
Today, I have Linda Huber joining me …
Most of my psychological suspense novels contain some romance. The romance part is always connected to the main, suspense plot; in The Paradise Trees, for instance, Alicia is alone, dealing with an elderly parent issue when she meets nice Dr Frank. The reader knows, however, that Frank could be the anonymous stalker who has targeted Alicia’s young daughter Jenny. On the other hand, it could be Derek, or Doug, or the pet shop owner. The suspense comes in two parts: will the unknown stalker get Jenny, and is Alicia going to end the book happily?
What is it about romantic suspense that draws you to write it or include it in your books?
Romance plays a big part in most people’s lives, at least at some point! Who doesn’t like a happy ending, and who doesn’t like the suspense of wondering how it’s going to work out – ifit’s going to work out, and if the hero is what he seems to be. And even if the main plot is to do with an unknown someone stealing from elderly patients in hospital and then murdering to cover his tracks (Ward Zero), readers can still enjoy wondering if Sarah has fallen for the right guy along the way…
What sort of balance between the romance element and the suspense element do you have?
In my books, suspense gets the lion’s share, always. Relationships always figure in the plot, but they’re sometimes established marriages (not that these can’t contain romance too!!), and more often it’s family dynamics that my plots circle around. I reckon it’s like life – sometimes romance is the most important thing, and sometimes it’s not.
Do you come up against any regular misconceptions about the genre and how do you dispel these?
One misconception can be – suspense novels don’t have romance in them. But I think we’re all looking for love in our lives, though of course happiness doesn’t have to mean finding romantic love. In her book The Tree of Hands, Ruth Rendell juggled crime, romance and suspense brilliantly. Benet ends up having to choose between a relationship with a great guy, and her child. I cried at the end of that one.
He had found exactly the right spot in the woods. A little clearing, green and dim, encircled by tall trees. He would bring his lovely Helen here… This time, it was going to be perfect.
When Alicia Bryson returns to her childhood home in a tiny Yorkshire village, she finds her estranged father frail and unable to care for himself. Her daughter Jenny is delighted at the prospect of a whole summer playing in the woods at the bottom of the garden, but as soon as Alicia sets foot in Lower Banford, strange and disturbing memories begin to plague her. What happened in her father’s house, all those years ago?
But coping with the uncertainty and arranging Bob’s care plan aren’t Alicia’s only problems. Unknown to her, she has a stalker. Someone is watching, waiting, making plans of his own. To him, Alicia and Jenny are his beautiful Helens… and they should be in Paradise.