07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Friday, May 27, 2011

Clues You Write Romantic Suspense

First Clue You Write Suspense. While visiting with your two Ph.D. nieces, you spend lots of time questioning them about exotic toxins and pathogens and how a smart killer might employ them to get away with murder—or at least give it a good try.

First Clue You Write ROMANTIC Suspense: One of said nieces, a Beta reader for your manuscripts, fans herself after reading a love scene. “Oh, my God, how did you come up with that?” she asks. Then, she crawfishes. “Nope. Sorry. Not sure I want to know.”

My name is Linda Lovely. The fact that my very smart (and funny) nieces have earned doctorates probably gives you a hint that I’m not in my twenties. Okay, I waved goodbye to 50 a while back, too. Yep, I’m a baby boomer. Like many other debut authors in my age range, I’m finally at a point in my life/career where I have time to write what I want. In my case, that’s either romantic suspense or a mystery with strong romantic elements.

My debut novel, DEAR KILLER, features a heroine who’s over age 50.
Nonetheless, Marley Clark is athletic, smart, funny and sexy. Her adventures start when she finds a naked corpse stewing in a hot tub and teams up with a 40-year-old deputy eager to trade strip searches. Hey, why should young heroines have all the fun?

By one strict definition, some of my manuscripts aren't romantic suspense. Yes, they have plenty of thrills and romance, but some of the books don’t end with the heroine and hero in a committed relationship. That’s not to say the endings aren't happy. Sometimes circumstances force people to follow different paths. They can still part as lovers and friends—better people for their encounter.

I’m now polishing a couple of manuscripts that feature younger heroines—women in their 30s. I identify with them, too. I’ve been there. But Marley Clark holds a special place. She has more life experiences and more baggage. But she also has a deep appreciation for love and laughter and she knows you need to seize it whenever you can.

Okay, so tell me—does the age of a heroine/hero influence whether you’ll read a book?

If you missed my intro, you can read it here.


Alyssia said...

Hello, Linda! And congratulations on your debut! For me, it really doesn't make a difference. I lean toward the historical genre, so that can range anywhere from 18 to... eh, late 20's? Give or take. But I must say, since I am a woman in her 30's, I do enjoy a contemporary that features a real chick in real situations at a real age. Does that make sense? So, yeah! Bring on the heroines in their 30's and on up into the 50's! If she's got a good, solid story to tell, I am totally game.

Congratulations again!

jenny milchman said...

It's funny because I see my 7 year old choosing books based on the gender of the character, and recall doing that myself as a child. I would've thought that such demographic considerations (such as age) would be behind me by now. But perhaps I am still vulnerable to them, since I see I do gravitate toward protagonists my age of a bit younger. However what your question does is make me want to run right out and buy the book with the older protag--I bet this will be a great reading experience, and something new. Thanks for the post!

Betty Gordon said...

Linda, I am not influenced at all by ages -- either of the protagonist or the victim (well, maybe the victim . A good story prevails.

Donnell said...

Linda, I'm influenced greatly by a heroine's age. At our age, we've learned so much, and we're concerned with things far different than that of a twenty year old.

Your heroine sounds exquisite.

Kris McConville said...


To me it isn't about the age as much as the story. I was a precocious child with siblings more than a decade older than me. I got into reading at a young age and have been a voracious reader since the age of 14, starting with Danielle Steel. So I was a teenager reading about heroines much older than me. [back then I thought 30 was old (ha)]

As long as the story is intriguing, believable and perks my interest, I don't even think about the ages of the characters.

Congrats on the debut novel!! :-)

Bonnie K. Winn said...

I prefer mature heroines. The youngest I write any longer are late twenties, but usually in their thirties. I think Donnell hit it on the head. It's difficult to identify with someone my child's age. I'm on my 37th published romance novel and I've written all types, but I love sagas. Some of those do begin with a much younger heroine who matures over the course of the story. However, I have friends my age who prefer the younger heroines. Visit me on Faceboook at Bonnie K. Winn author and you can take a look at what I write. Hope that helps.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Congratulations on your debut mystery. I certainly would choose to read a novel with a heroine over 50. In fact, the sleuth in my debut novel, A Murderer Among Us, which comes out next week, is over 50. Perhaps they should form a club.

Linda Lovely said...

Your comments are all very interesting and enlightening. I think sometimes we're not even aware of what influences our choices. And Jenny, if you've got an e-reader, the ebook version of DEAR KILLER, is now up on Amazon and AllRomance. (Trade paperback should be available shortly.)

Sandra Parshall said...

I've read wonderful books that had children as the lead characters and equally entertaining novels featuring characters in their 70s and older. The story and the quality of the writing are what count.

Judith Ashley said...


Great question! In my WIP, my heroines are between their early 30's and mid-40's and in my current WIR (work I'm reading) she's 26. I've read some great books where the heroine is in her 30's albeit usually fairly early 30's. Overall I keep reading if the story holds my interest and part of that is how realistic the story is.

What isn't realistic and doesn't hold my interest is a 20-something cast of characters who have made it to the top of their profession and find the man/woman of their dreams in the shipping department.

My twenties were a gift in living life, learning about myself and figuring out what I stand for. (AS were my 30's, 40's 50's and now 60's). So, bring on the more mature heroines/heros. Marley Clark seems to be right where she needs to be.

Ellis Vidler said...

I see some characters as ageless--just a rational adult with enough experience to be interesting. Those characters can do most things believably and I don't give much thought to specific ages. Your character, Marley Clark, is in that group--she could be any age. She's not limited by a number. Those are the ones I like best.

Pauline B Jones said...

I was more age conscious when I was young (aren't we all a little?), but not that I'm in my 50's, well, no. lol! Have you ever seen the Brit series called AS TIME GOES BY with Judi Dench? Wonderful humor and fun "wrinklies" humor as they called it. LOL! Congrats on the release!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I like the idea of an older heroine with more life experience behind her. I think it's a great idea to have older people as h/h in a novel. Pauline is right: lots of us love Judith Dench's AS TIME GOES BY, wrinkles and all.

Gayle Feyrer said...

I'll read any age. I might opt for younger if I was wanting something with a romance, but then again, I think Helen Mirren is one of the sexiest women in the world. Sexy aside, who doesn't adore Miss Marple? My heroine is young, she's lived a bit rough, but is an innocent at heart, and I wanted her innocence contrasted with the decadent mood of my Paris mystery.

Linda Lovely said...

I haven't analyzed the age of heroes/heroines in releases from big NY houses versus smaller presses, but I wonder if there's a difference. I have the impression--may be entirely wrong--that the first reader/editors at NY houses tend to be younger than those at smaller publishers, where owners are often involved. I think that might lead to some unintended bias in which manuscripts are selected--just because the readers/editors identify more with the younger h/hs. Do you think the theory has any validity?

Cindy Sample said...

HI Linda. Wonderful post and great comments. I find that my 50 to 75 year old friends have no problem identifying with my 39 year old single mom protagonist because they can relate to her. Regardless of the age, if a character is well developed with a strong relatable voice, she'll be enjoyed by her reading audience.

BTW, concerning your comment about big publishers, I had a young editor reject DYING FOR A DATE because she said my protagonist was too funny to be a Mom. She obviously was not.

Congrats on your success!

Maryn Sinclair said...

I don't think age has anything to do with a good romantic relationship. It's the rapport that two people have that makes it interesting. And kudos to you for writing a hot sex scene without closing the door or going into fadeout. You know how I feel about that.

Maryn Sinclair

Polly said...

Congrats on the release of your book, Linda. Since I've read it, I know how good it is. As for your question, age is relative. I have no problem reading a h/h of any age. It's the story that counts and how the two people react to one another. Sexuality and sensuality has no number.

Linda Lovely said...

Sounds like most of us are open to reading books with heroes/heroines of any age--if it's a good story. I might add that I also read the Hunger Games (an excellent young adult book) that features teen protagonists. Enjoyed it immensely.

Linda Lovely said...

Maryn, thanks for the kudos, but in the interests of full disclosure, I should add that my truly "hot" scenes occur in manuscripts waiting to be published. DEAR KILLER has more steam than flame. Not that you can't imagine what's going on in the sauna.

Sarah Raplee said...

I've enjoyed wonderful books with YA h/hs and wonderful books with much older h/hs. The most common age for a heroine at this time seems to be low-to-late thirties in adult romances, but there's certainly a market for older couple's stories. Maybe the age of the big print publisher buyers IS a factor. Who knows?

Vonnie Alto said...

No, the age of the hero/ine doesn't influence whether or not I'll read a book. However, it's always a very nice surprise when the hero/ine is older. For example, I adore Agatha Raisin (40ish-50ish woman) in the Agatha Raisin mysteries by M.C. Beaton. I loved Mrs. Pollyfax and Miss Marple--again mysteries. For romance, I seem to remember that Marion Chesney wrote about an older hero. Delle Jacobs wrote of an intriguing older duke whose son, Reggie is perfect for the heroine in Lady Valient. The duke is so intriguing that he almost took over the story and deserves his own book.

At the other end of the spectrum, I also like really young love. There's something appealing about the innocence and youth of both the hero/ine in these type of stories.

As to the bias of editors, I think that theory is accurate. The U.S. is a youth oriented culture. Many editors are young--probably because of the high rate of burn out in their profession so naturally they are going to identify with a young hero/ine.

I've also heard that some editors will subtly inquire as to the age of the writer. Often older writers are loathe to give their age and make an effort to appear/act younger than they are to fit in.

Tam Linsey said...

I've been reading a lot of YA lately, where teenage angst seems to rule. I'll have to give Dear Killer a try and see how I like it! Thanks for the blog.

Robin Weaver said...

Hi Linda,

Since I plan to remain 35 eternally, the age matters not to me!