Only it’s a bit more complicated. Just how much romance is required? And how much suspense? What kind of suspense?
After you figure out your answers to these questions, you still have to convince the acquiring romantic suspense editor you have indeed written a romantic suspense. Light on the suspense? She’ll tell you the manuscript is a romance with suspense elements. Get skimpy on the romance and the genre editor will insist you submitted a mystery with romantic elements.
Meanwhile you’re screaming, "What’s the difference?"
The answer is simple, yet very hard to execute. In a true RS, each storyline (romance and mystery/suspense) must be equally important. Think about that for a bit. You basically must write two separate books, merge them into one novel, and make sure both storylines are equally important and merge together seamlessly.
If that weren’t difficult enough, you must have a kick-ass heroine. It’s no longer acceptable to have the strapping FBI agent or the hunky cop rescue the damsel in distress. Your leading lady must be equally responsible (if not totally) for resolving the suspenseful situation.
What’s more, the romantic suspense author must know a lot of things traditional romance authors never consider. For example: what poisons can kill a spouse without leaving a trace? What size hole does a 9mm Ruger leave in a man’s head? And was the silencer really necessary if a tree falls in the forest—eh, scratch the tree part.
Then, while you're engrossed in this intense life and death situation, you have to insert a love scene—or three. Let’s see you do that James Patterson. Writing believable love scenes that are more than the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone is hard enough. Try getting your characters in the mood while the bullets are flying.
Don’t even get me started on writing a young adult romantic suspense… J
So why do we do it? Why write RS?
There’s a popular song (well, maybe not so popular) that has the lyrics “…the book of life is brief and once the page is read, all but love is dead.” Those words pretty much sum up a romantic suspense (why didn’t I start with that?). Every good romantic suspense author believes this, with every fiber of her soul. But… She can't live without the life-or-death situation or the thrill of resolving a whodunit either.