I attended the State Fair of Texas on a college game day and it was packed. The one thing I never miss out on at the fair is a deep-fried, foot-long corndog. It was the first place I ever had one. That an Orange Julius and funnel cake but I was living without those last year. The corndog was the only “cheat” I would allow on my diet. We were starving by the time the game was over, rushed to the first corndog stand at the edge of the Mid-Way (rides and game area) as did everyone else exiting the Cotton Bowl.
We had to meet the family, so we walked and ate. And I soon realized that if I weren’t careful someone was going to shove that sharp corndog stick down my throat. Bells went off. Murder. And my brain plotted the rest of the afternoon.
So what’s different when you’re a suspense writer? You plot murder everywhere. And yes, it literally is EVERYwhere. They don’t necessarily always make it into a book, but it’s easy to plot the demise of someone who cuts you off on the highway, cuts in front of you at the grocery store, or even the hotel maintenance guy using a leaf blower at eight in the morning (okay especially him).
My husband has accused my brain of being wired differently and I suppose he’s right. I see stories, I hear stories, I imagine all sorts of possibilities when people are late. I’ve learned not to react to those fears...but I can never stop my brain from traveling there. And the bad-side? The movies that actually slip past my analytical suspense writer mind are few and far between. I absolutely adore a movie where I can’t see the end coming !!
I had fun this week as the feature author at Get Lost In A Story. My special thanks to “The Crew” here. They've really treated me well and gave me some tough, fun questions.
AND FROM JILLIAN STONE the questions got really tough.
JILLIAN: What is it about the combination of suspense and romance that is so thrilling?
ANGI: For me it’s the non-stop action. Mysteries are nice, but my husband can complain how many times I’ve ruined a movie r even a television show because I figure things out. He even knows when I don’t mention anything because I unconsciously sigh when I do. Happened three times Sunday when we were watching television. But the action draws me in. Add water and the threat of drowning and I’m terrified.
.38 CALIBER COVER-UPHe’d been set up. What would they want with him? Or was someone trying to push him out of the picture? These guys had answers and he had lots of questions. A different dread took over his body. His mind released its hold on his tensed muscles. Everything automated, ready for a fight.
Patrol lights flashed at the end of the alley. Butthead froze. Wrong move. Spinning, Rhodes lifted his leg and let his worn-out Air Jordan knock Butthead’s gun behind the strip mall’s Dumpster.
Butthead wasn’t going down without a fight. Rhodes didn’t want to go mano-a-mano, but he threw a punch to Butthead’s chin. The man dodged, dipped his shoulder and gave a blocking tackle to make any football coach proud. Right into Rhodes’ gut.
Air whooshed from his lungs as they crashed to the ground splashing water from a pothole. Bright bits of light flashed across his briefly closed eyes. Thrusting the big goon off, he kicked out, catching the perp’s face. His shoe should have knocked the living daylights out of the goon.
Butthead sat up, spit out his gold cap and grinned.
JILLIAN: How does romance enhance a suspense plot? Conversely, what does suspense do for romance?
ANGI: Just being classified as a “romance,” a reader is guaranteed a happily ever after, but you’re never quite certain what’s going to happen along the way to get these two characters together. I love the line from SPEED where Annie makes up statistics about people who meet under intense circumstances... But it’s true. Suspense gives the author a logical reason to force two characters to be together and I personally love to have my characters together 24/7. Makes for some interesting sleeping arrangements. (LOL) So for me as a writer both enhance each other and I can’t really separate them. Suspense always ends up in my writing. I can’t get away from it even in the 13th century. Intense situations where hero and heroine learn to depend on each other, learning to trust throughout lots of action, realizing how full their lives have become with the realization they might lose that person forever... wow !
JILLIAN: Tension comes from both plot and character conflicts in the RS novel. Which do you enjoy writing most, a good argument or a good chase scene?
ANGI: Give me a good argument inside the cab of a truck, racing through a corn field...oh, well, maybe I did that.
.38 CALIBER COVER-UP“You took after that guy without your back-up.”
“I heard you behind me. Watch out!” She pointed to a fire hydrant.
When the Ford rounded the south side of the school on the delivery drive, it hesitated a second before joining them on the sidewalk, directly in their path.
“This is not the place for a game of chicken,” she said.
Panic at how Erren would handle the situation fizzled as the Ford coming straight at them veered into a small ditch and made a U-turn into the corn field, promptly disappearing within the wave of stalks. Thirty seconds later, the chase began for real.
“How can we catch him through all this corn?” She retrieved a partial ear which had flown into her lap and tossed it back out the window.
“It’s not like he can lose us. This is a trail Hansel and Gretel could follow.”JILLIAN: Maybe you can clear this up for me: What is the difference between a thriller and a suspense novel?
ANGI: Wow. Tough question and such a thin line in some cases. But I think it’s easiest to explain with movie examples: SEVEN vs DIE HARD ?
In the film SEVEN, you realize that everyone’s in danger...but it’s more intense as the movie progresses and they discover it’s the seven deadly sins AND you know someone’s going to die with each investigation. Key word...discover. The more they investigate, the scarier things get. I’ve always sort of thought that genre was misnamed because I never receive “thrills” --nail-biters is more like it. DIE HARD on the other hand is unpredictable action, shorter amount of time, someone needs to “save” the day and kill the bad guys.
JILLIAN: Along that same vein, are your suspense plots more psychological/mystery or more action/adventure?
ANGI: Definitely action/adventures with twists.
.38 CALIBER COVER-UP"You want to leave, you'll have to get past me."
She shoved the keys deep into her pocket. “I’m not afraid of you.”
He tightened his grip on his arms. If he touched her, it wouldn’t be in a sparring match. He wanted that skin perfectly white, not bruised by his hand. The next time his fingers grazed her, it would be wrestling of a different sort. “If you're convinced you're doing the right thing, prove it. Take me down once, and I'll let you call the shots.”
Light on her feet, Darby moved toward him to throw a punch at his right shoulder. He dodged.
“Didn’t your daddy teach you any dirty tricks to use on all those military Privates who dated you?” He retreated two steps. He gestured for her to come after him.
“See, you’re over-reacting to my comments and not thinking clearly.”
The more he spouted off, the less accurate her punches became. She threw another, he stumbled backwards into the lounger, ducking a right jab. She threw a series, he stayed one step out of her way.
“Damn it, Erren, engage me.”
JILLIAN: Linda Howard wrote a book called DREAM MAN. In what ways is the hero in a Romantic Suspense novel different than other romance subgenres? What about the heroine?
ANGI: Speaking for Harlequin Intrigues, the hero will save the day. Most of the time the heroine will help...but the hero being heroic is a must, nerdy is very hard to pull off. Well, unless they’re undercover. Intrigue heroines are difficult to write for me. I refuse to write a heroine who won’t stay in the cabin when someone with an ax is in the woods. It was very difficult to write a plot for a cop (Darby) and keep her smart enough, but in a situation where the hero (Erren) had to rescue her. Very difficult.
JILLIAN: What is the most unusual place you have ever put your characters for a love scene?
ANGI: A broken-down camper in a junk yard.
HILL COUNTRY HOLDUPThe derelict camper sat on tireless rims amidst rusting dishwashers, car parts, and other discarded items. There was a three-foot dirt path around its edge and a tattered awning over the doorway.
A steel pole wedged in the middle of a large wooden spool covered in fast-food wrappers and crushed soda cans held up one side of the awning. The opposite was tied to junk on the far side of the path. A folding chair held together with more duct-tape than original strap sat next to the door. She couldn’t sit in that.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
His laughter preceded him down a lonely trail of doorless refrigerators.
JILLIAN: List a few of your all time favorite suspense novels or films, especially the ones that influenced the direction of your writing.
ANGI: Okay, I admit I’d rather see the film (but that’s changing with the kids out of the house). The Bourne series: I love the idea of completely starting over with lots of “skills.” Sydney Sheldon: I read just about everything the man wrote, then realized there was hardly ever a “happily ever after.” His work is the reason I migrated back to romance and the reason I hardly read anything else. And (as you can tell) I’m a Harlequin gal. Love the Suspense & Intrigue lines and all the authors (I can’t choose!).
JILLIAN: Share a memorable or unusual love scene setting in a Romantic Suspense novel or film.
ANGI: I wish I could say that my all time favorite character relationship or lovescene was from a suspense. But it’s actually a kitchen wall between Cameron & Anna in Nora Roberts’ Sea Swept. Those two characters are explosive! The series has a lot of mystery of unanswered questions and a ghost. If you’ve never read her Chesapeake Bay series...you probably should. For film? I know it’s not a “romance” but the love scene in TERMINATOR left an impression on me. Goodness, the man says, “I came across time for you.” And then there's Debra Webb's Protective Custody (Harlequin Intrigue) about two reunited lovers and a tree trunk. (big grin)