Michelle Somers Talks About Lethal Love and the Allure of Romantic Suspense

I’ve been on a bit of a romantic suspense kick lately, so I’m excited Aussie author, Michelle Somers, is with me today. Michelle’s serialised romantic suspense novel Lethal in Love, which won a coveted Australian RuBY award just last month, is now available in single title ebook for the first time ever. A driven detective, a sexy-as-hell crime reporter and a serial killer, all in the one place – what’s not to love? There are plenty of twists and turns in this one. 

About Michelle...

Michelle Somers is a bookworm from way back. An ex-Kiwi who now calls Australia home, she’s a professional killer and matchmaker, a storyteller and a romantic. Words are her power and her passion. Her heroes and heroines always get their happy ever after, but she’ll put them through one hell of a journey to get there. 

Michelle lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her real life hero and three little heroes in the making. Her debut novel, Lethal in Love won the Romance Writers of Australia’s 2016 Romantic Book of the Year (RuBY) and the 2013 Valerie Parv Award.

She loves hearing from her readers, so please visit her website, where you can sign up for her newsletter and read her blog, or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Homicide detective Jayda Thomasz never lets her emotions get in the way of a case. So when a serial killer re-emerges after 25 years, the last thing she expects is to catch herself fantasising over the hot, smooth-talking stranger who crosses the path of her investigation.

Reporter Seth Friedin is chasing the story that’ll make his career. When he enters the world of swinging for research, he never imagines he’ll be distracted by a hard-talking female detective whose kiss plagues his mind long after she’s gone.

Past experience has shown Jayda that reporters are ruthless and unscrupulous. But when the murders get personal and danger closes in, will she make a deal with the devilish stranger to catch the killer? How far will she and Seth have to go? And do you ever really know who you can trust?

Read a little, buy the book... 

‘Sure you won’t join me?’

Everything in Jayda trembled as Seth brushed her hair aside and pressed his lips to the back of her neck. Her fingers slumped onto the keyboard and a line of incoherent letters raced across the computer screen. She really should remove her hands, but the amble of his lips across her skin robbed both her strength and inclination.

‘I promise to wash all your difficult to reach bits.’

She dragged her hands into her lap. ‘I told you, I need to finish this.’

He swivelled her chair and kneeled between her legs, pressing the lever beneath her seat. It squealed, and with a whoosh of air, slowly lowered her to eye level. Murmuring approval, his palms rested on her hips and his mouth gained better access, this time to the racing carotid on her throat. ‘You’ve been working at it for hours. Haven’t stopped since we arrived home yesterday. Don’t you think it’s time for a break?’

His fingers inched inwards, igniting the need to touch him back. As her palms spanned the breadth of his chest, she wondered if she’d ever get tired of knowing she could. That his body had become as much hers as hers had become his.

‘What about if I pay particular attention to the less difficult to reach and more fun parts?’ He stopped long enough to waggle his eyebrows and then leer sexily at her, before continuing the journey with his lips, which were almost lost in the cleavage of her new, burgundy lace push-up bra.

Yes, she’d finally gone and done it, splurged on a collection of new underwear while they were out yesterday afternoon. Seth had insisted on tagging along. For her safety, he said. And in between acting all tough and bodyguard-like – which made her laugh since she was the one with the gun – he’d spent the time offering suggestions, even offering to help fit each item and provide feedback when necessary.

She’d breathlessly declined, preferring to wait until they’d returned home before she modelled the garments for him. Not that they’d stayed on much longer than the time it took for him to stand back, admire, and then unclasp and slide them off.

Even now, she didn’t know what turned her on more – the gossamer feel of satin and lace against her skin, or the heat in Seth’s expression every time he looked at her.

At the moment his look, not to mention his touch, were hands-down winners.

She turned to the screen and tried to refocus on her list. Now the Night Terror had changed tack and come after her, the case was worth another look from that angle. When things became personal, killers tended to become sloppy. She could only hope their killer fell prey to this same logic.

‘I need to finish this.’

‘Really?’ He glanced at the screen, then back at her askew neckline, and as his fingertips worked her nipple through her top and bra, she gasped. Her head fell back, pressing her breast even deeper against the hand that cupped and squeezed her towards heaven.

‘Sure I can’t convince you?’ His mouth returned to her neck, doing delicious things that made her want to melt right onto the floor. 

Lethal in Love is available via Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and Google Play
Let's talk...

Avril: Tell us a bit about the history of Lethal in Love.
Michelle: Lethal in Love was my first foray into romantic suspense after trying unsuccessfully to write contemporary romance.But let’s go back to the beginning… It was two years since I’d started writing and I wasn’t getting anywhere in a hurry. In fact, I wasn’t getting anywhere at all.I couldn’t keep going the way I was going and expect a miracle to skyrocket my career into successful, published authorhood. I had to make a decision – either give up writing full-time and find a ‘proper’ job (one that pays, lol!) or change something and change the direction of my writing. 

Luckily, I chose the latter. And with that decision, I finally listened to the voices in my head and weaved suspense into my stories. And once I listened, something magic happened. I began to place in competitions. Then, even better, I won Romance Writers of Australia’s Valerie Parv Award – a competition I’d set my heart on the moment I’d discovered it existed. For one incredible year I had won Valerie Parv as a mentor, and from that moment I can truly say Lethal in Love came to life. So much so, that a few months after my mentorship finished, I pitched my baby at RWA’s Sydney 2014 Romance Rocks! conference.Four pitches, four requests. And one struck gold.

Lex Hirst from Penguin Random House loved my story enough to pitch an idea back to me. She wanted to release Lethal in Love as a serial ebook. How could I say ‘no’? So many greats had gone the serial way – Dickens, King, Tolstoy, to name a few. So, in July 2013 the first episode of Lethal in Love was released. Now, with all six episodes out in the world, it’s time they were reunited as one. And so on 19th August 2016, my baby was re-released as a single ebook. With a new cover and a new lease of life. With its rerelease, Lethal in Love will be available to a new collection of readers; people who don’t want to wait to find out what comes next; people who prefer to stay up all night and read an entire book because it’s too good to put down. People like me.

Avril: What’s the attraction of romantic suspense?
Michelle: I’m often asked why I pair the warmth of romance with the deadly chill of suspense. Why did I choose to write romantic suspense? My answer? It’s the perfect melding of my two favorite genres. I’ve always loved anything romance – books, movies, TV shows. I even get all teared-up and soppy during love songs. From my primary years, to my teens, to my tweens, I was drawn by the idea of finding a soulmate and finding true love. And even after I began living my very own romance, I’m still in love with the idea of love. My favorite books growing up were Little Women, Jane Eyre, anything Judy Blume, and then mysteries such as The Hardy Boys and of course the wonderful Nancy Drew. But as I read these books, particularly the last two series, I found myself wondering what would happen if one character tumbled into another’s world. What if Nancy Drew and Joe Hardy met? Would they fall in love? Can you see a pattern forming? My love for romance began to transform from that moment, and the writer in me began to grow.

Then there’s the darker side. Psychology has always fascinated me. The whys and wherefores in a person’s mind. Why do they act the way they do? What makes one person a psychopathic murderer and another a force against evil? Researching this area is like stumbling into a black hole. I get so lost inside, it’s almost impossible to find my way out. As horrifying as this material is, it’s also great fodder for characterisation. How do psychopaths think? How do they act? How do they fit almost seamlessly into society? What fuels their need to kill without an ounce of remorse or empathy toward their victims?
And so, as I began to write, it stood to reason that my story would meld romance, mystery and the darker side of evil until Lethal in Love was born.

Avril: How would you describe the balance of romance and suspense in your work? 
Michelle: Wow, that’s a tough one. I’d say the ratio of romance to suspense is close to 50:50, pretty much reflecting my equal passion for both genres. This split isn’t something I plan. For me, writing is organic. My stories grow, the highs of one genre balancing the lows of the other.When tension is high in the romance, I relax the suspense, and conversely, when romantic tension is low, the suspense is high. As I write, my subconscious is taking stock of the balance. When the romance is developing, I include just enough story to move the relationship forward before I return to the suspense. Then, as I focus on the suspense – the crime and mystery portion of the story – I do the same, ensuring this part of the plot moves sufficiently forward to rivet the reader before I return to the romance.

And how do I know when to move from one genre to another in the story? There’s no other way to explain but to say I feel it. It’s like owning a second sense, reaching a certain point in the story and just knowing you’ll increase or relieve tension by switching genres. It may be that hero and heroine are finally in sync. They’ve finally shared a moment – perhaps emotional or perhaps physical – but whatever the case, things are going their way. Unless this is the last chapter of your story, it has to be stopped. We can’t allow them to get too complacent. Not yet, not before they’ve earned their happy ever after. This is fiction, after all. What better moment than to up the suspense and allow the killer to shatter their calm? Throw them into turmoil and push them closer together. Then hit them with something to stir their relationship, and rip them apart. Such a delicious volley of emotion and suspense, and I can tell you categorically, such delicious fun to write.

Avril: Who have been some of the authors who have influenced you?
Michelle: There are so many wonderful authors who at one time or another have inspired and influenced me. Agatha Christie was an early favorite. Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, Mary Stewart, Jeffrey Archer, Leon Uris, wow, once I start, it’s almost impossible to stop. But I have to say that in more recent years I’ve become an ardent Harlen Coben fan. His writing is exceptional – evocative and gripping. His knack for characterisation and building suspense is just gold. If I could pick one author who I’d aspire to emulate in my writing, Coben would be the one.

Avril: Favourite television crime shows, and why?
Michelle: I love anything with a thread of romance, and if there’s mystery, crime or a trace of thriller thrown in, then I’m hooked.I love shows like CSI and Criminal Minds. I’m fascinated with the forensic and psychological aspects of solving crime. But I’d have to say, my all-time favourite series is Wire in the Blood. Its authenticity – in police procedure and character relationships – its believability - in characterisation and plot – and its no-holds-barred realism in the crimes and protagonists makes it a gripping ‘watch’ and invaluable as a source of research. My only problem with Wire in the Blood? They didn’t take it into a season 7.

Avril: What are you currently working on? 
Michelle: Lots! Chase’s story, Murder Most Unusual, is undergoing its final draft stage. I’m hoping it will be released as an ebook late-2016, then as paperback early-2017. Here’s a teaser of what to expect: Author Stacey Holland lives in a fictitious world where the mortality of her characters is governed by a tap on her keyboard. Homicide detective Chase Durant’s cases are real and gritty, where one wrong move could be your last. When their two worlds collide, and fiction melds with fact, can they fight the attraction raging between them, all-the-while fighting the killer determined to destroy them both?

I’m also working on an anthology of psychological thriller short stories, as well as a series of non-fiction ‘how to’ books for authors. And in terms of big projects, I have a totally new series that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. A kind of Stephanie Plum meets James Bond scenario set in the US. It’s full of suspense and tension, and some weird, wacky and wonderful characters. And more than a few surprises. I’ll be able to share a lot more once I start writing later this year. What I can tell you is it’s going to be a blast!

Avril: As a romance reader, what’s your pet hate?
Michelle: Lack of motivation in characters. I’ll believe pretty much anything a character does or says, as long as the author backs the action up with plausible, believable motivation. This means that if an author needs their character to act a certain way, they need to make sure that character has the personality, history or driving force that will foster that action. For example. If a character is innocent sexually, if they’ve never been promiscuous in their past, there’s no way they’ll suddenly leap into bed with the hero just because he’s hot. She needs a damn good reason to break with a history of behaviour. However, take that same character and pit her head-to-head with a killer. Put her life on the line, make her believe this day might be her last. Perhaps then she’ll be more likely to take the plunge. If she believes she may die tomorrow, she won’t think past the need to feel alive for one last moment before her life is over. Believable, right? If an author fails to make me – or their greater audience – believe, they risk alienating us both. Perhaps even losing us to the point where we put that story down and never find the inclination to pick it up again.
Like a chance to read a copy of Lethal in Love? Leave a comment with your favourite crime show or romantic suspense novel, and enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for your chance to win a Netgalley e-copy.

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  1. Hi Michelle and Avril

    I have read this one really it is awesome so much happening and Jayda and Seth showed courage and the spark between them will warm you up. Ilook forward to more stories
    Have fun

  2. Hi Michelle and Avril

    I have read this one really it is awesome so much happening and Jayda and Seth showed courage and the spark between them will warm you up. Ilook forward to more stories
    Have fun

    1. I love a good romantic suspense. I thought the episode covers were good, but the new one is a stunner.

    2. Thanks Helen.
      It makes my day every time I hear a reader say they loved the story. Lethal in Love holds such a special place in my heart.
      Murder Most Unusual should be coming out later this year! I'll definitely keep you posted!
      Michelle xxx

    3. Thanks Avril.
      I love this one too! I'm a sucker for red and black, and the rose with the blood just sums up Lethal in Love to a tee :)
      Michelle xx

  3. Great interview. I love romantic suspense and I love the title of this book. Can't wait to read it!

    1. It's an intriguing story. A real winner

    2. Thanks. I'm lucky that my publisher kept the original title.
      I hope you get to read the story. And if you do, I'd love to know what you think. I always love to hear from readers. It's one of the reasons I write :)
      Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.
      All the best!
      Michelle xx

  4. The Mentalist was always my favorite crime show. I love the ones where there's a romance brewing and the one between Patrick and Teresa was brilliant

    1. Me too Belinda! But then again, I love Simon Baker in everything.
      Then there's Bones, Castle, The Closer and the series that started it all for me... Moonlighting :)
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
      Michelle xx

  5. Can't wait to read the Stephanie Plum meets James Bond novel you're working on!

    1. I can't wait to write it!
      The characters are so real in my head right now and I'm hoping to get started on the first story in their series later this year.

      If you'd like to keep posted on how I'm going with this, and maybe see the odd excerpt as I write, follow me on facebook.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my interview!

      Michelle xx

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    You've won a copy of Lethal in Love via NetGalley.
    I'll organise your prize in the next couple of days. Happy reading!

    And if anyone else is interested in reading a story heaped with sex, suspense and serial killers, you can find out more about LETHAL IN LOVE on my website:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by, read the interview and commented.
    Love that you all took the time.

    Michelle xxx