Ahh...romantic suspense is a tight rope! If your villain is too obvious, your reader isn't happy. If they come out of left field, your reader isn't happy. So you have to find that sweet spot in between. Only thing is, the sweet spot shifts depending on the reader.
I'm going to be upfront with you--not everyone likes every one of my books. Gasp! The horror! I received a five star review this week and a three star review, on the same book. Reading through my reviews I find that one reader said the book kept them on edge, while another reader said it wasn't the nail-biter they were looking for, because they figured out who the killer was early on. One reader said the characters felt very real, another said the opposite. Love the romance, didn't feel the connection between characters. Arghhh! It's enough to drive a poor author crazy! And it's not that one reader doesn't like all of the aspects, like they are a Negative Nelly. One who likes the suspense line, doesn't like the romance. One who likes the romance, doesn't like the suspense.
What I do pride myself in, though, is most of my "bad" reviews still say something like, all-in-all, though, it was an enjoyable read, or, despite missing this or that, it was well-written and the characters were well-developed. It's funny, as an author, to hear different fans say what their favorite book of mine is. One will gush over BLACKOUT, but for another, their favorite is ABANDON ALL HOPE. It's just interesting what the reader brings to the book, and takes out of the book. One example is the three star review I got today was from a reviewer that gave me a five star review on another book a few days ago. She admitted to comparing the two, and they are just way different. BLACKOUT is a contemporary romance with a lot of deep emotion and angst. BETWEEN ROCK AND A HARD PLACE is a romantic suspense, and while it deals with some tough issues, the focus is on the relationship and the case. So you have to ask yourself, what book preceded mine? Where was the reader coming from, what was happening in their lives that might color their perception of your book.
As an author, then, it's hard sometimes to tell what you are doing right, and what your are doing wrong. You have to listen hard to the feedback and if you see something consistent in what readers/reviewers are saying, then you need to take a closer look at that.
For instance, I've had several readers say that my heroine in BETWEEN ROCK AND A HARD PLACE is weak or immature. I want to say, yes, she is. She lost her parents at a young age in a plane crash SHE walked away from. Since that time she has been totally controlled by an overbearing uncle. She hasn't had room to grow, and she is only twenty-four. Know any immature twenty-four-year-olds? That being said, I missed the mark somewhere along the line by not emphasizing these things to my readers. (Again, you walk a hard line with what to tell your readers. Some will say, don't spoon feed things to your readers, they'll get it. Others will say, you have to hit them over the head.)
I also get some flack about my rock stars not being mobbed every place they go. I've written blogs about this before, but I will contend that if you are a star and want to keep under the radar, you can. Sure paparazzi hound certain stars, but have you seen how some stars manage to keep out of the headlines? I understand that readers of this genre normally see a huge emphasis on the star aspect of it. I focus more on the relationship angle. Does that mean I can't throw a little more harassment my rock stars' way? Absolutely not. Readers sometimes want what they are familiar with, what has been presented to them by others as "the life of a rock star." They want their books to be realistic, but their "reality" may be defined by stereotypes. However, although rock stars' lives vary as much as yours and mine do, there are some things they share in common. And if my fictional rock stars are making choices to avoid the media attention, (for instance, wearing disguises, eating at off times, avoiding public areas, all of which my rock stars do) then maybe I need to emphasize that more. (But don't bang them over the head. Got it.)
In some ways, that is what I like about this line of work. If you take it seriously, you are always learning more about your trade, so there are new challenges in every day, in every project. Well, I've talked long enough. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on the subject. Authors, do you contend with some of the same issues? Or does everyone love all of your books? [If this is true, I don't want to hear it! ;) ] Readers, are there certain things that authors do that really drive you nuts? Have you ever known that a book you read hit you the wrong way, but not because of the strength of the book itself but because of something going on in your life? Please leave a comment, and if I get some good interaction going on I'll give away an e-copy of BETWEEN ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, so you can judge for yourself.
Thanks for reading!
Now, I've got this song running through my head, and I'm going to get it stuck in yours, too, if you dare to click below! ;)
(What is up with me posting all these country songs lately? I swear I'm a rock girl!)