Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Best of Both Worlds

We have a fabulous treat today. Author Anita Clenney is here to give us a peek inside her world. Please help me (Kari) give her a warm welcome. Take it away, Anita.

I'm not a trouble-maker, really. In fact, I'm a peacemaker, but I don't tend to do things in a normal fashion. I'll pull weeds from my garden while in my PJ's, on the way home from the bus stop, holding the dog leash with one hand. I'll decide to clean the toilet as I'm rushing out the door, late for a doctor's appointment. I'll sit in the car and put my makeup on rather than doing it in the bathroom with a lighted mirror. (I have a large purse with a stash just in case I'm stranded overnight and need to look good).

I have no idea why I do these things. I don't know if I'm rebellious, stubborn, or just need the challenge. You would think I"m a pantser when it comes to writing, but in fact, I'm more of a plotter. I do a lot of brainstorming but then I do tend to plot it out or I'll get caught up in a whirlwind and never get out. But I do have trouble with genres. Maybe because I love both romance and mysteries, I blend them, and that's okay. Lots of people love romantic suspense. It's a huge market. But lately I've run into a problem.
My series with Sourcebooks is marketed as romance. Paranormal romance. I don't call it that, because there's a lot more going on in the book than romance. What about the demons, plots to destroy the world, betrayal, and the sword fights? That's suspense. So I call it Paranormal Romantic Suspense. Herein lies the problem. I turned in the second manuscript in the series, and my editor said it opened with too much suspense. so I revised it, took out my wonderful villain scene and some suspense, and moved it to later, so that the hero and heroine appeared on the same page faster. I thought I was in good shape, but my editor called me and said it still had too much suspense. She said it was reading like a really good suspense with romantic elements. Well heck! What do I do now? I thought the book was darned near perfect.
I called my CP, talked it over for four hours, and decided that my editor was right about one thing at lease; there needed to be more emotion and a stronger connection between the hero and heroine earlier in the story. I know where I went wrong. This story started long, long ago, and at one time I had way too much romance going on too early, so I cut too much. I added some back in, made it stronger and sent it off again. But I find I'm confused. Of course there are distinctions in genres; romance, romantic suspense, and suspense with romantic elements, but I find it much simpler in theory than in practice, and I'm not sure where I lie. Personally, I don't think you can have too much suspense in a romantic suspense, as long as the romance is strong too, but maybe I'm wrong. Honestly, I think if my editor had read the entire story first, she would have been far more comfortable with the romance level anyway, but I have to say, her comments caused me to make the story stronger.
So all's well that ends well. Actually, I don't know how it ends yet because I'm waiting on her edits to see if I've got the best of both worlds or if I'm still too heavy on the suspense. Either way, I love the story.
So I wonder how you guys feel as writers and readers? As writers do you feel like you do a good job sticking to your genre, or do you blur the lines? As readers, does it bug you if the lines get blurred?
In the meantime, here's an excerpt from the first book in the series, Awaken the Highland Warrior to be released May 3rd. It's available at online booksellers for preorder.
Bree's fingers tightened around the metal disk as she ran through the graveyard, zigzagging past leaning headstones. Her lantern swayed, throwing shadows on the crypt looming before her, its stone walls the color of bones. Thick vines crept over it, sealing in cracks left by time, while gnarled branches from the twisted oak hovered like outstretched arms. Protecting...or threatening?
An owl screeched overhead as she scurried up the crumbling steps, wishing night hadn't fallen, when shadows twisted into monsters and spirits came out to play. The burial vault lay open near the back of the crypt, waiting. Blood rushed past her ears, a sound like all the angels' wings beating in unison. She moved closer and peered at the chest inside. It was ornate, made of metal and wood, with green gemstones embedded in each corner. It looked ancient, like it belonged in a museum or a pyramid, or perhaps Solomon's Temple. The beauty of it struck her again, as it had when she'd first discovered it.
She set the lantern on the edge of the burial vault and studied the markings on the chest. Swirls and shapes like writing shifted in the amber glow. Stretching out a finger, she touched the surface. Warm? She yanked her hand back and hit the lantern. It crashed to the floor, throwing the top of the crypt into darkness. Dropping to her knees, she scrambled for the light. A sound cut through the silence, scraping, like fingernails against stone. She grabbed the lantern, not daring to blink, then remembered the wind outside and the claw-like branches of the old tree.
She placed the lantern securely on the vault cover she'd pushed onto the alcove and unfolded her hand. The metal disk she held was three inches in diameter and appeared to be made from the same metal as the chest, not silver, not gold. One side had deep grooves; the other was etched with symbols. With trembling fingers, she lined up the disk with the matching grooves on top of the chest and pushed. There was a series of clicks as the notched edges retracted.
A voice rushed through her head. What lies within cannot be, until time has passed the key.
Bree whirled, but she was alone. Only stone walls stood watch, their secrets hidden for centuries. It was sleep deprivation, not ghosts.
She pulled in a slow, steadying breath and tried to turn the disk. Nothing. Again, this time counterclockwise, and it began to move under her hand. She jerked her fingers back. A loud pop sounded and colors flashed...blue, orange, and green, swirling for seconds, and then they were gone. Great, hallucinations to go with the voices in her head.
Her body trembled as she gripped the lid. This was it. All her dreams held on a single pinpoint of time. If this ended up another wild goose chase, she was done. No more treasure hunts, no more mysteries, no more playing Indiana Jones. She'd settle down to a nice, ordinary, boring life. She counted.
One.
Two.
Three.
She heaved open the chest.
Terror clawed its way to her throat, killing her scream.
The man inhaled a harsh breath and his eyes flew open, locking on Bree. A battle cry worthy of Braveheart echoed off the walls. Bree jumped back as metal flashed and a rush of air kissed her face. Petrified, she watched him crawl out of the burial vault, a wicked-looking dagger in his hand. Her scream tore loose as she turned and fled.
Fingers grazed her shoulder, and she glanced back. The last thing she saw before her feet tangled with the shovel was the dead man reaching for her.

28 comments:

Sarah said...

Anita! How great to have you with us at M&M. Folks, Anita is not only a fun and great gal to be with, she is going to be hitting the sales charts.

I hear you about pushing the envelope with trying to get everything done. I catch myself attacking three things at once and wondering why I couldn't fit in the fourth chore.

Fun topic!

Cassy Pickard said...

Okay- this is a great example of doing too many things at once. My daughter is home for a few days and obviously logged onto my computer. I never noticed that it was her name on the "identity." So, the comment above that is from "Sarah," is really from Cassy. I'm also tripping over shoes left in odd places and can't find a single mobile phone. Gotta love them!

Anita Clenney said...

Thanks, Cassy. I wondered who Sarah was. LOL. Now I remember meeting her in DC at RWA. She was as sweet as you are. Unless I'm remembering a different daughter.

First, I have to apologize to everyone for all the typos in this blog. I think I was on a sugar high when I wrote it, then I edited and sent Kari the wrong version.

Renee Vincent said...

Great excerpt, Anita! Loved the way you cliff-hanged me at the end there.

And no, as a reader, it doesn't bother me if genre lines are blurred a bit. As long as it's a great read that keeps me turning the pages, I don't put much emphasis on genre. The only thing I have to have in the books I read is romance. Aside from that, I'm willing to let the author take me into any sub-genre they want.

Cassy Pickard said...

Anita: Boy, do we all love those typos. I cringe when I see mine. Not to worry!!!! And, at RWA you met my older daughter. But I trip over her shoes as well. Thanks again for being here. We love having you.

T.H. Browning said...

Hi Anita,

I found your discussion on romance and romantic suspense very interesting. Personally, I love romantic suspense. It's what keeps me turning the pages.

I don't know if it's because I write YA, but I blur the lines all the time. I feel that many of my books cross between paranormal romance, suspense and even fantasy. I'm really blurring the lines with my current WIP with elements of romance, sci-fi and dystopian, but so do most of the YA books I read. There isn't one clear-cut genre to classify many of the books I read. This is why I love YA. You can have a bunch of genres rolled into one fantastic story and it's okay.

Thanks for sharing an excerpt of your book. It sounds fantastic. I can't wait to read it! :)

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I love your books, Anita! And the excerpt was awesome! Good luck to you, you so deserve it.

Vonnie Davis said...

Lovely post, Anita. I'm trying my hand at romantic suspense, too. I worry over the ratio aspect of the novel. Too much romance? Not enough suspense? I could identify with your angst. I have a strong feeling your book is just right.

Liz Lipperman said...

Sarah who??? Too funny, Cassy. I was about to shoot off a private email to you guys to find out who Sarah was. LOL

Anyway, great excerpt. Of course, I am one of the privileged ones who read this entire book, so I know how good it is and how well it blurs the lines. I'm waiting for my pre-ordered copy as we speak.

Anyway, I think I will go a step further and say my favorite books ARE the ones that blur the lines. I would classify mine as Mystery with Romance. Of course it falls into that huge "Everything" category at RWA known as Novel With Romantic Elements.

I love when I can get murder,suspense, world building, humor, romance and sex all in the same book!I love it even more if it brings a tear to my eyes.

Great blog, chica.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Anita - It's always good to know someone else is wrestling with the same problems. I'm a romantic, or at least enough so that I look for a romantic element in most of the stories I read. But I'm more interested in a good story, be it suspense or fantasy or sci fi or whatever. I hate it when the rules of a genre get in the way of telling a good story.

Donna Cummings said...

Anita, I love when a story incorporates different elements, because it engages all our emotions. I also like when the genre boundaries get rearranged and stretched. I still want romance and HEA, but I enjoy getting to that point in a variety of ways.

Congrats on all your hard work! Can't wait to read this. :)

Anita Clenney said...

Renee - Thanks! I agree on the blurred lines, as long as it's a great read. I love cliffhangers and I love suspense and I love romance. AND when I can combine them all, as a reader or a writer, it makes me HAPPY!

Anita Clenney said...

Cassy - ah, older daughter. I didn't realize you had two. Or maybe I knew and forgot. I do that a lot.

Anita Clenney said...

Taryn - I love mysteries and romance, so when I get them both, I'm a happy camper.

Anita Clenney said...

Vonnie - Thanks for the kind words. It is difficult to figure the balance on these things. Personally, I like things switched around. I don't want things to fit too much of a pattern. Surprise me. But in a good way:)

Anita Clenney said...

Kari - thanks! I absolutely can't wait to get your book. And Liz's as well.

Liz - I'm with you. I want it all and I like it when things are unexpected. Branding is great, but I don't want my readers to get the same story over and over. I want it fresh.

Linda - it is great to know I'm not alone. I was starting to question my sanity. I always prefer a romantic element, but I don't want the story too predictable. Rules are good, but they can also really mess up a story. Some of the stories that made the biggest impression on me were very unpredictable.

Donna - yes. I want my imagination to wrap around all the emotions. Thrill me, love me, scare me. Well, don't scare me too much.

Cassy - I think your frind, Kristan Higgins does blurring very well. Her stories aren't typical, and she can wring so many different emotions out of you in one book. I love her.

Lindsay said...

I agree on the blurring of the lines between romance and suspense/mystery/thriller. Not only does it help keep the readers attention the story is more fun/interesting to read.
And welcome Sarah to the blog. You've hit on one of the best. I won't say which are the others.
And Anita, typos are always fun. Keeps the reader guessing what you're actually saying.

Author Kinley Baker said...

Your book looks amazing, Anita! Great topic. I ran into this issue because I write fantasy, but I'm such a romantic, I have to write HEAs. It's tough to sell, but I think readers love a mix. Especially with mystery and suspense. I love the romance storyline, but I want some serious "the world is ending" chaos going on, too.

Anita Clenney said...

Lindsay - Yes! I'm so glad to have so many people who agree that blurred lines aren't a bad thing.

Kinley - I love hearing this from a fantasy writer. I love it all combined. Romance, adventure, and suspense. And fantasy is great. Throw in some more thrills and chills and I'm happy.

cdpickard said...

Anita and others: I totally agree about the blurring. Sometimes books written in a traditional formula feel just that- a formula. Having a mix in one book is fun. I don't know what that does to the shelf placement in a bookstore. So, one still probably has to have a "label."

And, Sarah says hi!

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Sarah. I like a good mix up with my reading. I love being pleasantly surprised. The most important thing to me is that the story capivates me.

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Anita - Sorry for my late posting, but I'm always getting myself hung up too! And like you, I tend to confuse the lines between genres. (I write romantic suspense too...or is it suspense with romantic elements? I don't know!) Sometimes the romance "rules" drive me crazy!

Your story sounds wonderful!

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