Dana: I am so excited to introduce my good friend and fellow author, Angela Ruth Strong, today. Angela might look like the girl next door, but she writes chilling suspense. She’s here to give y’all some advice on how to sell to Love Inspired Suspense. Welcome, Angela!
Angela: I have three friends here in Idaho who all sold books to Love Inspired Suspense. We’d get together to write every week, and they’d be talking about their editor or sharing covers, and I’d feel a little left out. So I decided to try to write for their publisher. I wrote two manuscripts. The first one was rejected, the second they bought. Presumed Dead came out last month.
So, just in case you’ve ever read a romantic suspense novel and thought, “Hey, I could do that!” but you don’t have friends like mine to show you how, I’ll give you some pointers.
1.) Find a great setting. The first book I ever sold was to the Love Finds You line of books, which were all set in real towns, so now I’m a sucker for picking a real place and researching the heck out of it. Sometimes authors make up towns of their own, and that can be fun too (I’ve heard), but when you pick an actual place like Lake Tahoe, you discover there’s a secret tunnel built by an eccentric millionaire for his baby elephant, and there’s an island with a cliff for jumping off, and then there’s my grandest discovery—the Tahoe Keys, a neighborhood of inland waterways. PERFECT for a suspense novel. Another benefit of picking a real location is that when the characters are running for their lives, you can MapQuest the location and know exactly which direction they need to go and what might get in their way.
2.) Pick a plot. Again, I like to find inspiration from real life. The plot for Presumed Dead came from a real failed operation and conspiracy theory. Remember the Iran Hostage Crisis? Their first rescue attempt failed and helicopters crashed because the pilots were not trained to fly under such circumstances. Thus, the military created SOAR—Special Operations Aviation Regiment. I made Preston a pilot for SOAR. He was presumed dead in a helicopter crash much like the real one. I can’t tell you more about the conspiracy theory because that would give away too much, but I’ll just say that in my story, it was much more than a theory. And it was going to get him killed for real.
3.) Create characters with chemistry. My biggest pet peeve in romance is when the characters don’t have chemistry. Their energy has to feed off each other. They are so obviously better when they are together. However, a romance novel isn’t about getting two characters together—it’s about keeping them apart until the very end. Though they are working as one, they have different goals. And here’s the part I love: They, and they alone, possess the perfect strengths and weaknesses required for them to overcome their challenges. Absolutely nobody else could survive what they survive. Not because they are better than anybody else, but because they are unwittingly prepared. For example, if Preston needs to escape, and there happens to be a tourist helicopter on a platform above the dock, he alone has what it takes to fly that chopper.
4.) Know the rules. Some publishing houses have more rules than others. To write for LIS, I had to have the characters meet in the first chapter, they couldn’t already be in love, and they both had to have reasons not to be together. Also, I couldn’t have used the word “heck” like I did above. As a writer, you may not agree with all the rules (I’ve said worse things than heck before…shh), but the publishing company is a business with buyers, and it’s their job to know exactly what those buyers want.
5.) Be flexible. For my novel Presumed Dead, I had to change the whole ending. Twice. I didn’t want to at first, but now I’m glad I did. Editors make our stories better.
6.) Be diligent. What was really cool about selling my book to LIS was that I sold it through a contest that required diligence. It was kind of like the television show The Voice. Hundreds of writers entered the first page of the manuscript. If the judges/editors liked it, you moved onto the next round where you had a deadline for submitting a synopsis. On and on until finished manuscripts were turned in. This might be the best way EVER in the history of writing to finish a novel. But if you don’t want to take part in a contest, then set deadlines for yourself. Or participate in National Novel Writing Month in November. Which brings me to my last point…
7.) Have fun. Some parts of writing are not fun. You may even contemplate tossing your laptop out the window. Here’s a better idea: Find a way to make it fun again. Sometimes I will skip to the parts I’m inspired to write and go back to fill in the gaps later. Or you can take yourself on a field trip to get back into the story. Once called a friend to ask if I could visit her farm because I was writing about a ranch, and I wanted to be around horses. Also try brainstorming with friends. It was my stepdaughter Ashley who gave me the brilliant idea for the end of Presumed Dead. She saved my laptop’s life.
Now that you’re ready to write a romantic suspense, find some other people who want to write books. You can encourage each other to go farther and do more. Just like my writing friends did for me.
Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book, she’s rereleased it as part of a new series titled Resort to Love, and she’s excited to be writing for Love Inspired Suspense, as well. This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband and three teenagers where she teaches yoga and works as a ticket agent for an airline when not writing.
Dana: Thanks, Angela! Always a pleasure to hear from you! Angela has graciously agreed to give one commenter a print copy of Presumed Dead. The winner will be chosen Thursday, March 30. Interested? Read below for a description. Good luck!