Fyi, I’ve got an International giveaway going on right now for a copy of Code Name: Papa –
check it out here!
With so many thriller reviews and spotlights on this blog the past couple weeks, today’s guest post feels like perfect timing!
Author Zee Monodee of the Corpus Agency series is here to talk about what makes for good suspense. Read on for her wisdom and advice, plus details on her book!
Pleasure to be here today; thanks for having me over. For those who don’t know me, I’m Zee Monodee, and author of the espionage/romantic suspense series Corpus Agency.
So, when I received the invite to guest post here, I was also asked a question – how do you make a book suspenseful?
I’d love to say writing suspense came to me organically – picture the Hemingway-type writer in front of the typewriter just banging at the keyboard and the pages filling up with words. Uhm, no, it’s not that. Not at all. At least, not for me.
If I have to sum it to one concept, it would be this – what if…?
Whenever I am writing—whether it be multicultural/Indian culture-based romances, small town contemporary romances, or magic-filled Urban Fantasy, aka my other series—this is the question I am always asking myself when I am plotting the book out before I even start to write. It’s a long succession of ‘what if…’ all the way … but with an added dimension in suspense. Because then, I also ask myself, ‘what could go wrong?’ And from there, I continue with, ‘what would make it even worse?’
These are the starting points, which give me the general outline of A to B to C and so on.
Now on to the actual writing? Getting from A to B – how do I keep a reader hooked? What if … A asked a question and the answer is revealed at B … but then, what if B also asks another question whether it’s based on the answer it provides or not? This takes us to C … and C asks another question leading us to D … and so on, until we get to the revelation of the ending.
I followed this setup pretty much in every Corpus Agency book.
In Edge of Danger, Book 1 of the series (formerly titled Walking The Edge), it all starts with my heroine, Amelia, who has amnesia. There’s her cold and distant husband who plies her with drugs all the time … so why is he doing this? That’s question A getting us to B. But at B, Amelia doesn’t really find the answer; instead, more questions arise because a man who’s been following her for a while now tries to abduct her in busy Harvey Nicks in Knightsbridge, London. B to C … who is this new guy, and what does he want? Amelia manages to escape, and hope flares that a man she saw in a drug-induced dream—she’s convinced it’s a memory coming to the fore—and who lives in Marseille, France can have the answers for her, given how he must’ve known her before she lost her memory. C to D. Except, he doesn’t recognize her … but her being there stirs up another pot when, trying to protect this Frenchman, she ends up efficiently killing a thug twice her size who was about to murder ‘her’ former lover … D to E … and so on!
*wicked laugh* I won’t tell you more; yes, bad of me, but you see how the need for answers keeps the reader going, needing to figure out the answers, and each new question upping the stakes from the previous one?
In Edge of Darkness, Book 2 (formerly titled Before The Morning), we actually move into the actual Corpus agency’s dealings. Their top-most assassin, Kali – real name Rayne Cheltham – is on one of her measles operations, aka an assassination planned to the last and finest detail of the kill and cleanup and that is meant to look as anything but a murder. She’s competent, efficient, the best at what she does … and then, while she is undercover on this mission, in waltzes Ash Gilfoy, her childhood best friend … and the man she never stopped loving. Rayne knew she’d never have Ash, so she turned to the life of a cold assassin to forget that pain in her heart.
And then it all goes to Hell in a handbasket, because crossing paths with him rattles her, and after this kill, she knows she can never go back to that life. She has to be with Ash … and she manages that, even marrying him in the process … yet, he has no clue she’s been a cold-blooded killer for all these years. What will happen if and when he finds out? Can she keep this secret? Can a clandestine agent ever really come back to a regular civilian’s life?
In Edge of Mercy, Book 3 (formerly titled Let Mercy Come), a woman who’d always been known as Anastasiya, the medical doctor with the highest security clearance in the Corpus agency, cuts and runs after a failed mutiny attempt. She must be guilty, right? One of the best agents of the Corpus, Scott, is sent to find and retrieve her. Never mind that these two are star-crossed lovers – duty comes before everything.
But what if appearances were very, very deceptive … and nothing is exactly as it seems? Anastasiya ran for other reasons, and Scott knows he cannot turn her in to meet pretty much a death sentence when he uncovers at least part of her truth. What will he do? Can he protect her from the ones he actually serves? Anastasiya is hiding a secret among many others – what will happen when all is revealed … especially her true identity she’s always kept hidden inside the Corpus agency?
You see, it’s all about questions. Whetting the appetite. Keeping the embers of curiosity burning. Throw in a loop to make something apparently simple actually very complicated. Try to untangle a yarn … except you’re getting even more tangled along the way.
Is there hope?
Will they make it out?
Will this story have the answer/s?
Is there a resolution to all this conflict?
Will there be a happy ending?
The only trick, then, to not lose your reader, is to actually deliver on all these questions you asked in the story as well as those you surreptitiously put into the reader’s mind, like the ones I wrote above.
And there you have it – suspense … aka questions and delayed answers.
Thanks again for having me here today!
You can find out more about the Corpus Agency books here http://www.zeemonodee.com/p/corpus-brides-trilogy.html
And while you’re at my site, please take a look around and find out more about me and my other series!
From Mauritius with love,
About the Author: Author, editor, smitten wife, in-over-her-head mum to a tween boy, best-buddy stepmum to a teenage lad, bookaholic, lover of all things fluffy & pink, chronic shoeaholic, incompetent housewife desperate to channel Nigella Lawson (and who’ll prolly always fail at making domestic goddess status)…
Zee hails from the multicultural, rainbow-nation island of Mauritius, in the southern Indian Ocean, where she grew up on the figurative fence—one side had her ancestors’ Indian and Muslim culture; the other had modernity and the global village. When one day she realized she could dip her toes into both sides without losing her integrity, she found her identity.
This quest for ‘finding your place’ is what she attempts to bring in all her stories, across all the genres she writes. Her heroines represent today’s women trying to reconcile love, life, & relationships in a melting pot of cultures, while her heroes are Alpha men who often get put back into their rightful place by the headstrong women she writes. Love is always a winner in her stories, though; that’s a given.
**Find more about the latest on Zee and her works in her monthly newsletter http://eepurl.com/5GULr
**Read about her life & her books at her website/blog http://zeemonodee.blogspot.com/
**Friend her on Facebook (she loves to make friends & meet new people!) https://www.facebook.com/#!/zee.monodee
**Follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/ZeeMonodee
**Email her at this addy (she loves to talk…prolly too much, even!) firstname.lastname@example.org
Zee has definitely given us a lot to think about, especially for all you writers out there! Thanks for the tips, Zee! It was a pleasure having you on the blog!
Don’t forget to enter the Code Name: Papa giveaway! Ends February 1st!