I usually write lighthearted women’s fiction and romantic comedies, like my debut novel released last October, Under Her Spell. While writing my first romantic suspense, Identity Crisis, I soon realized that cracking jokes when my hero and heroine were running for their lives wasn’t going to work. Sure, even suspense novels need a light moment now and then, not only to allow the reader to take a breath, but also the writer. However, comedy doesn’t really set the right tone for a romantic suspense. I challenged myself by writing Identity Crisis. I wrote outside my comfort zone and grew as a writer.
I start a new book by brainstorming pages of what ifs. What if you woke up tomorrow and discovered you were placed in the Federal Witness Security Program (WITSEC) when you were too young to remember? I quickly realized that my brainstorming ideas for Identity Crisis were heading down a darker path than my usual comedies, so I set my brainstorming aside for a few days. However, there is no turning off my muse. She was intrigued by the whole WITSEC idea and insisted this was also the perfect opportunity for me to put years of art forgery research to good use. So I appeased her by writing the first chapter, then the second, and before I knew it, I’d completed the rough draft. I found three major differences between writing comedy and suspense.
A comedy voice is quite different than a romantic suspense voice. That elusive author’s voice is comprised of the author’s word choice, sentence structure, tone, etc. The hero and heroine have a few light moments in Identity Crisis, and they share some fun banter, but writing a romantic suspense required a different voice and writing style. It was a struggle to constantly reign in my comedic voice, even when bullets were flying.
A romantic suspense is two stories in one. It requires a romance and a suspense plot, and together the plots must move the story forward. As a romance writer, you would think that I would be all about the romance, but I am so intrigued by art forgery and WITSEC that they overshadowed the love story. In the end, I needed to strengthen the story’s romance. A romantic suspense plot is more complex than a romantic comedy plot. I’m a total pantster, so I had to develop a plotting method to keep the story on track. I definitely became a better plotter while writing Identity Crisis.
A romantic suspense has deeper emotions than a romantic comedy. Every story needs emotion, but with a romantic suspense, lives are in jeopardy, not merely love. The heroine Olivia is on emotional overload when she discovers her dad and she were placed in WITSEC when she was five years old and that her life isn’t what she thought. Some days when I finished writing, I was as emotionally drained as Olivia.
Not only did writing outside my comfort zone enable me to grow as a writer, but it gave me the confidence to write other genres. Since writing Identity Crisis, I’ve written a young adult book and dabbled in another romantic suspense. In the near future, I plan to combine the comedy and suspense genres and embark on a lighthearted amateur sleuth series. A series where the protagonist can literally laugh in the face of death.
Thank you so much to Romancing the Book for having me here today and helping me celebrate the release of Identity Crisis. I will be giving away a $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to one commenter. To enter to win, please leave a meaningful comment or question about my post. The winner will be announced April 1 in the comment section. Be sure to leave your email address so that Eliza can contact you. Thank you for stopping by!
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Eliza Daly’s first attempt at creative writing was in fourth grade. She and her friends were huge Charlie’s Angels fans and she would sit in her bedroom at night writing scripts for them to act out at recess the following day. She was Kelly Garrett. Fast forward to the present, she’s still writing stories about beautiful women who always get their men. The journey from fourth grade script writer to published author wasn’t an easy one, but it was always an adventure and the final destination was well worth it.
When Eliza isn’t traveling for her job as an event planner, or tracing her ancestry roots through Ireland, she’s at home in Milwaukee working on her next novel, bouncing ideas off her husband Mark, and her cats Quigley, Frankie, and Sammy.