Join us today at The Pink Hear Society as Harlequin Intrigue author HelenKay Dimon talks about pushing the envelope of reality in romantic suspense. Take it away, HelenKay...
Next week marks the release of my 9th book from Harlequin Intrigue, SWITCHED. It's a romantic suspense where bad guys storm an office holiday party. It's one of those fun-in-books-but-would-be-awful-in-reality type things. The book got an awesome James Bond-type cover and has a bit of a DIE HARD feel to it in that the majority of the action happens inside one building.
All of those factors – James Bond, DIE HARD, bad guys at a party – had me thinking about how far you can push romantic suspense and still be within the realm of reality. In this book, the heroine, Risa, is in the wrong place at the wrong time. She's doing a final look at the resort where her office party will be held the next week. Another party is going on and she's mistaken for someone else and some very nasty men try to kidnap her. Good thing the guy she's been dating, the one she thinks is a tax attorney but really is a security expert, is there to step in.
The factors work together in my head. Alpha rescuer hero – check. Strong heroine who fits into the girl-next-door category – check. Mistaken identity – check. Hero with a secret background – check. Bad guys – check, check, check. But when you think James Bond and DIE HARD and all the rest of those factors combined together your head can explode. The pieces individually work. The trick is in putting them together in a way that doesn't result in an "oh, come on" reaction. You pile and layer, but you can pile too much. You can go from visualizing something that works to coming up with something that's hard for people the see happening in real life. The key is finding that line, and that's tough because sometimes you need to push it.
Since that I've mentioned DIE HARD I'm going to use it as an example. Think about the first movie. It is over-the-top crazy in some ways, but it works. He's a tough cop who wants to save his wife. She's a smart woman who wants to end the madness without further loss of life to her employee and friends. There is a sidekick policeman waiting outside who, at first, doesn’t seem all that heroic. Then the bad guy takes you on a twisty road through his motives toward the real endgame. Put it together with Bruce Willis, explosions and a holiday theme and you have a winner.
Now think about the newest DIE HARD movie, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. Timothy Olyphant is the bad guy, which probably is reason alone to see it, but still. He's trying to prove a point and goes a little mad with it. We still have Bruce Willis being tough and wanting to save people. Add in this time Justin Long as the plucky sidekick who ends up being stronger than anyone ever expected. All good so far, right? But then the action part of the movie takes a weird turn. It's as if the movie tries to top itself and the ones that came before. Specifically, I'm talking about the scene with the plane. It's Bruce v. fighter jet…and it's too much. Here take a look:
Seems to me this scene is the perfect example of going too far. You watch and think…now, wait a minute. The overly-dramatic and seemingly impossible action sequence takes you out of the story, or it did for me. And that's the problem. Romantic suspense is already difficult in that most people – thank goodness – aren’t personally familiar with being chased and shot at. Going overboard and making readers question one more thing is likely the wrong way to go. But build the world and the action to heighten and not distract, have it be intrinsic rather than going for the Big Wow, and you don’t have to worry about that "now, wait a minute…"confusion setting in.
To learn more about HelenKay and her books, please visit her website.