A Thriller Author’s Journey to Happily Ever After
By Dawn Klehr
How’s that title for disturbing? I have to admit, the thriller junkie in me adores it! And the romance writer in me understands it completely. As the saying goes, there’s a thin line between love and hate…and I cross that line daily. Yes, I’m one of those thriller/romance hybrid authors who loves the dark and demented and the sweet and swoony equally. And I’m hoping, with the launch of my new young adult romance novel, Taming the Rebel, I prove to be worthy of both genres.
So how does a thriller writer turn to romance?
It was easier than you might think. Yet many people don’t see it that way.
“Well, that’s different.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard frequently from friends and family once they learned that my latest book is a YA Romance. But here’s the thing, I found the actual writing part of the process to be incredibly similar.
When writing characters in a thriller, I have to know what motivates them. Uncover what they want and what they fear. And I need to understand why.
In romance, I had to discover my characters in the same way.
To write a good thriller, you also need to: get that clock ticking, be mindful of pacing, create believable conflict, ensure your readers feel something, and make your characters suffer as you allow them to grow.
This is also true for romance.
Even writing a swoon-worthy kissing moment includes many similar elements of a key thriller scene. Anticipation, excitement, push and pull, action and reaction—as well emotions and physical responses such as nervousness, sweaty palms, goosebumps, or a racing heart.
Scientists who’ve studied the physical components of hate and fear (two important emotions for characters in a thriller novel) have discovered that some of the nervous circuits in the brain responsible for those feelings are the same as with feelings of romantic love. In fact, University College of London Professor Semir Zeki conducted a study on the thin line between love and hate. He said, “The findings could explain why both hate and romantic love can result in similar acts of extreme behavior – both heroic and evil. Hate is often considered to be an evil passion that should, in a better world, be tamed, controlled and eradicated. Yet to the biologist, hate is a passion that is of equal interest to love.”
So I guess it makes sense that an author would go about writing the emotions of fear and hate in a thriller (especially those psychological thrillers that I’m so fond of) and love and attraction in a romance novel much the same way.
Though, through my journey, I did quickly come to realize that there is one enormous difference between the two genres. And that is the ending.
In romance, there is one rule that is sacred above all else: the HEA—happily ever after. In thrillers, there is no such law. Most of the time, there will be some sort of justice, but even that isn’t a guarantee. Gone Girl, anyone?
For me, the HEA was the best part of writing Taming the Rebel. Though I do have to tell you, the story isn’t without some dark elements. My protagonist has an unusual obsession with death, and she does exact revenge on the hero of the story…but really, would you expect any less from a writer who got her start on the dark side?
Here’s a little more about this fun enemies-to-lovers story:
Rebel Hart should be at home taking care of her father after his breakup with his boyfriend, not tromping through the woods at summer camp. He’s had his heart broken beyond repair, and the way she sees it, there’s only one person to blame—the boyfriend’s son. So when that infuriatingly gorgeous quarterback turns up at the same camp, she plans to make him pay.
Justice Brody isn’t happy about trading training camp for actual summer camp. But if he wants to stay on the football team, he has to show that he can be drama-free. He welcomes the anonymity that comes with summer camp…until he realizes the one girl who knows him better than anyone is there, too. Rebel is off-limits, impossibly beautiful…and trouble with a capital T. Still, he can’t stay away. And even as Rebel exacts her revenge, in several very embarrassing and painful ways, neither can she.
Available for Preorder Now!