Thursday, May 20, 2021

Secrets to Domestic Suspense

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: We love domestic suspense around here! Such a sinister thing, isn't it? To know that someone in your orbit,  someone you trust, has it out for you.  I remember when Kaira Rouda’s book  BEST DAY EVER came out. And it was a wow, all the buzz. And since then, she’s continued to make her massive mark on the suspense world, coming up with newer and twistier and more gasp-worthy stories every year.

 

And hurray, lucky us, today Kaira is giving away a copy of her newest blockbuster,  THE NEXT WIFE!  (Look at that cover!) Which was been the number one domestic suspense on Amazon since even before it was formally published! And stayed and stayed and stayed in that exalted position. Fantastic.

 

And even luckier for us, Kaira is here today to tell us her secrets. Grab your pencils, writers. And readers, see if you agree.


And yay, a giveaway! A copy of THE NEXT WIFE to one lucky commenter!

(US only, please...the postage rates to countries outside the US are astronomical.)

 


The Secrets to  Domestic Suspense

 By Kaira Rouda

 

In my career I’ve published seven novels, two romance series, and a nonfiction book for women entrepreneurs, but my favorite type of fiction to write, hands down, is domestic suspense. I love it and if you’re considering writing a novel in this genre, or you’re already deep into your manuscript, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned along the way.

 

 

1. Be Original

Today’s market is bursting with domestic suspense novels, which is wonderful for us readers, but it makes it tough for writers. You must come up with an original story, with believable twists, that hasn’t been done before. That’s the true challenge these days, in my opinion. Dream up a story no one has read before, and you’ll have yourself a winner. You can do it: you’re the only one who sees the world the way you do. It’s your super power.

 

2. Chapter Endings Sizzle

This may seem obvious, but for some reason, I have to remind myself of this tip when polishing each manuscript. The last sentence of every chapter must keep your reader turning the pages. The best reviews I receive are when people tell me they couldn’t put the book down. Keep them reading, keep them up past their bedtimes, and you’ll have a great domestic suspense.

 

 

3. Remember, today’s readers are uber savvy

Don’t try to trick your reader and don’t underestimate them, either. Twists for twists sake aren’t entertaining, they’re annoying. Make sure you read widely, like your readers do. An avid reader makes for a great writer.

 

 


4. Consider condensing your timeline

I love a short time line for my domestic suspense stories. BEST DAY EVER was twenty-four hours, while THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER takes place over a weekend. THE NEXT WIFE is a week. My upcoming novel in 2022 is a weekend again. This sort of timeline, I find, keeps the momentum going.

 

 

5. Keep it close to home

I call my novels suburban suspense. I’m a product of the suburbs and that’s the setting that comes to life in my imagination. Perhaps you are a fan of small towns, or the big city, and that setting speaks to you. That’s great. Any setting works for domestic suspense, but you must remember to keep the focus on the interactions between a group of characters, and not on broader issues your setting or the headlines may inspire.

 

It’s realism in setting but not too serious or political in tone. I’m always tempted to add in angles that take the reader out of a fast read, and to a darker social issue. My agents and editors are quick to pull me back to the suburbs. Of course people die in domestic suspense and bad things happen, but the bad guy is someone your character knows--not a looming threat from beyond.

 

What do you think makes a good domestic suspense novel? What pulls you out of the book? What are some of your faves?

 

HANK: Oh, great question! I think—it’s annoying when someone is SO obviously bad but the main character, male or female, seems unaware of that, or rationalizes away their weird actions. SO the reader is screaming: SHE IS LYING!-- but the character can’t seem to hear that.

 

How about you, reds and readers? And a copy of THE NEXT WIFE  to one VERY  lucky commenter.

 

 

 


Kaira Rouda is the author of four novels of domestic suspense including BEST DAY EVER and THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER. Her latest, THE NEXT WIFE, came out May 1, 2021. Her next novel, SOMEBODY’S HOME, is out in 2022.

Follow her on social media @KairaRouda and visit her website for more!

76 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Kaira . . . this is a genre I really enjoy, and I’m looking forward to reading “The Next Wife.”

    My pet peeves? A last-minute character magically appears to tie up things, even though there’s never been a suggestion of this person’s existence throughout the entire story.
    And unresolved plot points. It’s quite frustrating to have important questions left unanswered when the story ends.

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    1. The under introduced a character! Perfect. Yes, that is incredibly annoying.
      And the books that leave you saying: but wait, what about the…

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    2. Yes, my pet peeve is unresolved mysteries at the end of the novel. I would look at the next pages to see if they every resolve the mystery then I discover the next pages are about other novels by the publishing house!

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    3. Thank you! And I agree ... no last minute pop ups saving the day! - kaira

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  2. Congratulations on your recent release.

    I like resolutions to the story and I love the did they or was it someone else aspect. When it keeps me immersed in the story, the author has done their job.

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    1. So agree! But every question should be answered, right?

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    2. Hank, that's right. I like having the questions answered. There is a long running series that leaves a cliffhanger. I keep on asking "Will the hero ever find out who his real father is?"

      Diana

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  3. Thanks for these tips! I am working on writing my first in this genre, switching (for one book - don't panic, Jay...) away from cozy and historical mysteries. And I have a lot to learn.

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  4. Those are wonderful tips Kaira--the real difficulty is finding an original idea, I think. How do you go about that? are you collecting possibilities for new books as you write?

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    1. Oh, pulling up my chair next to you to hear this :-)

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    2. Lucy, I'm pulling up my chair next to you and Hank to hear this :)

      Diana

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    3. Well the characters so far have popped into my head bursting with a story to tell! I hope that keeps happening! 🙏 Thanks for the question!

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  5. Oh, goody goody! A new (for me) author with a bunch of books! how glad I am to meet you! Suburban suspense sounds perfect.

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    1. And Kaira delves into the world of affluence In a wonderfully glamorous way.

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    2. Nice to meet you, too, Judi! I hope you will try one of my books!

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  6. I like it when the characters really could be someone I know. And yeah, the main character failing to see something that is right in front of her nose is a turn-off.

    Congrats on the book!

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    1. Yes, realistic, or relatable, or at least possible. In these kinds of books at least.

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  7. Congratulations on your new release!

    Jessica Strawser creates a memorable opening in FORGET YOU KNOW ME, when the fear-inducing unexpected appears on a zoom screen.

    Coming up with something new is tough in a saturated market.

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    1. Yes, so agree! Jessica had a brilliant idea – – and just as we are discussing, it was something that really could happen.

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  8. Kaira, welcome to JRW and congratulations on your new release. The cover is gorgeous and I love the title. Having heard the enticing first chapter on May 4 on FCF, I must say that everyone is in for a very delicious treat. (After that reading, I told Hank that every time my husband says he wants a motorcycle, I tell him he can get it with his NEXT WIFE.)

    I agree that a condensed time frame is preferable in a domestic suspense novel. It is important to me, to really like a character and want the best outcome for him or her in spite of that character's flaws.

    I'd say that my pet peeves include a situation where a character you do like just has noone to trust; a story where you don't like anyone very much; the unavailable cell phone ploy (really?); or a situation which cries out "danger" but the protagonist still doesn't call the police. I know that a writer has to tread carefully, because, once the police are there, or the cell phone works, it's a different story. I definitely do not care for horror stories or tales that depend upon supernatural evil.

    To me, "Rebecca" and "My Cousin Rachel" are classic examples of domestic suspense. I recently reread "Rebecca" because Rhys's latest Her Royal Spyness book was a take-off of that, and I hadn't read it in 50 years. Interesting to read it again after a lifetime. I much prefer Rhys's book.

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    1. That is such an interesting reaction to Rebecca, Judy! Do you have time to tell us more?

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    2. I am glad that I reread it. But, Rebecca is brooding and humorless. In my life, I am less appreciative of that type of drama.

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    3. Oh, yes! That's...so thought-provoking. Nowadays, we have to love the character a bit more.

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    4. Judy,

      I just finished a debut cozy mystery where I did NOT like any of the characters. I felt bad about that because I really wanted to like the novel after it received high praise from my book friends who loved the book. In my Goodreads review, I said it was not my cup of tea.

      Diana

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    5. Diana, it is frustrating when that happens. A dear friend of my cousin had a very successful debut novel. I didn't like it because there was no one I truly cared about. I put the book down.

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    6. Hi Judy! Thanks for the warm welcome and great comments. My characters tend to be naughty ... not all but some .. but hopefully you will find a bit to like about them, too!

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  9. Welcome, Kaira! Congratulations on THE NEXT WIFE! I've published 6 domestic suspense novels that I, too, would call suburban. For me part of the key is make the reader think: "This could really happen... to me." And shudder. And the question the story keeps asking: Who can you trust, and how can you be sure?

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    1. Hallie, how in the world did you know I needed to hear that question RIGHT NOW? Today. This morning. Thank you.

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    2. Also: what does someone want, and how far will they go to get it?

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    3. Hallie, such a good question. I always hope that there is someone to trust.
      Hank, those are a terrifying questions.

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    4. Judy, that's what's always top of mind for me as I am writing. xx And yes, terrifying! Because--who ever knows?

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    5. Totally agree Hallie! You always hurt the ones you say you love ... at least in domestic suspense!

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  10. Domestic Suspense: Will this carpet cleaner work? And will it remove all the blood stains?

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    1. Great question: Will the carpet cleaner work?

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    2. I've heard that you have to rip up the floorboards to get rid of all the blood!

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    3. Spent a lot of time in the carpet cleaning industry ... there will always be trace amounts there.

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    4. The voice of experience! Research!

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  11. Congratulations on this captivating release! I have read your intriguing books which keep me intrigued. The most interesting have characters with depth but not necessarily with morals. Unexpected obstacles which the protagonist has to contend with.

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  12. Congratulations on The Next Wife! Moving Day by Jonathan Stone is engrossing and extremely smart and unique. Keeps your riveted. The thoughts that propel the character are always amazing.

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  13. Congratulations on THE NEXT WIFE, Karin and welcome to Jungle Reds! One of my university professors was Karin from Denmark.

    Regarding genres, I was thinking about what you said about reading widely. I usually read historical fiction / traditional mysteries / cozy mysteries. I am too scared to read novels with violence, though I admit that I have read a few suspense novels or thriller novels like Louise Penny and Glen Erik Hamilton.

    Question: For someone new to domestic suspense novels, which novels would you recommend?

    Diana

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    1. Oh, SUCH a great question! Let's hear your answers everyone! Gone Girl, for sure. Elly Griffiths The Stranger Diaries. Shari LaPena's The Couple Next Door. Hannah McKinnon's Sister Dear. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. Any of Hallie's books, and any of mine!

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    2. Agree Hank! And any of mine 😊

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    3. Kaira and Hank, thank you.

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  14. Kaira, sorry I thought your name was spelled Karin.

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  15. Those are great tips - especially the one about don't put in a twist just for the sake of making the reader say, "Huh, I didn't see that coming." I love domestic suspense, but that sort of showy cape twirling gets old fast.

    Also, Hank is so right - no characters who are TSTL (Too Stupid To Live)! Yes, your character can't figure out what the bad guy/gal is up to, but don't let her walk into the dark basement without a flashlight. Hank, I think you've handled this well in several of your books by making characters who are basically on high alert about EVERYTHING, so neither the character or the audience can tell where the real danger lies.

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  16. Domestic suspense can be so satisfying. I love the moment the main character takes stock and wonders what in hell is happening? And how is it I'm in the middle of it? And, hopefully, at this point he/she starts looking at everything and everyone around him/her with laser vision. It really bugs me when the main character knows something is rotten in the state of Denmark but blissfully goes on as if life is grand. TSTL.

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  17. it’s annoying when someone is SO obviously bad but the main character, male or female, seems unaware of that, or rationalizes away their weird actions

    But isn't that the problem? In real life it is always so obvious to anybody looking in.

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    1. Well, that is very wise! But sometimes, maybe, in fiction when it's right there on the page.... ANd that is why it is such a challenge.

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  18. A totally evil villain is no challenge. Far more interesting is the seemingly trustworthy person who might even believe he/she is acting for good. It's hard to see the truth of those we like, which is why a good friend is needed, to help straighten things out and, as Gibbs says, "have your six."

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  19. I loved your number three! Twists for twists sake ARE annoying! Congrats on your latest smash hit I can't wait to read it!

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  20. Congratulations on your new release. Sounds like a great read. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

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  21. Thank you so much for the great advice! I am so excited about your new book and cannot wait to read it.

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  22. That is a great list. I agree that there are a lot of this type of book and I do not like unbidden twists.
    I look forward to reading this!

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  23. These were incredible tips. I especially like the tip about condensing your timeline. And I just added "The Next Wife" on Goodreads. The number one things that pulls me out of the book is one too many pop culture references. I enjoy the Harry Potter series too but, I was honestly shocked when two books in a row made references to the series.

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  24. ANd the winner is: DIANNEKC! (In the US?) Send me your address! hank@hankPhillippiRyan.com

    YAAY! And thank you all for everything! Love you, dear Kaira!

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  25. Perfect advice, Kaira. With so many books and not enough time, I won't hang in with a suspense or thriller unless I know fairly quickly what the protagonist truly desires, plus what's operating underneath that desire. I love being in a character's shoes, so if they're out for revenge, I also want to know what's motivating that, say guilt because the protagonist thinks they should have seen it coming.
    Your novel is going on my TBR pile! Excited to read it.

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