Writer's Corner for December, 2005
With a lot of favorite historical romance writers jumping on the contemporary romance bandwagon, Suzanne Enoch is a bit different in the sense that she plans to actively continue writing in both genres. With a 2005 contemporary debut I found fresh and smart continuing with the next installment out at the end of this month, we saw down to talk with the USA Today bestselling author about her books and her sure-footed foray into romantic suspense.
Suzanne, to jump right into it, what made such a well-known author of historical romance want to write a book about a modern day art thief who's pretty much unrepentant about what she is?
I had two reasons, really, for wanting to write a contemporary story. First of all, as much as I love writing historical romances, I wanted to push the envelope a little bit. I think working in one genre replenishes my energy for the other, if that makes any sense. And as much as I do enjoy writing historicals, it's refreshing to do something different once in awhile. Secondly, the reality of publishing with Avon, where I am currently contracted, is that they put out a given number of books per year. In the historical program, one book every ten or eleven months per author is about what the schedule can hold. By working in two different programs, I had a good chance of being published more frequently.
As for the subject matter, I happened to sit down to watch one of my favorite movies, To Catch a Thief, and began to wonder what Cary Grant's character would have been like in his prime. Then I thought, what if he was a woman? I sat down at the computer, and the book wrote itself in two months. I don't ever expect that to happen again, but it was the most exhilarating writing experience I've ever had. I think some of the joy I felt transferred itself to Samantha Jellicoe and the story in general.
Not to give away any spoilers, but at the end of Flirting with Danger there was a wonderful surprise with regards to your hero Richard that I'm looking forward to exploring further, as well as the undoubted misadventures to come as Samantha attempts to go straight. What can you tell us about Don't Look Down, the sequel to Flirting with Danger to be published at the end of December?
Regarding the surprise involving Richard, I just thought that with my writing background, it was a logical - and smart - way to go. After all and in all honesty, the idea is to expand my reading audience, not alienate part of it.
In Don't Look Down I wanted to explore what it would be like for someone who'd been a very successful high-end thief to try to go straight, not an easy decision in the face of expectations. Samantha has pretty much done whatever she wanted all her life, and abruptly she's in the spotlight (literally), where anything she does wrong could be potentially damaging both to her and to Richard. In Flirting with Danger we found two people who are very attracted to one another trying to decide whether to make a go of a relationship or not. In Don't Look Down they have decided to live together, but Samantha is still in contact with people who know how she can make a million dollars for a night's work. At the same time, doing things the legal way isn't always the most efficient. Add in obstacles faced by typical couples - ex-wives, disapproving friends, job pressures - and everybody's in for a rough time. An amusing one, hopefully, but a rough one.
You did a wonderful job in Flirting with Danger in balancing the light and the dark - Samantha's feelings are given the depth they deserve, but the book is still overwhelmingly fun. How difficult is that to do?
For me, it's just the way I write. Believe me, on occasion I've tried to sit down and write both angst-filled and completely slapstick stories, and I just can't. The angst gets broken up by some humorous comment, and the slapstick takes a twist for the poignant. Basically, deep down I think life is pretty amusing, and that nothing takes people further out of their basic "normal" comfort zone than love, which makes for even more silliness - with good, true hearts and a measure of pain thrown in, the more for us to enjoy the sweet.
Undeniably, there is great chemistry between these two characters. Do you have a grand plan now of how many books you think you'll do featuring Sam and Richard or are you just going with the flow?
At the moment, I'm going with the flow. I have a very vague sense of what I would like to happen with them, but mostly I would like to continue as long as they have a character arc to develop. I have no desire to keep writing the same book over and over; once they've reached their happiest moment, it's time to stop. Even keels and downhill rides are someplace I don't care to go.
Some might argue that Sam is a more . . . well, interesting character than Richard. AAR reader Jillian wondered if you're intentionally bucking the trend of making the hero the essential star of the book?
For the Sam and Rick stories, yes. I have intentionally made Samantha kind of the center of the stories, and frankly it's because I think she has a more interesting life. After all, would you rather read about a board meeting or a breaking-and-entering into a murderer's mansion?
That's a good point, Suzanne! Now you're now straddling two very different romance genres. Are you going to continue to write both historicals and contemporaries?
I own about 350 research books that cover the English Regency period to varying degrees. That number probably isn't necessary, but I find the Regency endlessly fascinating. I love writing Regency historicals, and I have no plans to give it up. As for contemporary romantic suspense, I enjoy the change of pace hugely. If readers continue to purchase them, my publisher will continue to offer me contracts to write them - and I will be delighted to do so.
Let's talk about your historicals for a moment. AAR regular Dick noticed a more serious tone in your last book, An Invitation to Sin, in the way you dealt with your hero's "problem". Sound right to you?
As I've gotten older and have written a larger body of work, I think I've matured to a degree. I still enjoy the silliness, but in my first few books I don't think I would have been capable, for instance, of writing about Robert Carroway, the emotionally-damaged hero of England's Perfect Hero - or at least I don't think I could have done him justice. So yes, things do get a bit more serious here and there, but it's an evolution of writing style rather than a conscious decision. Though on occasion I do intentionally choose a setting or a pair of protagonists wherein I can have a lot of fun.
You mentioned earlier Avon's publishing schedule. So what's the plan - one historical and one contemporary each year?
Ideally, yes, until it kills me. <g> It takes me about five months to comfortably write a book, but then we have to factor in revisions, copy edits, and page proofs -- plus normal life things like illness, writer's block, and the day off once in awhile to go shopping for Star Wars action figures or to go see a Hugh Jackman movie. So it's a tight schedule, but it's far better to be employed hectically than not at all.
And finally, because it seems to be a hot button at AAR, I'd like to say that I love working with Avon Books, and that I have never been asked to write or not to write a particular thing in a particular way. My style is my own and it continues to grow and evolve, and because though I love and admire Julia Quinn I'm a bit tired of being called a "clone", I wrote my two Regencies and my first two historicals without ever having read one of her books. I see it as serendipity that I've found a publisher who appreciates what I write and the way I write it.
Thanks, Sandy - this has been fun!!
And thanks to Suzanne for joining us! Be sure to check back in January when Judith McNaught joins us in our Writer's Corner.