Brief, final reminders about upcoming events this week: I’m hosting from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET at Bewitching Book Tour’s Halloween Spooktacular Facebook Party. I probably have enough material for 2+ hours so we’ll see how much we have time for. There will be some super easy games/contests with giveaways from either Etsy or Book Depository and, hopefully, some fun discussions about books and movies, as well as lots of talk about All Hallows Eve. More details here. This Saturday, I’m at HallowRead in Have de Grace, Maryland. More details here.
Today’s guest is Susannah Sandlin, author of the romantic suspense BLACK DIAMOND, which releases tomorrow. She’s also Suzanne Johnson’s alter ego and has guested here many times. Suzanne’s a terrific blogger and prolific writer with a wonderful voice. If you haven’t already checked out her work and/or her blog, do so now! 🙂 Er, rather, do so after you read her post. Details on where to find her are below, along with info on her tour-wide giveaway — Amazon gift cards. Welcome, Susannah!
How do you feel about instalove?
Do you love an immediate bond or enjoy the slow build?
Most readers, if asked, will say they dislike “instalove”—that moment when, a half-second after a couple’s first meeting in a novel, each knows that the other is “the one and only.”
Seriously? Not in this world.
Which leads those of us who like writing fast-paced stories into a quandary. How soon is too soon?
At what point does the heroine ignore the dude threatening her with a knife and think longingly about having a night of passion with the hero?
At what point during his daring escape from saliva-dripping zombies does the hero think, “I need a mate”?
This has always been an issue for me. In my Penton Legacy paranormal romance series, the “bond” is supernatural so even if the characters fight that lovin’ feeling, it can happen early without stretching the flexible bonds of paranormal plausibility. But my stories move fast. Penton’s four books (so far) span about seven months total…and four couples find their HEAs (or at least Happily For Nows). In my Sentinels of New Orleans series (written as Suzanne Johnson), books two through five cover only three months. Each book covers only about two or three weeks. They’re urban fantasy, however, so my main couple can have more realistic ups and downs (mostly downs…and I think there was a saliva-dripping zombie in book three).
Which brings us to my new Wilds of the Bayou series, which is about a team of wildlife enforcement agents working deep in the heart of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. These books are romantic suspense, heavy on the suspense, which means the gators aren’t the only things that move fast.
Book one, WILD MAN’S CURSE, covered about three weeks, but I was able to get the hero and heroine to at least a happily for now with a foxhole romance that I’m sure will last. Hero Gentry and heroine Celestine have a lot in common (well, once you get past her independent streak and his utter need to Control Everything), so the reader knows they’re going to make it.
Then there’s BLACK DIAMOND, book two in the series, which comes out tomorrow (Oct. 18—pauses to throw confetti). The heroine, Louisiana Wildlife Enforcement Agent Jena Sinclair, has some serious emotional baggage. She’s kickass on the outside; she has to be in order to make it in the man’s world of what used to be known as “game wardens”—they’re basically paramilitary-trained law-enforcement officers who can fine you for fishing without a license—or bust you for drugs or speeding…in the middle of a swamp. Inwardly, though, Jena is very, very fragile. She’s questioning herself, second-guessing her choices, feeling guilty over some of those choices.
And yet Jena makes our hero, Cole Ryan, look like the soul of emotional stability. Cole has been living off the grid in an isolated cabin on the edge of a desolate bayou for five years like some blond-haired, blue-eyed Unabomber. The first time Jena comes to his door about a nuisance alligator, he slams the door in her face.
Face it: instalove was NOT going to happen between these two.
Attraction? Sure. They find each other intriguing, even attractive (although Cole hasn’t cut his hair in five years, he does have a hippie braid thing going and is totally hot). But neither of them are in any emotional condition to act on that attraction, at least not for a good long time.
Plus, you know, there are rampaging hallucinogenic alligators to capture and crazed drug dealers to track down and skeevy suspects to interrogate—not to mention someone’s tossing Molotov cocktails like they’re going out of style and shooting at them. The moments for stolen kisses are stolen moments.
But I fell in love with Jena and Cole, separately and together. Sometimes it takes a really damaged soul to recognize another soul in danger, and together they can lift each other out of their respective dark places.
They just need to take their time.
So in BLACK DIAMOND, Cole and Jena are on a slow burn toward an HEA by the time the book ends, but it took some maneuvering.
How do you feel about instalove? There’s a lot of it in contemporaries these days—do you love an immediate bond or enjoy the slow build?
Jill: It’s hard for me to buy instalove in any romance subgenre besides paranormal because the only basis for it is physical attraction, which is a fantastic start but I always want couples in a romance to develop deep connections and have more grounded, complex reasons for loving each other. Initial, intense infatuation is fine — even fun — but I always hope the characters will evolve beyond it.
More about Black Diamond
For some people, the untamed beauty of the bayou is a place to hide. For Louisiana wildlife agent Jena Sinclair, it’s a place of refuge—one where she can almost forget the tragedy that scarred both her skin and her soul. But when the remains of yet another fisherman turn up, Jena realizes that Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes is not safe for her…or anyone else.
The mysterious deaths aren’t her only problem. A dangerous drug known as Black Diamond is circulating through Terrebonne Parish, turning addicts into unpredictable sociopaths. Jena’s investigation leads her to Cole Ryan—a handsome, wary recluse struggling with his own troubled history—who knows more than he’s willing to admit. If they want to stop the killer, Jena and Cole must step out of the shadows of their pasts and learn to help each other…before the evils lurking in the bayou consume them both.
More about Susannah
Suzanne Johnson writing as Susannah Sandlin is the author of the award-winning Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, including the 2013 Holt Medallion Award-winning Absolution and Omega and Allegiance, which were nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She also wrote The Collectors romantic suspense duology, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner. Her new suspense series Wilds of the Bayou started in 2016 with the release of Wild Man’s Curse and continues with Black Diamond. Johnson is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Susannah loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.
More about the Giveaway
Thank you for guest blogging today, Susannah. Black Diamond sounds great. Love the cover. Best wishes with the tour!