Speaking of Suspense. . .

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at Cameron Village Library in Raleigh. The topic was on writing suspense and I was joined by Suzanne Adair who writes young adult historicals, PM Terrell, who writes thrillers featuring female computer programmers (really!) and Virginia Kantra, who writes romantic suspense. It was a very dynamic discussion and before we knew it, two hours had flown by.
We all write very different types of books, yet suspense is an important element in all our work. Every novel needs to hold the reader captive. If it can keep a reader up all night, unable to put the book down, so much the better! We talked about the importance of well-developed characters and intriguing relationships as well. All the suspense in the world won’t matter if the reader doesn’t care about the people in the story.
Then we got off on about a dozen tangents: the funny things that have happened to us during our research (Virginia’s son walked in on her just after she’d duct-taped herself up to find out how it felt!); the use of four letter words in our books; love scenes; unique settings, and on and on. Once we got going, we had trouble stopping.
Speaking of four-letter words, my next post will be about them, so be sure to stay tuned!


  1. Ann on August 7, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Diane, you are so right about the people in the stories. That is the main reason that I will not finish a book – story may be good but I don’t care about the people!!!!

  2. Margo on August 7, 2007 at 8:27 am

    I agree completely with Diane and Ann. If the characters aren’t interesting it’s very hard for me to finish a book. No worries with Diane’s novels…her people are ALWAYS intriguing and often stay with me years after I’ve read the books (ex. KEEPER OF THE LIGHT…Annie, Alex, Olivia, Paul and Mary Poor)…Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me because I just can’t let these ‘friends’ go, but then I realize it’s because of Diane’s master storytelling that I’m so obsessed with these haunting characters.

  3. Margo on August 7, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Diane, I’m always reading late into the night with your books…I can’t think of 1 that I wasn’t so involved with plot and characters that no matter how tired I was I kept reading and reading. I can’t imagine the challenge to always come up with new ideas for novels but your love for creating is so evident. I have to confess that at 1 point in your books I deliberately go into the ‘slow down mode’ so I can savor every word and postpone the ending for as long as possible.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on August 7, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Margo, I should be paying you for your promotion!
    what are you painting these days?

  5. Margo on August 8, 2007 at 7:57 am

    LOL Diane!…seriously, I’m just speaking thru my heart. I’ve been in 2 outdoor art shows and was really happy with the results. From the shows I’ve received 5 commissions for pet portraits and sold 7 canvas paintings…would you believe that all the paintings that sold were of scenes from Nantucket. I quess that tells me I need to go back there each year and find more things to paint! I demonstrated at both shows and have been called to paint 4 diff dog portraits and just finished a cat. In 4 weeks I go into the AKC Dog Show for 4 days so I’m getting ready for that also. I’m also painting a few more Nantucket canvas’s just to have for myself. It’s a busy time right now. P.S. I love your hair in this pic!

  6. pattie on August 8, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Agree with all comments about Diane’s books!
    Margo, do you have a web site where we can see your art? My older son is an artist, unbelievable innate talent at an early age. He fought it in high school but finally realized what he was wasting. He’s mostly self-taught. And, if I had to label what he does, I’d say it’s “outsider” art. He’s also a self-taught musician. He’s not inclined to do the marketing and schmoozing that I wish he would (always the mom!) and concentrates more on music now.
    OK, I’ll stop running on at the keyboard (mouth)…

  7. Margo on August 8, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Pattie, I wish I could say I have a website but I don’t…at least not yet but that’s the goal for next year! I can e-mail you my work like I have to some of the other fans of Diane’s who comment her blog…I have them all ready to send if you want to give out your e-mail. I have many dog portraits and macaws stored on my e-mail address. Diane mentioned several months back that anyone wanting to see my work can give her their e-mail and she’ll give it to me so I can forward the artwork (I’ll tell you, Diane’s 1 in a million…very generous).
    Pattie, you must be very proud of your son…he sounds multi-talented.

  8. Ann on August 8, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Here is an example of how real Diane’s characters are to me. A few years ago I was reading “Her Mother’s Shadow” while vacationing at Pine Island. In the last few pages of this book there is a statment that Clay and Gina are buying a house in Pine Island. When I read this I immediately looked up from my book and out the window and thought “I wonder if the house they are buying is close to where we are staying”. THAT IS REAL!!!
    Margo, if you have some of the Nantucket pictures ready to e-mail I would love to see them. I think you already have my e-mail address. Thanks.

  9. Margo on August 8, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Ann, I sold my Nantucket paintings at 2 recent shows and did not have them scanned or photographed so I don’t have any to send right now…however, I am going to spend Fall and Winter painting more of Nantucket for myself and when those are done I will get them photographed and e-mail them to you…I DO have photos of my booth that shows them on display from a distance and I could always send those to you…to tell you the truth, I never thought in a million years that I would sell most of the Nantucket paintings I did, but that’s exactly what happened…I can’t complain but I was a little bit sad to seem them go…it gives me alot of encouragement to paint more of that gorgeous Island tho. You have my e-mail address and if you want me to send some pics of my art shows showing pet portraits and Nantucket and ocean scenes, let me know your ‘snail’ address and I’ll send them…they are in photograph form. (-:

  10. brenda on August 8, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Am at a paid computer station. Margo-thanks for comments on private email.
    We are in Miami—had an accident on the way-a side trip…don’t ask about that…not good on my part-but we are not hurt.
    Don’t know when we will get our car…fortunately my son’s condo is on Miami Beach and lots of places to walk. He started his new job today…he spent one whole day in the “car” place with us waiting for authorization-don’t ask.
    Take care-am trying to read but pretty stressed. This trip is going to cost out the wazoo…for me–now after the accident.
    Wish you all the best-home one day soon.

  11. Diane Chamberlain on August 8, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Pattie, wow! Your son sounds like an amazing talent. Congratulations.
    Margo, you are really cooking! That’s fantastic about the Nantucket paintings. . . though it has to be so hard to see them go when you haven’t scanned them. I can’t wait to hear how the AKC event goes for you. All those doggies! I have a feeling your day job may be on its way out.
    Ann, I had to laugh about your Pine Island fantasy regarding Clay and Gina’s house. I think that way all the time. Either we have terrific imaginations or we’re psychotic. Take your pick.
    Brenda, oh no. I’m distressed to hear about your accident, but relieved you’re all okay. I’m so sorry, though, to have that mar your wonderful trip this summer. I hope you can get the car back in good shape and good time. Please be careful.
    All, I had my second cataract surgery this morning. It was a bit different than two weeks ago. I was spacier afterward and slept the entire day when I got home. Also a little headachey. But my vision’s already much better, and three dvds of THE WIRE arrived in the mail, so I’m all set for an evening curled up on the sofa with John and the pups.

  12. Ann on August 8, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Diane, let’s just believe we have terrific imaginations – it was a little weird when I realized I was thinking of fictional characters being in a house near me!!!
    Glad to hear you are through with the cataract surgery and ready for some dvds.

  13. Margo on August 9, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Diane, so glad to hear your surgeries are over now…I still can’t believe your even blogging after a stressful day with your eyes! Brenda, how terrible to have an accident out-of-town at the end of your wonderful summer! I’m so sorry but am relieved to know everyone is ok. Plz take care coming home. Ann, I loved your comment about Pine Island and D’s characters…I agree completely on how they are such REAL people…they become my friends and I’m always so sorry to see them go when I finish her books. That must have been very surreal to have that happen on Pine Island! Diane, when I sell a painting close to my heart such as the Nantucket ones, I believe it might feel similar to when you finish writing a book and have to let your characters go. It’s hard to explain but at least I know it has gone to someone who really felt passionate about it and can enjoy it daily. And thank you for all the encouragement for the upcoming AKC Dog Show. I am very excited about it! I hope your right about my day job but I have no complaints there…the company is very, very good to me but my goal IS to someday leave it and pursue my art as a full time living. (-:

  14. brenda on August 9, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks girls. Diane, hope your surgery is well…
    My husband and are Fine…who knows when we get a car-did not get a rental down here…too expensive…enjoying walking Miami Beach but tired. Need to get home sooner than they can get the car.
    The “others” in the car were “hurt” and car “totaled
    Long story…I’ll be paying for this vacation for a long long time
    Any word on your novel, Diane????? Do you have to do lots of changes, etc???
    Characters’ names? Cover???Etc.
    I appreciate all of your thoughts-you have become my “friends”

  15. Diane Chamberlain on August 9, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Brenda, I’m so upset about your accident. I hope no one was seriously hurt. I can tell you’re distressed about it. And your trip had been so perfect up until then!
    BEFORE THE STORM is resting comfortably on my shelf. I don’t expect to hear from my editor for a few weeks regarding revisions. That’s good, because then I’ll get to look at it with a fresh eye. As I’m fiddling with ideas for the sequel, I’m aware of changes I can make in BEFORE THE STORM to lead up to the new story, so I think the timing is going to be perfect. Thanks for asking, and take care.

  16. Ann on August 9, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Brenda, I want you to know that I am thinking of you! I feel like all of us who take a part in Diane’s blog are friends. Wish I could help but will be thinking of you and hope things get better soon.
    Enjoy your walks on the beach – sometimes that helps.

  17. pattie on August 10, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Brenda, hope you’re OK and that a good vacation lifts your spirits.
    Diane, if you still have my e-mail address please send it to Margo, I’d love to see her art work. AND I’m SO happy to hear your second cataract surgery went well!

  18. Margo on August 10, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Brenda, I’m so sorry that the end of your vacation is so stressful. I’m glad you weren’t hurt and am hoping the people that were are on the mend. Ann’s right, a walk on the beach can give some peace. Everyone, thx so much for your interest in my art. Pics of my booth displays and work are being mailed to Ann next week and Pattie, I’ll be more than happy to e-mail my animal paintings to you as soon as Diane sends me your address. Ann and Brenda are right…we’ve all become friends thru this great website of Dianes.

  19. brenda on August 10, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Might get my car soon-thanks for your good wishes. Think of us going home. Had a death in my “adopted” family while we were gone…when it rains it pours.
    DIane-I put several folks onto your books-I noticed readers around the pool and ocean. So many are discovering your books by word of mouth…
    I am going to try to get some work done on a syllabus for college classes and high school classes…Up to now, I have been pretty stressed over the situation with the accident, trying to get a new teacher’s certificate with new degree-has taken months-and illness in family-this is the second death in our family in one month…
    Diane-hope you do well after this surgery-I dread having it-but will come soon enough…
    Girls-thank you SO SO SO much for thinking of us and your support…it has helped us.

  20. Diane Chamberlain on August 10, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Brenda, your much needed summer rest hasn’t turned out to be one, I guess. I’m so sorry.
    I wish I’d had cataract surgery sooner. It is, and I’m not kidding, easier than having a tooth filled, do you don’t need to dread it.
    Take care and please drive carefully!

  21. brenda on August 11, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    The others were FINE at the accident…later-they were not-long story…
    Margo-I have to see your paintings. One of my granddaughters is taking art lessons. My daughter won several art contests years ago. Once we were guests of Governor of Ohio at State Fair and at Sea World. Another time, guests at Capital in WV…Once the judge was the Garfield artist. I hope you take some pictures of your other Nantucket paintings…Do you do notecards? I could afford those. 🙂
    Diane-when I travel, especially in the New England area where there is a plethora of light houses…I think of Annie and her “meetings” there…As I sat on the shore this A.M. at this lovely, almost private beach (my son is living right on the beach in a huge condo), I thought of Annie and her lighthouse and how the ocean must have called to her.
    Ann, Pattie, Margo-thanks to all of you. You can email me at hurricanewv@suddenlink.net any time (any of you) That is my personal email. My students have another one. Ironically, I have received some great ones down here-to “my favorite teacher” and that has cheered me also…Sometimes it only takes a few kind words to help that one particular student-that is what I strive to do. I hope teaching writing at the university level will be as great as it has been in high school-although I’ll be doing both this fall.

  22. Margo on August 13, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Never have printed notecards Brenda but might someday…might add that to my ‘to do list’ for next year which also includes the website… (-:

  23. Diane Chamberlain on August 13, 2007 at 10:48 am

    notecards are a great idea, Margo! John makes them of his floral art photography and they are a hit at craft fairs. I can see your colorful bird paintings being a big seller! However, they can be labor intensive, like a website. It’s so hard to be an artist/writer/photographer and have to worry about marketing. Ugh.

  24. Margo on August 13, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Your so right about the marketing worries Diane. All I want to do is the painting and drawing and forget the other stuff! Thx for the tip on the notecards…I think I WILL definitely pursue that! (or rather, I think I’ll ask Gary to pursue it for me…he is actually a HUGE help to me and has been taking care of the framing/matting, checking home e-mails for art orders, always washes and cleans my brushes and palettes…AND, I would never be able to do the outdoor shows without his help with the tent, displays etc.) (-:

  25. Diane Chamberlain on August 13, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Oh, wow, Margo, you are one lucky woman! Hold onto that guy.

  26. Margo on August 13, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Will do, D…(-:

  27. Margo on August 13, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    I should add that my husband is also being so good right now to help with my parents…my mother quit driving 2 yrs ago and my father is pretty ill right now and too weak to drive…so, Gary’s at their place almost everyday driving them to dr appts and anything else they need…since he is now officially retired my sis and I are extremely grateful to him for helping them why she and I still work our day jobs…sigh, I know I’m very lucky.

  28. Diane Chamberlain on August 13, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Stop. . . you’re killing me! Where did you find this man?
    I’m so sorry to hear your father is ill.

  29. Margo on August 13, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    I met him at a Bank…I was a bank teller part-time while attending College and he was a businessman making deposits for the company he worked for. He found out I was also an artist and had a show in town, went to see it and then commissioned me to paint something for his home…the rest is history (-:

  30. Margo on August 13, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Thank you for thoughts on dad, Diane. It’s stressful right now.

  31. brenda on August 13, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Hi girls-just had a yummy veggie burger at R. Tuesday’s-not as good as Spanish food and Medit. food in Miami but.
    We are at a motel in Georgia-on our way home. the stress continues as I have to fill out papers, etc. etc…and am antsy on the trip.
    My son’s new life is great, and I will adjust to having him so far. My daughter is only 5 l/2 hours away in Indiana, and she brings the girls to see me a lot…
    Margo-received your email on my private-thanks.
    Girls-continue thoughts and prayers…
    Also wish me luck in teaching this year-I am not teaching the grade I LOVE in high school, and I am a little antsy about the college classes. Hey!! This doesn’t sound like me at all…I am usually so gung ho about everything…
    Margo-so glad you have your parents. My mother died at 60…Your husband sounds great too.
    Diane-Wish I could have the surgeries although that had nothing to do with accident…Good luck for you.
    The rest of you ladies-I appreciate your thoughts more than you will ever know.

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