A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Friday, March 4, 2011

Interview of Deborah Nemeth: Acquiring and Editing Romantic Suspense and Mystery stories for Carina Press

For my blog-spot this month I interviewed my brilliant and talented Carina Press editor, Deborah Nemeth. Any mistakes are mine :)

1.      What are you not seeing enough of in Romantic Suspense/Mystery? What are you seeking to acquire?

A:  I’d really like to see more mysteries overall, including cozies and private detective novels such as Shirley Wells’s Presumed Dead. I’m also actively seeking steampunk mystery romances similar to Bonnie Dee’s Like Clockwork and Robert Appleton’s The Mysterious Lady Law, and romantic suspense with strong mystery elements like your own Sea of Suspicion and Storm Warning.

I don’t get a lot of thriller submissions, and I’d welcome more of them. I’d also love to edit more lighthearted capers, along the lines of Amy Atwell’s Lying Eyes.

Interesting settings appeal to me, and so do other eras and characters from other cultures, so I’d love to acquire some interracial/multicultural projects as well as mysteries/romantic suspense in unusual locales/time periods. This could be anything from a remote lighthouse setting to a dystopian, space opera, futuristic or historical mystery. I enjoy all periods from ancient to twentieth century, and I’m excited about an upcoming World War II-set m/m mystery by Josh Lanyon, Snowball in Hell. I also enjoy Gothic mysteries such as Shelley Munro’s Georgian-set historical mystery romance, The Spurned Viscountess.

I should clarify that this is just what I’m looking for. Carina Press has 13 other editors and our tastes cover the gamut, so there’s an editor for any subgenre you can think of.

2.      What are you seeing too much of right now in RS/M?

A:  I wouldn’t say too much, but I do see a lot of romantic suspense submissions with conspiracy plots and serial killer/arsonist/stalker/rapist villains in various contemporary American urban settings. And mysteries/suspense that open with a prologue in the villain’s point of view. Of course, any of these can work, given a fresh twist and strong writing.

3.      Roughly what percentage of submissions do you receive per month that are romantic suspense or mysteries?

A:  About 12-15% of the submissions I receive are either romantic suspense or mysteries. And my projects reflect that, since 15% of them are the same genres. This might not be reflective of Carina Press overall, since the various freelance editors have different genre preferences.

4.      On average, how many pages do you read before you know (as in getting that tingle) whether or not you have found something you want to acquire?

A:  I often get a tingle on the first page, but even though I may love an author’s voice, I won’t know until I’ve read the entire manuscript to make sure the conflict, plot and character arcs hold up.

5.      Have you ever fought for an acquisition and lost?

A:  I’ve recommended a few mystery/suspense projects that weren’t acquired. A member of the Carina Press acquisition team must vet and recommend each acquisition. I once liked a British cozy mystery with an oddball middle-aged hero whose character and profession/hook just didn’t appeal to the others, and another romantic suspense project that would have required a lot of work. Sometimes the team will suggest we do a revision letter, inviting the author to resubmit with changes.

6.      Obviously RS & M can be very different beasts. Can you tell me what the most important aspect of a RS is? And a Mystery? And can the two be blended successfully?
In a mystery, the focus is typically reflective, the appeal cerebral, to discover whodunit and whydunit. We don’t always have action or danger in a mystery, although we usually get both at the climax.
In suspense, the protagonists are in danger of their lives, and we usually expect some action. The focus is on surviving, and stopping a villain. Its success depends on creating emotion in the reader. We need more pulse-pounding moments in a suspense novel than in a mystery. The odds against the protagonist’s survival need to grow as we reach the story’s climax.
In romance, the focus is on the development of the romantic relationship between the hero and heroine. The existence of a romantic suspense subgenre is evidence of how successfully these two can be blended. Mystery and romance don’t always mesh together as well, but some authors can pull it off. Josh Lanyon has brilliantly combined the two in his upcoming release, Snowball in Hell, about a police lieutenant and a crime reporter in LA during WWII.

Generally the story is either primarily a mystery with strong romantic elements, or primarily a romance. Your novel Sea of Suspicion succeeds as both, but the romance focus slightly outweighs the mystery, while in Clare London’s Blinded by His Eyes, the mystery takes center stage, with the romance playing a strong supporting role.

7.      I’ve heard tell that the success of romance stories hinges on the hero—any thoughts?

A: I agree that most female romance readers prefer a hero they can fall in love with, like I did with your Nick Archer in Sea of Suspicion. A romantic hero needs to be flawed but larger-than-life and have appealing aspects. He needs to care passionately about his goals, whatever they are. Ultimately, we need to see that he’s exactly who the heroine needs to be happy.

 8.      What draws you into a suspense story?

A: The same types of things draw me into a suspense story that draw me into any submission—a great voice, fully developed and strongly motivated characters, an intriguing premise/hook. Beyond that, a suspense author must be skilled at creating and sustaining tension. Pacing and emotion are very important elements in suspense.

9.      Favorite romantic suspense and mystery authors (not including your own authors)?

A: This is really tough but I’d probably go with Ngaio Marsh. I also love Mary Stewart, Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Jacqueline Winspear, Ellis Peters, P.D. James, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham and of course Dame Agatha.

10.  Sexuality in RS and Mystery. Are you seeing any changes in reader trends do you know?

A: Romances overall contain more heat than in years past, and erotic romance remains popular—but I think it’s easier to pull off an erotic contemporary, historical, SF or paranormal than an erotic romantic suspense. In RS, the romantic relationship develops in the crucible of danger and perhaps also suspicion. In an erotic romance, the relationship develops through sex, and if you’re combining the two, it’s difficult to balance the focus. You need to take your time with lovemaking scenes for them to be truly erotic, and this can cause problems of pacing and timing in a suspense novel.

I have no expectation for the sexual content of a submission, unless it’s an erotic romance submission. The level of heat must be dictated by what the story needs and how the author wishes to tell it.

11.  And onto the negative…What elements are grounds for immediate rejection? Pet peeves?

A: One of my pet peeves is a lot of exposition in the first scene. I don’t necessarily immediately reject, but it’s a huge strike against, and unless there’s a strong reason for me to keep reading (maybe I’ve enjoyed books by this author before, or it’s a highly recommended referral, or the author has a great voice and a terrific premise), I will probably reject. Another pet peeve is an author who behaves badly online. I’m unlikely to be interested in a submission from an author who rants or is inconsiderate to readers, reviewers and other authors.

I have some personal dislikes, but I’d never reject an otherwise promising submission based on my own taste without first passing it on to another editor. For instance, I can be very squeamish about violence to children, depending on how it’s handled, so if a story involves molestation, killing or torture of a child in a way I can’t stomach, I might pass it along to a CP editor who’s more receptive to that subject matter.

In most cases, when I’m reading a submission, it simply comes down to whether the story holds my attention. If it’s hard for me to put down, and I find myself thinking about it when I’m cooking or driving, that’s a good sign.

12.  What do you like best about your job? Least?

My least favorite part of the job is rejecting a submission—especially a manuscript from one of my authors, or from a referred author, or a revised-and-resubmitted one. But the upsides of editing make up for this.

I love discovering new voices and working with authors, who constantly amaze me with their creative imaginations. If I spot a problem in a story, such as with the conflict or motivation, or the clues not quite adding up the right way, I’m always impressed by the clever solutions writers dream up. It’s so rewarding to see a ms go from its raw state to the polished product, and see my authors garner well-earned reviews and awards. It’s also a great feeling when I receive a submission in my inbox from someone who was referred by one of my authors.


Marcelle Dubé said...

Excellent interview, Toni. Thanks for introducing us to Deb. And welcome to NYUS, Deb. It was interesting getting to know you and your preferences.

Adrienne Giordano said...

Great interview, ladies. Thank you. As a Carina author, it's always fun to learn about the staff.

MaureenAMiller said...

Thank you for getting us an 'insider' glimpse, Toni. It's wonderful to hear Deb's perspective on aquisitions.

Shirley Wells said...

What a great interview, Toni and Deb. Thanks, both!

I have to say I have serious cover envy. Josh's Snowball in Hell cover is awesome. Well, all our covers are great, but that one really pulls me in.

Deborah Nemeth said...

Thanks, Marcelle, Adrienne, and Maureen. I'm happy to be here, and I'll check in to see if anyone has questions for me today.

Shirley, I agree that Josh's cover is terrific. Sets the tone beautifully. Watch for that release in April.

Elise Warner said...

Thanks for the interview, Toni and Deborah. Learning a little about Carina editors and staff introduces us to a different perspective.

Amanda said...

Wonderful interview. Very intersting and thought provoking. Thanks for taking the time to draft such interesting questions and comprehensive responses.

Desiree Holt said...

Great interview, ladies. And Toni, I have to agree with everything Deb said about Storm Warning and Sea of Suspicion.

Toni Anderson said...

Thanks guys. Credit should all go to Deb, I just asked the questions :)

Desiree--thank YOU for your help with the early versions. You are an awesome talent and a dear friend.

Julie Moffett said...

Great idea to interview Deb, Toni! I love getting to know the Carina staff better. It can be insular in our little writing zones, so it is fab to get Deb's perspectives and preferences on things. Had to let you know, Deb, that right by my house there is a "Nemeth Lane." Even though I've never met you, I always think of you when I drive by!! :)

Amy Atwell said...

What a boone to find so many honest, specific answers from an editor about the submission process--especially for RS and mystery. For awhile I've been told by fellow authors and quite a few agents that RS is a tough sell right now. Would you agree with that, Deb?

Also, have to say that I *adore* Dorothy L. Sayers.

J Wachowski said...

I know exactly what Deborah means about "getting a tingle" when you read a book that pulls you in.

I think there must some kind of metaphysical magic that happens.

Now if only we could figure out how to make it happen at will!

Deborah Nemeth said...

Julie, I went for years without knowing/meeting anyone else with the same last name who wasn't related (or who didn't live in Hungary), until FB/Twitter...and now it seems that Nemeths are everywhere, even on street signs.

Amy, yes, I would. RS hasn't been as popular as some other romance subgenres in recent years, such as paranormal and erotic romance, and this is one positive aspect of digital publishing. Carina Press gives romance suspense authors a potential market to sell their mss, and supplies readers with some great suspense stories.

But those trends come and go. I didn't bring my crystal ball this morning so I won't try to predict future trends for RS.

Clare London said...

Great interview Toni, and it's lovely to hear Deb's voice - and taking centre stage as she deserves for once :).

I was intrigued to hear Deb's opinion on the difficulty of balancing RS and mystery, that's given me some excellent food for thought on my latest project.

It's just lovely to chat with you both! Have a great weekend ^_^

Josh Lanyon said...

What a great interview -- and may I just say what a pleasure it was working with Deb on Snowball in Hell.

(And, yes, Shirley, I did totally luck out on that cover.)

I'm doing an interview with Deb and several other editors of m/m fiction on Tuesday at Jessewave's Reviews.

Janni Nell said...

Great interview, Toni. Some very interesting information there.

Jenny Schwartz said...

A wonderful interview and I loved that Margery Allingham is one of your favourite authors, Deb. She had such style, it continues to inspire me. I can't write like her, but I can try to have her dedication to writing-as-a-craft.

Wendy Soliman said...

That was certainly an eye-opener. I know my editor a lot better now!

Taryn Kincaid said...

Wow, great interview, Toni and Deb! I've just learned quite a bit. I think the romantic suspense I'm working on (romance heavy/suspense light!) may need the villains to up the danger-quotient ante! The heart-pounding moments are usually h/h generated!

Cozy in Texas said...

Interesting interview. Thanks. I'm glad to hear that mysteries are in demand. I think they are too, but many agents I have spoken to at writing conferences have told me that no one reads mysteries any more - especially cozies. I guess they don't read blogs.

Toni Anderson said...

Thanks for all the support, guys.
Cozy in Texas--Mysteries not in demand? Really?

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I always like reading the views of an editor. Thanks for the interview/

Pauline Barclay said...

A wonderful interview, Toni and introduction to more authtors too! I loved Presumed Dead by Shirley Wells, now will be checking these other titles too! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Deb, very interesting!

Alexa said...

Great interview!

Shirley Wells said...

Pauline - thank you for your kind words. So glad you enjoyed Presumed Dead.

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