by Cassondra Murray
Dianna Love stops by the lair regularly to comment and say hello, but it’s been two years since she made an official visit. In that time she’s added New York Times Bestselling Author to her resume.
If you spend any time with Dianna, you can’t miss that she stretches every boundary to be her absolute best.
That determination and a whole bunch of talent earned her a coveted Rita award for her first published novel, Worth Every Risk. I was lucky enough to be there that night to see her receive that award. Scroll down a little and you can see Dianna with her Rita statue on the night she won her category.
Like any award-winning novelist, she pulls out all the stops to give readers a fast-paced, page-turning story, combined with powerful characters and unexpected story twists.
But she and Sherrilyn Kenyon are stretching the boundaries of the romantic suspense genre with the down and dirty agents of the BAD Agency—Bureau of American Defense—and their cutting edge stories. In fact, Dianna now refers to the books not as romantic suspense, but as romantic thrillers.
First of all, welcome back Dianna!
Thanks! It’s great to be here again.
I’d like to focus on that shift to what you call romantic thriller. What is that, how is it different from a romantic suspense, and how did you end up going this direction?
I came to writing romantic thrillers because of my love of romantic suspense and thrillers. But there was a time the term “thriller” wasn’t being used even in mainstream.
I think of romantic suspense as an action story where the central plot is a romance and the secondary plot is the suspense about something the hero and heroine are trying to recapture or protect, but the two plot lines are wrapped so tightly together one will not stand without the other.
In a romantic thriller the main plot is also a romance, but the secondary plot has several layers that encompass a larger scope of what is at risk – generally very high stakes and it could affect a larger group of people (a city, an international organization, a world threat, etc).
I'd have to agree that these books are bigger than the ordinary suspense. In fact, there's an edge-of-your-seat quality to these stories that I have not seen elsewhere in romance fiction.
You and Sherrilyn were good friends before you started writing together, right? Will you tell us how the collaboration happened?
Sherri and I met while on the road at conferences. It was the beginning of 2005 when my first book was out. I had a busy travel schedule. Sherri on the other hand was being asked to speak everywhere – and still is, especially with hitting #1 on the New York Times list nine times in just over a year.
Okay that's definitly worth a pause to give a very loud and rowdy WOOHOOO to Sherri for that amazing accomplishment.....ahem...now back to Dianna's story....
We’d both arrive at a conference a day early to spend a quiet day writing and would run into each other at lunch. By the third conference in three weeks, we were watching for each other.
Over the next few years we toured together when she had a hardback out, went to Germany for a reader convention, hid in the mountains at a cabin to write and became very close friends. We approach marketing with very similar views and we did a lot of brainstorming on how to promote books.
One night late – early, actually, since it was 2:00 am – we were just back to some hotel room from a signing and talking about books she had coming up. We hit on the BAD (Bureau of American Defense) agency series and started talking about her next one. I love to brainstorm so I started throwing out ideas and an hour later she said, “Why don’t we do this together?”
We decided to do it and had absolutely no plan other than we had two months to turn it in.
So the BAD agency was already created when you came on board, right? How did the writing partnership change the direction for this series and bring it into the realm of romantic thriller?
When I agreed to collaborate on the BAD Agency series, the first full novel was a fun romantic suspense. I suggested we kick it up to a romantic thriller, which Sherri and our editor went for.
The difference is that in the new books in this series there is a major threat to our national security and this threat could affect the entire world. The villains are the Fratelli de il Sovrano (Italian for Sovereign Brotherhood) with international resources and a new world plan that is unfolding as the series develops.
These are multi-layer plots woven tightly with the romance and they have threads that continue to finger into future stories.
Readers are obviously loving this direction for the series. But what is it that has drawn you to this shift? Is this something that’s happened as an organic part of your growth as a writer?
I think for me it has been both part of my growth and what I’m happiest doing. My nature is to complicate whatever I work on. When I was learning to sew in school I wasn’t happy to sew a simple pattern. I sewed a man’s sport coat. When I painted large murals for companies like Coca-Cola I was happiest when it was a complex piece of artwork with many different parts.
When it comes to writing I always want to create different dimensions within the story to give the characters a large playing field with multiple possibilities. One of my favorite movies is the Italian Job – a “who’s zooming who” story. I like the twists and turns of complex stories.
The BAD Agency series has a lot of those twists and turns. I’ve heard you say that you like puzzles, and your story worlds would absolutely qualify as puzzles in my view—and yet you manage to pull the twisted threads together and have it make perfect sense at the end. It’s a wild ride, but such a satisfying ending. How do you make that happen?
I’m a plotter and Sherri is a pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer). After we brainstorm the story, I start the first chapter because it’s normally a black ops type opening and I really like to write openings. Then I start working through the plot threads and seeing where they will go or how they would be stopped or if there’s another way to go from X to Y.
I do love puzzles and think that’s the base for my thinking in writing. I want to hide a surprise or set up a twist that is not going to turn out like the character expects and hopefully the reader will be surprised. I love to read a story that surprises me. Nothing makes me happier than watching a movie or reading a book and thinking, “Had no idea that was going to happen.”
As to how I manage to keep those threads straight and pulled together, I’ve taught the Break Into Fiction® program that Mary Buckham and I created so many times I have a short check list of what I need to keep an eye out for to stay on track. The problem that happens sometimes in suspense is not so much that the threads don’t tie up as it is that some just get dropped or the character’s motivation falls apart so the reader stops following the thread.
You’ve written three BAD agency novels and a novella with Sherrilyn. By now you’ve probably seen a pattern to the men and women who save the world in this series. Tell us a little about what it takes to be a BAD agent. And among those you’ve been a part of writing, who is your favorite hero, and why?
BAD agents are operatives the other alphabet agencies wouldn’t consider taking on, but those other agencies aren’t expected to send their people into no-win situations with orders to succeed or don’t come home.
Choosing one agent as a favorite would be like picking your favorite child when you have ten. I love different things about each one, but above all I love that the men are honorable no matter how dark their past, and the women have a core of steel beneath their flaws and fears.
Nathan Drake (PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT) had no reason to ever care for another person after what he lost, but he's a wounded soul who cares too deeply.
Carlos Delgado (WHISPERED LIES) may look sexy and whisper sweet nothings with a wicked accent, but he’s as deadly as they come and his loyalty knows no limits. When he was a teen in South America, he held the young woman he loved as she died in his arms then walked away from everything he’d ever known to protect others he cared for.
Hunter (SILENT TRUTH)appears to have it all. But looks are deceiving when you dig beneath the façade and find deep scars. He does everything to the extreme, including love, which means he won’t risk someone being close to his life as a BAD agent or around when he faces off with an assassin.
Speaking of SILENT TRUTH—it’ll be out in just a few weeks—April 23rd. Will you tell us more about Hunter and Abbie and their story?
Hunter Wesley Thornton-Payne…the third. Doesn’t that just sound like a roaring pain-in-the-butt type of guy who’s a legend in his own mind?
Sherri named him a long time ago. I kept watching him as we worked on the series and thought – who would sympathize with a man whose family is one of the wealthiest in the world, who is very attractive and brilliant and knows it, who does not bond with other teammates?
Remember the part about “I like complex puzzles?” We laid his soul bare in the opening chapter and didn’t let up on him until the last page. His depth of character surprised me once we pushed him into some unholy situations.
Abbie was the one woman for him. I love that she comes from a simple background, but one full of secrets that multiply at the worst times. She’s a fighter, loyal, and refuses to let anything stop her from trying to save someone she loves from dying.
Oh, and the central villain in SILENT TRUTH is part of the Fratelli organization, but he’s an unusual assassin who enjoys puzzles as much as I do.
Okay I'm gonna admit it. I've read SILENT TRUTH, and it's the most nail-biting, emotionally poignant story I've seen in years. Having the "OMG what happens next?" factor and that level of powerful romance in one read is unusual. And yes, I have to say that Hunter...well...he's a really, really hot guy.
You can read an excerpt of Hunter and Abbie’s story by clicking on this link: http//www.authordiannalove.com/books/silenttruth.html
Thanks so much, Dianna, for being our guest here in the Bandit lair!
Thanks for having me here, but you’re not getting away that easily. I’ve got some questions for the Bandits and Buddies. I’ll answer anything else you ask, but I want to know something.
What is it that you enjoy most about a romantic suspense series?
Do you return book after book for the characters alone or is it the setting, the team cohesion or the situations they get into?
Do you like exotic locations? Are there areas you’ve not seen in books that you’d like to read about?
What type of hero is your favorite?
How long have you been reading romantic suspense?
And THANK YOU for being a reader – you allow me and other authors to do what we love most.
Dianna is giving away an awesome prize package. Autographed copies of all three BAD Agency novels, an “I’m In A BAD Mood” t-shirt, and other goodies all tucked inside a monogrammed “I’m In A BAD Mood” tote bag.
Leave an answer to Dianna’s questions to be entered in the drawing. We’ll draw a name on Wednesday.