Romance at a Slow Simmer: Writing a Series

Suzanne JohnsonThis is a guest post by Suzanne Johnson, my critique partner, friend, and author of the incredible Sentinel of New Orleans series.

Royal Street – the first in the series and Suzanne’s debut novel – came out last week to well-deserved rave reviews. She’s giving away a copy to a very lucky person who leaves a comment here.

I’d never read an urban fantasy novel before meeting Suzanne, but her books are so creative, funny and clever that she’s converted me! (Plus, the men in this series are smokin’ hot! Hands off, ladies – Alex Warin is mine.)

Take it away, Suzanne!

I was in a Houston bookstore for a signing last week, and the store owner had a confession: “I wasn’t sure where to shelve your book,” she told me. “The romance in it is light for paranormal romance, but it has too much romance to be pure urban fantasy.” Finally, she shelved half her copies in romance, and the other half in UF.

It didn’t come as a surprise. The slow-simmering romance you’d expect to be a staple of a series? Usually, it isn’t slow at all. I knew paranormal romance fans might read my recent release and cry foul for undeveloped relationships. I knew urban fantasy fans would grumble about it having too much romance. It’s hard to find a UF series these days where sex isn’t a given in book one, even if true love trails behind.

Royal Street
In Royal Street, the first book of my Sentinel of New Orleans series, my heroine DJ meets some potential suitors. (I should add here that Dj is a wizard.) First is Alex Warin, a big, macho, black-clad kind of monosyllabic guy who’s not nearly as tough as he pretends. There’s a strong attraction between DJ and Alex, but neither quite trusts the other, plus they have to work together, which raises ethical issues that the plot wouldn’t accommodate logically.

And there’s the undead early 19th-century pirate Jean Lafitte. What girl can resist a handsome, rakish pirate, alive or undead?

Then, there’s Jake Warin, Alex’s cousin. DJ likes him immediately—he seems sweet, he seems uncomplicated, he seems easy. Note I say “seems.”

But I felt strongly that the romance in this series needed to simmer, and simmer slowly. The book is set in New Orleans during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina. As a Katrina survivor myself, I knew that romance was off people’s radar during that period. I sure didn’t have the stomach for it. Just getting through each day was enough of a challenge. Had DJ jumped into the sack—or even into a serious relationship—with any of these guys, it would have made the story un-credible for me, and I was determined that the Katrina element of the story be credible, above all.

Did the romance take a back seat? Sure. But the Katrina stuff had to be right. Do these relationships get refined in River Road, the second book in the series (which comes out in November)? Sure—and even more so in the third book. But even then, it simmers, not boils.

To me, that’s the great thing about a series. As an author, I have the space to spread out and let my characters grow and change. If they get a Happily Ever After in the first book, what happens in the second book, or the third, or the fourth? There’s one popular urban fantasy series where the protagonist hops from man to man to keep the romance fresh. For me, that’s not a trait I admire.

Relationships are messy. They take time to work out. The beauty of a series is that the relationships have the chance to progress at a pace that maximizes the characters’ personalities, quirks, and growth arcs.

Even if it means a slow simmer.

When you’re reading a series that revolves around one heroine, do you want the romance resolved in book one, or do you prefer it to simmer and burn throughout the series?

Giveaway!

Suzanne is giving away a copy of Royal Street to one very lucky commenter. Take it from me – you’ll be hooked! I’ll choose a random winner on Tuesday April 24th. Good luck!

Royal Street

When Hurricane Katrina destroys the barriers between modern New Orleans and the Beyond, an apprentice wizard braves the chaos of her struggling city to find her missing mentor, fend off the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, and control her annoying new partner–not to mention find a serial killer before he finds her.

Read an excerpt on Suzanne’s website

18 thoughts on “Romance at a Slow Simmer: Writing a Series

  1. Hi! Suzanne, Hi Kat

    i wasn’t expecting to discover a new opportunity to win this book here, i’m so happy, after all the tibits i’ve got from suzanne website i really want to discover her book so i’m jumping on all the opportunity that i can find^^
    thanks you a lot for this great giveaway

    all the best

    isabelle(dot)frisch(at)gmail(dot)com
    miki recently posted..Vigilant ( I-Marshal Stories book2) by Michele HartMy Profile

  2. Wow…. i hear about this book from another blog, and i think this book very interesting. I am happy to have a chance to win this book. Looking forward read it.
    And i hope this giveaway INT…… thank you for this giveaway 🙂

    filiafantasy at gmail dot com

  3. Oh this book looks so good and the cover is gorgeous. I have heard good things about this book and its set in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans. I believe that is one of if not the perfect place to set story/book its full of a rich history and magic! Thanks for a chance at winning it!! 🙂

    Christina
    huntress023@hotmail.com

  4. I like that you didn’t cave to pressure and put it in either genre solidly when, as you’ve explained it, the plot demanded the slower development. I’ll be honest–I won’t read many books without romance but I don’t mind one that develops over time because I read books for the love story not the sex. I’m off to Amazon to add this to my Kindle’s TBR list. Yay!

    @WendySparrow on Twitter

  5. I don’t mind a slow simmer as long as progress is made in the relationship. I tend to lose interest (and patience) if there is too much “one step forward, two steps back” with any aspect of a story, but particularly the romantic relationship.

  6. I’m glad to hear that they shelved Suzanne’s book in both sections! I’ve started to check ALL sections (PNR, UF, Romance, Mystery) for my favorite authors, because they seem to get shelved in different sections depending on the book store. Royal Street sounds like such a great book; I can’t wait to read it! rwschwarz11ATgmailDOTcom
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  7. Thanks for the comments, everyone! Dj’s relationship with her guy (who shall remain nameless–no spoilers here) progresses with each book. No twenty books of should-I-choose-Joe-or-Ranger for my girl!

  8. Well I think it’s difficult sometimes, there are a lot of books I wouldn’t know if they are UF or PNR… So sometimes I do the same and think about the two genres in the same time. But for me this one isn’t so difficult to choose, I would have tell it was an UF book without really thinking about it. Great post!
    Melliane recently posted..Guest Post : Suzanne Johnson + GiveawayMy Profile

  9. This book looks really awesome. I follow the author’s blog and she said to check out the post here. I would love to read this book it sounds great and looks great.

  10. I lived near that area 40 years ago and would love to read about it. I really enjoy debut books and authors – something about firsts! I enjoy stand alones and series so both are good. Gorgeous cover.

    catslady5(at)aol.com

  11. I don’t know that I prefer the romance one way or the other, as long as it’s done WELL. The Hollows series (Kim Harrison) has Rachel changing boyfriends through the course of the books, and it makes sense and it works. The Rosemary and Rue series (Seanan McGuire) is five books in and no romance yet, just a lot of flirting and unrequited glances – I’m way on the edge of my seat for the pairing to HAPPEN ALREADY, but it definitely works in the series and I know the payoff will be that much better for the wait. So whatever the author decides, I’m down for it as long as they do it well. I’m looking at the Sookie Stackhouse series as an example of not doing it so well (but that’s one thing in a laundry list that irks me about the series).

  12. I’ve been waiting for this book for so long! So happy it is finally out! Congrats!
    I usually like the romance to go on through the books, but if the series is very long, I don’t like waiting for, say, book #4 to make something happen

    If it’s international, count me in!

  13. Once again, congrats on the release of ROYAL STREET Suzanne! Secondly, I agree with you. If it’s a series I can accept and be happy with a slowly developing romance as just in real life it can take time for the characters to grow, get to know each other and develop feelings. So if the author spends time detailing these I am happy 🙂 (but of course only if there are little tidbits to tie us over until they finally get together! :-D)
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