Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Suspense writing--it's not for Wimps

by Vickie McDonough

When I first started writing back in 2001, I wrote two contemporary novels, a historical, and then another modern day story. I didn’t know then that my career of over 30 books and novellas would follow a historical trail for the most part. I have had 3 contemporary stories published—a novella, a Heartsong novel, and an LIS suspense. The suspense was definitely the most challenging.

Rancher Under Fire is my suspense. I wrote the story years ago, but it never found a home until last year. My agent suggested sending it to LIS, but I told him it wasn’t suspenseful enough for that line. Imagine my shock when they bought it. But, I was right in that it needed more suspense. You must keep the tension high in a suspense—keep throwing danger and difficult situations at your characters, and keeping them dodging trouble. I had lots of tension and bad things happening, but most of it was directed at my hero’s ranch rather than at him, such as stock tanks being shot, fences cut, etc. My LIS editor had me go back through the story and up the tension even more and direct more of the danger at my hero and heroine. I literally spent more time rewriting the book than it took to write it initially. But it’s done, and it’s a better story for all of the changes. I suspect it’s still not as suspenseful as many LIS’s, but I hope you’ll enjoy it. I certainly have a much better appreciation for suspense writers like my good friend Margaret Daley and the other LIS authors.

Here’s the back cover blurb for Rancher Under Fire:


Jackson Durant would go to any lengths to protect his young daughter and his ranch. He knows the puzzling incidents on his homestead are no accidents. Someone is after him…but who? And why? Reporter Mariah Reyes is determined to find out. She never expected her pursuit of a story on the reclusive rancher would endanger her life—nor that she’d fall for the cowboy. But when Jackson’s daughter is kidnapped, she’ll do anything to help save the little girl—even if it means becoming a target herself.

Rancher Under Fire releases today in paperback and ebook!! Yeehaw!

Now, I have a question for you:

Who is your favorite suspense writer? What’s your favorite suspense novel?

Bestselling author Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams in her fictional stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West during the 1800s. Vickie is the award-winning author of over thirty published books and novellas. Her books include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, and End of the Trail, which was the OWFI 2013 Best Fiction Novel winner. Whispers on the Prairie was a Romantic Times Recommended Inspirational Book for July 2013.

Vickie has been married thirty-eight years, is the mother of four grown sons, one of whom is married, and she is grandma to a precocious eight-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, antiquing, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com


  1. Congrats Vickie, on the suspense novel! Love the title. Got me at rancher. :D Since all my fave RS writers are friends, too, I can't pick just one. ;)

  2. Suspense is my favorite to write. Even when I'm doing contemporary, I tend to sway to the 'danger' zone.

    Your new book looks awesome.

  3. I have such respect for suspense writers. It must be quite a challenge to keep the tension high and make the situations believable. Kudos to you for stretching yourself and writing a LIS, Vickie. Do you plan to write any more, or are you returning to your historicals?

  4. Love writing suspense. Fun to think of the situations I'd NEVER want to be in! Thanks for the post!

  5. I love writing suspense. Even in my historicals I add a suspense element. I'm with you, Dana. I'd never want to be where I put my heroines.


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