Susan Vaughan here. Saturday was indeed “Love and Chocolate.” Librarian Sue McClintock, of the Vose Library in Union, Maine, invited me to be the first romance author to do a book talk. The month of Valentine’s Day seemed to be the logical time for a romance author.
The Vose Library has occupied a modern building with up-to-date services that go way beyond books since 2011, but it began small in 1931 with a bequest of books and money from Helen Ayer Vose, a teacher who was born in the town of Union. As a former teacher, I found this dear to my heart. Sue arranged a table and folding chairs in the sunny and cheerful children’s area, furnished with the best clock for readers and writers.
Guaranteed to draw in library patrons who didn’t know me as an author were yummy refreshments—hot chocolate and chocolate tarts prepared by Sue. My contribution was a Valentine collection of decadent chocolates from Safe Harbor Confections .
The nice-size group collected refreshments and then settled in chairs for my presentation. After Sue’s brief introduction, I shared some of my background as a teacher and what led me to writing romantic suspense. I’ve always read mysteries, and when I discovered that genre folded into romance, I was sold.
Granted, suspense is slightly different from a straight mystery. Usually a mystery is about solving a crime, typically a murder, that has already happened. In a suspense novel, with or without a romance as a large part of the plot, often the reader knows up front the villain’s identity; the plot focuses on stopping his nefarious plot. Most of my romantic suspense books incorporate both suspense and mystery.
I shared some of the background on my newest book Always a Suspect, which is a revised and updated release of my very first book, published in 2001 by Harlequin as Dangerous Attraction.
Although during most of my teaching career I taught in other areas, my college major was French literature, so the French-Canadian heritage in Maine fascinates me. Briefly, here’s how I used that background. I needed a strong internal conflict for Claire and hit on the idea of a curse. Because of tragedy in her childhood, the superstitious French-Canadian aunts who raised her led her to believe her beauty was a curse and that anyone close to her would die. When two husbands and a fiancé are killed under mysterious circumstances, belief in the curse causes her to shut herself off from the world. But an anonymous caller and persecution by the police force her to hire a PI to clear her name.
When I received the publishing rights back, I suspected to do a lot of revision because (I believe) I’m a better writer than I was back when I wrote the original on my huge Gateway computer. In addition to tightening the prose, I needed to update the technology. My audience chuckled as I described those. Land lines became cell phones, an answering machine became voice mail, hand-held police radios became cell phones, and a mini-tape recorder became a digital recorder.
I then read three excerpts from the beginning of the book, to give the audience a sense of the characters and to set up the plot. When I finished, people had lots of questions about research, promotion, and publishing in general. I had a wonderful time chatting with this group and sharing my story with them. I did sell a few books as well.
We authors love our librarians, who not only promote reading and authors, but offer opportunities like this one for particular authors to share snippets of our books and insights into our writing processes. So thank you, Sue and the Union residents who joined me for “Love and Chocolate.” I’m feeling the love!