Where did the romantic suspense market go? That’s a question I get a lot from readers. There was a time when it seemed like every contemporary romance novel was a romantic suspense story. But recently? Not so much.
I have a theory about it (ask anyone who knows me: I have theories about everything). This theory revolves around a number of the originating authors of the romantic suspense form retiring or reducing their writing schedules in the early 2000’s. It was just about time for a new crop of suspense writers to come along and refresh the pool when three things happened simultaneously:
First, a wave of mega-hit paranormal books had swept the marketplace and movie theaters. New writers’ imaginations were galvanized by images of magic, vampires, and dystopian nightmares.
Second, the Great Recession hit. The major publishers abruptly became extremely cautious about taking risks on new writers. Any major mistake could have potentially spelled the end of the entire company. Places for new authors to publish dried up.
Third, and certainly not least, self-publishing exploded onto the scene as a realistic alternative to traditional publishing.
My theory is that many of the new authors who might otherwise have flowed into the romantic suspense market instead flowed into the urban fantasy market (and its many variants, including steampunk, paranormal, futuristic), and they flowed into self-publishing.
Although we all know of authors who became huge bestsellers with their first book, the majority of authors build their readership and their reputation over time. They mature with every book, and some years and a number of books into their careers, they tend to really hit their stride as writers.
Fast forward to now. Writers who might otherwise have been blowing the socks off the romantic suspense market are blowing our socks off in other markets and marketplaces. I propose that urban fantasy, steampunk, and other genres are chock full of young, hip, taut, tense stories that, a decade ago, would only have found outlet in romantic suspense.
Personally, I’m crossing my fingers for more young, hot, sexy, dark stories in the romantic suspense market to lure readers back to what is arguably my favorite genre of story to write and read. I’m doing my part along with other uhh-mazing and talented (and persistent) authors to revitalize the genre and show readers that today’s romantic suspense stories are not your mother’s boring, predictable novels from fifty years ago.
Cindy Dees started flying airplanes while sitting in her dad’s lap at the age of three and got a pilot’s license before she got a driver’s license. At age fifteen, she dropped out of high school and left the horse farm in Michigan where she grew up to attend the University of Michigan.
After earning a degree in Russian and East European Studies, she joined the U.S. Air Force and became the youngest female pilot in its history. She flew supersonic jets, VIP airlift, and the C-5 Galaxy, one of the world’s largest cargo airplanes. She also worked part-time gathering intelligence. During her military career, she traveled to forty-two countries on five continents, was detained by the KGB and East German secret police, got shot at, flew in the first Gulf War, met her husband, and amassed a lifetime’s worth of war stories that she uses to create her stories of romantic suspense, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and epic fantasy. She publishes with HQN, Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and Tor when she’s not learning how to self-publish.
This 2-time RITA winner, five-time RITA finalist, ad Golden Heart winner has published forty-five novels and counting. She taught advanced novel writing at Southern Methodist University for seven years and has extensive speaking experience. Her hobbies include medieval reenacting, professional Middle Eastern dancing, and Japanese gardening.