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Featured Author: Sarah Andre

Normally we save our featured author posts for the end of the month, but since Sarah Andre's Capturing the Queen (Damaged Heroes, book 2) releases tomorrow, this seemed like the perfect time for an exception.

I've had the pleasure of working with Sarah on all three of her novels. From the very first set of notes I sent her and every time since, she's blown me away with her ability to internalize and process critiques, then truly transform her story during revisions. Her willingness to accept feedback and her drive to create gripping romantic suspense allow her to improve immeasurably between drafts, with just a nudge in the right direction. Underlying her skill with revisions is also an incredibly creative mind that keeps me (and her readers) guessing with exciting, unpredictable plot twists.

I'm so glad to have the opportunity to help her writing grow into its vast potential, and I already can't wait to read book 3 in the Damaged Heroes series! 

For her visit on our site, Sarah decided to share some thoughts on writing compelling heroes for romantic suspense:

This June marks the third consecutive year I’ll publish a romantic suspense edited by Anya, and the third consecutive year she’s virtually shoved me from my unwavering path toward irate reviews.

Perhaps it’s my myopic view as a writer to assume everyone knows my protagonist like I do, because it’s always a shock when both my critique partner and Anya read the first drafts of my novels and send back the blanket summary: Your hero is an ass.
    Editor's note: I have never said that sentence to her. 😉

What? How could that be? I adore him! He suffered a terrible childhood and has now made a success of himself. Surely it’s clear why he behaves this way, utters that remark, or how every decision he makes plunges him into deeper chaos? And how can you not feel sorry for him when his world finally crumbles at his feet?

Last year I sent a four-page email filled with anguished questions like this back to Anya. I’ve been writing for twelve years, what basic craft principle am I not getting? Her answer was simple:
Externally you can keep the same plot issues with his fiancée, his dad, etc., but internally there has to be more at stake—a status quo that’s shaken from the moment of his return, and keeps falling apart.

Stakes. A status quo that’s shaken. Keeps falling apart… Her words were a two-by-four to the head. For all the online classes, craft books, and workshops I’ve absorbed, I’d made the most basic newbie mistake: I focused on my protagonist’s external conflicts (plot-driven approach) when the riveting aspect of a novel is the internal struggle (character-driven).

We’re all flawed in real life, and we all hold a world view or universal truth that is somewhere on the bell curve of skewed to destructively wrong. But it’s our belief, it’s what makes us feel "safe," and it’s basically unshakable.

The character arc and happily-ever-after part of a romantic suspense is when the hero sees the error of that belief and grows as a person while also capturing the bad guy. My task was to make his world view much more tangible than: he had a tough childhood, so he acts like this now. It meant distilling that broad paintbrush stroke to a fine point: he wants extreme wealth and power with no emotional ties so he’ll never again face the emotional and financial destitution he experienced as a child. NOW, in this distilled form, I’m going to shake that belief system like a can of soda!

Why is the character-driven approach more riveting than plot-driven? She went on to explain:
It’s good that you have him pulled in a thousand directions and therefore he has to prioritize, but right now those directions don’t really matter because his internal world doesn’t really matter [to the reader]. 

This also meant I had to rewrite and revise in much deeper point of view. Every thought and action out of him or the characters he interacted with had to be filtered through the hero's fear that the life he’s built is cracking and falling apart.

Although this was my story’s status quo, I hope Anya’s insight has helped you look at your protagonist in a new light too.

Sarah Andre is a 2017 RWA RITA® finalist and writes "romantic suspense that keeps you up all night." She lives in serene Southwest FL with her husband and two naughty Pomeranians. When she’s not writing, Sarah stays crushingly busy in various volunteer positions which she complains about loudly, but secretly enjoys. Her latest romantic suspense, Capturing the Queen, releases June 13, 2017.

Connect with Sarah on Twitter & Facebook, or sign up for her newsletter!