Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Too Cold, Too Hot, Or Just Right?

Congratulations to "Mina", the winner of Virna's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated.

Thank you to the Just Romantic Suspense Blog for having me as a guest today!

Recently I finished revisions on an upcoming romantic suspense.  In one scene, my editor suggested that I provide fewer details about what my serial killer antagonist was doing to a victim.  I took her suggestion to heart and, while the scene is still plenty disturbing, I agree it’s less likely to put off more squeamish readers or to overshadow the romantic elements of the story.  Still, it’s possible some readers will wish I’d toned down the scene even more.

In that same vein, I recently received an email from a reader who enjoyed my latest release, Shades Of Desire, but lamented that, in her opinion, my sex scenes were too graphic.  She said she preferred such things left to her imagination.  Thankfully, she wasn’t put off completely and intends to continue reading my books, but given that I do write “hot,” I suspect she’ll most likely skip certain scenes in the future. 

These experiences have me contemplating the “less is more” dilemma that writers often face.  Given some readers prefer more while others prefer less, how much detailed sex or violence does an author provide?

My writer brand is “Brave the darkness, discover the light.”  It’s no surprise, then, that I like to push the thematic envelope and explore tough issues.  On the other hand, there are plenty of popular, bestselling authors who write far more graphically than I do.  My reading preferences lean towards those types of stories, but I try to remember that sometimes things really are best left to the imagination. After all, that’s the  inherent beauty of suspense—the fear and excitement generated by the unknown.

Ultimately, however, I can’t put artificial limitations on my writing.  I have to be true to my characters and story.  For example, the romantic suspense with the serial killer that I mentioned above is by far the darkest story I’ve written to date, and in constructing the scene with the killer and his victim, it was imperative I show just how ruthless and deranged my character was.  Moreover, while all my stories employ above-average sexual tension and heat, the heightened steaminess in Shades Of Desire is warranted because the heroine has gone blind and is hiding her sexuality behind that disability.  As such, when the hero and heroine become intimate, it makes sense for my hero to talk dirty to her and push her boundaries in order to break through her insecurities.  While writing these two stories, I might not have consciously known why I was writing them the way I did, but in hindsight I can make a strong argument for it.

As writers, we have to trust that we write things a certain way for a reason.  Yes, we need to be deliberate and informed and pay attention to things like structure and technique, but we also have to listen to our instincts and take risks, even when taking a risk means pulling back or toning things down.  First and foremost, we must tell the story we’re meant to tell, rely on our editors to keep us on course, and, afterwards, hope that most of our readers “get it” and enjoy it.

When it comes to sex and violence in your suspense, do you tend to like less, more, or somewhere in between?  Do you like to mix things up or stay true to one style?

I’d love to hear from you.  One commenter will win an autographed (by all the authors), limited print edition copy of Love Bites, a pet themed anthology with stories by Lori Foster, Brenda Jackson, Catherine Mann, Jules Bennett and myself.  My story, Molly Wants A Hero, is a romantic suspense on the lighter side, but like all my stories, it contains action and heat.  No serial killers though! :)

Shades Of Desire (HQN)

Natalie Jones is the lucky survivor of an elusive killer who preys on young women and then disappears from view. And since her harrowing ordeal, the once gutsy photojournalist has remained isolated in her home, paralyzed by fear and her failing vision.

Special Agent Liam “Mac” McKenzie has scars of his own. But despite his efforts to ignore the attraction that simmers between him and Natalie, he needs her help to catch a predator. Soon, they will forge a tentative alliance—charged with desire. Through a soft-focus lens, Natalie dares to envision a future with Mac beyond the investigation...never guessing that the clues hidden within her photographs are drawing them into an explosive confrontation with a madman.

Available now on Amazon, B&N, Powell’s and Indie Bound

Virna DePaul is a former criminal prosecutor and now national bestselling author of the Para-Ops Novels (Chosen By Sin, Book 3 now available; see  Virna also writes contemporary romantic suspense for Harlequin Romantic Suspense (It Started That Night, May 2012) and HQN (Shades Of Desire, June 2012).  Finally, Virna is a national bestselling author of numerous indie published novels. Sign up for her mailing list for access to her monthly writing cheat sheets and reader contests.

Giveaway ends 9pm EST June 21st. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.


  1. I like to mix things up, I like seduction but graphic after seduction is good. And graphic in the suspense parts really make you see it in your mind.

    1. sex after seduction is always my favorite combo, too, LS. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I can take anything in a romance novel...the graphic sex, the violence, the scorchong sensuality, the dirty words, anything really, the hotter the better, as long as there is a deep and strong emotional connection between h/h. This is what gives intensity to a plot. Virna, I love your books.

    1. Hi Mina. I'm SO glad you enjoy my books. Thank you for letting me know. I'll always try to provide that intensity and heat! :)

  3. I enjoy a good mix. I enjoy the hot and steamy sex scenes and as for violence.....well it's part of the story. We all know there is no such thing as a "nice" bad guy. I know this is a giveaway but I actually already have Love Bites and got to meet you at RAGT to have it signed. Just wanted to leave my opinion. (Read your story in the book already and really enjoyed it!)

    1. Sara! Thank you! I'm glad we met at RAGT and that you enjoyed the anthology story. Hope to see you again soon!

  4. Hi

    I like a good mix also. I enjoy the heat of a good romance and if it is too graphic (violence) I just skip that part. That is why I like to read a suspense book rather than go to the movies, I can move over the parts that are too graphic. I just purchased your book Shades of Desire and I am happy to hear it is Hot!

    Thanks for the chance

  5. Hi! Great topic! I prefer books without graphic violence. I know it happens...but it's disturbing to read about. Thanks for hearing me.

  6. VIRNA,

  7. Hi Virna,

    I like books that are cold, warm and hot. Variety is the spice of life. I love the cover for Love Bites. I will add this to my wanted book list.

    yenastone at aol dot com

  8. Definitely always like to mix things up. Sometimes, more is not enough and sometimes I dont need so much. But I would pick my reading with that in mind. I love readers that complain of too much detail. But read it anyway. We all should read what we like. Whatever does it for you.
    I would be thrilled with a paper copy of Love Bites. I am new to the ebook world. Learning. But still leaning to the pb. And I love the animal stories. I love supporting Loris animal causes. I would gladly buy an ebook to trade for the pb version! :-)
    lisakhutson at {cox} (dot)

  9. I like a good mix... I will admit that there was one book I read that the description of the violence in it actually got my stomach to turn... it is one book that I could not stand to finish... but normally I do have any problems with violence in books. Thanks for sharing... have enjoyed your books and am sure I will continue too! :)

  10. I look at the whole picture. Sex and violence is a reality in our world. Keep it real. I love your books.

    1. Forgot my email

  11. Interesting post. I like a mix of everything.


  12. I like romance suspense with hot sex and the violence is ok because its a suspense so it has to be there. But I tend not to like it described in exact detail. My imagination is good enough.

  13. I like a good mix, but having a background in a ER trauma, more doesn't bother me. But if its less my imagination can fill in the holes. Just don't skimp on the sex. :} Shades of Desire sounds like a book I have to have. Enjoyed the excerpt, and your post.

  14. pamerd, Thank you for purchasing SOD. I hope you enjoy the book, the hot parts and the others, too! ;)

    Cherie Durbin, I agree graphic violence can be disturbing. I don't think my books go over the top with violence at all. But they definitely deal with issues that can be hard sometimes. Thanks so much for commenting!

    TAMMY-Thank you for your continuing support. It means so much to me! Good luck!

    Tammy Yenalavitch - LOVE variety, yes! So glad you like the cover of Love Bites. Thanks for stopping by.

    krazymama_98-Hi there! I agree with you that we're luck to have such a variety of books to choose from. I'm still trying to get used to ebooks, too! I love holding a book, but I love the ability to get ebooks fast (like right after I finished a book by an author I love and want the next one!) Good luck with the LOVE BITES giveaway!

    Colleen C.--Thank you Colleen! I tried listening to Red Dragon by Thomas Harris on audiobook. It wasn't so much graphically violent as just creepy. I just couldn't do it. But I hope to read the book one day because I've heard it's so good. Thanks for your support!

    anita - Thanks, Anita. That means a lot to me! :-)

    bn100 - Thanks for commenting. I love mixing things up, too. :)

    lorimeehan - Isn't interesting that we can imagine stuff so vividly with just a few well-written words. It's what I'm striving to perfect. Thanks for stopping by!

    Lynda Frazier - Skimp on the sex? Not sure I can be accused of that. Well, I guess people might want MORE sex scenes, but the ones I write are pretty...thorough, I think. LOL! Thanks so much!

  15. I like to have sex and violence balance. A good mix of sex and violence would keep me on my toes.


  16. I definitely like a mix. I loan many of my books to an elderly neighbor. She'll skim over the parts she finds to be too much (too hot or too graphic) but that has never impacted her enjoyment in reading the book.

    jtcgc at yahoo dot com

  17. I like a mix, but not too graphic. I like a little scary, but not anything real bloody or extremely scary. I love to read and love trying different authors and genres. Virna is a new author for me. Big fan of anthologies. Big fan of Lori and Catherine. Have been wanting to read Love Bites. Thanks for the giveaway.

  18. Thanks for a great post and giveaway! Congrats on the newest release :)

    I definitely like a mix bag. Too much of anything or just one version can be too much. But I like my romantic suspense to thrill me, shock me and scare me!


  19. I have to say somewhere in between. I find if there is too much for my taste, it takes me out of the story.


  20. I can't say I've ever read a love scene that caused me to look away. :) Nothing has been too hot so far. Then again, if it fades to black, that's okay too. I can use my imagination.
    But there is nothing like a smoking hot love scene, especially when the connection between the characters is pure fire. Those are my favs.
    Shades of Desire sounds very interesting, I’ll have to check it out. danao(dot)b7(at)gmail(dot)com