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Joanna Wayne on Romantic Suspense

Cowboy Swagger
Cowboy Swagger
Joanna Wayne

Joanna Wayne is a favorite with more than just Houston area romance novel readers. Her fans live in every part of the country, but they love it that her books are set mainly in Texas.

Welcome back to the Examiner, Joanne. What prompted you to start writing romantic suspense?

The first book I attempted was a straight romance, but I soon realized that I wanted to add a suspense element. Romantic suspense has always been a favorite read for me. I love living the danger--vicariously.

Who was the first romantic suspense author you remember reading?

The first one I really became addicted to was Mary Higgins Clark, but I enjoy too many romantic suspense authors now to name.

There are many really fine writers out there. How long have you been writing in this sub-genre?

My first romantic suspense, Deep in the Bayou, was released by Harlequin Intrigue in 1994. Since then I've written almost fifty books in the sub-genre.

That’s an impressive number of books in that period of time. So, are your stories more character-based or plot-based?

I would say they are plot-based, as I come up with the frightening situation first. But once I start writing, the characters come alive for me. I find their personalities sometimes make modifications to the plot when I realize they wouldn't react in certain ways. I try to make each character three dimensional and motivate them appropriately. If the characters fall flat, so will the plot.

So true. What are the most important ingredients of a compelling romantic suspense?

The reader must definitely be able to identify with the character who is in danger. The emotional ties that connect characters and readers make the suspense work. The plot must be believable or so engrossing that it allows the reader to suspend belief. Pacing is also important, and the suspense must escalate throughout the book so that the reader's heart is racing when they reach the climax.

You do manage to accomplish those goals in all your books—great suspense and a definite connection to the characters. But how do you keep track of the details in romantic suspense—for example, do you use note cards or something else?

I keep a file of notes on the computer so that I can quickly refer to them. Amazingly I keep most of it in my head as well. I may not remember what's on the grocery list, but I juggle all the clues and red herrings. I always keep notes on timelines. Since I write so many series, I also do what is referred to in the publishing world as a bible. In that I keep track of all information on the setting, continuing characters, story lines, descriptions, etc.

There is a lot to keep track of, so it’s great that you have a system. But what about the ending? How do you determine how a book like this will end—or does the story ending simply evolve?

I usually know the ending early on. I know that the danger must escalate to the point that it seems there is no way out for the heroine. If there is a black moment between the hero and heroine, I like for it to occur just before the suspense climax. After that, I wind up everything quickly and try not to leave any loose ends.

It’s a tough job, but you do it well. Now, please tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, Cowboy Swagger, is the first in the Sons of Troy Ledger series. Eighteen years before the series opens, Troy Ledger is sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife. At the time his five young sons were scattered among their late mother's family and taught that their father was a cold blooded murderer. Cowboy Swagger takes place just after Troy Ledger is released on a technicality. Dylan Ledger comes home to the Texas Hill Country ranch to decide for himself if his father is innocent as he claims. He quickly becomes involved with the daughter of the local sheriff who is being stalked by a dangerous killer with reasons of his own for wanting her dead. Old memories, family secrets and complex feuds erupt as the danger becomes more intense and the sexual tension builds.

What was your favorite scene to write in this book?

My favorite scene is actually between the heroine and her father when she confronts him about painful secrets in her past. It is a very emotional scene for both of them. My second favorite scene involves the ghost of Helene Ledger.

So you have a touch of the paranormal in this book as well—that’s always a popular twist. Do you plan any sequels to this book?

Yes, and thankfully, there are five books in this series. Each of the sons will have his own reunion with his father and each will have his own mystery and romance.

I just finished the third book in the Sons of Troy Ledger Series. I'm also teaming up with Colleen Thomas for a two-book Shivers series that is bone chilling and sensual, and set in the sultry, mysterious city of New Orleans. My book, Gossamer Moon, will be released in October, 2011.

How exciting. Colleen is a fabulous writer as well, so the series is bound to go well. So, finally, where can readers find you on the internet?

Find me at and on Facebook at Joanna Wayne, novelist. Please stop by website and register to win a free Joanna Wayne novel. A new winner is randomly chosen each month.



  • Elizabeth Pina 4 years ago

    I love Joanna's novels! She does great workshops too. Thanks for a wonderful interview, Teri.

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