With a wicked wink, Oliver extends his arm, leading Lori down the long, dark corridor to the parlour where the other guests await. The sound track from Thriller filtered through hidden speakers, the chilling lyrics the perfect ambiance. The scent of cranberry candles mingled with the smell of the birch wood log in the hearth. Entering the parlour, there they were in all their glory, the raucous and rowdy inmates of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Sharon floated about the room, costumed as Nurse Candy, chatting with Chief Bromden, Billy Bibbit, Dr. Stivey, Charles Cheswick and Rub-a-dub George. Martini stood off to the corner, hallucinating. Sharon rushes to greet Lori and the group gathers around the crackling fire.
Sharon: How are you this evening, Lori?
Lori: I am doing well but am a little concerned that I can keep up with the collection of characters gathered here.
Oliver materializes, shuffling his feet, carrying out his role to pure perfection. With a malevolent grin, he hands Nurse Ratched a chocolate martini, his specialty. Then he places a plate of warm tortilla chips and salsa on the table. Never losing eye contact with the nurse of his nightmares, he methodically dips a chip into the dip and feeds it to Lori. “I made this just for you, Nurse Ratched. What do you think?”
Lori: Although I find your offering very kind, a little angel food cake goes much better with a chocolate martini. You do make a fine drink, sir, and in order to properly participate this evening, I may need another.
Sharon: Ah, that can be arranged. That will be all, Oliver. You’re taking your role a little too seriously. Now that we’re all comfy with cocktails and appetizers, let’s chat a bit about who we really are behind our masks. Lori, these are all my friends and they are all wanna be suspense writers. So who better than the senior editor of the Crimson line of The Wild Rose Press to advise them. Can you tell us a little about this genre and what you look for when reviewing a suspense manuscript. What makes your skin tingle when you know you have stumbled upon a thriller?
Lori: There are so many ways to answer this question. First and foremost, I like something that makes me think. But thinking about a manuscript can take several forms. One way is a storyline that is action packed and always moving—maybe terrorists, kidnappers, running from something. Another way is for there to be twists in the plot so that I can’t figure out who did it until the very end. If I can figure out in the first couple of chapters who killed the heroine’s best friend and why, I lose interest.
Sharon: What specific character traits make or break the protagonist, antagonist and villain? What makes each unique?
Lori: Boy, Sharon, you ask some tough questions so I sure hope I do well on this test. J I know it sounds trite but reality is what I look for, especially reality combined with consistency. For example, let’s say the heroine comes across really strong in the beginning, but along the way, she can’t make decisions. That would be a manuscript that doesn’t work for me. I want characters that I feel I understand and can sit down at a table for some real conversation. I don’t want characters that shift from positions of strength to weakness and don’t recover. This does not mean that the heroine can’t be comforted and wrapped in the heroes arms when she discovers the killer has done something unspeakable but she shouldn’t become a whiner. The hero is larger than life. Isn’t it funny how much we expect from our heroes—strong but gentle, funny but serious, aggressive but not... handsome but…well, heck, handsome is a given. As far as the villain…humm, imagine fog. It is there, it is real, it is every changing, it floats, it hides things…that is what the villain needs to be. More than anything though, the characters have to stand up to real life and make me feel something.
Lori: You know when I first start as an editor, I used to answer this question. I really don’t any more. I have discovered that every time I put an author in a box, they blow it up. I think there are some old standards that readers will always read because they love them. The trick is to change up the scenery, morph the characters, add a new dimension. With this as well as your characters, go with your gut.
Sharon: I’m all for that! Now The Wild Rose Press only accepts stories with a strong romantic platform. Would you like to see the company segway a bit into some other genres, say mainstream and women’s fiction?
Lori: Truthfully, right now, I think we have our hands full with what we have. I love that so many publishing houses put out every kind of genre there is and maybe someday we will expand to that. We have surpassed so many of our goals that who can say where we will be five years from now. For now though, I want to focus on romance and do it well. I think there are areas of romance left to be tapped and in today’s world, I also believe romance will never die.
Sharon: Amen to that! You know I’ve recently done a blog on Skhye’s Ramblings sharing my research on suspense novels. Thrillers have always been my passion, ever since Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and Rod Sterling’s Night Gallery. And who could forget all those classic cozy mysteries as Murder She Wrote, Barnaby Jones, Hawaii Five-O, and Magnum P.I. Now it’s on to Cold Case and CSI. So as a senior editor of a suspense line, I’ll bet you have some memories of old television shows, movies or books that linger in your mind. And if so, which ones and why? Do the feelings they evoke in you influence what you want in a suspense manuscript? There must be something intangible that literally screams off the pages of a good thriller. What is it?
Lori: Oh boy, I don’t have any new ones to add to the list you put up there, except maybe Mannix, Columbo and Kojak. I loved shows like that and am thrilled to have cable TV so that I can find them today. As a little girl, I devoured any book I could get from the library. My favorites were the Nancy Drew mysteries and when I ran out of them, I tried the Hardy Boys. Phyllis Whitney and others soon followed. I am not into the road filled with gore that some thrillers follow because I believe you can do so much more just messing with the mind. I mean come on…if you weren’t sitting on the edge of your seat for Hitchcock’s A Room with A View, you weren’t really watching. No gore, just the anticipation of what might be. From the shows out today, I have to admit I love NCIS.
Sharon: Isn’t that the truth. Who didn’t love Nancy Drew. And I agree. The old suspense scenes in Alfred Hitchcock were so palpable simply by playing on the imagination.
Just then, Oliver pushes out a silver caddy filled with goodies. With a glazed look in his eye, he unveils his culinary delights to Lori with a sweeping bow. Choosing the biggest of the caramel rolls, he feeds it to Lori. “Consider this succulent treat payback for the lobotomy you ordered, Nurse Ratched.”
Lori: Ooo, now caramel goes quite well with chocolate so another one of those martinis if you don’t mind, my dear fellow.
Oliver smiles. But of course. Your wish is my command!
Sharon: All right, Oliver, go shake up another batch of martinis so we can finish chatting with Lori. Maybe she’ll save you a dance later.
Oliver shuffles away, but not before blowing Lori a departing kiss.
(Right back at ya, Oliver.)
Sharon: Did I tell you Oliver is one of the characters in my current project? He seems to be creating quite a stir although all he does is annoy me! So what is your favorite Halloween memory?
Lori: This one isn’t a scary one. One of my very dear neighbor ladies made popcorn balls every Halloween for the town kids. (I come from a very small, rural town.) I used to love to go to her house for cider and a popcorn ball. It became kind of a gathering place for the kids on Halloween. We would play while our parents stood around and talked. I wish times like that could still happen today.
Lori: You know, this is the first year I haven’t. When my kids were around, my house was always decked out for every holiday—from 4th of July to Christmas and everything in between. My two older sons are at college now and my daughter is too cool for things like that. So it just doesn’t seem as fun any more. I imagine those decorations will come out again once I have grandkids but I am hoping that is a ways down the road yet.
Sharon: Well, it’s just about time to mingle and dance and have more of Oliver’s…ah…dare we say treats! But before the dancing begins, I must ask. I adore legends and lore and traditions. I collect them and am very superstitious. Can you share a favorite superstition with me?
Oliver grins as he hands Lori a fresh chocolate martini.
Sharon: Do you like to see ancient legends and superstitions work their way into a storyline?
Lori: If it is done well and the author has done the research, yes. I think about anything that is well done can make it into a manuscript. Whether it is a legend or an intimate scene between hero and heroine, don’t just stick it in to say it’s there. Research, know your stuff, build on it.
Sharon: Thank you, Lori. You’ve given us plenty of beneficial information for submitting that suspense novel. Any last words of wisdom? And where can authors submit suspense novels to The Wild Rose Press?
Lori: Don’t be afraid to try something new and give your character’s some room. Just make sure you know what you are talking about. Don’t try to make your hero an agent for the FBI if you don’t know the first thing about the FBI. Have some fun with the learning and give your characters the depth of that knowledge. You will be surprised where they take you.
You can submit through our website. Another word of advice is to always, always check out the submission pages. Every house is different in how they want things submitted and if you follow those guidelines, you will get a much better review of your work. The website is www.thewildrosepress.com and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to ask a question, please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com. Keep in mind, I won’t take submissions through that email or even look at a partial but I will answer a question.
Another tidbit…sshhhh…it’s a secret. There will be a special submission call coming out for Crimson the first week in November. Big doings…and you’re the first to know. I can’t give you the details because I have been sworn to secrecy but you are definitely going to want to check out the Wild Rose blog site. November is Crimson Rose month so it is all about us for the entire month of November. Woo Hoo. Anyway, check us out for those details and then plan on joining us for the November chat session because we’ll be talking even more about it. (I think I am being watched so I have to stop now.)
I see Oliver coming back and I am so parched. Oh Oliver…
Always one to accommodate, Oliver freshens Lori’s drink.
Just then, Martini cranks up the stereo, the chilling lyrics blasting through the parlour. Grinning an evil grin, Randle McMurphy scoops Nurse Ratched into his arms and they do the Monster Mash until they drop…