Four Tips for Writing Domestic Suspense (And a Couple about How to Thrive in the World of Publishing) by Kaira Rouda

Four Tips for Writing Domestic Suspense (And a Couple about How to Thrive in the World of Publishing) by Kaira Rouda

[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have author Kaira Rouda guest posting on the site today. Her novel The Favorite Daughter is on sale for just 2.99 on Kindle this week! Today, she’s sharing tips for writing riveting domestic suspense. Take it away, Kaira!]

1. Be Original

Have you noticed the domestic suspense field is hot? Maybe too hot. In a crowded market it’s hard to stand out unless your last name is Flynn, or King, or the like. You should always write what you want to write, let your muse speak to you and through you, but as the muse is doing so, just remind her to think outside the box. And you likely shouldn’t include girl, wife, daughter, or girlfriend in the title. Not right now.

2. Keep the Monster in the House

When you’re crafting the next Gone Girl, one of the first rules to keep in mind is that the monster, or the bad guy in the story, needs to be someone close to the protagonist. In my last two novels, the protagonist was so close he or she might even be the monster. (You’ll need to read Best Day Ever and The Favorite Daughter to see who I’m referring to.) The scariest thing in the world to me is when someone you love may be out to get you.

3. Keep the Timing Tight

The wonderful thing about writing suspense, to me, is the immediacy. There’s little time for flashbacks or sweeping historical backstory. I love that about this genre, and find myself also drawn to tight timeframes. Best Day Ever takes place in 24 hours. The entire novel. The Favorite Daughter and The Goodbye Year in a week. My next novel, in three days. You get the idea. This tip might not work for you, but for me, it keeps my scenes tight, and my fingers typing.

4. Keep the Twists Coming

The other challenge with today’s suspense market is that readers are sophisticated and they’ve read a lot of books, with a lot of twists. The worst reviews are those where the reader writes that she figured out all the twists halfway through the book. Sigh. I’m telling you, it’s a tough – and fabulous – reader crowd out there and she wants to be surprised. Not through tricks, of course. The story can’t wrap up with a bad guy taking the fall who you just met ten pages before THE END. But do know that the days of one big twist are gone, likely for good. So be sneaky, and honest, and surprising.

5. Keep Going and Never Give Up

Whether you’ve never written a novel, but would like to, or have written and published a dozen, the key to this author life is perseverance. Oh, and being open to change. Perhaps those two ideas are in the same category. They are to me. I’m veering off the domestic suspense specific tip to offer insight on what I’ve learned in ten years in this business. I started off publishing, with a wonderful Texas-based publisher called Greenleaf Book Group. I’d tried to sell my story to a “big” house and got close, but no deal. And I kept going. I followed up self-publishing three more novels and learned so much, about the industry, about promotion and marketing, about metadata and more. I’ve worked with four different literary agents who believed in me, and one who was able to finally make my dreams of “big” house publishing come true when Best Day Ever lead a new imprint for HarperCollins/Harlequin.

One of the first people I met with my publisher was my publicist, who has been amazing. But even at our first meeting, when I was on Cloud Nine with everything the publisher had planned, she said, “Just remember, take care of yourself. Fight for your dreams. You never know how long this will last.” And she was right. There are no guarantees in publishing, just like there aren’t in life. That’s not meant as a bummer, it’s meant as an opportunity. Life is full of twists and turns. Your job, as an author, is to rise above it all and write the best novel you can write. And then publish it, in the best manner available to you at that time.

Oh, and then, do it again. Some real life twists can inspire some great ones in fiction.

6. Be nice. What comes around goes around

Several years ago a woman I considered an author friend had a holiday party and invited all of the authors in the area to attend. I wasn’t included. My books at the time were all small press and self-published. I guess I wasn’t published by a “big” publisher so I wasn’t considered good enough to be at the dinner. I found out about it through all of the authors’ posts on social media, I watched as they celebrated and cheered the robust writing community in my town.

I watched from home, of course.

In the subsequent years, things have changed. Quite a bit. I’ll never forget the sting of that exclusion, but I’ll also never forget the pride I feel in my author journey. Each person’s publishing story is different. We should celebrate them all. The self-published, the small-press published, and the big publisher published: each of these authors is working hard to be in the game. The guts it takes to write your heart out, the constant self doubt, all of it, means we need to stick together as a tribe, not divide along perceived prestige lines.

Because, things change. That’s the only thing that’s guaranteed: Life itself will have many twists. Happy writing!

About the Author:

Kaira Rouda is the International and USA TODAY bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary fiction that explores what goes on beneath the surface of seemingly perfect lives.  Her novels include Here, Home, Hope, All the Difference, In the Mirror and The Goodbye Year. Her domestic suspense novel, Best Day Ever, is a USA TODAY bestseller translated into more than eight languages. Her latest novel is The Favorite Daughter, which earned a Publishers Weekly Starred Review and spent three weeks on the Canadian Hardcover Bestseller’s List.  She lives in Southern California with her family and is at work on her next novel. Visit her website, for more.

Connect with Kaira:




The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda, on sale now!

Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.

It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days—and nights—at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl—dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed?

The bonds between mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives should never be broken. But you never know how far someone will go to keep a family together…

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