Comas and Kidnappings and Orphans. Oh My.

In the recent discussion we could call Procreation In Death, readers tossed out a lot of ideas about plot direction, story additions, plot devices. It’s gratifying to know books and characters I created resonate with readers and have them thinking of what ifs and what’s next.

Characters, like Eve and Roarke and the gang, or like Lila and Ash in my most recent book, The Collector, become a major part of my life. It’s incredibly satisfying when they become a part of a reader’s life.

Now here’s the thing. It’s sort of a big, sweeping thing. There are many, many readers with many, many opinions, feelings, hopes, ideas. As we can see, just as one example from the previous discussion, some readers are as opposed to a Baby Roarke as I am at this time. Others long for one.

So who do I listen to? I listen to the characters–and myself. If I listened to the readers I’d go slowly mad as it’s impossible to please all as one readers says this, another says that. Often with equal passion.

A writer can’t write, not well, not truly, with a reader standing over her shoulder. If only because there’s a second reader over her other shoulder saying the exact opposite. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Neither, because books are subjective and personal, and readers are entitled to take exactly what they want out of a book.

But the writer’s the only one who puts the words, the characters, the feelings, the actions, reactions on the page for those readers to take away.

Here’s the even bigger, more sweeping thing.

I’m never–let me repeat–never, ever, ever going to take a reader’s idea and run with it. Not no way, not no how. If it doesn’t come from me, I’m not going to write it, I’m not going to be compelled to follow that path and see where it leads. It’s not mine.

Over the years I’ve had countless suggestions from readers on storylines, character types, and in the case of the In Death books, countless suggestions for direction and plotlines. Comas, kidnappings and babies seem to be the most popular. (Though puppies were off and running this time out.) You’re not going to see Eve or Roarke in an extended coma so Peabody and McNab can run the show. It’s not the Peabody and McNab show. If Roarke got himself kidnapped, he’d lose considerable of his edge. I can spend the next twenty minutes writing out other reasons why these devices won’t work, but above all you’re never going to see these devices because they’re not mine. It’s not how I see the books or characters.

And over the years I sincerely can’t count the times someone has come up to me, or written me hoping I’ll take this wonderful idea for a book, write it, then split the royalties with them. Or maybe I could just edit this book they’re writing and they’ll cut me in on what’s bound to be a major best seller. Or–a personal fave–they want me to write their life story because it’s so fricking fascinating.

To all of these I say, PLEASE, write your own book. I think it’s pretty clear I can come up with my own ideas, so thanks but no thanks for the offer of yours and half the royalties.

And to those who pine for me to write their autobiography, I say here, as kindly as possible, everyone’s life is, or should be, fascinating to them. It’s probably not going to be fascinating to most everybody else. And it’s not my story. I’m never–repeat–never, ever going to write it.

Ideas, honestly, are the easy part of this job. It’s the execution of the idea that frustrates, fascinates and drains the blood from your body. Ideas? I’ve got a million of them. Some of them will never make it to the page because they’re not especially good ideas. Nearly all of them seem like the wrong idea at various points during the writing process when it feels like nothing’s going the way you’d hoped it would or thought it would. But that’s the process.

So don’t look for comas and kidnappings In Death, don’t look for your life story on the New York Times Bestseller list with my name after it, don’t look for your phantom vampire and the international assassin who loves him or your struggling single mother finding love and adventure with the incognito prince as they thwart a terrorist attack on Cleveland.

Hmmm….maybe make her a blogger, and he’s undercover CIA, and….No.

So the big (and simple) and sweeping thing is this: If I didn’t think of it, I’m not going to write it.

I hope you’ll continue to enjoy what I do think of, and where I take you.

Eve And Roarke With No Body

Recently Laura posed a question on Facebook asking what people thought Eve and Roarke might do if they had a free weekend without a murder to deal with. The most popular answers from readers were: Make a baby and/or find some young child and adopt, and Eve finds blood kin–a kindly grandmother, a sweet long-long sister.

Here’s why I’m going to disappoint those hopeful readers.

As I’ve said before, babies change everything. They must, they should. I’m simply not ready to change the scope and dynamics of the series.

But oh, you say, people have babies all the time! They adjust their lives, they make it work. Why can’t Eve?

Because she’s not ready either.

But! It would be so funny to see her trying to cope with a baby!

Yes, it would. For a scene or two. I have to think of the big picture here. I would hope if and when Eve and Roarke become parents (and an older child, adoption, fostering mean EXACTLY the same thing as a parent is a parent) they’re really, really good ones. A really good parent doesn’t toss the baby/kid to Summerset while they rush off at all hours to fight crime or work in-house on a case.

Yes, cops have babies/kids in real life. This isn’t real life. Consider the soap opera a moment. A character gets pregnant (drama, humor, pathos ensues) then the baby’s born. We have baby time for a few episodes. Then we don’t see the kid again until he’s ready for school. And THEN we rarely see the kid until he’s grown up enough to have his own story. Because the day-to-day parenting doesn’t make for good drama in a story that’s structured around action, investigation, sex. Think about it, how could they show all the latest fashion if the star has a maya wrap ring sling around here with a drooling baby… Not going to happen.

Also consider the structure of the series, the timelines. Each book normally takes a handful of days in book time, and the next book closely follows. How many of you are really interested in reading about a pregnant Eve for the next few years? I’m not, and if I’m not interested I can’t write it. Yes, I could zip through those months of gestation. Not interested in doing that either.

So, no babies, not now. No charming orphans of any age. No pregnancy scares, no miscarriages, no foundlings, no street-wise kid who needs a good home. Did I leave anything out? If so, fill it in, then answer no.

Now onto the kindly grandmother.

One of the main elements, for me, of the series is how Eve made herself. She came from monsters, yet she made herself courageous, strong, decent. She made herself a cop who’ll stand for the dead, for the victim, for justice. She overcame horrors and had dedicated herself to protecting and serving, is willing to risk everything to do so.

She could’ve made another choice, she could’ve used those horrors as an excuse, but instead she used them as a springboard and became a damn good cop.

There is no kindly grandparent or sweet, long-lost sister in her life. She’s not only made herself, she’s made her family. Roarke is her everything, as she is his. It matters, I think, that these two people who came from abuse and viciousness found each other, helped make each other into better people. Love opened them to more.

Eve has a sister. In fact, she has two. Mavis and Peabody. She has a father in Feeney (and a little bit in Dennis Mira, too). She has a mother in Mira. A kid brother in McNab. She has, like it or not, a father-in-law in Summerset. Family is what you make of it, and Eve and Roarke have made a fine one, and linked it with a solid circle of friends.

The Eve we met in Naked In Death wouldn’t have been capable of opening herself up to that family, to that circle. The Roarke we met in Naked In Death would only have accepted that family and circle on a very surface level.

Love changed them, and that’s more than enough.


It’s now 2 pm — less than 6 hours after the initial post.  In view of some to the comments, Nora asked me to add the following: 

Adoptions, any age child, would change the dynamics and tone of the series just as surely as conception and a biological child. There is no difference in the needs of or the love given to an adopted child than there is of or to a biological child. Eve and Roarke are NOT having a child, adopted, biological, off the streets, out of an orphanage, out of fairy dust, for the foreseeable future. I’m truly sorry to disappoint some readers, but MUST follow my own vision and be true to my characters.


November 3, 2014

The issue about babies arose again and Nora posted the following on Facebook:

The Eve and Roarke must be/need to be/should be parents topic comes up too often for me to keep repeating why this isn’t happening. I’ve been clear, from the writer’s point of view, countless times. I feel it’s wasting everyone’s time for me to keep explaining my reasons–and it’s senseless for me to find myself upset when adoption is brought up as if there’s a difference between parenting an adopted child rather than a biological one.

So I’ve asked Laura to simply link my blog post on this subject whenever it’s brought up in comments. I have to stop repeating myself on this topic.

I’m sorry some readers are disappointed I’m not taking the series and the characters in this direction, but I’m not. Repeat: I. Am. Not. The readers who insist on telling me why this could/should work are wasting their time. I don’t agree, and I write the books. NR

The Collector conversation thread

The Collector is now available in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.  This is the place to congregate and chat about the book, so please know that spoilers are collector 2very much allowed in the comments.  This time, I thought we’d focus with some questions that you can answer in the comments, use as a starting point for your own post or ignore completely.

It’s up to you!

Did The Collector make you curious about the ins and outs of housesitting?

Did you prefer one apartment Lila stayed in over the other?

Did you see any hints of Nora’s trip to Italy last summer in the stay in Florence?

Do you need a spreadsheet to keep track of your extended family?  (It’s so clever, isn’t it?)

Feel free to ask questions of your own in the comments.  Have fun!

Shadow Spell conversation thread

ShadowSpellIt’s March 25 — release day for Shadow Spell.  This second book of The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy is Connor’s and Meara’s story.  Connor, a man with the legends and lore of Ireland running through his blood, proudly calls County Mayo home. It’s where his sister, Branna, lives and works, where his cousin, Iona, has found true love, and where his childhood friends form a ciircle that can’t be broken.  Until a kiss with Meara, borne of reaction to a brush with death, changes how they see each other.

This is the place for conversation about Shadow Spell — so spoilers are allowed here.  Reader beware!  Have fun.


A day in the Life

It occurred to me that most readers probably have no real idea what goes on in a writer’s day. Days can vary, of course, but I had a good one yesterday, so it sort of illustrates the sort of day I like best.
Here’s how it went:
I’m up at about 5:20. This is no longer annoying, it just is. When I had babies and then little boys I had to get off to school I actively dreamed of the day I could start sleeping in. By the time I got there, my body clock was set, and I’ve learned to accept it. I am, sorrowfully, an early riser.
I get myself a giant glass of water–hydrate after a night’s sleep. I let one of the dogs out. The other isn’t interested. Fine with me. I go up to my office. I read some emails, poke around see what’s what in the world. I play some games.
It’s nice, it’s quiet. The phone doesn’t ring, and my brain is starting to wake up. At some point I hear my husband get up. He lets the other dog out. I hear his coffee machine.
I go down get my version of caffeine. Diet Pepsi. Ah, NOW that’s better! Morning fog lifts. We can work now.
Speak with husband first–it’s only right. Kiss him goodbye as it’s unlikely I’ll be back down before he leaves. And I get to work. It happens I’m working on the last part of the second draft of an In Death. I’m not sure I have the pathology of the villain quite right, so fiddle as I go. I enjoy these people, and the second draft gives me the chance to fix any mistakes I find, expand where it needs to, contract if it needs that, add some color and texture where I might have skimped just trying to get the story down.
I eat Cheeze-Its, drink DP, play with Eve and Roarke and the gang.
At some point–I don’t pay much attention to time in my office–I go down, refill glass with water. Realize I haven’t brushed my teeth. Good God. Do so immediately.
Go back up to my office. Allow myself to play for a few minutes. Check email, answer maybe. Maybe not. Back to work.
Annoyed that the phone rings, don’t answer TeleFund one time, Out Of Area another, Private Caller yet another. Stop ringing! Go away.
I’d really like to get a good chunk of this draft done, be sure the story’s moving as I want–or more accurately, as it wants and it should. Pretty happy with it. Work. Let dogs in. Work. Let dogs out. More water.
Brain getting tired. It’s time to stop. About four–good time to stop. Time to work out. Down into my little gym, pick a DVD. decide to mix it up. Some cardio, some resistance with weights, some mat work. An hour of that, and it’s good for the day. Let dogs in. They have me trained. Whatever time I finish a workout–a morning one, an afternoon one, doesn’t matter, they wait, watch for me. I let them in, and they rush like maniacs to the kitchen closet where we keep the dog biscuits. Their eyes are mad with joy and anticipation. But their butts hit the floor, as that’s the rule. Good dogs! And as is habit for unknown reasons to the human involved, they go to separate corners, devour said biscuit then must immediately be let out so they can run like mad things. What’s in Milk Bones that causes this? No one really knows.
My husband has requested pasta for dinner–this pretty quick pasta dish I make, and that works as it’s already after five–and he’s home early because he’s working on a project in our great room.
Pour some wine–yay! Talk to husband, start dinner. Let dogs in who now collapse, exhausted from Milk Bone mania.
Cook dinner, approve the on-going project. Eat dinner. Good pasta. Have another glass of wine. Yay.
He’s brought home books from the bookstore for me to sign–it’s Monday, and three days a week, I sign books after dinner. Sign books while I watch TV. Have another Diet Pepsi. Let dogs out. Watch TV, play with IPad. Let dogs in. Why aren’t I in my pjs? Remedy that. See that I forgot to call in the galley corrections on Festive In Death as they’re still sitting beside the bed where I worked on them the last several evenings. Damn it.
Must do that tomorrow, because I don’t want to go back up to my office now. Happy The Blacklist is back. Love me some James Spader.
Watch a little Jon Stewart, go to bed.
So this is a pretty good day for me. Few interruptions. Probably about ten hours ass in the chair, and about seven of that actively working. A couple hours of play in there, and some time going up and down for fluids and dogs. A good workout, an easy dinner prep, and good TV.
Some days don’t go so well, but when they do, this is a pretty typical one for me.

Concealed in Death teasers

It’s been quiet here on the blog, but the first release of the year is right around the corner, so time to turn on the lights, dust off the posts and dive right in.  If you are not a person who likes any information about a new book, if you prefer to let the story unfold at your own pace, in your own time, then skip this post.

If you like to know some tidbits about a new book, I’ll be posting some teasers about the first In Death of the year — Concealed in Death (in stores on February 18) — throughout the week. These aren’t going to be too specific in terms of dialogue or scenes because the fun is finding them on your own.

First, Concealed is set in early December, Just after the Irish have headed back to Ireland post-Thanksgiving.  For those of you who love to see her pick up gifts, it’s still too early in the season for Eve to Christmas “shop.”

concealed 3

Keep an eye out for how many trees are in Eve and Roarke’s home.   There are many — all decorated by Summerset and his elves.

But they decorate the one in their bedroom and we get to see them carve out the time to do so — and share how they celebrated Christmas before meeting each other.

I’ll post another little bit — in this space — on Tuesday morning.


We’ve seen how Roarke offers hints about what Eve should wear, or leaves something out for her.  In Concealed, the day after decorating the tree, he outlines an entire outfit for her.  She’s surprised because it’s all black but he tells her the lines and the textures to it will make her look “just a little dangerous.”

Eve has a chance to put that look to use within hours.

But before she does she learns about Peabody’s hobby of ass-watching.

Next one late tomorrow.  Then the last one on Thursday.

2-13-14 Weather delayed Teaser 3 so here are 3 and 4:

#3  Mavis tells a story that shows us why she’s already a great mom.

#4  Garnet DeWinter, NYPSD’s new forensic anthropologist, is as good at her job as Eve is at hers, but I think no one ever tells Garnet what to wear.  Concealed is a good first round between Eve and Dr. DeWinter, and any skirmishes going forward will be interesting.

And a bonus:  Dennis Mira ensures Eve’s hands stay warm.

When Concealed is officially released, how about we open a thread for discussion so people have a place to talk freely about the story?  That work for you?



Rethinking what you may (or may not) know about JD Robb

Long time In Death readers are familiar with the story of how Nora started writing as JD Robb.  But as I learned yesterday, maybe we don’t know all the nuances.  At the 2012 RWA conference in Anaheim, Nora sat down with filmmaker Laurie Kahn whose current labor of love is The Popular Romance Project: Rethinking Love and Romance.

Yesterday, Laurie’s team sent us this clip in which Nora discusses how a projected trilogy has expanded to 38 books with February’s Concealed in DeathCreating JD Robb.



3 QQ for Susan Donovan and Christi Barth

Since we’re all busy this holiday season, I’m going to pair up the 3QQs with the six authors who are signing at Saturday’s Turn the Page Bookstore event from noon – 2 pm.

1375251_710144875665704_1102425780_nSusan Donovan is another seasoned Turn the Page signing vet, but this is her first return since spring 2011.   Christi Barth is another TTP rookie who’s thrilled to be part of the Holiday In Boonsboro event.  Let’s meet Susan first.

Susan Donovan studied journalism in college and worked as a newspaper reporter for years, always certain she would write her first book by the time she turned 40. Before she knew it, that deadlines was a year away so she figured she’d better get started. A year later she’d written nearly three books and had a book deal soon after that milestone.

1. You introduce readers to Bayberry Island in your novella “A Seaside Christmas” in the book Christmas on Main Street.  What — besides a mermaid legend — are the other attributes of this small island?

ds-christmas-150Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard may be about regattas and cocktails, but nearby Bayberry Island is more the fishing-boat-and-cold-beer kind of crowd. The locals don’t fit the Yankee Puritan stereotype. Bayberry is home to a nudist colony, a weeklong festival that is known as the Mardi Gras of New England, and a history rich in eccentric souls who see the magic in everyday living. But when the book begins, Bayberry is at a crossroads:  Will they agree to commercial development plans that would rescue their economy yet destroy much of what makes their island unique? I have to admit that while writing this book I was struck with a sad realization – Bayberry Island exists only in my imagination. I really wanted to vacation there.

2. Sea of Love is the first full-length book set on Bayberry Island.  Could you tell us about the book?  What do you find appealing about a “coming home” sort of story?

ds-sea-150I am drawn to “coming home” stories because they explore the concepts of unresolved emotions, personal growth, and forgiveness. Fortunately, I’ve always found comic gold in those serious issues. When a character comes home after a long absence, they suddenly see their once-familiar world with the eyes of an “outsider.” When I send a hero or heroine home again, I make sure they have to summon the courage to clear the air with loved ones, seek a richer understanding of their own journey, and choose to move forward with love and forgiveness. In SEA OF LOVE, the heroine, Rowan Flynn, has spent her adulthood distancing herself from Bayberry Island, its fixation on the mermaid legend, and the Flynn clan, which she calls the “island’s first family of cray-cray.” When circumstances force Rowan to return and manage the family’s rundown Bed & Breakfast, she must face her demons before she can open herself to happiness again.

3. What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?

When my kids were little, I treasured all the little rituals that brought them joy, including tending to the Advent calendar every day, writing letters to Santa, leaving carrots for the reindeer on Christmas Eve, and watching NORAD’s real-time radar tracking of Santa moving through the sky. Seeing excitement and joy in their faces is still my favorite part of the holidays, even though my kids are now “adults” attending college. But no eggnog. Please, God, don’t make me drink eggnog.

4 . “A Seaside Christmas” and Sea of Love are your first stories in two years as your writing career was put on hold two years ago when you in your own words were ” bitch-slapped by a rare infection that should have killed you.”  You’re blogging about the illness and the long, slow road of recovery on Unbalanced: Diary of a One-Legged Romance Writer.  It’s a different kind of writing, but it’s compelling reading.  How do you find the experience of blogging so honestly about yourself, your family and your new normal?

I had no choice but to write about my illness. In fact, as soon as my brain started to function again, I began writing journal entries, just for myself. I found that all the trauma and shock had clogged my psyche, much like a cork in a champagne bottle. I had to clear my mind of some of the pain before I could start to write the “funny, sexy contemporary romance” that had become my brand. So within eight months after my return home from the hospital, I had completed a 120-page proposal for a memoir. It sat in a file on my laptop. I shared it with a few people, but that was it. I never really tried to get it published.

But about a month ago, I realized that my healing process was stuck. I was still carrying around a lot of anger and shame about what had happened to me, though I desperately wanted to move on. So I decided to share my story on I write two or three short essays a week. I find it ironic that the blog has attracted thousands of readers though I’ve never once promoted it. From the comments I’ve received on the blog and in private, I can see that my story resonates with a lot of people who are struggling with some kind of life challenge – physical, emotional, or mental. Hey, and since that’s every single one of us here on earth I can expect my readership to increase, right?

I still hope to publish a memoir one day. And, just for the record, “new normal” is one of the many disability-related expressions that makes me cringe. Yes, I ’ll be writing a blog entry about it.

ChristiBarth-amyjphoto-680x1024Chrisit’s turn!  Christi Barth is the current president of Maryland Romance Writers.   After she earned a Masters in vocal performance and a career on the stage,  her love of romance drew her to wedding planning.  Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance.

1.  You’ve been a real-life wedding planner.  How did that translate to your Aisle Bound series?  Did you find truth really can be stranger than anything you can imagine?

bc-planning-150Nine out of ten people who learned I was a wedding planner would say ‘you should write a book’! Then they’d launch into elaborate eye winks about bridezillas, and mother of the bride horror stories.

Except, in my experience, 90% of weddings are wonderful. They are a celebration of friends and family and enduring love. Most people do pull it together and behave like grown-ups. So I didn’t want to write a scathing tell-all. But a series that focused on the wedding industry, showcasing people who spend every day creating the perfect happily ever after? That felt like a good place to start. And maybe a few crazy hijinks did slip into my book. It is a comedy, after all! You’ll have to guess which ones are real and which ones are just figments of my imagination….. I like to say all names were changed to protect the happily married.

2. Can you describe — in three sentences — your path from aspiring to published author?  And would you change anything?

Wasted too many years toying with a manuscript whenever the mood struck before getting the courage to just freaking finish it. Started writing as though contracted before I was, to treat it as a business. And now I’ve found my voice, I have an agent who believes in me, a wonderful editor, a great publisher, and I just finished my eleventh book.

3. What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?

The music. I spent years performing in Christmas choirs, and as a professional singer, in holiday shows. I love the magical way it infuses people with the spirit of the season.

Even if you can’t make it to the signing, you can take advantage of Turn the Page’s Virtual Signing feature by ordering a book and having your favorite author personalize it for you before the event is finished.

And where else can you find Susan and Christi besides the signing? Check out Susan’s Facebook page as well as Christi’s.  And you can follow them on Twitter: @SDonovanAuthor and @christi_barth. Enjoy! 


The official blog for Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb readers