Happy Tuesday readers! Tuesdays are always happy days for us book nerds, right? There are so many new novels released on this particular day, but I’d like to take the time to highlight one that really resonated with me this past month. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy of Kathleen’s latest romantic suspense, Keep Her Safe (out today!!!), and I was hoping to bring a little extra attention to the story and the hard work that went into creating it. If you’re looking for a new read that is equal parts crime fiction and tender romance, look no further! In case you missed my review and would like to see my fleshed out thoughts on the story, you can find it here. Please join me in welcoming author K.A. Tucker to the blog! (Don’t forget to stop by my Instagram at 8pm EST to enter in winning a copy of Keep Her Safe here!)
TSITM: Tell us a little about yourself. Have you always wanted to be a writer? How did you get into writing professionally?
KAT: Hello! I’m a USA Today bestselling novelist of 16 contemporary and romantic suspense novels. I live just outside Toronto with my husband and two girls. I started writing princess stories as young as six, but lost the spark somewhere along the way. I only began writing again at thirty-one years old, while at home with my second child. I spent a few years juggling a full-time career and self-publishing on the side. With the success of Ten Tiny Breaths, I attracted the interest of my agent and publisher. Soon I had a four-book contract offer and I had to choose between my corporate world career and a career in writing (it wasn’t a hard choice, but it felt like an enormous leap.)
TSISM: You’re known for your flawless portrayal of romance, both to adults and teens alike; what made you decide to branch out into writing crime fiction? Did you find your inspiration for this story in any one particular place or experience?
KAT: I’ve been venturing more into the suspense genre for a while now. Each book in the Burying Water series, while still romance, deals with criminal activity as a main catalyst in the plot, and there is plenty of criminal activity and sleuthing in He Will Be My Ruin. But Keep Her Safe is the first one with so many intricate puzzle pieces to connect to solve a crime.
I tend to gravitate toward meaty, suspenseful plots. There’s just so much more going on in them. As far as inspiration behind the Keep Her Safe plot, I spent countless hours reading news articles about police corruption, to familiarize myself and help cobble together the overall story. I’ve always been fascinated by understanding the motives behind why people do what they do, and how decent people can do the wrong thing in the name of self-preservation and to protect those they love.
TSITM: Keep Her Safe is equal parts police procedural and budding romance; did you find one aspect of the story more difficult to write than another? How did you ensure no pieces of the puzzle were left out upon conclusion?
KAT: It’s funny that you call it a police procedural because I feel like it’s not nearly detailed enough—not like, for example, a Lisa Gardner novel—to warrant that label. I tried to include only as much detail as was needed to keep the story moving smoothly, and to leave room for interpretation. When it comes to writing about police procedure, I find the more precise you try to be, the more likely you are to get something wrong.
Honestly, both aspects were difficult to write, for different reasons. I don’t plot, so to write a story this involved without a map or a target is painful, at best. It took many drafts to flesh out the story and to fit the intricate pieces together, and many rereads to catch any loose threads, because there are always loose threads.
As far as the romance goes, I didn’t want to simply shoehorn it in where there was room and call it a day. I didn’t want it to be as simplistic as two people who are attracted to each other while trying to solve a crime. I wanted a deeper connection, and for that tension to work into the flow of the story. To influence how the main plot evolved. The main plot is the story of uncovering what really happened to Gracie’s father and proving his innocence; but Gracie and Noah’s interactions—the way Gracie feels betrayed by him at first, and then the way she begins to trust and have feelings for him, and then the choices Noah has to make if he wants to keep Gracie and Dina in his life—all play a part.
Maximizing their growing and deep connection to each other while not killing the pacing was the most challenging for me. As much as some of my romance readers may want more romance, I feel confident that I gave as much as this story allowed.
TSITM: Did you find it difficult to craft a narrative from multiple points of view? Did you focus on each voice separately in the beginning, or did you write them all simultaneously and then structure them as you found fitting?
KAT: I tend to write in a linear way, from start to finish, so I wrote all the POVs simultaneously. At first, it was IMPOSSIBLE. I was all over the place with the flashbacks, and they didn’t tell a clear story (because, remember? I can’t plot to save my life.) I think it was the second or third draft where my editor and I talked through it, and figured out the solution—I needed to shorten the timeline and all the flashbacks needed to happen in order. That’s when things started to click, but even then, I was constantly shifting scenes around to make sure the past revealed critical pieces of the puzzle as it fit in the present day.
TSITM: While it’s not the singular focus in KEEP HER SAFE, race does play a large role in the dynamics of the plot. The portrayal of both Gracie and her father Abe were done in such a realistic manner; how did you ensure you were writing people of color in an authentic voice?
KAT: Portraying a diverse population in novels set in today’s world is critical. That being said, writing Abe and Gracie—two main characters—as people of color made me a bit nervous at first. I was afraid I would disrespect or offend readers by whitewashing these characters or by unwittingly using stereotypes to try to give them dimension. But as the story began to evolve into what it is now, I became more comfortable with the characters I had created. The underlying motive behind the crimes in this novel are not race-related. If they were, we would be having a very different conversation. But they’re not, and so I didn’t focus the narrative on race, or the characters’ plights based on race. Instead, I layered in details here and there, differences to consider, questions to ponder. Whether I portrayed them in an authentic voice, I can’t say definitively. I guess time and readers will tell.
TSITM: Do you have any tips or advice for your readers who may be aspiring writers?
KAT: I always recommend that writers read broadly. Read that dragon-chasing high fantasy, even if you aren’t a fan of overly detailed clothing descriptions and magic swords. Read that bodice-ripping romance, even if the words “quivering loins” makes you shudder (and, just to be clear, A LOT of books in romance do not involve ripping clothes off or any mention of loins.)Read that dark and twisty psychological thriller, even if you have to sleep with your lights on for a week. Choose acclaimed writers in those genres and learn from them. Study their word choices, their descriptions, their sentence transitions, their pacing, their characterizations, and their storytelling. Not so you can mimic them, but to help you learn what kind of writer you want to be. Study these writers through the lens of a writer trying to find your own voice.
TSITM: Do you see yourself writing more outside of the romance genre in the future? Can you give us any insider tips on your current work in progress?
KAT: I think I’ll always have an element of romance in my novels, no matter what genre I’m writing in. It’s what I gravitate toward as a writer and as a reader. My absolute favorite novels are steeped in romance, despite the fact that many of them are not romance genre books. If I eliminated it from my novels, I’d feel like something vital was missing.
I’m currently working on a contemporary romance called The Simple Wild, set in Alaska, due out in August.
K.A. Tucker writes captivating stories with an edge. She is the USA Today bestselling author of 16 books, including Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water, and her latest contemporary novel, Until It Fades. Her books have been featured in national publications including USA Today, Globe & Mail, Suspense Magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly. K.A. Tucker currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her husband and two beautiful girls.