Writing Tallowwood was one of the most challenging books of my career, but also one of the most rewarding. Writing suspense, and a police/crime/thriller at that, was both different and difficult for me.
First of all, I have written many genres. But in all cases, I typically don’t plot out books and I learned rather quickly that being a ‘pantser’ didn’t bode well for writing a crime thriller. I had general plot points that I knew would need to happen but I hadn’t put any of those down on paper or mapped out any kind of plan. And I can honestly say, when I’d written 50% of the book, I was still unsure as to who the murderer was.
I keep a notepad next to me when I write, for secondary character details like eye-colour, names of neighbours, co-workers etc, and I found myself jotting things down madly as I went. Mostly dates, names of murder victims, cause of death etc, trying to keep some kind of timeline of events. Writing suspense was hard enough but Tallowwood was the story of a cop who worked cold cases, so I needed to keep timelines and dates, cause of death/details, factoring in seasons (winter/summer) and how that affected decomposition and likelihood of discovery.
There were so many things to consider!
Before I began, I had no idea how involved it would be. The research factor was huge and time consuming. I could spend days reading/researching for something that might not have even ended up on page. But the background information was important and needed to show in the police, and murderer/s’, motives and assumed knowledge.
The thing to remember, for the author and reader, is that writing suspense or crime fiction is not writing a non-fiction manual on a particular expertise. In Tallowwood, chemical compounds and forensics played a major role. But I wasn’t writing a module for chemistry or forensics students, or a text to be peer-reviewed. I was writing fiction. Yes, I needed to get facts as accurate as possible, but I needed to make it readable and understandable for 99% of readers. There is a real fine line between making things plausible and swamping the reader with an infodump. We need to give as much detail as we can so they know what’s going on without making it feel like a lesson.
The tempo of writing suspense, for me anyway, was similar to writing a contemporary romance. Narrowed down, there is the build-up, incidents causing momentum up to around the 80% mark, then action, then conclusion. So that model didn’t change too much. But the details, getting those plot points right, dropping hints and clues, giving the reader cause to question the motives of characters, they need to be sprinkled throughout without making things too obvious.
Did I do these things perfectly?
For me, writing a suspense/mystery/crime thriller was about ten times harder than writing a standard contemporary romance. Don’t get me wrong—writing romance isn’t easy either. But writing Tallowwood almost broke my brain, and instead of just launching into writing another book immediately afterwards like I normally do, I needed some time off.
My serious suggestion for anyone wanting to tackle a suspense/crime thriller is to plot. Even if you’re a pantser like me. Plot and plan everything before you start.
I give a serious nod to writers who write this genre, book after book. I know we’re all wired differently, and everyone finds different things easy and difficult, and maybe some great mystery writers never plot a thing, I don’t know.
And while I loved Tallowwood, and I really do adore August and Jake—they are two of my most favourite characters I’ve ever written—if I had any more characters who insisted on another suspense/mystery, I think I’d beg them to be quiet.
Cold cases, murder, lies, and an unimaginable truth.
Sydney Detective August Shaw has spent the last decade of work solving cold cases. Since the death of his boyfriend eight years ago, August works alone, lives alone, is alone–and that's exactly how he likes it. His work is his entire life, and he's convinced a string of unsolved cold-case suicides are linked to what could be Australia's worst ever serial killer. Problem is, no one believes him.
Senior Constable Jacob Porter loves his life in the small town of Tallowwood in the middle of the rainforests in northern New South Wales. He runs summer camps for the local Indigenous kids, plays rugby with his mates, has a close family, and he's the local LGBTQIA+ Liaison and the Indigenous Liaison Officer.
When human remains are found in the camping grounds at Tallowwood Reserve, Jake's new case turns out to be linked to August's cold cases, and Jake agrees they're not suicides at all. With Jacob now firmly in August's corner, they face one hurdle after another. Even when more remains are found, they can't seem to gain ground.
But when the body of a fellow police officer turns up under the same MO, it can't be ignored anymore. August and Jake must trace the untraceable before the killer takes his next victim or before he stops one of them, permanently.
2019 Goodreads M/M Romance Members' Choice Awards
• 1st Place – Best Mystery
• 1st Place – Best Law Enforcement
• 1st Place – Best Action/Suspense
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance. She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.
She is many things: a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.
She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things… but likes it even more when they fall in love.
She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.
She’s been writing ever since…
COMPETITION from RJ
Comment below and tell me if you listen to audio, and where you listen if you do, and you could win an audio code for book 1 in my romantic suspense series, Lancaster Falls