Full disclosure: I’m not a romance novel kind of girl.
Give me a good thriller any day of the week, and I’m a happy camper.
Fast-moving. Mysterious. Thrillers, by definition, are edge-of-your-seat stories. And I like ’em that way. Excitement and suspense drive the narrative. There are heroes, villains, and often damsels in distress. BABY GRAND, my debut novel, has got all of these—or at least I hope it does, since these are the kinds of stories I love to read and have always wanted to write.
Yet, at the same time, I like books that appeal to readers on a very human level, ones that hinge on relationships—not the mushy kind, although my second novel has some of that—and how we relate to one another, including themes of betrayal and loyalty and love.
Last year, I attended a panel at ThrillerFest titled, “Scalpel, Please: How Do you Find the Heart of Your Story?” The panel master was D.P. Lyle, MD, and the panelists consisted of a diverse group of thriller writers: Brandt Dodson, Vladimir Lange, Michael Palmer, Stefanie Pintoff and Jonathan Hayes, and every one of them said that in the contest (if there were one) of “plot” versus “character” among thrillers, “character” would win every time. Yes, although a sense of suspense and plot are what drive a thriller, it’s the characters, and how they interact, that are the heart of the story.
Parental love. Sibling love. Romantic love. It can blind us. It can force us to contemplate the impossible. It can force us to dig deep down to find out what we are made of and what we really want. Sometimes it drives us to do the wrong thing even though we have the best of intentions. And sometimes we will do anything to find love, or reclaim love, or never to lose it. Love drives people—and, by extension, characters—to do all sorts of crazy things.
In BABY GRAND, it is this quest for love and to keep loved ones safe that I hope make its characters so identifiable, so believable, so real. Truth be told, as much as I’m a thriller lover, I’m not really interested in the typical “good guys” of a crime thriller—FBI agents or police officers, or retired/former FBI agents or police officers. If I had been able to write BABY GRAND without a police investigation at all, I would have done it. What really interests me are stories of ordinary people, like you and me, who are put into extraordinary circumstances—circumstances that will either make or break them. Will they rise to the challenge? Are they stronger than they really appear to be? And it is their relationships, their love stories—including a love for themselves—that will determine if they succeed or fail.
When I think about my favorite thrillers—those of John Grisham, David Baldacci, Dan Brown, James Patterson, et al—I’m probably most drawn to those where there’s a central “love” story, a dominant relationship that sets the tone for the book. The one that comes to mind immediately is Thomas Harris’ THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, at the center of which is the relationship between Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. It is this relationship that makes LAMBS so compelling, how a man so ruthless, so dark and dangerous, can have what appear to be such feelings of tenderness and fondness and love for another. It is a theme that has influenced BABY GRAND, for sure.
So while I’m not the romance type, weave me a good love story, any kind of love story, within the pages of a thriller, and you’ll find that I’m yours. Forever.
Dina Santorelli is a freelance writer/editor who has written for many print and online publications, such as Newsday, First for Women and CNNMoney.com. She served as the "with" writer for the nonfiction title, GOOD GIRLS DON'T GET FAT (Harlequin, 2010), and is the current Executive Editor of Salute and Family magazines for which she has interviewed many celebrities, including James Gandolfini, Tim McGraw, Angela Bassett, Mario Lopez, Gary Sinise and Kevin Bacon. You can follow Dina on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and on her blog. BABY GRAND, her first novel, is available on Amazon.
, the governor’s infant
daughter disappears without a trace from her crib at the Albany, New York . Hours later, newly
divorced and down-and-out writer Jamie Carter is abducted from the streets of Executive Mansion . Jamie is whisked
upstate, where she is forced by her captor, Don Bailino, an ex-war
hero/successful businessman, to care for the kidnapped child in a plot to delay
the execution of mobster Gino Cataldi – the sixth man to be put to death in six
years by hardliner Governor Phillip Grand. What prevails is a modern-day
thriller about family ties, loyalty, murder, betrayal, and love that’s told in
deftly interweaving narratives that follow the police investigation of the
missing Baby Grand, the bad guys who took her, and the woman who found the
strength to protect her. Manhattan