Designing a Thriller – Guest Post Virna DePaul

Host – Jordan Dane

I’m thrilled to host my friend, Virna DePaul. Virna is an esteemed member of the International Thriller Writers and recently interviewed me for ITW’s wonderful e-newsletter for my latest release, but Virna and I had met once before at a Romance Writers of America annual conference. We struck up a conversation at a Karen Rose workshop on writing suspense and had lunch after. At the time, Virna hadn’t sold yet, but she left a good impression on me that she was determined to succeed. Boy has she ever. Welcome Virna DePaul, TKZers!

Thank you to the Kill Zone and in particular Jordan Dane for having me as a guest today!

Roller coaster rides. Haunted houses. Horror flicks. And of course, suspense and thriller novels. What do they have in common? They scare us, yet there’s always a certain number of riders, participants, and readers willing to go back for more. Again and again, we seek out experiences that make our hearts race, and alternately tighten our muscles with anticipation and make us dizzy with relief. Why?

Because these experiences affirm our existence even as they wash away its ordinariness. They give us the illusion of being out of control and ultimately triumphant even as we remain both safe and, let’s face it, relative victims to the whims of fate.

We’ll board a roller coaster only because we know the ride will be quick and we can choose to never ride it again. We’ll see a horror movie only because we know we can walk out of the movie theater or cover our eyes at any time. And we’ll read a thriller novel only because we know we can put the book down until we’re ready to dive back in.

Of course, the key to any great thriller experience is that even given these options, we are swept away in spite of ourselves. We forget reality and simply soak in the larger-than-life wonder of the moment. We feel, we agonize, and we rejoice even as some part of our brains know we’re being manipulated by words, images, or mechanical engineering.

I write romance, both contemporary and paranormal, but my novels always have a suspense element in them. Much like a roller coaster architect, I enjoy designing a thrill ride for my audiences. I take into consideration who they are, what their expectations are, and how I can mix things up to bring them something fresh and new. I wield plot to provide suspension, loops, or a straight drop. I use characters to transport a reader to another time and place, keeping her safe even as I provide her maximum thrill and catharsis. I especially like knowing that at the end of my novels, readers will always have a happily-ever-after in the romance plot. And finally, I enjoy the fact that despite being the architect of my novels, I embark on a wondrous journey, too.

In my Para-Ops series, I take my readers from Washington D.C to North Korea to Los Angeles to France. I introduce them to an elite special ops team comprised of a vampire, werebeast, mage, and wraith. In my contemporary novels, I explore the world of undercover cops and state special agents who chase down drug lords and murderers. But always, no matter the genre or the specific plot, I strive to give my readers two things: a thrilling ride that sweeps them away, and enough satisfaction and hope at the end of the story that they can’t help but want to take the ride again.

How about you? Do you seek out thrills just in books or other places, too?

Experience Virna DePaul’s “intriguing world” protected by an elite Para-Ops team with a unique set of skills. In Virna’s latest release, Chosen By Sin (Para-Ops #3), you’ll meet a werebeast hero, a vampire heroine, and a host of other paranormal creatures such as a mage, human psychic, wraith (ghost), demons, and dragons. You can learn more about Virna and her series at and

Virna DePaul is a former criminal prosecutor and now national bestselling author for Berkley (paranormal romantic suspense), HQN (single title romantic suspense; Shades Of Desire (Special Investigations Group Book #1, June 2012)) and HRS (category romantic suspense; It Started That Night (May 2012)). Writers, join Virna’s mailing list to access her archive of monthly writing “cheat sheets.”

Blurb from Chosen By Sin:

The longest life isn’t always the happiest one…

Five years after the Second Civil War ends, humans and Otherborn—humanlike creatures with superhuman DNA—still struggle for peace. To ensure the continued rights of both, the FBI forms a Para-Ops team with a unique set of skills.

For now, werebeast Dex Hunt serves on the Para-Ops team, but his true purpose is to kill the werewolf leader he blames for his mother’s death. Biding his time, Dex keeps his emotional distance from his team members and anyone else he might care for, including a mysterious vampire he met in L.A.

As a doctor, vampire Jesmina Martin has dedicated her immortal life to healing others. As a scientific researcher, she’s trying to prolong life spans, in particular those of her adoptive dragon-shifter family and the werewolf who saved her as a child. Her greatest hope lies with Dex, a werebeast she believes can gift immortality to others.

Only Dex knows nothing about his gift or the fact Jesmina wants to harness it. After a passionate night together neither expects to see the other again. Weeks later, they are reunited in France and forced to acknowledge a fragile miracle—a new life struggling to survive. At the same time, they must stop a group of rebel shape-shifters hoping to unleash every demon in hell. But before Dex and Jesmina can save their child or the world, they must relinquish their secrets, face their fears, and open themselves to love.

Buy the book HERE.

19 thoughts on “Designing a Thriller – Guest Post Virna DePaul

  1. Welcome, Virna! And thanks for the great post!

    Where do I seek out thrills? Books, movies, and the wrong parts of town, out where the buses don’t run.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with TKZ folks, Virna. There’s nothing more thrilling than a great thriller. In addition to getting my thrills from writing and reading them, I am a huge movie fan. I love to be kept guessing, think I’ve figured it out, and then get taken by suprise. My favorite reaction is: I didn’t see that coming!

  3. Hey Virna–So great to finally get you here at TKZ. I love the rush of my hair blowing back in a thriller movie or from an adrenaline filled book, but there is nothing like experiencing things firsthand, like Joe H said about where the buses are AFRAID to run. I’ve been in some strange situations where I wondered, “How the hell did I ever walk away from that?”

    Great to have you here, my friend.

  4. Hi Joe M–I’m a huge movie buff, too! Feel free to share some of your faces and thanks!

    Jordan–I’m so happy to be here. For the most part, I’m more comfortable having a little space between real life and my thrills, but go you!!! Have a great day!

  5. Hi Virna,

    Thanks to both you and Jordan for having you stop by TKZ.

    Personally, I love the ability to escape into a thriller read, especially those with that all- important romantic element present and up-front, demanding attention.
    The premise of your book Chosen By Sin covers that.

    Because I’m trained to think in terms of prevention as a Family Nurse Practitioner in my “Big Girl Job” I need look no further than my own imagination for things that could go wrong. I anticipate trouble on a daily basis. It drives my husband crazy, but I’m always asking “What If?”.

    My therapy turns out to be writing these days, as a channel to express all those scenarios my overactive imagination comes up with.

    Nice to meet you Virna, and good luck with your writing.


  6. Oh, Paula–you cracked me UP, girl. I drive the hubs crazy for a LOT of reasons, but my “what ifs” must be at the top of that list. I used to draft and negotiate contract language for the energy industry, part of my energy sales duties. It takes a bent twisted mind to contemplate all the scenarios floating around in some underhanded person’s head who is trying to take contractual advantage of another person. That made me a natural for being an author imagining the criminal mind. Scary thought, but true.

    My “what ifs” have gotten my husband and I out of some crazy scenarios and usually gets him to looking at me sideways. He’s probably wondering – who did I marry? I just say, “Hey, it could happen.”

    Thanks for the chuckle, Paula. Happy writing, girl.

  7. Howdy Virna, welcome aboard the starship TKZ, nice to meet you.

    I’ve spent a little bit of my past doing things that invoked a bit of adrenaline from time to time. Now I write espionage/military fiction that covers the couple of things I missed when my joints were still well lubricated and didn’t pop & crack when stalking…er…hiking.

    One of the highest highs though was being an EMT in Salcha Rescue Service in rural Alaska. Wilderness rescue missions twenty miles into the sticks at -40 C/F (that’s the temp where Celsius and Fahrenheit actually match up) is an adrenaline rusher fosho…moreso if the Troopers are accompanying and the rescuee doesn’t wish to be rescued.

    The neat thing now is to be able to funnel those experiences into my stories and let the reader live them vicariously, without danger of frostbite, getting shot, or being eaten for real.

  8. Hi Paula,

    So nice to meet you, too! I’m glad you enjoy a little romance with your thrillers-to me, it’s such a vital combination!

    I’m a big worrier, too. In truth, it’s one of the reasons I’m glad to have my old job behind me. It wasn’t a great fit for a dreamer and a worrier combo like me. Glad you’ve taken up writing and hope you’re enjoying the ride!

  9. Hi Basil! LOL. Love your hiking description. I’m sure your books have thrills and humor in them! Great combination. And wow, search and rescue in Alaska. You must be able to get your readers “right there” but even better, I’m sure there’s a number of people around today who are grateful you weren’t writing full-time yet when you met them. Thanks for commenting!

  10. A meal with you, Basil, & Virna would definitely be a hoot, Paula. I would sooo be there. I don’t think we could pry Alaska boy out of his slice of heaven. We’d have to go there.

    I’M IN!!!!

  11. Thanks TKZ for making my friend at home today. Thanks for being our guest, Virna, and for sharing your thoughts on making a thriller. Awesome!

  12. Hi Sherlock! Glad you enjoy my posts. The key to a successful suspense plot, in my opinion, is getting the reader to CARE about what is happening to your character. This type of investment will make the reader root for the character and feel fear when he/she is in peril or set on the wrong path. Hope that helps! Take care and thanks for commenting! V

  13. Hey, Virna! Great post! As for thrill seeking, I fail miserably. I’m a wus!

    The best you’ll get out of me is adventurous. . . As I write this from Chile. . .planning to hike a volcano . . .

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