Suspense. Mystery. Romance.
There's something about those words that stir the imagination. Being able to craft a story filled with the right elements, a blending of all three, reminds me of baking. All the ingredients have to be added in exactly the right amounts in order for your delicious confection to come out perfect (and in my case hopefully edible).
I love layering in all the nuances to my stories, adding a dash of mystery to keep the reader turning the pages. Did I write enough intrigue and danger within the world I've created that the reader absolutely, positively, unequivocally cannot stop reading when they reach the end of the chapter, and must turn the page to find out what happens next. Don't you love that feeling?
There are differing techniques I use while I'm writing. If it's a mystery, the reader can't know whodunit until the very end—the big black moment. I'll feed little hints and clues along the way, but I never come right out and say Mr. X is the villain. That's left up to the reader to figure out and if I've done my job right they'll admit they never saw the ending coming.
Now suspense for me is a totally different mindset. I've got no problem telling the reader right up front who my bad guy or gal is and the horrible things they've done to earn that moniker. Then it's up to the hero and/or heroine to not only catch the evil-doer, but stop whatever nefarious scheme they've concocted and foil it, making sure that evil is denounced and trounced and everybody lives happily ever after.
But, and this is a big one for me—there always, always has to be a romance in my books. Romance is my passion, for both writing and reading. I don't want to read a book that doesn't have a good solid romance as a cornerstone of the story, and my romantic suspense writing needs that touchstone not only for my readers but for my own satisfaction. Besides, watching the sexual tension ratchet up between your hero and heroine while they're running away from the maniacal mobster bent on their immediate destruction gives me a vicarious thrill. (Hey, if I'm the heroine and I'm gonna be chased by some crazy guy determined to end my life, I darn well better have a handsome hero beside me, although hopefully I'm kick-ass enough to save myself when the situation arises.)
Suspense. Mystery. Romance. My ingredients for a truly good book.