Mystery Mondays: Kathleen Duhamel on CREATING MEMORABLE HEROINES

Welcome to Mystery Mondays. Today we have author Kathleen Duhamel here to talk to use about creating memorable heroines. Kathleen and I connected when Kathleen joined the group of authors published by Imajin Books. I’ve since read all her books, and love them. You might too!

So over to Kathleen…


By Kathleen Duhamel

A few years ago, when I began writing what became my first novel, Deep Blue, I had no idea it would ever be published, much less met with positive reviews. To begin with, I worried that my characters were too old to be relatable. Until recently, conventional romance and women’s fiction seldom featured characters past their thirties. When Deep Blue begins, Claire Martin is a 58-year-old “barely not starving” artist and her love interest is 62-year-old musician, Robert Silver. Would readers be turned off by the idea of these two enjoying a healthy love/sex life?

Deep Blue is also not a conventional “romance” in the sense that not every problem in the relationship gets resolved before the last page. Life tends to get a lot more complicated when you’re attempting to balance the demands of children, grandchildren, health issues, career pressures, and aging parents, and I wanted to touch on these issues in the book. Surprisingly, the age issue I worried about turned out to be a bonus for some readers, who found the senior love story “refreshing.”

What began as one book has morphed into three, with Deep End, the third book in the trilogy, due out in fall/winter 2017. As in the first and second books, what drives the plot is Claire’s emotional journey. While love is certainly part of that journey, she also is forced to deal with several unresolved issues in her life as a new wife and unexpected stepmother.

Here are my tips on how to create a strong female character that readers will remember.

Give her a spine.

At 58, Claire is certainly older (and presumably wiser) than younger heroines, having been through a few failed relationships, an acrimonious divorce, and financial struggles. She’s also a cancer survivor, which makes her identifiable with millions of others. Although she hasn’t given up on love, she’s somewhat wary of it, especially when a famous and charming man enters the picture and wants to sweep her into his overblown lifestyle.

She insists on solving her own problems without having to be “rescued” by her man.

However, she’s also a bit of a risk taker, and after being advised by her BFF to “go for it,” she begins an improbable, long-distance relationship with Rob. The same risk-taking behavior emerges in Book 2, Deeper, when she’s forced to acknowledge her husband’s eight-year-old love child and must decide if she’s willing to continue her marriage under vastly different circumstances.

Drawing on the same inner strength that got her through cancer treatment, she is ultimately able to express her disappointment and anger to Rob, while re-affirming her commitment to him and her new step-son.

Perhaps the greatest test of her inner resolve occurs in Deep End, when a disaster forces her to confront the possibility of life without her beloved husband.

Give her a guiding principle.

Claire’s favorite quote, which also becomes her mantra, is from Goethe: “Nothing is worth more than this day.” It is the perfect summation of who she is and how she approaches her post-cancer life. Not even a life-threatening illness could take away her fun-loving spirit and her determination to live fully, the very qualities that initially attracted Rob to her.

Let her have flaws.

She’s far from perfect. Claire worries about her scarred abdomen, disfigured from cancer surgeries. She continues to obsess over Rob’s first wife, a brilliant screenwriter killed in a car accident. Doubts about her relationship and endless taunts by Baby Mama land her in legal trouble and cause her to lose a promising new client. Her loathing of the news media manages to gain her more publicity, instead of less.

Like so many of us, she tends to suppress her negative feelings until they erupt in a damaging way. Although she struggles at times, the fact that she is able to move past her struggles and re-focus on what is most important in her life makes her a well-rounded and likeable heroine, scars and all.


kathleen-duhamel croppedKathleen Duhamel is the author of the Deep Blue Trilogy (Deep Blue, Deeper, and Deep End) and At Home With Andre. She wrote and illustrated her first short story at the age of eight, and has been a writer for most of her life.. Her love of the written word continued throughout her varied career as a newspaper journalist and editor, public relations executive, freelance travel writer and owner/operator of two small businesses. A native of Texas, she has spent most of her adult life in Colorado. She lives in the Denver area with her husband, a geriatric standard poodle and a spoiled cat. She is a lifelong devotee of rock and soul music, contemporary art, and pop culture.

Kathleen’s latest novel is coming out this fall DEEP END:

When her close-to-perfect world falls apart, can love still prevail?

After years of struggle and harsh criticism, happily married rock star wife Claire Martin has finally achieved the career success of her dreams. As the featured artist in an international traveling exhibit, she looks forward to her best year ever, while her husband, singer Robert Silver of the legendary band Deep Blue, contemplates a return to touring.

Things are also looking up for Claire’s best friend, Denise Hrivnak, who’s planning her wedding to Robert’s musical partner, Art Hoffman. However, what should have been most joyful day of Denise’s life turns to tragedy when an unexpected event forces both woman to contemplate the terrifying possibility of life without the men they love.

Besieged by the paparazzi and sick with worry, Claire waits for answers in a Las Vegas hotel room, thinking over her improbable relationship with Rob and praying that love alone is strong enough to bring her husband back from the brink.


Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 9.51.39 AMSecrets of the past seldom stay buried forever…

Now married to the love of her life, landscape artist Claire Martin’s peaceful world is rocked by an unexpected revelation that crushes her dreams of the future and causes her to question everything she thought she knew about her famous husband, legendary singer Robert Silver of the band Deep Blue.

Although Robert is now clean and sober, and embarking on a new opportunity with his musical partner Art Hoffman, the consequences of one night long ago fracture his family and threaten his marriage to the woman who loves him like no one else.

Will love survive, or will career pressures, family turmoil and the ever-present specter of the paparazzi destroy their new life together?







Romancing Your Novel With A Big-Picture Edit

In honor of the Get Social Blog Hop, I’d like to cover editing a romance novel. You can find other blogs on the hop are here.


Some of you may know, my upcoming book is a mystery, but it’s different from the Stone Mountain Series in that it has more romance in it.

There are many areas to cover when you’re editing your first draft, and today I’ll cover four Key Elements of Fiction important to romance novels.

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AM Point of View

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AM Characters on Stage

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AM Spice (Conflict and Tension)

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AM Purpose of each Scene

Even in real life, romance takes effort. The same is true for creating a romance novel that sizzles.

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AMPoint of View


Point of View (POV) is the perspective the story is told from. It is generally accepted that each scene is written from the point of view of one character.

In a romance novel, you have to make choices on who the POV character will be. It can be mostly the hero, mostly the heroine, or an equal balance between the two. By using both points of view, you’ll be showing the feelings and thoughts from both characters.

The Feedback tool for writers illustrates how many scenes each POV character has and what order they appear in. In Look The Other Way, Shannon (heroine) has the POV for 47 scenes, and Jake (hero) has the POV for 37 scenes. The graph along the bottom shows the order of the point of view, allowing me to make sure I’m switching between the hero and heroine regularly.

POV Characters

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AMCharacters on Stage


There can only be romance if both the hero and heroine are in a scene together. Keep track of how many scenes you have where only one is in the scene versus scenes where both characters are onstage. The Feedback app does this for you.

Below, Jake and Shannon are both in the scene along with another character Debi Hall. Kendra is Jake’s cousin and is only mentioned in the scene. The scene is from Jake’s point of view, so the reader will see and hear things from his view point only. The reader won’t know what Shannon thinks or feels unless Jake comments on it or thinks about it or Shannon says something.

Character in Scene LTOW

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AMSpice


To keep the story exciting there must be conflict and tension between the hero and heroine. If you’re writing a happy-ending romance, the hero and heroine will resolve the conflict and tension by the end of the story and live happily ever after.

The two can be working toward the same goal, but maybe they go about it differently and that causes the tension.  This resolution must not happen until the end. Each scene until the end must have conflict or tension or both.

Feedback enables you to see what conflict and tension are in each scene. You can see if the tension and conflict are in line with the purpose of scene. Just make sure you have either conflict or tension in every scene. You don’t have to have both.

Here you’re getting a sneak peek at my work in progress, Evolution.

Conflict Tension

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AMPurpose of Each Scene


The romance genre requires a special look at the purpose of each scene. In a mystery, the sole purpose of a scene may be to drop a clue or a red herring into a scene. But in a romance novel, the purpose of a scene may revolve around character development, driving the romance forward, or driving the romance backward.

Here are some of the key scenes you’ll need.

  • Introduce heroine and set up her world
  • Introduce hero and set up his world
  • Inciting incident – something happens in their world that will cause them to meet.
  • First kiss
  • Plot point one – the hero and heroine face something difficult
  • Middle – the characters can’t turn back to the story. They may also decide they are not right for each other.
  • First quarrel
  • Plot point two – their relationship is at its worst
  • Finally get together
  • Resolution

In the following, which is the Feedback insight into Purpose of Scene for my work in progress Evolution, you can see in the first 9 scenes, the hero and heroine meet, there is tension between them and they have their “first kiss.” You can also see 44% of the scenes in this novel are moving the story forward.  This means there is more than romance in the story and the hero and heroine have a goal they are desperate to achieve.

Feedback will help you keep track of the romance and its progression as you self-edit your novel.

Purpose of Scene Romance

More Self-Editing Advice

BIG-PICTURE EditingIf you’re looking for more help on self-editing download the free eBook, BIG-PICTURE Editing And The Key Elements Of Fiction and learn how big-picture editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story. We call these components the Key Elements Of Fiction.  Our eBook shows you how to use the key elements of fiction to evaluate your story and become your own big-picture editor.

Interested In An Automated Approach To Big-Picture Self-Editing?

Feedback Innovations (which I happen to be the CEO of) is building the Feedback app.

Feedback is the first web app to help fiction writers evaluate their own work with a focus on story, not words.

With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Happy editing and thanks for reading…

Mystery Mondays: Kathleen Duhamel with An Unconventional Approach to Romance

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00070]Kathleen Duhamel and I have a special connection. We both signed with Imajin Books for the publication of our first novels last summer.

Kathleen’s second book, DEEPER, is set to be released this spring. Her first book, DEEP BLUE, explores the theme Love Is the Most Addictive Drug of All. 

Read to the end and you’ll find a surprise for Kathleen’s launch party.

So let’s hear what Kathleen has to say about romance…

Going Deeper: Kathleen Duhamel’s Unconventional Approach to Romance (by Kathleen Duhamel)

I’m a contemporary romance writer, author of Deep Blue and Deeper (Books One and Two in the Deep Blue Trilogy) so what am I doing on Monday Mystery? The truth is my books aren’t conventional romances. When I began developing Deep Blue, I deliberately set out to write a love story that wasn’t typical in any way (except my characters do have mind-blowing sex). I wanted to weave a tale that combined romance with suspenseful elements, a book that read more like a thriller than a Harlequin novel. You’ll have to judge for yourself whether I’ve succeeded.

No shrinking violets

When we’re first introduced to Claire Martin, she’s a 58-year-old struggling landscape painter and cancer-survivor who’s all but given up on finding love again at her age. She’s also fiercely independent. After she meets Robert Silver and gets swept up into his overblown celebrity life, she refuses his gifts of a new car and money to pay off her debt to a loathesome ex-husband, because she doesn’t want to be pegged as a gold-digger. It was crucial to the book’s plot and her character that Claire find a solution to her problems without having to be rescued by a man. (Although Rob was more than willing to be her rescuer.)

Similarly, her BFF and single mother Denise Hrivnak searches for a way to plan her financial future, with or without a boyfriend in the picture. In her mind, having a man in her life is a luxury, not a necessity. She will find a way to make her dream a reality, maybe at the expense of having a personal life.

Men who truly love women

In many of the romance novels I’ve read, the alpha male is an arrogant, sometimes cruel jerk who is ultimately redeemed by the love of a good woman. I’m not saying this could never happen, but it’s highly unlikely in reality. In Deep Blue, Rob is a rock star idolized by millions of fans, but he’s also a 62-year-old lonely soul, still grieving the death of his wife three years earlier. He has issues (panic attacks, stage fright and a history of substance abuse), yet he never bullies or disrespects Claire because he genuinely loves her, and he’s a lot more needy than he lets on. By the end of Book One, Claire has rescued him.

Interesting flaws make memorable characters

No one gets to be 50 or 60 years old without accumulating some emotional baggage that affects every aspect of life, and my characters all reflect this idea. I’ve already mentioned Rob’s various problems, including his ongoing struggle with sobriety. His musical partner, Artie Hoffman, has his own set of issues. He’s an impoverished foster child turned millionaire rock guitarist, lauded as a genius, with a train wreck relationship history. Artie hides his softer side under a cloak of sarcasm so he never has to let anyone get too close. Fame has made him distrustful of almost everyone.

Even though they’re older, these characters retain their youthful personalities. Claire says she’s still surprised to look in her mirror and see someone old enough to be a grandmother, when she feels so young.

Inside, we all remain the best younger version of ourselves, despite our outward appearance. And our desire for love, sex and companionship does not diminish. As Rob tells Claire, “We can’t help getting older, but we don’t have to get old.”

Deeper (Book Two of the Deep Blue Trilogy) picks up where Deep Blue left off, but it also works a stand-alone novel. The band Deep Blue plans its future, while Claire and Rob’s relationship is rocked by an unexpected development that threatens to rip his family apart. Meanwhile, Denise and Artie embark on a somewhat humorous, prickly relationship of their own. Deeper probes into the psychology of these characters while combining elements of suspense, drama and hot romance.

Pre-orders are available now on Amazon, and the book comes out March 20. I’m having a book launch party on Facebook, March 20, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time. You can find me on Facebook. Message me or email me at if you’d like to attend. My friend Kristina will be giving away a copy of Blaze! (Surprise 🙂 )

Kathleen’s Bio:

kathleen-duhamel  croppedKathleen Duhamel wrote and illustrated her first short story at the age of eight, and has never stopped writing. Her love of the written word continued throughout her varied career as a newspaper journalist and editor, public relations executive, freelance travel writer and owner/operator of two small businesses. A native of Texas, she spent most of her adult life in Colorado before relocating to Virginia in 2014, where she lives with her husband, a standard poodle and a geriatric cat. She is a lifelong devotee of rock and soul music, contemporary art and pop culture.

Thanks for reading…




Romantic Thriller


How you see your work and how someone else sees your work can be quite a surprise.

Romantic Thriller? I thought I was writing a Suspense novel. Then, my agent commented that my second novel, The Final Gate, could be positioned as a Romantic Thriller if I added a little more romance.

Oh, Oh, I think. I like to read novels that are full of action, so that’s what I like to write. But Romance? Who knew?

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been reading Romantic Thrillers to get a feel for the genre and discovered my novel is not that far off. But . . .

I spent three months on rewrites, that’s the fun part, and now I’m back to proofreading. I’ve just sent The Final Gate to my favourite readers for comments, so I’ll see how they like the new romantic version.

This is a change for me, and I’m nervous about the feedback.  I guess I’ll have to wait and see . .

Maybe my husband will send me flowers for all the hard work I’ve done – that’s kinda romantic.