We did a post last year defining different sub-genres, and not surprisingly I got a lot of flack. Interestingly enough, the questions keep coming.
The first is what qualifies a book to be a thriller or suspense versus a traditional mystery, and what differentiates a thriller from suspense? I consulted Jacky and Kim on this and here’s what we came up with . . .
I think that in the most basic sense a suspense story is one in which a reader is waiting for something to happen. In my mind, the most obvious suspense is done as romantic suspense. In this case we’re always waiting for that threat to finally come to fruition. We know someone is after our heroine and we’re just frightened that she will in fact be next. Often we even have a sense of who the killer might be (we may see or hear his voice) and we have an idea of what exactly is happening.
A thriller is a mystery with fear. There’s usually no fear in mysteries. Mysteries are about the reveal of clues and the methodical solving of the crime. Thrillers include the clues and solving the crime, but also the fear that it’s starting to hit close to home. That someone else will be next. A thriller is usually more about the fear of not solving the crime fast enough. The threat that if you don’t find out who, worse things will happen. A mystery is simpler than that. It’s really about the hunt and deduction.
The other question I received was about the difference between erotic romance and hot romances. Unfortunately, this is even tougher to answer since it differs from publisher to publisher. What one might publish as an erotic romance another would merely consider a highly sensual romance. And of course rules will and have changed on this.
In general, though, it’s not about the amount of sex or when the sex happens, at least not in my mind. I think it’s more about the type of sex and/or its placement and importance to a story. Usually hot romance focuses primarily on the hero and heroine, whereas erotic romance might also include other characters or toys. Of course that’s not always the case either.
Maybe someone else can help me out here. Erotic romance tends to have more sex in it, more dreams, self-pleasure, that sort of thing. In hot romance the sex is usually not as much or as frequent, but it's just as steamy and sexy.
If you have a better definition of any of these I’d love to hear it. I’ve never been good at defining things. I usually say I just know. Which is of no help to you.