R. Barri Flowers is the author of romance, mystery, and thriller fiction with a dozen Harlequin titles published. He enjoys traveling around the country and abroad to scope out potential settings for future books. An avid reader, he especially loves historical fiction and narrative nonfiction books. His new Harlequin Intrigue title, Chasing the Violet Killer, is available now.
Harlequin: You’ve written several books in the true crime and thriller genres. What made you want to write romance and how did you get started?
R. Barri Flowers: This is a great question. Yes, I have written many true crime and criminology books, as well as mystery and thriller novels. However, I have been a fan of heartwarming romance movies and fiction since my college years, with many of the bestselling romance novels capturing my fancy. I was especially intrigued with male authors who were successful in the genre, such as Sidney Sheldon, Erich Segal, Richard Paul Evans, Robert Waller, Eric Jerome Dickey, Nicholas Evans, and others, including Tom Huff and Harold Lowry, who wrote romances under pen names. They were the inspiration for me wanting to expand my range as an author and write romances. And I have a natural inclination for love stories, with my own parents being together for more than fifty years of wedded bliss.
I got started when submitting a proposal for a romance novel, entitled, Dark and Dashing, to BET Books in 2005. As coincidence would have it, this was around the same time that BET Books, part of Black Entertainment Television, was being sold to Harlequin Enterprises. The BET editor, who moved on to Harlequin, loved the concept and told me that they were looking to expand their line to include male romance authors. But as she felt that my actual name, R. Barri Flowers, might have readers thinking traditional female romance writer, she suggested I use a pseudonym that was ultra-masculine. Together, we came up with Devon Vaughn Archer. This, of course, went against the grain for most male romance writers who, like Huff and Lowry, tended to use female pseudonyms.
Hence, my first novel, Dark and Dashing, was published that year with Harlequin’s Kimani Press Arabesque imprint. Under the name Devon Vaughn Archer, I went on to write eleven more contemporary romances for Harlequin, including Aloha Fantasy, Christmas Heat, Destined to Meet, Love Once Again, Love is in the Air, and Say it With Roses.
H: Are there challenges writing in a genre primarily about women, for women?
RBF: Another great question. Actually, I have not found writing romances primarily about women, for women to be too challenging. The preconceived notions of romance fiction notwithstanding, as with other successful male romance authors who came before me, the key to winning over readers and breaking the mold has always been making the stories believable with interesting characters and a satisfying resolution.
Moreover, with a heroine and hero basically getting equal parts in most of the love stories, giving the heroine’s POV from a male author perspective is no differently really than female romance novelists giving the hero’s POV from a female perspective. If you have a good understanding of human nature and the dynamics that drive romantic and emotional relationships between men and women, then this can be conveyed to readers satisfyingly, in the female and male POV, whether the romance writer is a Barbara Delinsky or Richard Paul Evans.
As a male author, I feel fortunate to have been able to lend my voice to the fascinating and entertaining world of contemporary romance fiction for nearly two decades.
H: Your latest Harlequin book, Chasing the Violet Killer, is a romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue. Are there particular challenges balancing the suspense and the romance in one book?
RBF: I really enjoyed writing Chasing the Violet Killer for Harlequin Intrigue. As the only current male author and first in modern times for Intrigue, this was my first Harlequin title under my own name, R. Barri Flowers, and involves a Secret Service agent and her ex-boyfriend, a homicide detective, who reunite to investigate the murder of her uncle, while also dealing with a serial killer on the loose and rekindling a romance that ended on bad terms.
As for balancing suspense and romance in one book, this was the perfect convergence for a writer with my background. I was able to tap into my knowledge of true crime and criminology to give verisimilitude to the plot, as well as my experience writing romance fiction to give the story what it needed to establish the romantic elements necessary between the protagonists. I believe that readers will enjoy the intricacies of the plot and riveting climax that make for great romantic suspense.
H: Can you tell us about your next project for Harlequin?
RBF: My next novel for Intrigue is entitled, The Big Island Killer. It is Book 1 of a miniseries called, Hawaii CI, where each story takes place on a different Hawaiian island. This one will be on the Island of Hawaii and I am really excited about it. It is about a serial killer dubbed, “The Big Island Killer,” who targets Hawaiian women. Detective Logan Ryder of the Hawaii Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Section is heading the investigation to track down the culprit, while dealing with the recent death of Logan’s partner, killed in the line of duty.
Logan tries to deal with this by seeing grief counselor and widow, Elena Kekona, a Native Hawaiian, who is still coming to grips with losing her husband to a heart attack three years earlier. Elena and Logan develop a bond and the Big Island Killer investigation hits home for Elena, as her brother Tommy becomes a suspect, threatening the developing relationship between the protagonists. The romantic suspense storyline has plenty of twists and turns, action and romance, and a shocking ending that will keep readers glued to the book till the end.
The Big Island Killer comes out in September 2022.
This will be followed with the release in October 2022 of Book 2 in the Hawaii CI miniseries, Captured on Kauai, in which DEA Special Agent Dex Adair goes undercover as a pianist at the Maoli Lodge along with his golden retriever K-9 unit partner Barnabas. It takes place on the south shore of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and Dex is investigating the suspicious death of fellow agent Roxanne Yamamoto, as well as the lodge itself, which he thinks might be a front for an illicit drug trafficking operation.
Lodge owner and widow Katrina Sizemore, lost her husband seven months ago in a kayaking accident. Or was it an accident? And are the sparks flying between Katrina and her new pianist real? As the investigation intensifies, more than their hearts are at stake.
H: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
RBF: My advice to aspiring writers is that if you are serious in your pursuit of publication and a career in writing, stay the course, no matter the roadblocks that may present themselves along the journey. Many young writers are too impatient or easily put off by rejections, which are merely part of the process for most writers and often a constructive stepping stone toward achieving your dream, with persistence and dedication to the task at hand.
As for beating the odds and getting over the hump into the world of published novelists, your best bet is to have a good sense of the genre or sub-genre you wish to write in, by familiarizing yourself with as many published books in the area, so you can see what editors are looking for.
Once you have homed in on this, go for it, as no novel can write itself. Establish a writing routine that can allow you to push past distractions, and stay in a rhythm that will allow you to write a proposal, sample chapters, and eventually the entire novel in a timely manner.
Find a good agent who shares your vision and can help sell your work. If you believe in yourself, that’s at least half the battle and will be what you come back to when celebrating the success of that first sale and the sales that follow!
Thank you for your time today, Barri!
Don’t miss Barri’s Harlequin Intrigue title, Chasing the Violet Killer, available now!