What are some upcoming trends?
It’s so hard to say what’s going to be the next big thing. I know what I like and I acquire what I think readers will want to buy. Maybe one of those acquisitions can start the next trend. I think the worst thing an editor can do is chase trends.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
When I’m looking for a breakout title, I want to see an edgy, gritty thriller with conflicted characters and a lot of depth. The mark of a great mystery or suspense story for me is when I become totally immersed in a twisted plot with compelling characters. The more twists the better. Relatable protagonists are vital to a great story. When I read a proposal or synopsis that I really like, I find myself asking the author follow-up questions about the individual characters—family connections, children, relationships…what happens in the end? Then I know if I want to acquire that book. For example, I just acquired a new thriller series for MIRA by Debra Webb. The series name is Shades of Death.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
Personally I don’t care for stories about a female journalist who wants to be taken seriously. You know the setup—“If my boss could only see me as a no-nonsense investigative journalist instead of the lifestyle feature writer.” I just think that setup is passé and I see too much of it that I pass on. It really is up to the author to take a tired plot and refresh it so it doesn’t seem like a dressed-up cliché. There are so many options for readers. Authors have to tune in to their own voice to be different. As a category editor I have to be selective and attentive to what the readership wants. Because I publish six new titles a month at Harlequin Intrigue, the last thing I want to do is acquire a reused storyline that is rehashed. Instead I need to see fresh ideas that keep the tried and true relevant.
How are you working with self-published writers?
Many Intrigue authors also self-publish. For authors who are prolific and self-motivated, self-publishing is a great avenue to build and broaden their careers. It is a way for authors to give their loyal Harlequin Intrigue readers the kind of romantic suspense stories they expect and love in the series, while still having an outlet where they can flex their creativity with different editorial in an indie book. Authors can extend their audience with their self-published books and yet have the shelf presence, regular foot traffic and committed readers with their Intrigue books.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
The series business is a great arena for prolific authors. Because the Harlequin brand is so well established, we can offer new authors excellent shelf placement and distribution as well as digital presence with an Intrigue book. For a new author, she will have built-in fans starting with her first book because of the Harlequin Intrigue brand name. In addition, we have a Harlequin Author Network where authors can get tips and the latest news. We also have subscription readers as well as overseas advantages as an international publisher. Beyond that we have transitioned many of our series authors to single-title breakout with our HQN Books and MIRA Books imprints.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m actively acquiring!
For the past two decades, senior editor Denise Zaza has supervised the growth of the Harlequin Intrigue romantic suspense line from a monthly, four-book mystery niche series to a 72-book yearly core franchise that has launched the mainstream careers of several New York Times bestsellers including B.J. Daniels. She is actively acquiring romantic suspense and mystery for the category market. Prior to joining Harlequin Books in 1995, Denise worked at a nonfiction house acquiring hardcover and trade books. She spent her early career in publishing at fashion magazines including Harper’s Bazaar. She holds a B.A. from Fordham University. Readers can find Denise on Twitter: @DeniseZaza.