By Clea Simon
High tech becomes high risk in Denise Robbins’ work. In her new thriller, Never Tempt Danger, the New Hampshire-based author uses her two decades of experience in computer technology to explore the killer possibilities of science – and scientists – gone bad. We talked about robots, psychic powers, and writing on the deck.
How did you come up with the idea of Never Tempt Danger?
Never Tempt Danger started from an image I saw in my head as I quite literally crawled into bed one night and the scene kept playing over and over. It was so compelling that I pulled out a notebook and pen and wrote the scene down. That was how Never Tempt Danger started.
In every one of my books, my publisher prints something special for me called “Dear Reader.” It’s a letter from me to the readers telling them how the story came to be.
You’ve combined the thriller with a touch of supernatural, what was your inspiration?
No inspiration, just accident. As I was doing some research for the story I read about some studies the government had done on brainwaves and how they can be used/controlled for certain purposes. Then I read an article on brainwaves being used to play games with the aid of a technology device that reads the brainwaves and responds. Very cool! Next thing you know my heroine has a special gift.
How do you balance the romance and the suspense in your books?
I don’t know that there is a balance, but more of real-life. Life has romance and suspense and let it take you where it will.
How do you make Gilly’s “gift,” her ability to see others’ deaths, believable?
Gilly learns later on that her gift goes beyond seeing people’s deaths. It’s the learning about her own ability and the fact that others have to accept or not accept her and her gift that makes it real.
Your own high tech background plays a role in your books, how do you incorporate your expertise into Never Tempt Danger?
Heh heh! I am what most people call a computer geek…albeit a cute one. I actually went out and got the parts and put together a robot. I read all about how to make them work and program. More importantly, I read about what DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) wanted to accomplish with small, robots that had to be able to change shape. This was my technology inspiration behind Never Tempt Danger.
Do you see Never Tempt Danger as the first in a series?
Never Tempt Danger could be a first in a series, but I write all of my books as stand-alones. However, since this is my fourth book you might actually see a character or two show up from previous books.
How does this book grow out of or differ from your earlier works?
All of my books are techno-romantic thrillers. Each story has an element of technology in the story and because I love my characters, they occasionally show up in my other books. They pop in and out just like a good visitor does without overstaying their welcome.
In IT HAPPENS IN THREES, one of the characters uses software to launder money from large corporations under the guise of helping them with their network security. The heroine writes a piece of software called a trojan to get in and follow the thief’s software and then make it appear that the funds are transferred – when in fact they are not.
In KILLER BUNNY HILL, the technology revolves around nanotechnology and the creation of manmade real diamonds for use as computer chips and laser weapons.
CONNECT THE DOTS is very current in that it revolves around secret government prisons known as “black sites” and a human intelligence specialist who uses her technology skills to create wire diagrams and connect the dots in the mystery.
Now, in NEVER TEMPT DANGER I bring in more nanotechnology in the form of government robots, but this time there is a small amount of paranormal that slides into the story.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? The hardest?
My favorite part of the writing process is getting bitten by a scene and having to write it. I love when something pops into your head and your characters take over and the next think you know you have thirteen pages written. Time flies when you’re having fun.
The hardest part is plotting. Ugh! I tend to let the story drive me, but when I have to tell it where it is to go it’s rather like a trip to the dentist. You know it’s good for you, but you sooo do not want to go there.
Who do you read? Or, who are your influences?
I read so many great authors and they have all influenced me in some form or another. Linda Howard was my first foray into reading romantic suspense and who actually was my inspiration to try my hand at writing a novel. I run out and buy David Baldacci, John Sandford, and Jonathan Kellerman for great thrillers and mysteries. I rush to read Carla Neggers, Heather Graham, Elizabeth Lowell for terrific suspense. Add in the some Janet Evanovich for mystery with humor, and Tess Gerritsen and Patricia Cornwell for more mysteries of the medical variety and you have me.
Honestly, I just like to read…almost as much as I like to write. Almost.
So, what is a “techno-romantic thriller”?
Techno-romantic thriller is a term I coined that combines the best elements of suspense and mystery with romance and technology into an action-packed thriller where technology is part of the mystery or part of the solution in the puzzle. I take technology and introduce the readers to it in small pieces, like breadcrumbs of information and break it down so my characters show the reader enough to make them understand, and at the same time get curious.
I want readers to get curious about the technology while at the same time get caught up in the tension and excitement of the thriller and the romance that is woven in between. In my current WIP, some bad things happen to my heroine thanks to email phishing. You know those emails you get from your “supposed” credit card company when in reality if you click the link in the message you end up going to some scam site that is stealing your information? Think about all the possibilities that could happen if someone stole your bank information, your identity, hacked into your business all because you clicked on a link in your email. The possibilities are endless, make for a great story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and make you have a second thought the next time you receive one of those messages.
What keeps you writing each day?
In a word, PASSION. A passion to tell a story. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well, I want my thousand words to draw that vivid picture in a reader’s mind, make them escape their world and enter one I created. Once in that world, I want the readers to see, feel, and experience the story. I hope their hearts beat faster, their breath catches, they cry, they laugh, maybe even fall in love. In the end, my goal is to make the reader curious, think, ask questions, and want to explore further what they just read about.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
I am an outdoor person and as long as it is not raining or snowing I love to write outside on my deck surrounded by the gardens that I planted myself. In the background is the clickety-clack of the old, wooden rollercoaster and the screaming kids riding it as they whiz down the metal rails. There is nothing like that energetic and happy sound to put a smile on my face and give me inspiration to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and write.
What’s next for Denise Robbins?
I’m working on book 5 with a title of Phish.NET Stalkings and can’t wait for it to be completed. I have such visions as to the cover of the book. Picture hard-bodied cop, in fishnet stockings, wearing leather skirt, blue police shirt and gunbelt wrapped around his hips. Can you picture it?!