By Karen Harper
It was fun interviewing Magnolia, as we both write romantic suspense. She’s a writer who seems to balance it all: career, outreach to readers, family—and lots of unique travel that shows up in her novels. Assassins, alpha males, military knowledge and strong heroines: There’s a lot to like in a Magnolia Smith novel!
What is TELL ME NO LIES about?
It is a romantic suspense novel with military themes and political intrigue. It is also the first story in The Black Orchid series. The Black Orchid is an organization loosely associated with the CIA, and TELL ME NO LIES follows agent Kael Brady as he tries to reconnect with an old flame while completing a complicated mission that brings danger to the one he cares about the most. For Kael, the mission is complicated by the fact that he has begun to question the orders he is given and that causes problems for him, professionally and personally.
Your books are romantic/suspense, obviously a category popular with readers today. Why do you think these genres work so well together?
I think that women, the primary reader of romantic suspense enjoy reading about Alpha heroes, the danger they get in and the women who dare to love them. Romantic suspense offers the reader the same thrills a film goer would get from a James Bond or Jason Bourne film, with the added bonus of a more in-depth look at the main characters romance.
Would you say you balance the romance and the suspense about 50-50 or is one more dominant that the other in your books?
I strive for an equal balance between romance and suspense, however if I have to tip in one direction over the other, I prefer to err on the side of suspense. Danger! Action!
I’m a huge fan of Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva and Steve Berry, and I think my appreciation of the thriller genre in clearly expressed in my romantic suspense novels.
TELL ME NO LIES is book #1 in your new Black Orchid series. What holds the series together? Re-appearing characters? Friends or a family or career? And should the books be read in order so the reader doesn’t miss earlier story lines?
In a perfect world, I would prefer that the reader begin with book #1, however each story is written to be enjoyed as a standalone. With that being said, each story features an assassin who works in the same organization or who have worked together or against each other in a previous mission.
Each character will have a secondary or smallish role in at least one previous story. Sometimes it will be obvious that this is a character worthy of their own story, and sometimes it will be a big surprise! There is also an overarching plot for the series that is touched on in each story. Again, you don’t have to read the entire series, but it would certainly add breadth to your enjoyment and understanding to do so.
Other than physical appeal, what makes a Magnolia Smith hero?
Love that question! I enjoy creating intelligent, complex characters that struggle with their choices, are conflicted about right and wrong in the context of their job and are usually more than what they seem – not just a sexy, brawny face.
Your author name is so lovely and evocative. Is it a pen name or an actual name and if it’s a created name, how did you choose it?
It is a pen name, and also my late grandmother’s real name. I always thought she had such a pretty name and it pays a quiet homage to her, though because of the sexy nature of my books, I would never want her to read them!
I am also from the Southern United States and that POV might inform my writing just a bit, even the romantic suspense. I love traveling throughout the South, learning about Southern military history… I also write Southern fiction, and that name evokes the South, don’t you think? That was the original inspiration behind using that particular name.
Your fun website reveals several great ideas for author promotion. How does your street team work out to help you spread the word about Magnolia Smith books and how do you structure your newsletter?
Thanks, Karen. I’m really pleased with the look of my website. I use it for more than just promoting my books. I blog A LOT about food, wine, travel and herbalism and I try to keep it updated with fresh content weekly. Just like Amish cooking is highlighted in your Amish Home Valley Trilogy and then you discuss on your website, I include lots of food and wine references in my books. And then I’ll blog about it to add richness to the food and wine experience in my stories. I also run tons of contests… try to make it a place my readers will enjoy returning to as they go deeper into THE BLACK ORCHID series.
I’m very excited about my street team. I’ve got a nice core group of supporters who really work to spread their love for my stories online, share with their friends and then request that their local libraries and independent book stores stock the series.
Thanks for asking about Magnolia Mail!, my monthly e-Newsletter. It covers my most recent MagnoliaSmith.com blogs, the latest on my books, sneak peaks at new stories, where you can find me blogging or being interviewed online or in media, personal appearances plus my latest contests and promotions.
Readers always like to know how the author’s past affects their work. How did the family you grew up in (and your husband’s career) help to shape your novels? Have your extensive travels played a part too?
Growing up with a US Army veteran as a father gave me a deep appreciation for our armed forces and the sacrifices they make for their country.
And even though my father was well out of the army when I was born, we went to yearly air shows, frequented military museums and participated in Memorial Day events. I grew up believing that it wasn’t Superman or Batman that were heroes, it was our men and women in uniform. And of course, being a military spouse has only deepened my appreciation for our military.
I was born with wanderlust, so the globetrotting lifestyle of a military spouse suits me just fine, and yes, it makes for great research. I almost always include an international setting in my novels because it’s natural to me to move around a lot, see different sites and interact with different nationalities and cultures.
For example, TELL ME NO LIES takes place in Jamaica, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia. Part of Book 2 takes place in Rome, Italy and New Jersey…
That interest in diversity is also reflected in my stories, as expressed by the characters. TELL ME NO LIES features among other nationalities, a Taiwanese and a St. Maarten islander. Each book features people from different countries and cultures – it’s just more interesting that way, I think.
With three school age boys at home, how do you manage to balance real life with time demands in your writing career?
It’s a challenge, let me tell you! I use spreadsheets, lists, calendar reminders… and a writer’s assistant to keep me on track. Plus I try to maintain set hours during the evenings (I have a day job!) and on the weekends.
What is the most frightening thing that has happened to you while researching a WIP?
Sometimes I’ll watch videos on YouTube about government conspiracies… gives me great ideas for the suspense angles in my stories. But that’s frightening, the conspiracies, the purported plots! LOL. Makes for great viewing, though, and keeps my mind churning with possibilities for the next story.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Magnolia Smith has traveled the world as a military spouse. When she’s not writing romantic suspense novels, she blogs about the stuff she loves, good food and wine, Southern history and herbalism.
To learn more about Magnolia, please visit her website.