By Wendy Tyson
In her FBI Heat Series, Marissa Garner expertly combines romance, action and suspense while tackling some tough, timely topics like terrorism and human trafficking. A talented author who writes multiple series, Marissa took time out of her busy schedule to sit down with The Big Thrill.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of your new book, TARGETED, the second book in the FBI Heat Series. Please tell us something about TARGETED that is not on the back cover.
I’m so excited about the release of TARGETED because it ramps up the edginess in this series. Imagine living with an al-Qaeda cell as an imposter. Every move, every word, can lead to discovery and death. Although TARGETED was written before the recent terrorist attacks, the similarities are surprising. The story also explores the unnerving possibility of cooperation between terrorist cells and Mexican drug cartels. You can read the heart-pounding first chapter on my website.
Your newest novel features FBI Special Agent Marissa Panuska, a woman as tough and resourceful as she is smart. Please share with us a little about Marissa. What events from her past helped make her the woman she is today?
Marissa’s family immigrated to the U.S. from the Czech Republic when she was a teenager. She speaks five languages fluently: Czech, English, Arabic, Spanish, and Russian. At the FBI Academy, her breathtaking appearance and fiery personality intimidated most of the recruits and some of the instructors. Marissa suffers with involuntary premonitions, which are eerily accurate warnings. She attributes them to the Bohemian gypsy genes she inherited from her mother—for lack of a better explanation.
By Anne Tibbets
Beware the growl in the back of your throat…you could be a werewolf.
TO LOVE A WOLF brings to life the hidden world of a S.W.A.T. squad of werewolves as they combat the criminals of Dallas, Texas.
This fourth installment in Paige Tyler’s popular romantic suspense series, follows Landry Cooper, an explosives expert with a personal history, as he meets and romances an artistic soul, Everly, in a battle for truth and happiness.
Full of action, intrigue, and romance, readers who loved Hungry Like a Wolf, Wolf Trouble, and In The Company of Wolves, will be pleased to see how the S.W.A.T. squad has grown from untamed beasts to love-seeking soul-mates.
“Each one of them is simply a man looking for a woman who will accept them for what they are—a werewolf,” says Tyler. “They all realize it’s a tough sell, especially since the folktales say there’s only one woman in the world for each of them. We’re not talking about a one in a million woman here. For them it’s more like one in a billion. And if that isn’t enough for the pack to deal with, werewolves in our S.W.A.T. world aren’t turned from a bite or a scratch. Instead, they have a recessive gene that only turns on when they go through some kind of traumatic event. Experiencing those events with the guys helps the reader get closer to them. But at the same time, while they are a serious bunch, we use humor to make the guys more approachable. Some are wittier or snarkier than others, but they all have a funny side that comes out when they’re together.”
As well as delving into the team’s interpersonal relationships, TO LOVE A WOLF has plenty of what romantic suspense readers want—a killer love story—and the author and her co-writing husband, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I absolutely love Cooper and Everly’s story, from their cute meeting to their super sexy and romantic first date, to the explosive scene where Everly tells Cooper that she loves him and accepts him for what he is—and everything in between. It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite scene,” Tyler says. “Everything about their story is special and near and dear to my heart.”
Influenced by Suzanne Brockman and Kelley Armstrong, Tyler also credits Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files as inspiration for her work.
By E.M. Powell
They say the best things come in threes but with regard to my most recent reads, I have to disagree—they come in twos. I say this because two new romantic suspense novels from Mary Burton landed in my lap, VULNERABLE and THE SHARK. VULNERABLE is book #4 of her Morgans of Nashville series, while THE SHARK is book #1 of her Forgotten Files series.
In VULNERABLE, forensic technician Georgia Morgan and Detective Jake Bishop are working a cold case. Three teens have disappeared on a hike and only one was ever found, injured and suffering from amnesia. When another woman’s body is found, it leads to the missing teens’ remains and the unravelling of deadly secrets that ensnare Georgia too.
THE SHARK introduces us to Virginia state trooper Riley Tatum and former FBI agent Clay Bowman. Riley’s past as a teenage runaway and victim of a horrible crime comes back to threaten her again with an unsolved case of a serial killer nicknamed the Shark—and she is his next prey.
As one would expect with Burton, both are terrific, suspenseful reads. VULNERBALE is of course the last in a series. I haven’t read the other three but it didn’t detract at all from its impact as it works as a standalone novel. Great for me as a reader, but I asked Burton if coming to the fourth in a series is a challenge to her as a writer.
“I love writing first and last series books for different reasons,” she says. “What’s great about writing the final book in a series is that I know the characters and even the setting really well. Here the challenge is to go even deeper, to discover new facets of the characters’ personalities by again testing their abilities and strengths. I also look harder at the setting for elements that will not only surprise me but also my readers.”
I can certainly concur with the surprise element—there was a lot I certainly didn’t see coming. I can guarantee plenty of shocks in THE SHARK, too, the first in the Forgotten Files series. Starting a series brings different demands for Burton.
By Dawn Ius
Shiloh Walker may have cut her teeth on vampires and erotic romance—fitting as she lists Bunnicula as one of her favorite books—but the award-winning author of almost 100 works of fiction continues her path into contemporary romance with the release of her new novel, THE TROUBLE WITH TEMPTATION.
The story follows Hannah Parker, who awakens after several days in a coma with virtually no memory of her life, including how she became pregnant with Brannon McKay’s baby, the man she’s loved since high school. As she struggles to unlock the keys to her past, it becomes clear that recovering her memories may have deadly consequences….and Brannon will stop at nothing to keep her safe.
In this interview with The Big Thrill, Walker talks about her vast career and offers some inspiring words for writers on the cusp of publication. Hint: Flexibility is key.
While it’s obvious you write in many romantic sub-genres, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a paranormal romance from you. What inspired your transition?
I still play with paranormal, although it’s more in an urban fantasy setting. I actually started out with a contemporary erotic romance. My first title published was Her Best Friend’s Lover and I had several contemporary and romantic suspense books published during the first couple of years. I don’t know why I became primarily known for paranormal, because I’ve always written a variety.
Although I’ve read several of your books, I don’t think I realized just how vast your output is—I have some catching up to do! Is there a romantic sub-genre that is more fun to write? One that comes easier?
Romantic suspense almost always comes easier. I tend to look for skeletons in the closet for some reason.
Being a working writer for the long term means keeping up with the market. We call it “reinventing ourselves” and I’m not sure anyone has done it more often than I have. When I decided I wanted to write for a living, I knew I wanted to write romance with mystery and suspense, but, at the time, no publishing house was buying that kind of story.
My first novel was a young adult romance. The next several were romantic comedy, several with suspense elements (these were written with a partner). And then Harlequin started publishing romantic suspense. I wrote fifty-three Intrigues and reinvented myself there at least twice when the market shifted. That became very clear to me last month when I republished Ticket to Nowhere and Torch Job, a couple of backlist titles that were mystery-based with some suspense and thrills, and the romances had quite a bit of humor. My current novels are much darker and more thrilling. Along the way, we were told to up the romance and the books suddenly had more heat. Then, when the “supernatural” became popular, I added paranormal romantic suspense to my curriculum vitae. I wrote other things for other lines and publishers as well, including urban fantasy and yes, horror—all combining some form of suspense/thriller with romance.
Two years ago, I landed at Loveswept, Random House’s digital romance line. I loved writing Dangerous, a dark romantic thriller with a bizarre serial killer—I was allowed to go darker than ever before. But a request by my editor on the next project meant I needed to reinvent myself again—writing romantic suspense with suspense as the secondary element to come in play after the romance was established. That was a new one for me since suspense has always been my strong suit.
My editor and I brainstormed a bit and she said she’d always wanted to buy a “secret bodyguard” story. Aha, that was it! I immediately saw that I could develop a relationship between hero and heroine with him knowing there was danger coming for the heroine (and thereby cluing in the reader) but giving the relationship the time readers apparently wanted before being thrown into the action. The result? HIS DECEPTION.
Did You Hear the One about the Lawyer Who Wrote a Book?
What do politicians, accountants, attorneys, and pole dancers all have in common? Friends, family and random strangers mocking their job choice. One of these careers, however, is different from even the most mocked.
Politicians, accountants, and pole dancers never apologize for their choices. Attorneys, however, feel the need to explain their choice of profession to anyone in listening distance. They practice law for the money, the power, the thrill of litigation, or to help others, but if the stars align in some cosmic miracle, they will leave the law behind faster than a little boy gives up his training wheels in the presence of his best friend.
At a recent writers’ conference, two different speakers began their presentations by apologizing for having been attorneys in their previous careers. Their contrition was extreme, as if they’d personally clubbed baby seals or served underage drinkers who had then driven into a minivan filled with toddlers. The audience in both workshops laughed and the presentations continued with the speakers now confident that no one would be holding their former careers against them.
A career in law, however, can be honorable and when practiced for the right reasons, an attorney should never apologize. Are there dishonest and incompetent attorneys? As sure as there are physicians who should have their licenses revoked. But there are more lawyers who are doing good in the world.
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.
By Cathy Clamp
When heiress Alexa Manchester decides to gift her alternate world with unlimited energy, courtesy of her late father’s brilliant invention, she unwittingly captures the attention of supervillian crime boss, Momo. And after sabotaging the invention, Momo threatens to destroy the world unless everyone agrees to his demands. Only a superhero—or a super heroine—can stop him now.
Or maybe one of each.
In true Golden Age comic fashion, an accident with a hydroelectric generator transforms Alexa into Electromancer, a super hero who can harness electricity and fly. Aided by her sexy chauffeur, Sigfred Sawyer, a mysterious pet cat named Miss Marbletop, and the intoxicating superhero, The Blue Arrow, Alexa is more than up to the task of taking down Momo and his chief enforcer, the 4’11” hitman, Biggie Bitterman.
ELECTROMANCER is author Daco’s latest thriller, a follow-up to her #1 bestselling 2013 debut novel, The Libra Affair, and her 2015 short story, The Pisces Affair—a 2015 Global eBook Award double gold medalist, as well as a Shelf Unbound Notable 100 and Publishers Weekly Pick. Even Daco’s name is sort of thrilling. Her physicist father personally created the name by using the derivative (D) of acceleration (A) at the speed of light in cm per second (C) being equal to zero (O), where C is the same as in E = mC2. Daco is quite literally the speed of light.
By Amy Lignor
“If you’re going to dream, dream big.” These are words that Paige Tyler lives by. Her series’ and her characters have built a fan base that is never-ending. Why is that? Because when it comes to this author, her imagination never rests. She continues to create.
And in this interview with The Big Thrill, Tyler not only offers an inside look at the newest title in her X-OPS novels, but also reveals that a brand new series is about to begin.
The X-OPS series has become a much beloved “journey” by readers. Can you give us all a peek into the newest novel, HER FIERCE WARRIOR?
Well, the reader has been getting glimpses of Minka Pajari in the epilogue of the first three books in the series. I guess I’ve teased and tortured you all long enough, so it’s time for Minka to meet HER FIERCE WARRIOR.
Minka was able to escape from the people who’ve been experimenting on her at the end of Book 3, Her Wild Hero, and now she’s trying her hardest to get home. But the things her captors did to her have turned her into a monster—at least in her eyes. When things are looking their lowest, and she’s not sure she has the strength to keep going, Special Forces soldier Sergeant First Class Angelo Rios appears. For reasons she can’t understand, in this man’s arms, she finds peace from the beast inside. But Angelo is a Special Forces soldier. He lives his life on deployment, never knowing how long he’ll be gone or when he’ll be home.
Garner has always been a huge fan of romantic suspense and romantic thrillers. She also enjoys non-romance versions of these genres, but finds the combination of love story and intrigue more compelling. Hundreds of books by Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, Lisa Jackson, Brenda Novak, Iris Johansen, Anne Stuart, and Allison Brennan taught her many important elements of writing—the challenge has been to take what she’s learned and create her own style, her own brand.
Garner devises plots like a roller coaster architect, designing heart-stopping highs, lunch-losing lows, and scream-inducing twists. Her romantic thrillers are edgy and action-packed. She hopes the suspense will keep readers awake long after they’ve put the book on their nightstands. She believes her readers are smart, so she subtly plants clues instead of browbeating readers with them. Her characters are often flawed, sometimes initially unlikable, but always redeemable in the end.
Garner’s stories focus on subjects that are unusual in the romance culture. She remembers getting burned out on a popular type of villain a few years ago. Figuring she wasn’t alone, Garner creates diverse plots, which sometimes require diplomatic negotiations with her publisher. Fortunately, her editor has been open to most of her ideas—so far.
Words escaped me as I took the detonator and knelt in the grass damp with morning dew. I grinned up at him and briefly considered rubbing my hands together like an evil villain.
Instead, my hand hovered over the plunger and power surged through my body. I quickly looked around the group of eager participants standing around me. They wore protective goggles and ear protection. They returned my goofy grin, their eyes filled with anticipation.
He counted down. Three. Two. One.
I pressed the plunger.
A mighty fireball flashed into the air. A thunderous explosion rolled across the sky and the ground rumbled. We all gaped at each other. Eyes wide. Mouths open. Silly grins widening on our faces.
A bomb and silly grins? What in the world?
This was range day at the F.B.I. The final day of the F.B.I’s Citizen’s Academy when after six weeks of hearing amazing agents talk about their job and mission, the academy participants trekked out to the F.B.I.’s local firing range. Under the supervision of seasoned agents, we shot weapons of all makes, donned one of the heavy suits worn by bomb squad techs, and blew things up.
And man, oh man, it was fun. Informative, too. Perfect information for my books.
The latest instalment in award-wining author Kendra Elliot’s The Bone Secrets series delivers the same level of romantic suspense readers have come to love. Here, she takes time out of her schedule to talk to The Big Thrill about the inspiration for FOUND, her writing process, and what fans can expect from her next.
Tell me about your new book, KNOWN
KNOWN is the fifth book in my Bone Secret series. Each book is a stand-alone novel with different primary characters that were secondary characters in previous books. KNOWN is a follow up to Buried, because fans begged me to give the main character’s tortured brother a happily-ever-after. My Bone Secrets books each center around different forensics specialists, and this one is about a forensic pathologist.
Why did you start writing? Where did you find the inspiration?
After reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for the fifth time, I set it down, sighed and thought: it must be wonderful to make a reader feel what I’d just experienced. So, the next week I decided to start writing when I read an article about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I joined writing organizations and attended conferences, learning as much about the business and craft as possible. After I’d finished my first manuscript, my goal became to see my name on a book in a store. One book…that was all I wanted. I sold my third manuscript to Amazon Publishing in 2012, and now I’m writing my tenth novel for them.
What got you interested in writing romantic suspense?
When I decided to write a book, I thought I’d write a romance. I discovered my characters kept tripping over dead bodies, and knew I needed to switch to romantic suspense. It made sense—I love to read suspense and thrillers.
By Wendy Tyson
COLD SHOT, the newest release from Dani Pettrey, is the first installment in Dani’s new romantic suspense series, Chesapeake Valor. In COLD SHOT readers meet Griffin McCray, park ranger and former S.W.A.T. sniper, as he joins forces with forensic anthropologist, Dr. Finley Scott, to investigate the death of a young social justice lawyer.
Pettrey answered a few questions for The Big Thrill.
Congratulations on COLD SHOT! Can you tell us a little more about Griffin McCray, the hero? What are some of the elements of his past that have made him the man he is today? In what ways is Griffin like you?
Thank you so much! I’m very excited about this series and these characters. Griffin is a former Baltimore Police Department S.W.A.T. officer. When a hostage situation goes bad, Griffin blames himself and leaves for a job where he believes people’s lives won’t be on the line—but that all changes the day Dr. Finley Scott enters his life.
Griffin is nothing like me, but he has a lot of my husband’s qualities. He’s steadfast, dependable, loves the outdoors, and craves excitement. Griffin’s just trying to ignore that last character trait, but as we all know you can only do that so long before it resurfaces.
What can you tell us about COLD SHOT that’s not on the back cover?
COLD SHOT is the story of four friends from childhood who suffered a loss that tore them apart as adults. Now they are back together on a case, and it’s going to retest the limits of their friendship.
Like your Alaskan Courage series, the Chesapeake Valor series is considered inspirational romantic suspense. What themes do you find yourself drawn to again and again?
I tend to gravitate to the universal themes of hope, restoration, redemption, love and forgiveness. Themes that are part of our daily lives, and that we all wrestle with at some time. I love to see characters grow and overcome obstacles, bringing them to a better place from when the story opened.
By Ian Walkley
GONE AWAY is book four of romance author Elizabeth Noble’s gay romance/thriller Circles series. Book three of the series, Jewel Cave was runner up in the 2015 Rainbow Award for Gay Mystery/Thriller category.
Noble started telling stories before she actually knew how to write. Those words turned into fan fiction that turned into a genuine love of stories involving both mystery and romance.
In the wake of her latest book, she sat down with The Big Thrill and shared some of her thoughts.
To start, can you give us some background your two series?
Let me start by saying thank you for taking the time to interview me.
Sentries was my first published series, and the final book is coming out in May 2016. It’s a sci-fi/paranormal story set in a post-apocalyptic society approximately three hundred years from now. It’s a true series in the sense that the stories are closely interconnected and so should be read in order. The story centers around the same two main characters.
The books in the Circles series can be read as standalone novels. One of the main characters is always in some branch of United States law enforcement. I may expand and go international eventually, I’m not sure. So far I’ve featured Homeland Security, a 1927 beat cop, a US Marshal, and in GONE AWAY, a park ranger (they are federal agents and pretty tough). I have plans for books with the FBI and Pinkerton Security in the future. In each book at least one main character from another book is included in a minor role. The series theme is this: “Every life is a circle. We’re all connected somehow.” Some of the books are mysteries, others are in the suspense/thriller category.
In GONE AWAY we have two men, Mason and Riece, who have a falling out then are forced back together by circumstances. Tell us a little of the storyline here.
This part of the story is basically about two men who were very much in love and in a relationship that ended. Neither really wanted that and now the universe has given them a second chance. They have to struggle with their feelings and learn to trust each other again. The important part is both men want to make amends for their past and move forward together.
By Amy Lignor
Christine Feehan is a name that can be found on a slew of novels that fit into many categories.
A true creator of perfectly-matched duos and action-driven tales, Feehan is a master at her craft. Edgy, dark, dangerous, and highly-charged when it comes to the romance side of things, her incredible series’ keep coming—with two new ones waiting on the horizon.
This month, she takes time out of her busy schedule to chat with The Big Thrill about her new release, SPIDER GAME and her path to success.
You have stated that you have a “preconceived” notion for your characters, yet they rarely listen. Can you explain to our readers how your characters take a different path while you’re in the writing process?
Sometimes I have a scene in my mind that I think is really great, but the characters take a different direction. Often the male says or does something, and I think, “How am I going to get him out of this one?” It is then that my original path alters.
Seeing as that you have written since childhood, is there a teacher/mentor you remember during your school years that supported your writing?
I had some extremely great English teachers. Sadly, I did have one that told me I would never succeed because I left his class. But I found a love for words in my English classes, and that is what stuck with me.
Do you have a certain “surrounding” you need while you’re writing? Such as, there are authors who have to have music playing in the background. Is there anything you need in your writing “habitat” to get lost in the story?
I taught myself early-on to write anywhere, or if anything was going on at the time. I had a lot of children, so I learned to be able to write even with a lot of noise in the background. I do like to have music now, because that training early-on has made me need to have something going on in the background.
Kat Martin is the New York Times bestselling author of over 70 novels that have been translated into over 20 languages.
What’s her secret?
After reading her latest novel, INTO THE FURY, the start of a new romantic suspense series, I spent an hour interviewing her, trying to figure out her methods for success. Here’s what I concluded:
Kat Martin doesn’t follow any of the rules.
Sure she writes all day, that’s a given. Most writers start with the writing first, but Martin only digs in after she’s had her coffee, watched the news, checked her email, and caught up with her readers on social media. She writes 5-6 hours a day, 100 pages a month, two books a year. Year after year.
Most writers do a few drafts, but Martin only does one. Yes, she rewrites, but she rewrites as she goes along, rewriting what she wrote the day before, then starting the new words. She also reviews after every 100 pages. When the 500 page draft is complete, she lets it rest for two weeks, then goes over it again, but it’s ready to be turned in when she finishes the draft.
And she’s been doing this since the late 1980s.
What keeps her going?
First of all, she knows and delivers what and when her editors expect. “When I started, traditional publishing was the only way to go, and it was always clear to me that I had to make a living.” And she always hands in her manuscripts on time. Or even early. “You have to write it. Might as well get it done sooner rather than later.”
Martin got started because her husband wrote and published a book (Her husband is L.J. Martin, author of western, non-fiction, and suspense novels). She started going to conferences with him, which pointed her in the right direction.
By Anne Tibbets
Mary Burton is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist and has been intrigued by investigative work and the people who do it since Virginia, her home state, was stung by a string of serial killings that spanned more than twenty-years. With over twenty five published novels, plus multiple novellas under her belt, her deft story-telling abilities are apparent from the first paragraph of her latest novel, I’LL NEVER LET YOU GO, which is the third instalment of her Morgans of Nashville series.
“I knew from the start that I had four novels in this series,” Burton says, “and I wanted to create a set of characters that readers could get to know over time. In Cover Your Eyes, I introduced the Morgan family, three brothers and a sister who were raised by a dedicated homicide cop. All the Morgan siblings joined law enforcement in one form or another.”
In I’LL NEVER LET YOU GO, the story centers on the middle son, Alex Morgan, a quiet, introverted, and serious investigator with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. But don’t let the tough guy exterior fool you.
“You would quickly learn that Alex Morgan shows his love and concern through acts of service,” Burton says. “He might not bring the woman he loves flowers but he’ll take a bullet for her. Alex is quiet, methodical and he is intensely loyal to his family and his job with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Pay attention to what Alex does, not what he says.”
A frequenter at forensic science conferences and workshops, Burton makes it a habit to stay abreast of scientific advancements in the field of crime investigation in order to keep her novels cutting edge.
By Kay Kendall
This month author Blair McDowell celebrates publication of her fifth novel of romantic suspense. WHERE LEMONS BLOOM whips the reader through scintillating scenery, fiendish financial skullduggery, and erotic ardor. This novel, like its predecessors, taps into a wealth of travel experience that its author has enjoyed. Now she shares with THE BIG THRILL how she manages to blend exotic locales, hot sex, and big money into a book that appears to be haunted by the ghost of the late, great Jackie Collins.
The list of places where you have lived and traveled is enticing. I love how you evoked the Amalfi Coast in WHERE LEMONS BLOOM, your new release. Tell us about connecting that to a case of embezzlement in the United States.
The Amalfi Coast has been one of my favorite haunts for many years, and the little inn I describe in WHERE LEMONS BLOOM is really there, and is really down 110 steps. The story evolved when I was in Italy in 2013. I knew I wanted to set a love story in Positano, but I’ve never been one to write simple love stories. There has to be a problem, a threat, an element of danger. The idea of an embezzlement came from a newspaper account of a woman in Baltimore who had been working a Ponzi scheme for years before being caught. I started researching embezzlement schemes and, fortuitously, The Vancouver Sun at that point ran a series of articles on hiding money in off-shore accounts. I made the short step from there to my Italian-American hero. After his unjust imprisonment for embezzling millions from his own investment firm, he returned home to Positano, on the Amalfi Coast, a broken man. It got a bit tricky when I started trying to find out about the Mafia in the Sorrento/ Naples area. But Italians are matter-of-fact and vocal about the “three governments” in Italy — the church, the elected government and the mafia (called the Camorra in the Naples area). It is simply a way of life for them, a way of getting business done.
While I long to see the Amalfi Coast but haven’t been there—yet—I have traveled the Romantische Strasse in Germany. Your fourth novel, Romantic Road, brought back wonderful memories of Wurzburg and Rothenburg–and farther south and east to Salzburg, Vienna, and Budapest. Did you find it difficult to balance the amount of travel detail with the need to keep up the pace of the adventure that drove the plot?
You have hit on one of my biggest writing problems. I want to immerse my readers in the setting. I want them to get high with Lacy on the gluwein, to savor her apple fritters in Rothenburg. I want them to be mesmerized by the Tiepolo ceiling in Wurzburg and to hear with her the gypsies in a Hungarian Csarda. But too much of this threatens to stop the forward movement of the plot. A good editor is sometimes all that keeps my books from turning into travel guides.
By Cathy Clamp
When Neve McKay returns to her hometown to heal after fleeing an abusive relationship, she doesn’t expect to find anything other than solace and love from her family. But Scotsman Ian Campbell, a new resident and friend of her brother, is hard to ignore.
Even as she’s rebuilding family ties and beginning new ones, her old life is shadowing her footsteps, threatening everything she’s found. Does she dare fall for the new bad boy in town when his life will be at risk? How far is her abuser willing to go?
Shiloh Walker sat down with The Big Thrill to talk about the first of this new series, one Publishers Weekly calls a “fast-paced contemporary romance [that] readers will look forward to.”
Tell us about your new series.
HEADED FOR TROUBLE is the first in a new trilogy, a perfect book for readers to pick up.
Are either of the characters ones that readers will recognize from another book?
No, they are all new.
Most writers do research for a book. What’s the most interesting thing you discovered while you were writing this book—whether or not it actually made it into the book?
Hmmm…several things. I learned that wine has like 1500 chemical compounds in it—the brother owns a winery. Also, Scotland has some pretty strict laws regarding domestic abuse. America could probably learn a few things from them.
Alan L. Moss is a retired Washington insider with the ability to view his former environs with a writer’s outsiderly detachment. The best of both worlds, you could say. His writing draws upon Ph. D. research capabilities and many years in Washington D.C. as a federal Chief Economist, Congressional Fellow in the U.S. Senate, and Adjunct Instructor at the University of Virginia’s Northern Virginia Center. In 2002, he put his government career aside and moved to the Jersey Shore to pursue his writing. His published novels, Insidious Deception and Surviving the Endgame spin yarns of conspiracy, love, sex, revenge, and subterfuge.
His latest novel, THE SAMOA SEDUCTION, takes advantage of his time in American Samoa administering the minimum wage hearings fictitiously portrayed in the novel. His insider knowledge of Washington politics, such as how policies may be distorted to support powerful interests, is clearly demonstrated in the web of betrayals that drive the story forward. His personal familiarity with the Samoan people and the beautiful landscape of the Island of Tutuila provide a fascinating backdrop to the story’s telling. Alan’s strong thriller competencies are revealed in the protagonist’s journey fighting to raise Samoa’s poverty wages, yielding to a beautiful Samoan seductress, paying a high price for his infidelity, and then seeking revenge for the damage done by returning to the South Pacific to punish those responsible.
THE SAMOA SEDUCTION is the story of two strong-willed individuals haunted by their love for one another while being manipulated by a deadly conspiracy.
Two decades after her sister’s brutal attack and murder, Meg Brogan has finally found happiness…or so it appears. A bestselling true-crime writer, Meg has money, fame, and a wealthy fiancé. But when a television-show host presses her to tackle the one story everyone claims she cannot write—the story of her own family’s destruction—her perfect life shatters.
Determined to finally face her past, Meg returns to her hometown of Shelter Bay. Shrouded in cold, brooding fog, the close-knit coastal town harbors dark secrets and suspicious residents. One of the few people to welcome Meg back is Blake Sutton, her high-school sweetheart and the marina’s new owner. Desperate for clues, Meg digs through her family’s files. As Pacific storms brew outside, her passion for Blake reignites.
But someone doesn’t want Meg digging up the past. And that person will go to deadly lengths to prevent the writer from revealing a terrible truth.
Summer Redding thought the blindingly handsome jock who’d loved and left her years ago had died in the Washington Massacre. She grieved for her lost golden boy as the rest of the country mourned their dead—until she comes home to find a very alive Jack Delvaux waiting for her with a devastating secret that turns her life upside down.
No longer the carefree man he was in his youth, this Jack is dark, hard and dangerous; a fifteen-year veteran of the CIA hungry for answers…and hungry for her. The rich, good-looking charmer who broke her heart once before would have been easy to resist, but this man, this powerful man? Summer needs him, and he knows it.
When Jack’s mission uncovers evidence of government involvement in the Massacre—and plans for another attack—he’s primed for revenge. But he has more than vengeance to live for now, and when Summer’s life is threatened, it’s nearly Jack’s undoing. Someone taking shots at his woman? That’s a dead man walking.
By Cathy Clamp
When a new gang of criminals comes to town, Dallas S.W.A.T. team member Eric Becker immediately senses werewolves—a lot of them. Turns out, the new bad guys are a pack of wolf shifters. While stopping a crime in progress, Becker comes face-to-face with the most gorgeous woman he’s ever seen. So, he does the logical thing—he hides her and leaves the scene with the rest of his team. But with a street-savvy thief named Jayna on his hands, along with Eastern European mobsters bent on making Dallas their new home, Becker’s life is about to be turned upside down.
The Big Thrill caught up New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Paige Tylor to talk about the latest in her S.W.A.T. series, IN THE COMPANY OF WOLVES.
This is the third book in your S.W.A.T. series. Are Eric or Jayna characters that fans will recognize from previous books?
Fans will definitely recognize Eric. By the way, he prefers to go by Becker (his last name). He’s one of the youngest werewolves in the S.W.A.T. pack and is typically really laid back. You can usually find him hanging out with fellow werewolf/S.W.A.T. officer Landry Cooper (who also prefers to go by his last name.)
Jayna Winston will be new to the fans. She’s the woman Becker runs into during a crime in progress. She’s The One who rocks his world and gets him out of his laid-back mode. Jayna comes with a bit of baggage, and some responsibilities that make a relationship between her and Becker extremely interesting.
Be careful what you tell your hair dresser. Especially if you are a cop. Because while she listens to you vent about your work, she’s taking notes for her next mystery novel.
That’s how DB Kennison, known to her friends as Darlene, got her start as a writer. In 2008, with the recession, people stopped spending on facials, makeup, and hair. Darlene went from more work than she could handle to staring at the walls. She wrote to save her sanity.
“I did a year and a half in college,” she says. “I took a basic English class. They gave me six papers to write. It was torture.”
But when she was ready to write novels, she was smart enough to know how much she didn’t know. She took courses online. She reached out to everyone for feedback. She discovered the Mystery Writers of America’s mentor program.
“My mentor was Michael Allen Dimmoch, and I am eternally grateful to him for not just saying to me, ‘Don’t quit your day job.’ He was very, very generous in encouraging me to learn how to do it and to continue. That was really big for me, it was huge, considering how much red there was on that manuscript.” Darlene has kept the critique to this day.
She was just as tenacious when it came time to sell her first book. “I just about quit over synopsis and query letters, but I pounded through it.”
By Amy Lignor
Author Veronica Forand has added a great deal to the romantic suspense genre, with her own life journeys being the perfect backdrop for creating exciting locales and characters that emanate a wealth of emotions.
As she branches out into a new genre of fiction, she speaks with us about her newest release—a suspenseful tale with romance at its core. In this exclusive to The Big Thrill, Forand talks about the travels and meetings that have caused her to better understand the various cultures that exist in this world, and how to share that knowledge with her readers.
You have done extensive traveling. How have these journeys helped in the development of your writing career?
The best part of traveling is learning more about people and how different cultures can affect a person’s outlook. For the most part, I’ve discovered that parents want the best for their children. People fall in love. People disagree over small things, like making too much noise in the apartment next door, and over larger things, such as how to handle immigrants coming into an area. Happiness can be found everywhere, and so can anger and jealousy.
Having traveled to many landmarks and museums, I now head to areas where locals congregate to absorb their stories. A place is not the sum of its buildings, but the collective experience of its people. When my family travels, we’ve been fortunate to view areas away from the more traveled tourist stops. I remember sharing dinner with the French family I lived with in Paris. Their son was worried about taking the entrance exam for university. It was the only thing the family focused on until he received his acceptance. Years later, I shared a dinner with a family in Seoul. The biggest issue in their house was getting their two children into university for a chance at solid careers. Hence, same concerns, different cultures.
I’ve also traveled to Germany, where a dear friend lamented over how the War still lingers in the minds of the older generation and hinders the accomplishments of the country’s youth. He wished he’d been born in Austria, a place where he felt a man could be proud of his homeland without reminding everyone of the atrocities of the past. Understanding a place from the point of view of the people there, and not just from the food served or the monuments erected, influences how I see that part of the world.
When I write, the faces and the attitudes of the people I’ve encountered over the years influence my characters. They should never be a caricature of a place or ethnicity. They should reflect their upbringing, experiences, education, and their own personal mettle. Four people from a small African village with a population of two hundred should have some similarities, but also distinct personalities, hopes, and dreams. My biggest challenge in writing is to make sure all the faces are distinct; the lives unique.
By Diane Kelly
When people think of mysteries and thrillers, their mind normally goes to killers of one variety or another—stranglers in trench coats lurking in dimly-lit alleys, axe murderers in ski masks wandering the dark woods, or a crazy-eyed wack job intent on committing a whack job.
But don’t let Armani suits and silk ties fool you. White-collar criminals also have a high propensity for violence. With their beguiling smiles, wiley ways, and benign appearances, they can sneak in and take your assets—and possibly your life—before you have an inkling of their evil intent. In fact, the situation is common enough that a term has evolved for white-collar crooks who kill: “red-collar” criminals.
The typical white-collar criminal is a Caucasian male in his late 20s to early 30s. He’s well-respected socially and professionally, and has a high socioeconomic status. In other words, this type of criminal comes in the guise of the perfect love interest, neighbor, financial advisor, or business partner.
Per the FBI, white-collar crime costs Americans approximately three hundred billion dollars annually. Not exactly chump change. And, just as killers often find creative ways to kill their victims, white-collar criminals come up with a new scheme every day, from the typical credit card counterfeiting and embezzlement, to fake mystery shopper schemes, telemarketing scams, real estate rip-offs, vacation swindles, and prize cons.
By Amy Lignor
Manda Collins has been truly captivating fans with her romantic suspense for several years—and GOOD EARL GONE BAD, the newest release in her Lord of Anarchy series is no exception.
Lady Hermione Upperton has never backed down from a challenge, so when her spendthrift father offers “her” during a heated game of cards, she must decide to either wed the Earl of Mainwaring, an infamous gamester, or face murder charges. Either way, she’ll need to clear her name.
It’s said there’s no one better than a librarian to talk about books, which makes Collins a great interview. An avid reader, an avid fan, and an avid writer, she continues to create memorable characters and reawaken history before our very eyes. We caught up with her this month to talk about her writing career.
Per your bio, you certainly fall under the category of “book lover.” Could you tell readers a bit about your background? Were you always a fan of historical romance?
Though I enjoy history for its own sake, my love for it has always been intertwined with my love of literature. So for me, a particular era—like the Roaring 20s or the Elizabethan period—is difficult to divorce from the writers of that time period. Within the romance genre, I did start out reading historicals, so that’s naturally been the subgenre I feel most comfortable in. When it comes to the eras, Regency has been my longest passion. But I can go a hundred and fifty years either way—European or American. For some reason I’ve never really been into Ancient history. Probably because I enjoy modern conveniences too much!
When did the thrill for writing hit? Were you always writing since you were young (diaries, journals, etc.) or did it come later?
I knew I loved books from as early as Kindergarten, but the writing part clicked for me in middle school. I wrote what I now know to be “fan fiction” about my little group of friends having adventures with the characters from the T.V. show, Moonlighting. I loved presenting the tales with a flourish each week. From there was born my love of writing for an audience. But even then I didn’t really think of myself as a writer; it was something I did just for fun. Later, during and after college, I thought it was something I wanted to try, but didn’t get the right kind of motivation until 2006, when I participated in the Avon Fanlit competition. This rekindled my love for writing, and the friendships I built there gave me the support and discipline I needed to finish my first book. I sold How to Dance with a Duke four years later.
By Cathy Clamp
Criminal psychologist Dr. Sarah Jacobs is all too familiar with the kind of bad boys who belong in jail. But when a deranged killer targets her, she may need help from the very kind of person she’s accustomed to seeing on the other side of the bars.
While Jax Fontaine doesn’t claim to be a good guy, he’s loyal to his own code and brutally honest about what he wants—and what he wants is for Sarah to be safe. He’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.
In SHATTERED, bestselling author Cynthia Eden delves deep into New Orleans’ underground and leaves readers breathless. The Big Thrill caught up with Eden this month to talk about her thrilling new release, as well as future plans for her popular LOST series.
SHATTERED is part of the LOST series. Tell new readers a little about the Last Option Search Team and what they do.
My Last Option Search Team group was created to give hope to desperate families. When the authorities stop looking for the missing, when it seems as if hope is gone…then LOST steps in. The LOST group focuses on cold cases—they work to find the missing and to bring closure to those who need it so desperately.
For fans of the series, have they met Sarah or Jax in a previous book?
They have, indeed! Sarah is the main profiler at LOST, and she appeared in both book one (Broken) and book two (Twisted). Jax, very much an anti-hero character, first made his appearance in Twisted.
Most writers research for a new book. What is the most interesting thing you learned while researching, whether or not it made it into the book?
For my LOST series, I’ve spent a great deal of time researching missing persons’ cases in the United States. One of the things that I found to be most jarring was that there are currently more than eighty-three thousand missing persons in the U.S. When it comes to children (and this made me very tense since I am a mother), the first three hours after a disappearance are extremely important because—quite horribly—seventy-six per cent of children who are taken will be killed during those three hours. I found that figure to be absolutely horrifying. In case any of The Big Thrill’s readers might be interested, here is a link to the story that first gave me that statistic.
Passion and suspense are front and center in D.D. Ayres’ fourth installment of the K-9 Rescue Series, PRIMAL FORCE.
Dog trainer Jori Garrison has little interest in romance and spends all of her time training her Warrior Wolf Pack, special dogs taught to work with disabled veterans. Wounded veteran Lauray Batisse is resistant to a new service dog, having lost his beloved K-9 in Afghanistan. But sparks fly when Jori and Lauray cross paths, pushing these two together on an adventure that heats up when enemies start hunting them down.
Extraordinary canines, fierce attraction, and danger are the elements at play in PRIMAL FORCE, and Ayers was kind enough to take a break from the action to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill about her newest release.
Of particular importance in PRIMAL FORCE, and all of Ayres’ K-9 books, is the special relationship between the dogs and their Handlers.
“Lauray was military K-9 police, who lost his K-9 and his leg in the same horrific explosion in Afghanistan,” Ayres says.
Tormented by injuries, PTSD kicks in as Batisse’s physical rehabilitation is completed. Forced to get a PTSD service dog, he is reluctant to accept Samantha, the Golden Doodle he’s assigned.
By Matt Maxwell
Elizabeth Lowell has quietly been stirring up a revolt in both romance and thrillers since the late 1980s. She was one of the leading innovators in the field of romantic suspense, having mastered relationship-driven romance and suspense novels in her earlier career. With Tell Me No Lies, she combined the two genres, giving readers an unexpected ride that continues to today. Her newest romantic suspense novel is PERFECT TOUCH, which tells a tale of family and betrayal set against a backdrop of the rugged Wyoming landscape. High-stakes art deals, murder, and the unexpected dance of new love all come together, satisfying readers of thrillers and contemporary romance alike.
The Big Thrill sat down with Mrs. Lowell to talk about her writing career and what it’s like to break down genre barriers.
You didn’t start out writing suspense at all. How did you begin your career?
I was reading science fiction at the time; my first novel, Change, was science fiction. It is long out of print, but I’m looking at possibly bringing out a digital edition. I’ve got rights to all my science fiction backlist, thanks to contracts that weren’t able to predict ebooks and the world we live in now.
What were you able to take from that experience that makes your other work unique?
Science fiction is the ultimate “What if?” genre, with no limitations required by reality. Suspense is also a “What if?” genre, but the limitations are very much of this Earth!
What led you to add suspense elements to your romance novels? Did that dovetail with your work on Steal the Sun and the Fiddler novels?
My first romance novels were about 200 pages long. There wasn’t room in them for anything but the development of the romance. When I write 400 page novels, then there is room for both romance and suspense. Working on pure suspense (such as Steal the Sun) and mystery with a continuing relationship (Fiddler) made me want to write novels in which the romance and suspense were equal partners.