By Amy Lignor
From the Old West to contemporary romantic suspense, this incredible author throws herself into all projects she creates. The powerful emotions, excitement, passion, and friendship that exist in her novels invigorate readers—causing them to crave nothing more than a quiet corner where they can sit and get lost in her words and characters without being disturbed. Here, DiAnn Mills has been gracious enough to speak with The Big Thrill about her “full plate,” which even involves being a well-respected mentor to others focusing on the craft of writing.
Your writing is so varied—from the historical to the suspense, and beyond. Where do the “new” characters spring up from (so to speak)? Do you create using people around you, or do they spring from imagination?
Characters spring from every place imaginable with me: the people I meet; the people I hear or read about; strangers, and my imagination. My jumping off point continues to be “What if?”
Your long career includes so many accolades. But (and I know this is difficult), if you could pick only one of your works, what would be your favorite?
That’s like asking which one of my sons is my favorite! But I will pick the romantic suspense titles listed in the FBI: Houston series: Firewall, DOUBLE CROSS, and the third book to be released in October, Deadlock. These are the freshest in my mind, and I’ve worked the hardest to create the best stories possible. Houston’s FBI is amazing and are always available to answer questions. And then there’s the setting—Houston! My city!
By Terry DiDomenico
Readers of romantic suspense, UNTRACEABLE may be for you:
On a daring mission, search and rescue specialist Heidi Warren and her team step onto an icy Alaskan mountaintop—and right into a trap. A stranded gang of thieves holds them at gunpoint, forcing them to serve as guides along the treacherous path. Menaced on all sides by dangerous weather, deadly terrain, and murderous criminals, Heidi desperately needs someone to trust. But her rescue partner Isaiah Callahan is keeping secrets from her. Secrets that ended their chance at a relationship before it could even begin. Yet her survival depends on finding a way to trust Isaiah when a blizzard starts closing in and her options start running out.
UNTRACEABLE is the second book in the Mountain Cove series penned by award-winning author Elizabeth Goddard.
Goddard used a newspaper article that recounted the experience of a man who spent fifteen days in a blizzard, thirteen of which were “a consecutive and virtually relentless hurricane” on the Juneau Ice field as the basis for her research for UNTRACEABLE.
What was most problematic with UNTRACEABLE?
UNTRACEABLE was a different kind of story because I let the reader know in the first chapter who the bad guy is. The characters know too, so there is no whodunit. There is no mystery to solve. The struggle and the suspense come from trying to survive the villains and the brutality of nature in the mountains of the Coast Range in Alaska—said to be the most inclement weather on the planet. So the writing process was difficult in that I had to think of new and fresh ways in each chapter for them to deal with the same problems. Frankly I was worried that readers wouldn’t like this story, but the opposite has been true. Many have said they loved it more than Buried, the first novel in the series, my personal favorite.
By Wendy Tyson
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti knows a thing or two about men, especially alpha males and the women who fall for them. Her latest romantic suspense novel, TOTAL SURRENDER, is the fourth and much anticipated final book in the Sin Brothers Series, which follows four brothers with unnatural powers genetically engineered into them by a black ops military unit that trained them to be killers. In this final installment, the youngest of the Sin Brothers, Jory, has awakened from a two-year coma. Imprisoned, anticipating his chance to escape and reunite with his brothers, he’s sentenced to death by the lethal chip in his spine—unless the brilliant and sexy Piper Oliver can find a way to deactivate the chip in time.
A prolific author, Zanetti has published three series in multiple genres, including contemporary romance, dark paranormal, and romantic suspense. We’re thrilled Zanetti took the time to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill on the heels of her newest release.
Congratulations on the publication of TOTAL SURRENDER, the fourth book in the Sin Brothers series! What can you tell us about TOTAL SURRENDER that’s not on the back cover?
Thanks so much! TOTAL SURRENDER is the fourth and final book in the series, and it answers all of the questions, especially the main one of who shot Jory. I can tell you that you probably won’t guess who the shooter actually was, or if you do guess, you probably won’t know why. Feedback so far from early reviewers has been reassuring that many of the twists and turns took them by surprise.
By Amy Lignor
Louise Voss is a name that continues to grow on the literary scene. As both a solo artist, and co-author with Mark Edwards, Voss has contributed to some of the most exciting, intriguing novels in the suspense category. She’s also an author who has proven that starting out in self-publishing doesn’t necessarily hinder a career. In some cases, such as hers, it can pole-vault an unknown writer to the top of the charts.
Voss was gracious enough to talk to The Big Thrill this month about her endeavors, and the excitement she has for her readers, social media, and being in the “thriller” realm.
Social media is being given a great deal of praise when it comes to helping a writer go from “anonymous” to “well-known name.” Can you tell us a little about the your fantastic Facebook page?
Fortunately, Mark and I both really enjoy social media. I think you have to, in order to do it successfully. We love engaging our readers through our joint Facebook page, and it’s been extremely helpful to us in various ways creatively, too: we’ve run competitions to name characters and, in our last novel, even a dog. Engaging with our readers has also yielded various experts when we’ve needed them—particularly with regards to legal and police procedural matters. It’s also so enormously heartening to receive supportive emails.
We don’t own a “massive” following on Facebook and Twitter, but it’s a very loyal and engaged one, which is lovely, and it slowly builds up all the time. I can’t imagine being able to reply to everyone personally if the number of followers rises into the tens of thousands over time. Still, it would be a quality problem to have.
Every so often you come across an author and you think, how the heck does s/he do it? The answer is invariably talent and hard work. Very hard work. Wendi Corsi Staub adds to that a game plan devised many years ago. We’ll call it vision married to determination.
A New York Times and USA Today bestselling suspense writer, Wendy is the award-winning author of more than seventy novels. Yes, seventy! I didn’t ask her how old she is but the answer is not old enough for that tally unless she really burns her days. Which she does, as she describes in the discussion below.
She has published in various genres including suspense, horror, historical and contemporary romance, television and movie tie-in, and biography. She also co-authored a mystery series with the late New York City mayor Ed Koch and has ghost-written for a number of bestselling authors and celebrities.
She has written numerous women’s fiction novels under the name Wendy Markham. THE BLACK WIDOW is her third stand-alone that explores the fascinating, topical and creepy world of predators lurking on the Internet and our vulnerability to them.
Playing on the Internet from the safety of our homes gives us a false sense of security that can make us take risks we never would outside, in the real world.
“In the moonlight, shovelfuls of earth fall on a wooden crate at the bottom of a deep pit. Soon the hole will be filled and covered over with leaves, leaving no trace of the victim below, waking to the horror of being buried alive…”
Dani Pettrey is a die-hard thrill seeker: heli-skiing, cave diving, storm kayaking—if it’s extreme, she’s there. Or so her website would have you believe.
In reality, these are just some of the wild adventures embarked on by the characters in Pettrey’s bestselling Alaskan Courage novels—a series about five siblings who own and run an Alaskan adventure outfitting company.
“The McKennas were all raised to live life to the fullest and at the same time to always help those in need,” she says. “They are a loving family full of distinct personalities, but since their folks died years ago, they are all each other has.”
For the past six years, the McKennas have become an integral part of Pettrey’s family as well, which is one of the reasons she has mixed emotions after completing the fifth—and final—installment in the series, SABOTAGED, due out this month.
The Alaskan Courage saga ends with the story of family troublemaker and professional snowboarder, Reef McKenna, who is paired up with childhood friend Kirra Jacobs to track a musher who has gone missing during the famous Iditarod race. Together they—along with the entire McKenna family—must stop a shadowy villain set to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.
“I hope readers experience a great adventure full of romance, suspense and danger,” Pettrey says. “I also hope they find SABOTAGED a satisfying ending to the Alaskan Courage series.”
While Pettrey has moved on to writing the first novel in a new four-book romantic suspense series and is enjoying getting to know these fresh characters, she admits she teared up a little when she finished writing SABOTAGED.
By Cathy Clamp
An inheritance of an old house in Cincinnati is a dream come true for psychologist Faith Corcoran—a refreshing change from the nightmare of the last year. After being stalked by a former client, Faith hopes the sanctuary of this new place can help her face the dark fears that haunt her. But she has no idea how close to home her fears still are.
Meanwhile, two college girls from the area have gone missing, and FBI Special Agent Deacon Novak is called to work the case. When his inquiry unexpectedly leads him to Faith, he finds a beautiful and brave woman he can’t help but fall for.
Soon they’ll discover that this seemingly simple investigation is anything but. And reaching back decades into Faith’s past will shatter everything she believes to be true, and gives terrifying new meaning to flesh and blood.
This month, I sat down with #1 international bestselling author Karen Rose, who has rightfully earned her title as “Queen of Romantic Suspense” (Crime and Publishing), to talk about her new release, CLOSER THAN YOU THINK.
By Amy Lignor
Just when you think the landscape of ultimate heroes and kick-butt heroines has been covered, this is the author who proves that’s not even close to being the truth. Paige Tyler launches into the New Year with a brand new series. Romance, suspense, thrills, chills, and a whole lot of heat—all this and more. For the first time in 2015 (and definitely not the last), we caught up with Paige to talk about everything from resolutions to what surprises await us all in The Big D series.
I hope you had a terrific ushering in of 2015, Paige! Did you make any resolutions in the literary realm?
No real resolutions, per se. My biggest goal for 2015 is just to hit my publisher’s (Sourcebooks) turn-in deadlines, while still finding time to meet my promo obligations, and then maybe have a few minutes left over to dabble in some of the other writing projects I have rolling around in my head. Right now I’m under contract to deliver four books in 2015, plus do the standard editing and revision work for those, and the ones already in the pipeline. Toss in the four conferences/book signings I’m planning to attend, and I’m going to be hopping.
(I’ll send over some energy drinks!)We are talking today, of course, about your brand new paranormal series: S.W.A.T.: Special Wolf Alpha Team. Did this new “crew” spring from another series you’d already created?
The S.W.A.T. series grew out of work my hubby (who helps as my writing partner) and I had been doing for quite a while. At the time, the series was intended to be somewhat more on the erotic side, based on good, old-fashioned, alpha-male cops. The basic tagline of the series was supposed to be: Believable cop drama…with a lot of hot sex. But as we began developing the various plot outlines, we kept running into the same problems over and over—either the story ended up too procedural (i.e., boring), or too erotic (i.e., sex scenes that were completely unbelievable in any realistic police setting). After months of re-writes and brainstorming, we were getting seriously close to dropping the whole idea. But, then, hubby made a joking comment about adding a zombie (in his mind, every book can be improved with the addition of a few undead.) I vetoed that idea immediately. I retain final executive authority on all story content, thank goodness. If not, there’d be zombies, ninjas, or claymore mines all over the place. I said that if we were going to put anything paranormal in the story, it should be a werewolf. Hubby came back with, “You know, that might just work.”
New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin can paint a picture with her words that leaves you captivated and eager to flip the page. Her latest release is no exception.
AGAINST THE SKY features Nick Brodie, a former homicide detective eager to leave his old life behind. But when his young neighbor needs help solving a murder, Nick is compelled to lend a hand. This, combined with a visit from an old flame and controversy surrounding a Russian mob, sets the stage for an exciting and passionate story.
In my interview with Martin, I learned she’s not only a wonderful writer, but also a lovey person—bubbly, energetic, and down to earth. She’s also one half of a literary power couple. Her husband, L.J. Martin has written more than forty western novels. Combined with Kat’s sixty five titles, that’s more than one-hundred published works between them—an impressive feat.
Here’s what Kat had to say about AGAINST THE SKY.
Tell us about AGAINST THE SKY.
AGAINST THE SKY is the second book in my Brodies of Alaska Trilogy, the eleventh novel in my Against series.
Nick Brodie, a former Anchorage homicide detective, has a serious case of burnout. He wants a new life, something that doesn’t include violence and death. Unfortunately, when his neighbor, twelve-year-old Jimmy Evans, comes to him beaten and battered, claiming his father was murdered, Nick has no choice but to help him. To make matters worse, he has a lady friend visiting from San Francisco. Samantha Hollis, owner of the Perfect Pup pet grooming parlor, isn’t cut out for the harsh life in Alaska. Unwillingly swept into Jimmy’s problems, she finds herself on a wild ride with Nick that leads them into passion and terrible danger.
It’s a fish out of water story that gets even more complicated when Nick butts heads with the Russian Mob. I really like the way this book turned out. Lots of heart in this one.
By Karen Harper
The Big Thrill spoke with New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper from her home in Columbus, Ohio. The city is buried under an early snow, she said, but she still has power so she could stay warm and write. The third book in her Cold Creek Trilogy set in Appalachia is out this month, just two months after the second novel—a writing marathon but with the reward for readers of the three related books out close together. She was also happy to report that Shattered Secrets, the first book in this trilogy, was voted one of the Best of 2014 Books by readers of Suspense Magazine.
Can you tell us what BROKEN BONDS is about and how it fits into The Cold Creek Trilogy?
Each of these romantic suspense novels is related, yet they could stand alone. BROKEN BONDS focuses on the return of the third Lockwood sister, Charlene, called Char, to the small town of Cold Creek, and the deadly danger she is soon embroiled in there. Char is a social worker, dedicated to helping poor Appalachian children who live so high up in the mountains that they have trouble getting to school. But when she helps rescue Matt Rowan from being shoved off the cliff in his car, she’s the one who takes a fall. Not only does she fall for Matt, a man she’s not sure she can trust, but she’s soon threatened by the same killer who is after him.
Was it difficult to make the three sisters, each heroine of her own book, different—yet similar enough to be sisters?
That’s a great question, because I worked hard at that. Tess, the youngest was traumatized by being kidnapped as a child, so she’s wary and needs to come a long way to help the Cold Creek sheriff find her abductor in Book One, Shattered Secrets. Kate, the heroine of Book 2, Forbidden Ground, is just the opposite: well-educated, well-traveled, an archeologist whose self-confidence almost proves her undoing when she and Grant Mason, the owner of an ancient Adena Indian mound, are threatened. Char is the one her sister’s call “a bleeding heart,” out to save locals kids—the entire world if she could. So they are very different women, and the trick was to give them a support team through their family ties and beyond.
Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling award-winning author of more than twenty romance and romantic suspense novels and novellas, including the romantic mystery, The Camera Never Lies—a 2011 Carol Award winner. Elizabeth is also a 7th generation Texan.
In BURIED, Goddard’s latest novel, legal investigator Leah Marks is forced to flee to Alaska after witnessing a murder. Afraid for her life, she hopes to find safe shelter in a remote cabin—but the killer has tracked her to Mountain Cove. As he chases her into the snow-packed Dead Falls Canyon, an avalanche buries them both. Saved by daring search and rescue specialist Cade Warren, Leah longs to tell him the truth. But how can she, without bringing even more danger into Cade’s life? Especially when they discover the killer is very much alive and waiting to take them both down.
Alaska is about as far away from Texas as you can get. What inspired you to set BURIED in that location?
I lived in Oregon for a while and absolutely love the Pacific Northwest. Give me cold, wet and rainy over the blazing Texas sun any day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my home state of Texas, but like most Texans, I also love snow-covered mountains. The panhandle of Alaska is a gorgeous part of the world where I wanted to spend time one summer when my air conditioning was struggling, so I wrote the proposal for my search and rescue series and set it there.
Your novels combine suspense and romance—what makes you write in this genre?
I grew up reading Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt, and so developed an appetite for mystery and suspense early on. Of course, romance is a key ingredient. I can’t imagine reading a suspense novel without at least some romance, nor can I imagine reading a romance without a thread of suspense or mystery.
By Amy Lignor
It will come as no surprise to fans who read Arlene Kay’s tales and enjoy the humor embedded within each mystery that she spent two decades serving the Federal Government. Thankfully for readers, Arlene decided to step away from that career so that fans across the country could see her fantastic mind and incredible imagination on paper. With her stand-alone and series fiction, Arlene creates the perfect mix of sultry and suspense; her novels not only keep readers on the edge-of-their-seats, but also provide the handsome men and stunning women that make for the ultimate dream. What began with Swann Dive and proceeded to Mantrap in the Swann series, now continues with the third unforgettable installment, GILT TRIP. And Arlene has taken time out of her busy writing schedule to talk all about her present and future work.
Where exactly did Eja Kane and Deming Swann—the extremely memorable characters from the Swann series—come from? Is there a personal/real-life “tilt” on the characters?
Eja and Deming actually evolved from the basic story line from Swann Dive, which concerned the murder of Cecilia Swann, Deming’s twin and Eja’s best friend. I shudder at using the term “organically” but their journey began with a shared quest for justice and evolved into a deep romantic attachment. Eja does own many of my own traits and insecurities. Deming—well that’s another matter entirely.
Humor has become almost an integral part of suspense novels in the twenty-first century. Even the darkest of thrill rides seem to add in a dry comment at just the right moment. Do you believe that humor and timing within a tale can make or break a novel? And as a reader, do you want that lightness to be inserted into the characters you love?
Humor leavens the most stressful situations and humanizes characters. I find that authors, fictional characters, or acquaintances who take themselves too seriously are basically boring. The Brits are masters at witty, understated humor; from the wry observations of Jane Austen to Christie, Sayers, and more contemporary crime novelists. I read the Scandinavian writers also (Larsson, Mankell, Nesbo) but they are very dour. Maybe it’s the weather, but they could use a bit of fun in their lives.
By Wendy Tyson
Shelley Coriell’s first novel in The Apostles series, The Broken, was published to terrific reviews and won Daphne du Maurier and Golden Pen Awards, among other honors. THE BURIED, Coriell’s second installment in the series, doesn’t disappoint. With riveting opening scenes, sharp storytelling and a complex plot, THE BURIED follows state prosecutor Grace Courtemanche and FBI crisis negotiator Theodore “Hatch” Hatcher as they race to find a merciless killer bent on revenge.
Coriell graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
What can you tell us about THE BURIED that is not on the back cover?
THE BURIED is a dark, twisty tale centered on old family skeletons and a serial killer who buries victims alive. The first draft of the story was so dark and the villain’s back story was so disturbing that I set aside the manuscript for two years.
When my publisher asked for the second Apostle book, I re-read THE BURIED and realized the story isn’t about victims being buried alive but about connections and disconnections with others, primarily family. With that in mind, I teamed my independent heroine, Grace, with a lovable but needy old blue tick hound, while my hero, Hatch, discovers he has a thirteen-year-old son who’s in trouble with the law. Both of these minor characters underscore the importance of “family” and provide a bit of light and lightness to balance out all the dark.
The Big Thrill caught up with Tiffany Snow, romantic suspense author of The Kathleen Turner Series, Blank Slate and most recently, The Tangled Ivy Trilogy. IN HIS SHADOW is Book One in the new series and features Ivy Mason, a beautiful yet tortured soul, afraid to let anyone get close to her. Enter Devon Clay, a charming and mysterious man determined to insinuate himself into Ivy’s life. Sparks fly as Ivy becomes increasingly unable to resist Devon’s charms and finally succumbs to his advances. She soon discovers that he harbors a dangerous secret and that she risks losing more than just her heart.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Not at all. I actually worked in the I.T. field as a network engineer, technical trainer, and consultant. I never considered writing as a career, and perhaps wouldn’t have had the patience for it at an earlier time in my life.
What drew you to romance writing?
I’ve always loved to read and became hooked on romance at a very young age reading Kathleen Woodiwiss, Gone With the Wind, and devouring my mother’s copies of Danielle Steele, Judith Krantz, and Jackie Collins novels. There is nothing greater than love. I would argue love is what motivates the greatest portion of our life and choices. Perhaps “romance” isn’t the right word, because really it’s love—falling in love, out of love, searching for love, what you’d do for love—that is what drew me to writing.
When did your writing career begin?
I began writing in 2010. A particular romance trope I’ve always been fond of is the love triangle (it’s that Gone With the Wind influence at such a tender age). I wanted to write my own love triangle, and since I’m also a Nancy Drew fan (I did read some other genres growing up), my first series, The Kathleen Turner Series, was an homage to her, combining current events into mysteries wrapped around a love story.
By Cathy Clamp
“We find the defendant not guilty,” is an instant attention grabber for the opening line of a new thriller series. But there’s more. While Miranda Vaughn might have walked out of the courtroom a free woman, suspicion still hangs over her head. Losing her job at the prestigious investment firm where she worked was only the beginning of her problems. The trial, for a fraud scheme involving her supervisors, also cast a cloud of suspicion over her reputation and sent the fiancé she thought would stand by her out the door.
Ellie Ashe’s debut amateur sleuth/romantic suspense novel CHASING THE DOLLAR has plenty of thrilling moments. Miranda and her cast of quirky family and friends will instantly endear themselves to readers. New York Times author Gemma Halliday gives high marks to the book as being “high stakes, high energy and a highly humorous good time.”
Ashe, a former journalist and lawyer from northern California spins an excellent tale of an intelligent and determined woman pushed too far. With her life in shambles, it’s no surprise that the jury verdict isn’t enough for Miranda. Who could move forward with their life with the knowledge that someone set them up to take the fall?
By Don Helin
In COLD LIGHT OF DAY, physicist Scarlett Stone is the daughter of the man considered to be the most notorious Russian agent in FBI history, but with the help of FBI Special Agent, Matt Lazlo, she’s determined to prove he’s innocent. As Scarlett and Matt dig for the truth, they begin to fall for one another. But the real spy isn’t about to let anyone uncover their secrets, and resolves to remain firmly in the shadows—and for that to happen, Matt and Scarlett have to die.
Toni Anderson is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. A former marine biologist, Anderson traveled the world for her work. After living in six different countries, she finally settled down in the Canadian prairies with her husband and two children. Combining her love of travel with her love of romantic suspense, Anderson writes stories based in some of the places she has been fortunate enough to visit.
She is the author of several novels including Dark Waters, The Killing Game, and A Cold Dark Place. Her novels have been nominated for the prestigious Romance Writers of America® RITA® Award, Daphne du Maurier Awards, and National Readers’ Choice Awards in Romantic Suspense.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Toni the other day and ask her a few questions.
Is there anything special you’d like to tell us about COLD LIGHT OF DAY?
COLD LIGHT OF DAY is the third book in my Cold Justice Series (Romantic Suspense books). The Cold Justice Series loosely follows agents in the FBI’s BAU-4 unit, but the books have plots ranging from serial killers, political conspiracies, terrorist attacks, and in this third book, a classic espionage tangle.
New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper alternates between writing contemporary suspense and historical novels. But in FORBIDDEN GROUND, book #2 in her new contemporary trilogy, she has managed to combine her love of the intriguing past with fast-paced, modern-day action. THE BIG THRILL caught up with her between publicity gigs—a speech at the Ohio Librarians Conference and the annual Buckeye Book Fair.
Can you tell us about your new book?
FORBIDDEN GROUND is the middle novel in THE COLD CREEK TRILOGY, set on the edge of Appalachia. Three sisters left their small town for “bigger lives,” but are drawn back—and each faces danger and death—and finds a local man to love. In FORBIDDEN GROUND, Kate Lockwood thinks she’s only in town for her sister’s wedding, but soon becomes embroiled in a mystery: What is in the ancient Adena tomb in the backyard of Grant Mason’s house? Kate, an archeologist is dying to excavate the tomb to see if it contains royal corpses and valuable relics, but Grant insists, “Let the dead stay dead.” Though she’s falling for him, she fears she can’t trust him—but he’s not the only one hiding deadly secrets.
So in the trilogy, Kate takes center stage in the middle book and her sisters in SHATTERED SECRETS and BROKEN BONDS?
That’s right. The three women are very different. Kate’s the bright, educated, well-traveled one. Charlene in BROKEN BONDS is the ‘bleeding heart’ who wants to help the poor children of Appalachia. The youngest, Tess, is the one with the traumatic past who bring the three sisters together in the little town they thought they had fled forever.
But ancient tombs in Appalachian Ohio? What a combination!
That’s what I thought too. After sixty novels published, why hadn’t I thought of using the prehistoric Adena Indian culture before? Their burial mounds are scattered from the U.S. east coat to the Mississippi, but many are in central and southern Ohio near where I went to college and live now.
Sandy Samerad’s writing brings a wonderful mix of steamy romantic prose, excitement, and a strong journalistic craft. In her latest novel, A MESSAGE IN THE ROSES, she has Carrie Sue Justice fighting for justice and risking her (and her best friend’s) life in the process. Amid the tension, she is also embroiled in a love affair with a guilt-ridden man, her former boss, who’s none other than the owner of the town newspaper.
Semerad’s own journalistic background—as reporter, writer, and editor—shines through in her latest page-turner, and the author graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Tell us about A MESSAGE IN THE ROSES.
The story begins in present day, with Carrie Sue Justice finding her diary. She was once a young and passionate newspaper reporter, investigating a shooting death in South Atlanta in 1986. Three black teenagers have been arrested for killing a white teen. Her life was in turmoil. She caught her husband with another woman inside the antebellum home she inherited from her parents. On the rebound, she fell in love with an unavailable man plagued with guilt. The man was none other than the irresistible owner of the Southern Journal where Carrie Sue worked.
As they began a steamy love affair, Carrie Sue discovered one of the black teens was wrongly accused. Determined to help prove his innocence, she endangered her life and the life of her best friend.
Do you sometimes add life experiences into your writing?
Yes, definitely. A MESSAGE IN THE ROSES is based on a murder trial I covered as a news reporter. The love story is fiction, but the characters share backstories and traits of people I’ve known.
By Amy Lignor
With every novel this author pens, fans receive a never-ending supply of “hunky heroes and kick-butt heroines.” The works gifted with a plethora of storylines that include thrills, suspense, action, romance, and the paranormal. The “teams” are unforgettable; from their ability to save the day and fight evil, to the hot and heavy relationships that make the heart race out of control, Paige Tyler has carved her own unique niche—a niche that covers a variety of genres, creating a master blend of everything a reader craves.
The X-OPS series has fans intrigued and excited. Is there a set plan as to how many there will be?
For all those readers out there, you’re going to squeal over this answer. Essentially, the way I set up the overarching storyline for the Department of Covert Operations with the intrigue and backstabbing—and the myriad of subplots and endless cast of secondary characters—I don’t intend for this series to end.
Currently, I have the first ten books outlined, with basic conceptual material for at least another dozen or so. While each story spotlights a primary team, I also work really hard to weave in extra characters and plots to utilize in future books. There’s also that larger drama developing, with the DCO operatives fearing that they’re working for an organization which might be even more evil than the bad guys they go after. I think readers are going to love having the X-OPS series around for a long time to come!
Were you a personal fan of romantic suspense before beginning your writing journey? If so were there any authors that stood out for you?
I always read romantic suspense, but it wasn’t something I went out of my way to look forat the bookstore. Suzanne Brockman and her Troubleshooter series are incredible; I read those books like I was an addict. Her formula of multiple characters and subplots became a how-to for me as I began X-OPS.
L.R. Nicolello packs a 1-2-3 punch with DEAD DON’T LIE, her debut novel featuring Detective Evelyn Davis, a profiler for the Seattle P.D. In this exciting debut, Evelyn is helping track down a serial killer who turns out to have an interest in Evelyn herself.
As for Nicolello, she’s wonderful! She has this vibrant, excitability to her that can only bring a smile to your face. She’s spirited and dedicated and I think it’s those two qualities that (along with her talent) have helped her over the years. Also, her love of all things suspense definitely adds to her craft.
Nicolello answered some questions for THE BIG THRILL.
When did you start writing? Why?
After an English assignment in fourth grade where we wrote and bound our own books (which I still have) I came home and told my parents I wanted to be an author. I dabbled with writing for a long time but didn’t get serious until 2010. I wrote my first novel, queried it and received requests for multiple fulls, but ultimately it never got picked up. Looking back now I know I basically did everything you’re not supposed to do. As heartbreaking as it was for me to get so close it really helped to solidify that, yes, in fact, I did want this dream. After regrouping, and getting over that royal flop, I sat down and wrote my second novel, DEAD DON’T LIE.
Tell us more about DEAD DON’T LIE.
DEAD DON’T LIE is a romantic suspense featuring Detective Evelyn Davis, the best psychological profiler in the Seattle P.D., whose talent comes from heartbreaking experience. After two local families are wiped out, Evelyn believes a serial killer is at work. With each new discovery, the case becomes more personal and Evelyn starts to suspect the families aren’t the killer’s ultimate target—she is.
By Cathy Clamp
Nick Donovan gave up his Black Ops life for a more satisfying role with AEGIS: an elite team of ex-military men working under the radar of most governments, helping people with nowhere else to turn. Unfortunately, just saying you’ve left the life of an operative behind doesn’t mean your enemies won’t keep coming after you . . . or your family. When a drug cartel decides to use his sister-in-law as a hostage to bend Nick to their will, they wind up abducting the housesitter instead. One minute Jennifer Grayson is minding her best friend’s house, and the next she’s abducted to a foreign brothel. Jennifer is planning her escape when her first “customer” arrives. Nick, the man who broke her heart years ago, has come to her rescue. Can Nick keep the woman he loves safe against an enemy with a personal vendetta?
THE BIG THRILL contributing editor Cathy Clamp sat down with the author at the Romance Writers of America conference to ask her more about her intriguing ‘mistaken identity’ thriller.
AEGIS is an interesting band of ex-military working in the private sector. What gave you the idea for the group?
That’s actually an interesting story. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and has had a series of tutors to help him with his schooling. One of his tutors was ex-DEA who worked for a private security company before starting to work with special needs kids. Talking about his past experiences when he visited our home was fascinating and I started doing research on the concept.
Research is always a strong element in thrillers. You use foreign locales in both this book and the first book in the series, HARD TARGET. Did you visit the areas to experience those little details that make the book read so authentic?
Not yet, but I hope to someday. I watched a ton of videos and read blogs from ex-pats who lived in the region to get some of the finer details down. Travel videos tend to show the highlights of a town, but not the mundane things. I wanted to put in that sort of detail because it’s what I like to see when I read books. I get lost in research. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing.
THE BIG THRILL caught up with New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper while she was reading the edited copy of the third book in her new suspense trilogy, The Cold Creek Novels. She was kind enough to answer some questions about the trilogy launch book, SHATTERED SECRETS, (Sept.) to be followed closely by FORBIDDEN GROUND (Nov.) and BROKEN BONDS (Jan.). She admits that she’s familiar with this interview format because she’s usually on the other end, asking ITW authors about their new books for THE BIG THRILL.
What is your novel about? It obviously sets up the next two books in the trilogy.
SHATTERED SECRETS focuses on the youngest of three sisters, but it is Tess’s life which shattered the entire family. She was abducted from the cornfield behind their house when she was young, and later, somehow, escaped her captor. Traumatized, drugged, she recalled nothing of her ordeal. Now as an adult, she’s back in Cold Creek to sell the old family home. But when another child is taken in much the same way, Tess is forced to face her buried memories to help the sheriff try to save a life—because two other abducted girls have never come back.
This is the third trilogy you have written. Does that three-book format suit your style?
I have written a nine-book series The Queen Elizabeth I Mysteries, but I prefer the three-book format, which I think of as a mini-series. It lets the reader spend time with the characters and the setting and gives me time to develop plot and people. However, my trilogies always have a new hero/heroine in each book, because I think that keeps things fresh. In The Cold Creek Novels, the main characters are three very different sisters. Each is impacted by and helps to solve a terrible crime with the help of a man she hopes she can trust. The same small town/ Appalachian setting helps to tie the stories together.
Shiloh Walker has been a storyteller for as long as she can remember. She put pen to paper as early as third grade and has never looked back. The author of more than one-hundred books and short stories, she sold her first book in 2002 to Ellora’s Cave when electronic publishing was in its infancy. Romance and urban fantasy are her chosen genres, and she has written many popular series in both.
SWEETER THAN SIN is the riveting second book in the Secrets and Shadow series and takes place in the small town of Madison, Indiana. There is an ugly history in this fictionalized version of Madison: a group of prominent men have established a secret society to carry out their abuse of their young sons. The society has been disbanded and the men brought to justice, but when a series of murders are committed, suspicions arise that the heinous society has resurfaced. Adam, the town lothario, is forced to face his own demons when a woman from his past returns to town and they work together to solve the murders and the secrecy behind them.
Shiloh Walker recently talked to THE BIG THRILL about her newest book and her writing life.
What inspired the Secrets and Shadows Series?
A small town. Nothing particular about that small town except for the fact that I’m drawn to small towns…I love them. But then I’m always looking for weird things. People are going to start putting up roadblocks when they see me coming because I do bad things when I visit small towns.
What research did you need to do for SWEETER THAN SIN?
Does it count if I say I visited the town a few times and drank wine from the local winery? I also read some articles but I can’t go into detail about that without spoiling things.
Arlene Kay, author of such hits as DIE LAUGHING and INTRUSION, follows up with the newest novel in her Boston Uncommons series, MANTRAP. The novelfollows the ever-popular, romantically linked characters Eja and Demming, who must prove the fatal crash of a munitions heir was not a tragic accident but murder most foul.
For those of you unfamiliar with Kay, she has two graduate degrees, one in constitutional law and one in political science. She then ended up becoming a senior executive with the federal government, where she was known as an unconventional public servant. Kay enjoyed her twenty years there and rejoiced in the unintentional humor that surrounded her. She left government work to move to Cape Cod and craft clever, entertaining mysteries filled with mayhem and a pinch of romance. Like MANTRAP, available online and in stores.
Tell us about MANTRAP.
MANTRAP, the second in the Boston Uncommons series, blends mystery with a dollop of romantic suspense, and a whopping dose of luxury. The setting is lush, a beautiful Cape Cod village shaken by the tragic death of Dario Peters, heir to a vast fortune. His grieving grandmother insists Dario was murdered and persuades my amateur sleuths Eja Kane and Deming Swann to prove it. They soon discover that Dario was a thoroughly unpleasant chap (the Brits would call him a bounder), loathed by the locals, and feared by his adversaries. In fact his character, or lack thereof, is key to understanding his death. Along the way the issue of law versus justice constantly looms. One final point—the banter between Deming and Eja has been likened to the vibe between Nick and Nora Charles, or Lord Peter and Harriet Vane.
Do you have a favourite supporting character in MANTRAP?
Anika Swann, Eja’s prospective mother-in-law and Deming’s mom, confounds all those stereotypes about women of a certain age. She’s bright, beautiful, brave, and totally supportive of Eja. No evil troll hoping to supplant her son’s fiancée. No sir! Anika is a strong presence, and co-conspirator in all four books in the series.
By Cathy Clamp
Brilliant kids around the country begin disappearing, and Search and Rescue pilot Deb Lansing’s sister Ashley is one of them. She trusts only one other person to help her rescue the brilliant teenager—Gabe Montgomery, a former SWAT officer on covert assignment. As bodies start to turn up, Deb and Gabe discover that the one common element is the video game Point of Entry, a game Ashley frequently played. The clock is ticking as a brilliant serial killer known only as The Warden turns his attention on Deb and Gabe. Can they save Deb’s sister, or will they even be able to save themselves?
THE BIG THRILL’s contributing editor Cathy Clamp sat down with the author to learn more about this new thriller:
This is the third book in the Montgomery Justice series. What inspired you to create the reality?
Montgomery Justice actually started with a single character who wasn’t even a Montgomery. My first novel, IN HER SIGHTS, features a female SWAT Team Sniper, Jazz Parker. While attending a SWAT Team presentation at a writer’s conference one of the attendees asked if women could be considered for positions. The SWAT Team Commander indicated that there were no rules against it, but the applicant would have to pass all the physical tests. From there, Jazz was born: a female sniper. Her motivations were key to the story, and she ended up being someone who was utterly alone in the world.
I needed conflict with the hero, so Luke Montgomery came into being. An ex-Army Ranger from a big, boisterous family he could always count on. As I explored their world, I realized that though they stood side-by-side through everything, all was not perfect. From there, the Montgomery Clan was born. They won’t stop until justice is done!
Teri Anne Stanley’s debut novel, DEADLY CHEMISTRY, just released and USA Today bestselling author Ruthie Knox notes that “[w]ith fast-paced, clever writing, strong heroines, and to-die-for heroes, Teri Anne Stanley is definitely one to watch!”
In DEADLY CHEMISTRY, former undercover cop Mike Gibson has been laying low, working as a maintenance man to put his troubled younger brother through college. But when a beautiful scientist enlists Mike’s help to repair the damage done to her lab by a group of vandals, Mike finds that his, and his brother’s pasts, are about to be brought to light. Laura Kane was happy having a secret crush on the hot maintenance man at Tucker University, but when the drug she was studying is stolen, Laura has a chance to get to know Mike in person. The problem is, he seems to know more about what’s going on than any maintenance man should. But then the drug turns up in the wrong hands, and Mike and Laura have to decide if their own chemistry will help, or hinder, the race to save innocent lives.
Teri Anne Stanley has been writing since she could hold a crayon—though learning to read was a huge turning point in her growth as a writer. Teri’s first stories involved her favorite Saturday morning cartoon characters, followed by her favorite teen idols. She has also authored a recipe column (The Three Ingredient Gourmet), and scientific articles (Guess which was more interesting!). Now she writes fun, sexy romance filled with chaos and havoc, populated by strong, smart women and hunky heroes.
What inspired you to jump from your earlier days of writing about cartoon characters, science, and cooking to writing suspenseful, sexy romance novels?
Well, I kind of outgrew the cartoon characters, the science stuff is a little dry (and there aren’t any nekkid parts), and I kind of gave up cooking. Even with just three ingredients—cooking is such a time suck!
By Azam Gill
Paige Tyler’s HER PERFECT MATE (X-OPS Book 1) is set to start a cult following. When Special Forces Captain Landon Donovan is chosen for an assignment with the Department of Covert Operations, he’s stunned to find himself partnered with a beautiful woman who looks way to gentle to take down a terrorist. But Ivy Halliwell isn’t your average covert operator. Her feline DNA means she can literally bring out the claws when things get dicey. She isn’t thrilled to be paired with yet another military grunt, but Landon is different. He doesn’t think she’s a freak—and he’s got her tingling. Soon they’re facing a threat beyond imagination … and an animal magnetism between them impossible to ignore.
An impressively prolific writer, Tyler already has more publications than Agatha Christie managed in her entire career. Her mastery of the craft shows in HER PERFECT MATE, the start of the X-Ops Books. Effortless narration derives its authority from insider knowledge cleverly woven into the prose. And cluster bursts of short, sharp sentences and an astutely crafted plot propel the story at breakneck speed. In addition, original, finely-drawn and unforgettable characters keep the ball rolling at the gripping pace required of a top-of-the-line thriller. Hardly surprising, then, reviews of HER PERFECT MATE have been enthusiastic and unrestrained.
Tyler graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Let’s start with a brief personal introduction.
I’m a USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. I’ve written over fifty books in practically every genre of romance, but my favorite is definitely the paranormal/romantic-suspense combo. My very own military hero (also known as my hubby) and I live on the beautiful Florida coast with our adorable fur baby (also known as our dog). I actually graduated with a degree in education, but decided to pursue my passion and write books about hunky alpha males and the kickbutt heroines who fall in love with them.
Maybe you know her as Bobbye Terry, or Daryn Cross, or Terry Campbell. Either way, you know her writing is sizzling, with a dollop of humor and a side of macabre details. You could call Bobbye Terry a talented multi-tasking master, and you would be right. She worked as a hospital and hospice administrator and as a writer for national and international magazines. She wrote various articles for over ten years before she made the jump and started writing fiction.
Bobbye has a knack for character development; her characters capture true-to-life emotions and reactions. Her new novel, THE WIDOW JAMES, is no different. It features a strong female lead named Lindsay “Lindy” Deane James. She’s searching for answers in Lynchburg, Virginia, determined to prove an elderly friend sane and innocent of murder, but as she searches she uncovers dark secrets dark enough to kill for. The book is out this month.
Tell me about THE WIDOW JAMES.
It’s romantic suspense about a woman who is from Lynchburg and returns after decades in order to clear an older woman of murder charges and the potential for being found incompetent. Lindy, the widow, is a forensic psychologist and no newcomer to murder and psychological crimes. However, she left Lynchburg and has not returned except as required by her now-deceased husband because the former love of her life lives there, as well as her nemesis, a man-hungry woman named Carrie. Lindy also detests her mother-in-law, whom she nicknamed “the vulture.”
Additionally, this book is very personal to me, in that Lynchburg is my hometown and I am in the process of moving back there. Here is what I said in the dedication:
By Amy Lignor
When it comes to historical suspense, there are authors who can effortlessly unearth the appeal of an era through beautiful locations and perfectly written characters. Everything from cultural points and societal issues to accents and wardrobes come together to make the reader feel as if he or she is standing beside the characters, perhaps looking into an empty grave while the night wind blows through the cracks of an old abbey, alerting everyone to the ghosts that roam the landscape. Anna Lee Huber does just that with flawless precision in each of her Lady Darby mysteries. So flawlessly, in fact, that while providing a great read, Huber also gives the reader a portal where he or she can effortlessly travel back in time.
A GRAVE MATTER is the third tale of Lady Darby, first introduced in the amazing novel, THE ANATOMIST’S WIFE. This is a woman who not only had to face personal risk, but also rose to the occasion and ended up being both heroine and sleuth. In A GRAVE MATTER, released this month, Lady Darby deals with her ever-blossoming relationship with a man named Gage, and solves a case of body snatching where the motive turns out to be far more complex than anyone will believe.
From the very first tale, Lady Darby was embraced by readers because of her strength and the passion she held for all areas of life; so it will come as no surprise that her creator shares that passion for everything from travel to music to Star Wars to an imaginative writing career that will expand in many directions, as she takes on new genres and characters in the coming years.
You write history so well—covering every aspect of a chosen time period. Are there other genres you wish to explore?
I adore Gothic suspense novels, especially anything by Mary Stewart, and I’m actually in the midst of writing one myself. It’s set during the Regency period, so still historical, but a definite departure from the Lady Darby series. I also have an idea for a contemporary mystery series with a bit of a paranormal twist. I haven’t written anything contemporary in years, but I’m hoping I can find time soon to try my hand at it.