By Arlene Kay
This interview for The Big Thrill was conducted by my fiercest critic and greatest advocate—me. It reflects the comments and questions I receive from readers as I tour libraries/bookstores and any place that will host me in my ceaseless quest to promote this series.
The title of your novel (SWANN SONGS) sounds rather final. Is this really the end for those sultry, snarky sleuths from Boston? Say it isn’t so.
I love these characters and want them to enjoy a happy life living in the lap of luxury. After four books, the series came full circle and I decided to end it. Naturally for the right inducement, that situation could change. After all, if Conan Doyle could resurrect Sherlock, the same holds true for us lesser mortals. Spoiler alert: none of the main characters were eliminated so anything is possible.
I’m confused. You describe all seven of your published novels as “romantic suspense,” but they also contain elements of traditional mysteries, cozies, and romance—not to mention a healthy dose of humor. What’s going on?
In my view these categories are semantical distinctions geared more toward publishers and booksellers than readers. I am no purist and neither are my novels. They reflect life and human nature as I know it. Three elements are sacrosanct however: an intriguing mystery, a dollop of passion, and plenty of snark. Readers expect that and this series delivers.
As a reader, what misstep by an author alienates you forever?
I am and always have been a mystery buff. Despite being a sedentary former bureaucrat, I also consider myself an astute armchair detective. Give me the clues and I WILL solve your mystery. Rob me of that chance and you’ve lost me forever as a reader. I keep that in mind when writing my novels.
By J. H. Bográn
Brenda Novak’s new thriller, HER DARKEST NIGHTMARE, kicks off with the kind of scene that could close a book—the victim of a nightmarish rape and torture at the hands of her boyfriend escapes. Instead, this is only the beginning of Evelyn Talbot’s story.
In the deft hands of Novak’s extraordinary storytelling skill, the reader quickly understands how the ordeal has shaped the protagonist’s future. Now a doctor of psychology, Evelyn not only studies psychopaths, she has established a prison to hold the worst criminals—all in the name of science.
But of course, this doesn’t offer Evelyn the peace and sense of resolution she so desperately needs. Rather, it re-opens the past as it becomes terrifyingly apparent that not all murderers are locked inside her prison.
Novak took some time to chat with The Big Thrill this month to talk about her thrilling new release, including how she developed the emotionally complex character of her protagonist, Evelyn Talbot.
“I guess, in ways, I used my own drives and desires to create Evelyn,” she says. “I knew if I had been attacked the way she’d been attacked I would do everything I possibly could to find Jasper (achieve justice) and to figure out why he did what he did and how such a thing could be prevented in the future—and I would want what I learned to help others who are in a similar situation. (This is sort of based on how I reacted to my son’s Type 1 diagnosis, which led me to start my own charity and do so much fundraising.) Evelyn takes this same approach to rebuilding her life. She wants to make what she went through mean something, be a step toward improving the world for others.”
Hanover House is both a prison and research facility, is there a real-life equivalent?
There is no real-life equivalent that I’m aware of. I made this up because it’s exactly the type of facility I would want at my disposal if I were Evelyn and studying those sorts of people. (It also provides my series with an endless supply of villains!)
What would be the main challenge for such a place to exist?
Funding would probably be the biggest problem. Where to locate the facility and how the doctors and the corrections people would work together would be another challenge. Then there’d be the many differing philosophies and opinions by professionals. It’s hard to get everyone to agree on the scope of the problem and what should be done about it. As it says in the book, fads exist even in psychology, so it would depend on the pervasive thinking of the time.
The relationship between Amarok and Evelyn is extremely complex given their backgrounds. Was this planned or did it grow from the story?
I knew this would be part of the conflict of the story—that Evelyn would have difficulty with intimacy because of the attack. It’s believable, because of her background, and, from a storyteller’s perspective, it gives them something to overcome as a couple.
Was the research on Alaska difficult?
I had to do most of my research online and via books, but I did get to visit there just this summer, which will help with future books in the series.
Will there be a third book in this series?
Yes, Hello Again will be out September 2017. Right now, we have four Evelyn Talbot books planned (in addition to the prequel Hanover House, which I published in advance of the series debut this September.) I can’t say much about Hello Again without giving away what happens at the end of HER DARKEST NIGHTMARE, so I’ll leave it there—by letting everyone know that there are more Evelyn Talbot books on the way.
As I write this, I receive an email from Booktrib.com which hails Brenda Novak as the “Queen of Romance.” With several series going, how do you keep the characters distinct in your mind?
My various small town contemporary romance series (or women’s fiction novels, for that matter) have a completely different tone and setting and deal with different kinds of people (not mental health professionals and criminals/psychopaths), so it’s not hard. I actually enjoy switching between the various sub-genres. Writing a romance novel that doesn’t contain so much suspense sort of gives me a break from the “darker” Evelyn Talbot series and vice versa. I enjoy changing things up.
What comes first, the plot or the characters?
Neither. I think of the conflict. I figure out something that would be interesting to overcome—something that would be a real challenge—and then I think about the types of people who would be most interesting if faced with that challenge, which is how I develop the characters. The plot grows out of the conflict and characters, so it comes last.
New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak is the author of more than fifty books. A five-time Rita nominee, she has won many awards, including the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Silver Bullet. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised $2.5 million.
For more about Brenda, please visit her website.
Bestselling author and business entrepreneur Jen Talty transitioned from teaching and training business software applications to handling the technical end of a digital publishing company. Along the way, she made the leap from hockey mom to romantic suspense author. And what suspense she writes! Or as NYT bestselling author Jennifer Probst put it, “DEADLY SECRETS is the best of romance and suspense in one hot read!”
DEADLY SECRETS is a romantic suspense thrill ride. Patty Harmon had a plan for her life. What she planned as a “moment” with New York State Trooper Reese McGinn interrupts that agenda when Patty finds herself pregnant. Constantly on the move trying to escape the past, McGinn had vowed never to put down roots. With a child on the way, he decides it’s time to forget the past, but a deadly secret rises from the grave, threatening to take away everything he thought he never wanted.
Jen stepped away from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill.
DEADLY SECRETS is the third in your New York State Troopers series. Tell us something about the book that isn’t mentioned in the published book description.
One of the themes throughout the book is how family secrets, even if they are intended to protect loved ones, can destroy the person the secret is supposed to protect and potentially destroy future families.
Hmm, irony at it’s best. Rather than a series with continuing characters, Troopers seems to be linked by one of your main characters’ profession – state trooper. Do you intend to write more of the linked stories or will you follow your characters into a new adventure?
I’ve already started the fourth book in the series. Its Stacey Sutten’s story, tentatively titled The Accused. We first meet Stacey in DEADLY SECRETS. What has happened with this series is each book contains a secondary character my readers and I fall in love with and we all want to know their story. I’m not far enough into the draft of The Accused to see which secondary character will be the next story, and if it will be a trooper. Could be moving toward a new series!
Curious about how this new series is different from Mills’ FBI Houston series? Check out Mills’ response in this Q&A with The Big Thrill.
Let’s get started. Why the F.B.I.?
A few years ago, I participated in a Citizens Academy program offered by the F.B.I. Those involved in the academy received insight into the F.B.I. and how its special agents serve within their investigations. Through lecture, Q&A, live footage, and even a trip to the shooting range where the agents qualify, we gained a fresh perspective and appreciation for the F.B.I.
What sets apart this new F.B.I. series from the previous one?
I love writing about Houston’s F.B.I. The special agents there have helped me countless times in researching how the bureau operates, investigates, and the various personalities involved. I’m also a part of their Citizens Academy to support the F.B.I. in keeping the people of Houston safe. In my research, I was curious about how they work with other agencies in a combined effort to prevent and solve crimes in a task force.
When I dug into the research, a new series danced across my mind, three stories that showed brave men and women who’d stop at nothing to ensure my city was safe. DEADLY ENCOUNTER involves the Laboratory Research Network (LRN), a federal agency that helps state and local public health, federal, military and international to respond to emergencies and help in public health emergencies.
A plot line would not let me go.
By Karen Harper
It was fun to interview Karen Fenech, not only because she writes in the same genre I do, but because she is so amazingly diverse and prolific yet manages to keep everything straight. In the interview, she shares her methods for success, and her joy of writing comes through loud and strong.
What is BREATH OF MALICE about?
BREATH OF MALICE centers on an inexperienced FBI agent who catches the eye of a serial killer and becomes his next target. It’s a game of cat and mouse . . . and she’s losing.
I see on your website that you work out extensive and detailed outlines before you write your novels or novellas. What do you see as the advantages of this pre-thinking work? Are there any drawbacks?
I find that the pre-thinking prep prevents me from taking wrong turns in the story or writing myself into a corner. Having an outline, for me, is like having a road map. It keeps me on track and gets me where I want to go. I don’t find any drawbacks to the pre-thinking. Thinking about the novel I intend to write in advance, cements it for me in my mind and makes it part of my real world. I could be doing something completely unrelated when something I want to include in the novel occurs to me. I love those moments.
You have some great author-help, reader-interest articles accessible on your website, such as “The Worst Thing About Writing” and “Finding Time to Write.” What three helpful suggestions would you give a beginning writer, either published or unpublished?
Coming at this from someone who’s been there and certainly not an authority or writing coach, I would say that if writing is really something that you want to do, you’ll find yourself making time to do it, even if just for a few minutes every day.
A few minutes every day will add up in terms of pages. When I first started, I found it difficult to allocate large blocks of time to writing and so I didn’t. A few minutes here and there at first, with longer writing sessions when I could, resulted in my first novel. In the previous question I was asked about pre-thinking work, here’s an example where I found the pre-thinking served me well. I was never far from that first story, since I’d done some prep and had a grasp of what I wanted to do with the book. The pre-thinking helped me write more in the short bursts I was able to fit in.
By Amy Lignor
When it comes to author Lorna Peel, readers not only receive fascinating tales—both contemporary and historical—but they also receive the bounty that comes from the incredible amount of research this author completes.
Her interest in genealogy once sent Peel on a quest to delve into her own family tree. In her stories, she offers up angles that send her characters on journeys to uncover their own pasts. Living in a locale filled with history and legends, Peel remains one of the best when it comes to bringing research, creativity, and, of course, amazing romance to the written word.
We asked her about all of these things and more in this The Big Thrill interview.
Writing in both contemporary and historical genres—can you speak about the pros and cons of dabbling in both? How do you manage “multiple” brands?
I find switching from one genre to the other keeps my writing fresh. I haven’t come across any cons yet, and I hope I don’t as I’d like to continue writing both.
I don’t find managing multiple brands difficult as my novels all include a central romance, just in different sub-genres. So far, I have had three novels published—two contemporaries and a historical. In time, when more of my novels are published, I will separate the two sub-genres on my website so visitors will have the choice of visiting one or the other, or both.
Do you have a particular favorite between the two? Such as, does leaving the “present” plain to step back into the past give a certain thrill that contemporary doesn’t?
I’ve always loved history, so if I had to choose, I would choose historical. But I love writing contemporary fiction too. Both my novels, Only You and THE IMAGE OF HER, feature genealogy—a mystery set in a character’s family tree—and I find it easier to include the genealogy mystery in a contemporary novel as I can include and describe the research I’ve done on my own family tree, on and offline.
By Terri Nolan
Adite Banerjie has told stories as a journalist, business writer, and screenwriter. Some years ago, her short story was selected as a winner of the Passions Aspiring Authors Auditions. Inspired by the win, she expanded the story and a novelist was born. Her latest book, NO SAFE ZONE, is a romantic suspense thrill ride set in the India environs of cosmopolitan Delhi to the villages and bazaars of Rajasthan.
Qiara Rana is a London-based activist with a non-profit organization. When Qiara’s mentor falls under the murk of an investigation, she vows to save them from ruin. This determination will take her back to India. Meanwhile, Kabir Shorey is an Intelligence Bureau officer working to bust a trafficking ring.
Their lives intersected a decade ago and will again in a high-stakes drama of crime and greed. The past and present collide. Old secrets are revealed. Navigating truth and lies, love and betrayal, Qiara and Kabir discover that in life, there is no safe zone.
In this interview with The Big Thrill, Banerjie answers questions about her journey to publication, her work as a screenwriter, and the very important: How do we pronounce your first name.
“Interesting that you should ask” she says. “Most Westerners pronounce my name like they would A-phro-dite. A is more like Awe-(as in awesome!)-dee-t-(as in tea).”
Awesome. Tell us how Qiara and Kabir came to be.
Qiara and Kabir’s story has been in the making for a while. More than three years ago, I came across a news story about an Indian woman who was adopted and taken to the U.S., but after her adoptive mother dies without registering her adoption papers, she is deported back to India. The story fascinated me and I started writing it as a screenplay. But the story was turning out to be a bit too dark for my liking and that’s when I decided to bring in Kabir. Of course, the original story also underwent changes. Eventually, I decided to write it as a book rather than a script.
By E.M. Powell
“When I started writing, I was determined to be successful.” A quote, I’m sure, that you will heard from many authors and may well have uttered yourself. But this time it’s from Kat Martin and “successful” hardly seems adequate to describe her career—a New York Times bestseller, with more than 65 novels published and 16 million copies of her books in print
For those looking for a magic formula, Martin, who admits to being “a goal-oriented person, starting even before high school and all through college,” is far more practical in her approach. “Never give up” is her straightforward advice. “Just keep going, work hard and keep learning, and eventually you will succeed.”
Martin’s first step on that ladder to success was in 1988, with the publication of Magnificent Passage, a historical romance. She acknowledges that her love of suspense found its way into that genre early on. “I wrote lots of action and intrigue into the historicals. But after forty or more novels, I was ready for a change.” In an industry that is ever-evolving, many would hold the view that there’s enough change going on and perhaps one should stick with an established, successful genre. Yet Martin decided to take “some risks, adding contemporary romantic suspense to the historicals I was writing. Fortunately, the risk paid off. Readers liked the idea of mixing danger and romance, and the genre has continued to grow stronger and stronger.”
Crucially, the move to romantic suspense was what Martin really wanted to do. “One thing I believe is all important–a writer must be true to him or her self. Write what calls to you, what you want to write. Readers will feel the authenticity and if you are lucky, as I have been, they will follow where you lead. My passion is contemporary. So the fit is perfect for me and romantic suspense is where I plan to stay.”
It’s easy to see why. Her latest release, INTO THE WHIRLWIND (Book #2 in her BOSS Inc. series), opens with a bang. Megan O’Brien, model and mother to toddler Charlie, discovers her child has been abducted. The huge ransom demand stipulates no police involvement. Meg has no choice but to turn to Brodie Operations Security Services (BOSS), Inc. The men of BOSS, Inc. featured in Martin’s previous release, Into the Fury. This new novel features P.I. Dirk Reynolds and bounty hunter Luke Brodie. Meg and Dirk have had a brief relationship that didn’t work out, though both still have feelings for each other. In Martin’s hands, that means sparks from the beginning and the sexual tension builds as surely and as relentlessly as the suspenseful and fast-moving plot.
PARTNERS . . . FRIENDS . . .
Forensic anthropologist Victoria Palmer has always been better with the dead than the living. Shutting down her emotions, she lets few people in. But then Victoria’s latest investigation takes her and agent Wade Monroe to Savannah, Georgia. Handsome, dangerous, and more than ready to play dirty on any case, Wade weakens Victoria’s aloofness with just one glance.
. . . LOVERS
Wade knows their recent cases have pushed Victoria beyond her limits. But her skills are crucial to finding a college student who went missing five years ago. Victoria is able to determine she was murdered, and that the killer is still on the loose.
And when the vicious murderer targets Victoria, Wade must do everything in his power to protect her . . . because he refuses to let a woman he loves be torn from him . . . again.
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 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.
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.
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.