By Wendy Tyson
We met forensic psychologist Claire Britten in Chasing Shadows, Karen Harper’s South Shore Series debut. Claire returns in FALLING DARKNESS, Harper’s third novel in the series. Once again the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author takes readers on a thrilling ride. With a twisting plot, compelling characters, unrelenting suspense, and a rich setting, readers won’t be able to put FALLING DARKNESS down.
I recently spoke with Harper about FALLING DARKNESS, her fascinating writing career, and her tips for maximizing suspense in crime fiction.
Please tell us what FALLING DARKNESS is about.
Claire, her husband Nick and her daughter Lexi are fleeing by plane from a criminal mastermind out to stop them from exposing him to the FBI. But their plane is sabotaged and plunges into shark infested waters near Cuba—and that’s just the start of their attempt to hide out until their enemy can be caught. The WITSEC program plans to hide them in northern Michigan for the winter, but they have to find a way to get there first—and survive.
Exactly why should P.I. Vince Sutton take his ex-wife’s case? Because she, assistant district attorney Simone Armstrong, put his brother in jail? Because the ambitious spitfire still drives him crazy? No, he’ll take it because “The Avenging Angel” makes him a deal he can’t refuse. Sparks fly when Vince works all-too-closely with Simone to locate her missing key witness…but in the process, they are drawn into a cold case. As much as he tries, Vince can’t deny that he’s never gotten over beautiful Simone, but can he admit his feelings to her—and himself? And can he save her from the danger that’s heading their way?
Bestselling author, Anna J. Stewart, discussed her latest novel, REUNITED WITH THE P.I., with The Big Thrill:
Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?
Simone and Vince have had vastly differing experiences with the justice system. Where Simone dedicated her life to it, believes in it, lives her life by it, Vince doesn’t have nearly as much faith. Figuring out a way for the two of them to work together to solve this disappearance while respecting the other’s opinions opened up an interesting level of communication between them. It also changed both of their minds to a certain respect, which I think is always a good result.
Each day could be her last…but not if he can help it.
Tara Parrish is the only person ever to survive an attack by the Lone Wolf Bomber. Scared and emotionally scarred by her near death, she goes into hiding with only one plan—to stay alive for another day. She knows he’s coming after her, and if he finds her, he will finish what he started.
Agent Cal Riggins has had only one goal for the past six months—to save lives by ending the Lone Wolf’s bombing spree. To succeed, he needs the help of Tara Parrish, the one person who can lead them to the bomber. Cal puts his all into finding Tara, but once he locates her, he realizes if he can find her, the Lone Wolf can, too. He must protect Tara at all costs, and they’ll both need to resist the mutual attraction growing between them to focus on hunting down the bomber, because one wrong move could be fatal.
Susan Sleeman recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, FATAL MISTAKE:
DiAnn Mills wrote her first book on a Big Chief notepad with a #2 pencil. Asked about her journey toward becoming a bestselling author of Christian romantic suspense, she says, “I always enjoyed creating story, deepening characterization, and placing heroes and heroines in difficult places. The older I got, the more trouble those characters got into. But I didn’t take writing seriously until 1996 when my husband said, ‘Stop telling me you’re going to write a book one day. Just do it. Quit your job. I give you one year to see if anything is published.’”
A Type A personality, Mills took his challenge seriously.
“My new job was writing,” she says, “and I approached it with passion and enthusiasm.” She read how-to books, attended writing workshops and conferences, became involved in writing and critique groups, and wrote a set number of words every day. Two years later, her first book was released. “Not sure if my husband ever regretted the challenge, but I will say he’s my best cheerleader. He believed in me when I didn’t.”
DiAnn believes her readers should expect an adventure, and she does her best to deliver. To ensure an authentic experience, she once rode the line with the Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas. Another time, she traveled to Southern Sudan to research a novel.
When an international ring of sex traffickers kidnaps an eight-year-old girl in Boston, FBI Agent Lucas Randall heads undercover. But his rescue operation goes disastrously wrong and Lucas barely escapes with his life. Now the ruthless traffickers are hunting him down, along with everyone else who threatens their operation.
Computer expert Ashley Chen joined the FBI to fight against evil in the world—evil she experienced firsthand. She has mad skills, and deadly secrets, and once she starts working with Lucas, she also has big trouble, because after years of pushing people away, she’s falling for the guy. The feeling is more than mutual, but as Ashley intensifies her online pursuit of the trafficking ring, her traumatic past collides with her present and suddenly Lucas can’t tell which side she’s on. And as the case escalates into a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, it turns out Ashley isn’t the only one with something to hide.
If neither can trust the other with their secrets, how can they trust each other with their hearts?
Bestselling author Toni Anderson recently discussed writing COLD SECRETS with The Big Thrill:
Arriving at her secluded cabin to find her brother missing, Olivia Kendricks follows his trail into the woods—until two shooters take aim at her. She only escapes when ex-detective Zachary Long, her brother’s friend—and Olivia’s first love—comes to her rescue. Now as they run for their lives in the snowbound wilderness, they must search for her brother while figuring out why someone wants them dead. And though Zach’s police force training may be what will save them, it’s also what once drove them apart when he gave Olivia up to chase his dream. In a freezing landscape as deadly as it is beautiful, they’ll have to let go of the past…and face down powerful men willing to kill to keep secrets buried.
Bestselling author, Elizabeth Goddard, recently took time out of her busy schedule to discuss writing FALSE SECURITY with The Big Thrill:
When feline shifter Dreya Clark is escorted from police interrogation by two secret agents, she thinks she’s dodged a bullet. That sexy detective Braden Hayes caught her stealing red-handed. When she finds out what she has to do to stay out of jail, suddenly she’s missing the hot cop with the piercing gaze. She’s being recruited for her shifter abilities by the Department of Covert Operations.
WILL DANGER RIP THEM APART?
Braden has been chasing the smart-mouthed cat burglar for years. But when Dreya’s taken away, he knows their game of cat and mouse has turned deadly-serious. There’s no way he’ll let her go off alone. Fur flies and temperatures flare as Braden realizes Dreya is much more than she appears. Thrown together on a dangerous covert mission, this unlikely pair will have to rely on each other to make it out alive.
Paige Tyler sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel, HER TRUE MATCH:
Housewife assassin Donna Stone must be more than just ready for her close-up if she’s to stop a terrorist cell intent on exposing the United States’ vulnerability to an attack on American soil. The only intel provided to Donna, Jack, and their mission team at Acme Industries is that it will take place during a live broadcast of a reality TV show. And wouldn’t you know it: each of the other housewife contestants has dirty little secrets that make them and their husbands very probable Persons of Interest. So, who is the terrorist who wants to hold these celebrity housewives hostage—and worse yet, kill them off in front of their adoring fans?
Author Josie Brown recently took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her 14th book in the Housewife Assassin series with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Those who take on the profession of covert ops have real lives, and complex personal dilemmas. Despite this, they are driven by a true sense of mission.
By E.M. Powell
I’m sure we’ve all come across the ‘Why I Write’ statements. They come in as many forms and in as wide a variety as there are writers. Yet few can beat Kat Martin’s “I write simply to entertain” in its succinctness—and its modesty. Martin has written more than sixty-five novels, with sixteen million copies of her books in print in more than twenty countries. She’s a regular on the prestigious New York Times bestseller list, with her most recent releases, the romantic suspense BOSS Inc novels Into the Fury and Into the Whirlwind both taking top ten spots. By anyone’s reckoning, that’s a heck of a lot of people entertained. Those legions of readers are about to be joined by more with the release of Martin’s third BOSS Inc. title, INTO THE FIRESTORM.
For those who don’t know, BOSS stands for Brodie Operations Security Services, an operation headed up by ex-cop Ethan Brodie. INTO THE FIRESTORM has Ethan’s bounty hunter brother as its hero. Luke Brodie is chasing international criminal, Rudy Vance and $600,000 fee he’ll collect if he brings in Vance. Trouble is, there’s another bounty hunter in pursuit of the despicable Vance, too. And this one is a young female who’s new to the job: Emma Cassidy, less than five feet tall and with the most intensely personal reasons for wanting to get Vance. As this is a Kat Martin novel, the sexual tension between Luke and Emma is there from the start. Add the gritty realism of the world of the bounty hunter that Martin brings to life so well, and you have another high-octane, page-turning read.
Real life has provided some help for Martin’s fiction. She says she based elements of the courageous, likeable Emma on a very well respected bail enforcement agent in Texas. She also had a trusted advisor. “A close friend of mine, Bob Burton, was at one time the #1 Bounty Hunter in the US. I modelled Emma’s mentor, Booth Childers, after my friend. He was also a bodyguard. Bob was enormously helpful in providing info for several of my books.”
Elizabeth Goddard began writing novels when she retired from a career in software sales to home school her children. Fast forward to last month, when her 25th romance, UNDERCOVER PROTECTOR, hit the shelves.
The book follows Special Agent Grayson Wilde who is undercover at a tiger sanctuary, where he believes the owner is involved in a wildlife trafficking ring—until she is almost killed. Now, the two of them must work together not only to save a generation old tiger oasis, but to survive.
Goddard’s previous works have garnered conspicuous success, including bestseller status and literary awards. Her romantic mystery, The Camera Never Lies was a 2011 Carol Award winner. She’s a double finalist in the 2016 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense for her books Buried and Backfire in the Mountain Cove series, and a 2016 Carol Award finalist for Submerged.
In this interview for The Big Thrill, Goddard talks more about her new release, and what fans of her work can look forward to next.
Your new novel, UNDERCOVER PROTECTOR, is set on a tiger sanctuary. This isn’t a setting one runs across every day, even in fiction-writing circles. How did you come up with that?
I run across a lot of different settings in the stories I read and that makes it hard to come up with something original. I’ve trained myself to constantly be aware of my surroundings and things that interest me or I’m passionate about, and I put those ideas into a file for when I’m ready to start a new proposal or story. When I lived in Oregon there was a big cat sanctuary we visited and I always wanted to write about them—they’re magnificent creatures. When I came up with my wildlife special agent hero, I knew that was the perfect time to include the tigers.
WHO WILL WRITE THE BOOK OF LOVE?
When scholarly Miss Ivy Wareham receives word that she’s one of four young ladies who have inherited Lady Celeste Beauchamp’s estate with a magnificent private library, she packs her trunks straightaway. Unfortunately, Lady Celeste’s nephew, the rakish Quill Beauchamp, Marquess of Kerr, is determined to interrupt her studies one way or another…
Bequeathing Beauchamp House to four bluestockings―no matter how lovely they are to look at―is a travesty, and Quill simply won’t have it. But Lady Celeste’s death is not quite as straightforward as it first seemed…and if Quill hopes to solve the mystery behind her demise, he’ll need Ivy’s help. Along the way, he is surprised to learn that bookish Ivy stirs a passion and longing that he has never known. This rogue believes he’s finally met his match―but can Quill convince clever, skeptical Ivy that his love is no fiction?
Author Manda Collins recently discussed her novel, READY SET ROGUE, with The Big Thrill:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
I think this story has a place in both the tradition of the Agatha Christie English Village murder mystery, as well as in the vein of historical romantic suspense such as that of Amanda Quick and Stephanie Laurens. Because I cut my reading teeth on both mysteries and romances, my favorite novels combine the two and the very best have a bantering couple working together to solve a murder. I hope READY SET ROGUE compares favorably to other books in this vein.
Winter Austin has translated her ability to verbally spin a vivid and detailed story into writing deadly romantic thrillers. SINS OF THE FATHER spotlights newly pinned deputy Jolie Murdoch, whose first big job as a McIntire County deputy is to locate a missing girl. What Jolie doesn’t expect is to stumble upon a corpse—the girl’s father—with a prime suspect hanging around the crime scene. But why would local bartender Xavier Hartmann go off the deep end and bludgeon a man to death? A former Marine, barely coping with a traumatic brain injury, Xavier has no memory of what happened at the crime scene.
Will Jolie do her sworn duty or buck the status quo to give her and Xavier’s newfound passion a chance?
SINS OF THE FATHER is the third book in the McIntire County series. What can you tell The Big Thrill readers about the series and how your characters have evolved?
I started the series out with one book, not knowing for certain if it would become a series. When secondary characters came onto the page, sort of creating their own stories in the process, it was a foregone conclusion to continue. PTSD in its many forms seems to be the driving factor behind the books, but it’s mostly the murder plots and how the characters react to them. And as in SINS OF THE FATHER, how the villain has a personal connection to the main character.
At their core, the books in the McIntire County series are romances. I’m not an “insta-love” kind of writer. The relationship with Jolie Murdoch and Xavier Hartmann in this book was slower yet, because they barely know each other, and well, Xavier’s being looked at as a suspect. A huge conflict of interest there for Deputy Murdoch.
When Maddy McKay and Quinn Holcombe don’t show up for Quinn’s surprise birthday party, his friends know that something is very wrong. Their search turns up little beyond evidence that Quinn and Maddy just decided to take off for a long overdue vacation. But it soon becomes apparent that they did not leave of their own accord.
Maddy awakens in a cement room with no idea where she is. But it’s not long before she realizes she’s in the clutches of a madman exacting revenge by hunting. His prey of choice? Humans. Now Maddy and Quinn must run for their lives, hoping to find their killer before the next game begins. Because if they don’t win this game, they die.
Author Lynette Eason took time to discuss her latest thriller with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
First, I hope readers are thoroughly entertained by the story. I hope they also realize that true love is worth pursuing and not giving up on. I hope they come away better people for having read the book.
Lucas St. Clair’s prestigious family had a political future neatly planned out for him—one that didn’t include his high school sweetheart, Mia Ramon. Under their pressure, Lucas gave her up. But since surviving captivity, he’s a changed man—and a crucial member of ARES Security. When he discovers a dead man clutching a picture of Mia that bears a threatening message, his fiercest protective instincts kick in, and he knows he must go to her.
Mia has never forgiven Lucas for breaking her heart, and she’s convinced her feelings for him are in the past. But it’s soon clear that isn’t true for either of them. Now, determined to solve the crime and keep Mia safe, with his ARES buddies backing him up, Lucas will have to reconstruct the murder victim’s last days—and follow a lethal trail that leads right back to the fate of the woman he still loves.
The Big Thrill recently had the opportunity to chat with Alexandra Ivy about her latest novel, KILL WITHOUT SHAME.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
The power of friendship. I have created a group of ex-soldiers who have survived the hell of being prisoners of war, to come home and offer their skills to those in need. InKILL WITHOUT SHAME, I also added in a layer of friendship with Mia and the man who turns up dead in the first chapter. I’m fascinated with the idea of people willing to sacrifice everything for those who they love.
When a mysterious package lands on Louisa Hancock’s doorstep, the Philadelphia museum curator can hardly anticipate the nightmare that’s about to envelop her. The package is addressed to her father—an expert in Viking culture—and inside is a ninth-century sword, a chilling thank-you note, and photos of two dead bodies in a tableau evoking a Nordic funeral. The gruesome images match a recent crime scene. But before the police can investigate the killer’s connection to Louisa’s father, Ward Hancock vanishes.
Sports bar owner Conor Sullivan wants nothing more than to spend his life with Louisa. Devoted and protective, he refuses to leave her side after her father’s disappearance. When a troubled young boxer he’s been coaching is suspected of the murders, Conor is pulled in even deeper. Desperate, Louisa and Conor take it upon themselves to find her father, but soon another ritualistic slaying makes it clear there’s a Viking-obsessed serial killer on the loose. And he has a new target: Louisa.
Melinda Leigh recently spent some time discussing her latest novel, MIDNIGHT OBSESSION, with The Big Thrill.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
MIDNIGHT OBSESSION explores the darkness in humanity and how one person’s choices can spiral out of control and have tragic consequences far beyond their expectations.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
I love to cross genres.MIDNIGHT OBSESSION brings elements of thriller, romance, drama, and even horror together into one package.
By Karen Harper
I was thrilled for the opportunity to interview Misty Evans since we both write romantic/suspense—though she’s actually been published in three genres instead of two. Plus, she has one of the most diverse “real life” challenges in balancing other interests with her writing career.
Yoga teacher, writing coach, and mother, Evans’ heroines can’t possibly live a more exciting life than she does, can they? Well, maybe. In this interview for The Big Thrill, she talks about the challenges of writing a series, publishing in multiple genres, and what inspired her new release, FATAL COURAGE.
Please tell us what FATAL COURAGE is about.
In twenty-one missions, CIA golden girl Ruby McKellen has failed only once, thanks to Navy SEAL Jaxon Sloan, the man who stole her heart and forced her to choose between him and her partner. To prove her partner’s innocence and save her damaged career, Ruby is running an unsanctioned mission—and the only way to get the proof she needs is to go to Jax for help.
FATAL COURAGE is book #3 in your Shadow Force International Series. Can you give us the framework of this series? What is Shadow Force, and do your main characters change or continue?
Shadow Force International is a group of former SEALs, abandoned by the U.S. and labeled as rogue operatives, who now work as a black ops team performing private intelligence, security, and paramilitary missions for those who have nowhere else to turn.
Haunted by the death of her childhood friend, journalist Eden St. Claire has dedicated her life to catching serial killers—and she’s always done so alone. But when the lethal murderer Eden is tracking puts her in danger’s crosshairs, she agrees to accept protection from longtime friend, Detective Cole Delaney.
Cole has secretly carried a torch for Eden for years. She might not want to let anybody in, but the thought of losing her is unbearable. Passions flare as the threats intensify. Can Cole convince Eden to break her own rule to never fall in love…before the killer snuffs out their happily-ever-after?
Author Anna J. Stewart recently answered some questions about her book for The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
That the bonds of friendship, even when formed by tragedy and horror, can see you through the most difficult of times. Those same events can also shape people into someone different than who they might have been. Examining how children’s lives are affected by crime and violence is something we should be paying extra attention to, and helping them to funnel those feelings and emotions into positive action.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
There’s an inherent desire in suspense readers, I think, to know that the bad guy will get caught and that (even if it’s not a romance) there will be a satisfactory conclusion. I know I always want a story where the good guy wins, especially if the odds are really stacked against him or her. I’m also a fan of the “team” effort, and that’s something I’ve worked hard to bring out in this series (this is the first in trilogy). I also worked to bring the characters’ weaknesses to the forefront, and make them have to face what a) they don’t want to and b) that acknowledging those flaws and weaknesses can ultimately help them to achieve their goals (ie: catch the killer).
By Dawn Ius
Rosalind Summerton’s life was easy, charmed even—right up to the day she accepted an invitation to visit a family in the Middle East. But when an “up close” cultural experience became too close and Rosalind barely escapes the country alive, she ends up at Stormhaven, a sort of “decompression chamber” for people who have seen too much.
That’s where she meets Tyler Randolph, a rough and tough cowboy whose ex-wife stripped him of more than his truck, trailer, and horse—he’s lost faith in himself and in his ability to judge people. Except Rosalind. He has more than a few thoughts about her.
Author Mona Karel creates a perfect storm of suspense and romance in A QUESTION OF FAITH, the second book in her compelling Stormhaven series. In The Big Thrill this month she reveals insight into this new release, talks about what it’s like to be back in this world, and what her fans can expect from her next.
I love the series title Stormhaven—it conjures up great images of romance and suspense. Please tell us a little about the genesis of this series, and in particular, the inspiration for the second book, A QUESTION OF FAITH.
My original thought was to create a ranch somewhere offering respite for veterans, a place they could go to be understood, where no one would look askance at a missing limb or an occasional reaction to thunder. Or to fireworks. One of the questions Ty asks Adam Roberts in A QUESTION OF FAITH is, “Windows or not?” Meaning, did he need to feel secure, or need to see out. Adam (you’ll see him again in A Question of Trust) needed to feel secure, so smaller windows made him more comfortable; Rosalind needs to see out, since her experiences have made her claustrophobic. For both of them, Stormhaven becomes a place to heal. I actually have two historicals planned—seriously—since, sadly, wounded souls are not a modern entity.
Colleen Thompson is the author of 28 books—from fast-paced romantic thrillers to action-packed historical romances. Her books have garnered many awards and made several different best-eller lists.
Thompson is back with THE OFF SEASON, a novel that follows heroine Christina Paxton who has left her familiar Texas environs to spend the winter season on the New Jersey shore. On a dark, stormy night, her two-year-old daughter begins speaking of things in the past that she couldn’t possibly know—and calling Christina by a name she hasn’t heard in 30 years.
This month, Thompson shares more about this chilling romantic suspense in The Big Thrill.
You set THE OFF SEASON on the New Jersey shore in winter, rather than your usual Texas setting. Why?
After moving to Texas years ago, I fell in love with my oversized adopted state, with its varied landscapes, its rich history, and its fascinating people. But more recently, my thoughts have turned to the things I loved growing up in small-town southern New Jersey, especially the tiny shore communities, which take on an eerie, almost haunted beauty when all the visitors leave during the winter months. I wanted to capture how it feels, walking on a deserted beach with the cold wind blowing off the Atlantic, or catching a glimpse of a fog-shrouded deserted lighthouse in the distance.
Your heroine, Dr. Christina Paxton, is emotionally vulnerable at the start of THE OFF SEASON. Is her mindset different than in your previous books?
As with the characters in all of my other stand-alone romantic thrillers, Christina begins the book at a point of transition, shortly after returning with a two-year-old to her tiny hometown following the sudden death of her much older husband. Housesitting one of the huge beachfront Victorians her real estate agent mother manages during the off season to keep it looking lived in, Christina is struggling to adapt to the feeling of being an outsider in her own hometown. I find the notion of returning home after years away really interesting—the idea of dealing with the fact that your time away has changed you in such a way that it forever shifts your old relationships.
Paige Tyler’s previous paranormal romance thrillers have earned slots on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. She returns now with her special blend of realism and dark fantasy in HER ROGUE ALPHA, a tale of a scarred serviceman, a beautiful shapeshifting heroine, and their life-threatening new mission.
Bestselling author Cynthia Eden has noted that Tyler offers “Non-stop action and thrilling romance.”
That’s evident in this latest in the X-OPS series, as the story opens on a battlefield in Kabul where a mission goes wrong for Special Forces Lieutenant Jayson Harmon, scarring him and killing his special ops teammates.
Stateside, 15 months later, Jayson finds himself in love with Layla Halliwell as he recuperates while operating a Department of Covert Operations gun range and battling prejudice against shapeshifters.
Soon, the mission that will take both Kyle and Jayson into harm’s way arrives, and the adventure really gets underway.
Tyler took some time to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill recently about HER ROGUE ALPHA.
Jayson, your protagonist, suffers terribly on the battlefield, and he’s conflicted and in emotional pain when we pick him up stateside. How did you go about crafting realistic emotions for him and making his pain seem so authentic?
My hubby (who is my writing partner) is retired military, so he’s seen and read a lot about soldiers enduring the emotional and physical trauma that comes with being severely injured. We used those experiences as reference as we wrote Jayson’s story.
What research did you do or what went into creating Jayson’s wounded-warrior pain and struggles?
We spent a lot of time researching the facts and figures of shrapnel wounds and PTSD just like we researched what Walter Reed looks like and how an injured soldier is medically separated from the service. But that’s all just window dressing. The real process of bringing Jayson’s pain and struggles to life meant putting ourselves in his head and living there for a while. To do that, you have to try to understand what it means to have a sense of self-worth so completely wrapped up in what you’re physically capable of doing. That’s where most of Jayson’s pain comes from—not the scars and damage, but the inability to do those things he believes make him a man and make his life worth living.
Marissa Garner is celebrating the release of WANTED, the third book in her sexy, edgy FBI Heat series. Although each story stands alone, readers will enjoy reconnecting with several favorite characters from Hunted and Targeted.
In WANTED, Special Agent Dillon O’Malley teams up with a fascinating heroine, Kat MacKenzie, the woman who left him at the altar (literally) two years ago. The thrilling action revolves around the sabotage of a nuclear power plant, but readers will also be holding their breath to see if Dillon discovers why Kat originally abandoned him, and whether their second chance at love will lead to a happy ending.
Like Hunted and Targeted, WANTED required careful balance of the suspense and romance. Garner’s editor—who’s been in publishing far longer than the author—called the story not just good, but great. As is characteristic of this series, the subject matter is uncommon in the romance genre. Computer hacking and nuclear power plant sabotage are subjects more often considered by national security experts than found between the covers of a romance novel. As Garner’s tagline says, she writes “romance to titillate your mind as well as your libido.”
Most authors have fascinating anecdotes about research for their books. Garner is no exception. If she didn’t attract the FBI’s attention with her in-depth questions and Internet searches about dirty bombs and Muslim clothing for Targeted, she figures her research into nuclear power plants and computer hacking definitely put her on someone’s radar. When she toured a nuclear power plant, she was careful not to mention that she was more interested in weaknesses susceptible to sabotage than in normal operating procedures. She still expects to find men in black suits and shades on her doorstep one of these days.
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.