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By Virna DePaul

I interviewed J.L. Saint about her new ebook original, Collateral Damage, a romantic suspense with Samhain Publishing, Ltd.  With the world on the edge of war, one wounded Delta Soldier and one desperate woman are at the center of a horrific plot and running for their lives.  As they unravel the deceit, they are thrust into a race to save her children and stop a global meltdown into anarchy.

Previous reviews of Saint’s works, which she published under the name Jennifer St. Giles, have routinely commented on her masterful ability to weave suspense and emotion:

“St. Giles’s story ripples with tension.”–Publishers Weekly

“Raw emotions give way to desperate choices, which adds up to breathless reading pleasure.” –Romantic Times

Sexually charged romance that satisfies whether you’re seeking suspense or passion.” –Romantic Times

“Fast paced, full of mystery, and…danger. I couldn’t put the book down.” —A Romance

You’ve indicated Collateral Damage is a “military thriller with a slice of romance” that is “different” from your other books.  Can you tell us how?

Collateral Damage is the first book in my Silent Warrior Series that will feature a military man or woman as the hero or heroine of the story.  The first few books in the series center around a Delta Team whose mission to extract high profile hostages from a radical group in Lebanon turns into tragedy.  These are not battlefield thrillers, but stories that place a military hero and his extraordinary skills in a domestic setting with a high-octane plot.  In all nine of my published novels (Pocket Books and Berkley Publishing) there is an element of suspense, either a murder mystery in my gothic historicals, or a do or die fight against evil in my paranormal contemporaries.  I also have a very sensual romance at the core of each story.  When I write I want my readers to feel the story, be it humor, heart-stopping suspense or pulse-pounding passion.  What makes Collateral Damage different is that there are no paranormal elements to the stories and I have more freedom to explore some of the controversial issues all of us are facing in the world today.

You started Collateral Damage in the early 2000s before 9/11.  In the first chapter, we see Delta Force soldier Jack Hunter freshly wounded from a rescue mission and itching to return to the frey after al-Qaeda attacks American’s oil hubs.  Can you discuss the progression of this work from its inception to publication?

I wrote the proposal for Collateral Damage in 2000.  Set it ten years in the future and used the world’s dependency on oil and inflamed religious factions to bring about global chaos as the backdrop for the story.  The only real changes I made before finally getting to write the story in 2010, is that I went to an algae-based biofuel from a space mined fuel and I went to a ruthless environmentalist as the mastermind behind the plot as opposed to American businessmen.  Immediately after 9/11 no one wanted to touch the story.  Al-Qaeda was too sensitive a subject, especially for a romance writer.  Then I became published in the historical and paranormal genres and it sat in my file cabinet for nine years.  But the way the real world events kept playing out since 9/11, I couldn’t get the story out of my head.  I kept seeing how ripe the world was for this “what if scenario” and I finally decided to write the book.  My next problem was that I had this big world plot, but I wanted to bring the story down to a personal level and how an everyday person is affected by the collateral damage from the choices another person close to them makes.  Because the truth of the matter is everyone suffers collateral damage in their life.  How they deal with it is what determines the quality of their future.

At one time, you were a nurse.  How has that experience played out in your writing?

I recently attended Kennesaw State University and have just renewed my license to practice nursing after eighteen years out of the field.  I am currently looking for a part time position.  As for how nursing has helped my writing, I find that I often pull on my medical based background in both my plots and in characterization, but I think the influence goes deeper in that there is a nurturing element to my heroines and even my heroes that is a part of me and what led me to the practice of nursing in the first place.

You write Contemporary and Historical Paranormals, Contemporary Suspense/Thrillers, and Contemporary Romance.  What advice do you have for authors wanting to write cross-genre?

First and foremost, write a story that you are passionate about and not a story solely based on what is selling now.  If you can twist what is hot on the market to fit the story you want to write in your heart, then go for it.  But in order to excite others, you need to be excited yourself.  For me, I love story and I believe passionately in two important elements to the stories I write no matter the genre.  I believe that when you boil all of life down to its core, you end up with the need to love and be loved as the most important and fulfilling element in life.  So I write about love, the expression of that love physically, mentally, and spiritually, and the power of overcoming obstacles make love possible.  Secondly, I believe in the battle of good and evil on earth and in the spirit world.  So I write about that as well.  By taking those two elements and believing passionately in them, I think a writer can write a story in any genre they choose.

Is there generally a message in your novels you want readers to grasp?

Well, LOL I think I answered this question in part already.  Messages in my books are about love, acceptance that people are not perfect but are still worthy to be loved.  That life is not perfect but still worthy of living.  That there is a higher power and good does conquer evil.

What are your tips for meshing suspense and romance?  For readers who like a lot of romance, which of your books would you recommend as an introduction to you work?

Meshing romance and suspense is different depending on the genre.  In the gothic historicals with a murder mystery at the core, the romance and the suspense are like a coil being twisted tighter and tighter.  The closer the heroine gets to the hero, the closer she comes to discovering the truth, and the more her heart and life is endangered.  Yet she continually makes the choice to reach out to the hero no matter what the consequences.  With the contemporary thrillers the romance and the suspense play out differently.  The hero and the heroine are in a desperate race to save their lives or souls, the lives of those they love, or even the world.  This battle strips away normal social barriers and bares their souls to each other.  During the action the hero and heroine continually make the choice for the other’s good and eventually make the choice to love no matter what the cost.  It is this sustained emotional element that makes a thriller a romantic thriller.

What fictional novels are you reading now?

Authors I have read this year are, JD Robb, Brad Thor, Suzanne Brockman, Andrew Peterson, AJ Tata, Amy Fetzer, Lara Adrian, JR Ward, Andrew Gross, Barry Eisler, Jacquie D’Alessandro, Allison Brennan, Alex Berenson, and Nora Roberts to name a few. LOL

Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?

The time and the focus to write everything in my head.  And if someone has a cure for the Procrastination Virus please contact me.

How has your writing process changed as your career has developed?

When my children were little I would write between 10 at night to 4 in the morning, now that I am getting older, I don’t function during those hours and I write in the day time.

Do you have any advice for authors seeking to write suspense for both male and female readers?

I am exploring that issue now as I make a decided step toward the thriller genre.  What I hear from women readers, and know for myself as a reader, is that women want an emotionally rich and satisfying story with an uplifting ending and monogamy in the romance along with the heart-stopping suspense.  They also tend to want to see the physical relationship play out on the page.  Also, both the hero and the heroine have very strong, very active roles in the action and plot.

Men want an action oriented plot, possibly more realism, and not necessarily a character who settles on one romantic interest. LOL if the hero or heroine does commit or becomes really romantically interested in another character then often that character gets killed.  The hero and the heroine don’t jointly play a strong, active role throughout the entire story.  It is either one or the other.  (If I have this wrong, then please let me know).  Marrying these two wants into one book isn’t an easy task and may not be entirely possible.  Except for a few, romance writers who have become successful thriller writers, lose some of the elements that defined them as romance writers.  I hope that I can find the key that will satisfy both men and women readers.

Can you tell us a little about the next novel you’re working on?

My ambitious writing docket for 2011?

Write a short story for an upcoming anthology.

Write book 2 in the Silent Warrior Series that will feature Lt. Col. Roger Weston and Mari Dalton (two characters introduced in Collateral Damage)

Finish the last section of the pilot script for a paranormal/crime tv series I have developed.

Finish my steampunk proposal, book one of a The Covenant Conspiracies called Legacy Undone.

Finish book five in The Shadowmen series called Bewitching the Wolf.

And since I have re-sold my Killdaren Series to be re-released in ebook, Midnight Secrets 4/2011, Darkest Dreams 8/2011, and Silken Shadows 12/2011, I would like to have a new historical gothic ready to be released in 2012.

Am I insane?  Yes.  Shoot for the stars and you may end up with the moon or only an armful of air, but at least you’ll have tried and maybe your feet will no longer be stuck in the mud.

About the author:

J.L. Saint is the pseudonym for USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer St. Giles. She is a nurse and the mother of three. She has won a number of awards for writing excellence, the Daphne du Maurier Award, Romance Writers’ of America’s Golden Heart Award, two National Reader’s Choice Awards, two time Maggie Award Winner, and the RT Book Club’s Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Historical Gothic/Mystery.

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Virna DePaul
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