By Azam Gill
Paige Tyler’s HER PERFECT MATE (X-OPS Book 1) is set to start a cult following. When Special Forces Captain Landon Donovan is chosen for an assignment with the Department of Covert Operations, he’s stunned to find himself partnered with a beautiful woman who looks way to gentle to take down a terrorist. But Ivy Halliwell isn’t your average covert operator. Her feline DNA means she can literally bring out the claws when things get dicey. She isn’t thrilled to be paired with yet another military grunt, but Landon is different. He doesn’t think she’s a freak—and he’s got her tingling. Soon they’re facing a threat beyond imagination … and an animal magnetism between them impossible to ignore.
An impressively prolific writer, Tyler already has more publications than Agatha Christie managed in her entire career. Her mastery of the craft shows in HER PERFECT MATE, the start of the X-Ops Books. Effortless narration derives its authority from insider knowledge cleverly woven into the prose. And cluster bursts of short, sharp sentences and an astutely crafted plot propel the story at breakneck speed. In addition, original, finely-drawn and unforgettable characters keep the ball rolling at the gripping pace required of a top-of-the-line thriller. Hardly surprising, then, reviews of HER PERFECT MATE have been enthusiastic and unrestrained.
Tyler graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Let’s start with a brief personal introduction.
I’m a USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. I’ve written over fifty books in practically every genre of romance, but my favorite is definitely the paranormal/romantic-suspense combo. My very own military hero (also known as my hubby) and I live on the beautiful Florida coast with our adorable fur baby (also known as our dog). I actually graduated with a degree in education, but decided to pursue my passion and write books about hunky alpha males and the kickbutt heroines who fall in love with them.
Writing seventy six books—more than Agatha Christie—has to be some sort of a record: how do you sustain the pace?
I’ll have to take your word on the seventy-six books since I haven’t counted them in a while. But in the interest of full disclosure, I have to let everyone know that some of my books are novellas—anywhere from 15k to 45k in length. Shorter books like that probably tend to inflate the count a little. Of course, my highest selling book is a cowboy romance that’s only about 20k words, so I don’t knock the novellas!
As far as how I churn out books so fast, there are two simple reasons.
First, I love to write. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and would rather do that than just about anything in the world. If I don’t write every day, I get a little antsy. I take my laptop on vacation so I can write whenever the urge strikes. I write in the car if we’re on a long road trip. I’ll even write quick story notes on my iPhone if I’m away from my computer and a thought pops into my head.
The real secret, though? My hubby. When I first started writing seriously, I was a complete pantser. I’d come up with a basic idea and just go with it! That can be fun, but it can take a really long time to finish a book that way. Hubby got me to take a step back and spend a little time in the beginning thinking about the whole story before I touch the keyboard. We brainstorm the plot of the books together and he gets all the ideas into a cohesive outline for me to work from. He’s always telling me that “You can’t get anywhere in the world—or a book—if you don’t know where you’re going.” He’s right. Working together like this, with him doing the outlining, we can have three or four books in various stages of writing all at the same time. That really helps when it comes to getting the books out there.
Does the outpouring of this creative overcharge swamp you?
Sometimes, especially around deadline time. I’m a hybrid author, so it can be tricky balancing my New York published books with my indie releases. I just came home from the Romance Times convention a few weeks ago where I was promoting my New York release from Sourcebooks (HER PERFECT MATE) and had to immediately turn around and finish writing my newest indie book (ANIMAL ATTRACTION) so I could format and upload it to CreateSpace in order to have copies of the book in time for my next signing event at the Lori Foster RAGT—all in about three or four days. It was exhausting, but the results were so worth it!
Then there are the amazing fans who fall in love with a particular book or character and beg me for a sequel. I can never say no to a fan, but there are only so many hours in a day. Janet, I promise that I’m starting on Chase’s book soon—I swear!
Do you suffer from burnout?
I have so many stories ideas that burnout isn’t the right word for it. Exhaustion would be a better term. Like I said, the pace can get a bit hectic, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Fortunately, hubby helps here, too. He keeps me focused on the book (or even the chapter) right in front of me, while he’s thinking about the next hurdle down the road. He knows that I’m a very in-the-now person. If I look up and saw everything I had to get done, I’d freak out. He keeps me from doing that. “How do you eat an elephant?” he’ll ask. “One bite at a time,” I answer.
I also make sure I set aside time for plenty of exercise. There’s nothing like doing yoga or running for an hour or so to get the mind settled and relaxed.
At this pace, do reality and fiction blur?
Not really. That would be a bit freaky. Kind of like the plot line for that movie Inception. That being said, I do find my characters frequently “talking to me,” trying to ask for a sequel or telling me that they don’t think they’d behave the way I’m writing them. Sometimes, I listen to them. Sometimes, I don’t. More on that later.
How does your family cope with all this?
Because my hubby is so involved with my writing career, balancing writing with our other obligations isn’t that hard. Sure, almost all of our “vacations” have been to book conventions and writing conferences, but it’s a commitment we both made together. Our fur baby doesn’t complain at all. She’s more than happy when we sit around the house all day writing.
About the only time hubby has a cow is when short notice deadlines pop up and destroy his carefully laid out writing schedule. He takes planning to a whole new level.
In 2012, over dinner in your favorite restaurant, you and your husband came up with the idea of the X-Ops series. Since then, what has his influence over these series been?
That’s a really good question. The funny thing is that until this X-OPS series, hubby essentially didn’t want to write about anything military-related. He was in the army for a long time, and while he enjoys telling certain stories, he’s always considered certain stuff too personal to write about. I never pushed.
But at the urging of several other authors/mentors, and after he’d been retired from the army, he finally agreed to use his military experiences to help put together this series. He doesn’t divulge too much detail, but most of the characters in the book represent people (or a mix of people) he worked with while he was in the military. The result is a collection of characters that really resonate with readers because they’re real people.
Are you in conflict with your characters?
Sometimes, mostly when those character tell me they want the story to go in a different direction than I think it should go. The hero in HER PERFECT MATE, Special Forces Captain Landon Donovan, thought that he and his new partner, the feline shifter heroine Ivy Halliwell, should do all this extra training before going on their first mission. Of course, an SF troop would train until his feet fell off if you let him. It took me a while to convince him they didn’t need to do it—he was very bummed when I told him they couldn’t do a low altitude night jump out of a C-130 into the Mojave Desert. Oddly enough, wolf shifter Clayne Buchanan, the hero of HER LONE WOLF, the second book in the X-OPS Series, hardly gave me any trouble at all when I wrote his story. That surprised me—he had a bad attitude in book one. But other than telling him to clean up his foul language, he really worked with me. Well, except for that little part where I teamed him up with his ex-partner/lover FBI agent Danica Beckett. Yeah, now that I think about it, maybe he did give me some trouble about that.
Is Ivy Halliwell a composite of many characters or a drop that became a stream?
I love that…a drop that became a stream. It really fits with how Ivy turned into the character she is in the first book.
Ivy grew out of the initial concept we had for a shifter. She’d been in the DCO (Department of Covert Ops—the secret governmental organization in the series) for several years before they brought in Landon. We figured she must have had other partners. So, what happened with them? This led to the decision to introduce the distrust and discrimination issues the shifters in the DCO face. Some within the DCO leadership barely consider shifters to be human. Instead, they call them “Extremely Valuable Assets (EVAs).” Worse, in order to avoid the embarrassment and unwanted attention that could come if people realized the US government was using “freaks” to carry out covert missions, the human side of each DCO team is entrusted with one special task—kill your EVA if they’re going to be compromised. It doesn’t take much imagination to grasp how issues like this affect Ivy, and how she sees her newest partner, Landon—the third military guy they’ve paired her up with. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but suffice to say, things didn’t go well with her previous partners. But Landon is different. We get to see Ivy grow and thrive once she finally has a partner who accepts both her and her abilities. This acceptance naturally blurs the line between being just partners and something more than that—and sets the stage for a smoking hot romance that both Ivy and Landon are unable to resist.
Angelo Rios was inspired by a friend of yours who lost his life heroically. What about Landon?
To a certain degree, Landon is a mix of several people that my husband worked with and that I knew, but the biggest contributor was a particular company commander my husband served with. Like Landon, this particular captain had come out of the enlisted ranks. And like Landon, this field time gave this particular officer a wealth of experience and confidence that is tough to get in any other way. A natural leader, people would bust their butts for this person just like they do for Landon in the first book as well as throughout the series.
To what extent is the background of the X-Ops series inspired by real events?
The entire creation of the DCO came out of that crazy time right after 9/11, when the intelligence community was in a state of upheaval and Congress was holding endless meetings, blue ribbon panels, and generally moving deck chairs around on the Titanic in an effort to look like they were doing something. The basic premise of the DCO is the question of what happens if some of those powerful congressmen and women decided to take matters into their own hands and build an organization that didn’t have to follow any rules? With the dysfunctional way Congress sometimes works, can you imagine what an organization like that would look like over time? Could those who work at the ground level, no matter how good their intentions are, ever really know what’s going behind the curtain?
Is there a factual basis for the super-secret organizations in your books?
When I envisioned the location of the DCO’s Main Office, I knew it had to be in the middle of Washington DC somewhere. The whole idea for this office was that it would be somewhere close to the power players on the DCO Committee—those powerful congressmen and women who reside up on the Hill and pull the DCO’s strings.
It just so happens that at the same time I was trying to figure out a good place to stick my made-up DCO office, my hubby and I were wandering around Washington D.C. doing the typical tourist thing. Of course, the reason we were wandering is because we were looking for one of those DC Metro stations that tend to get tucked into someplace no one can find it…and my hubby refused to ask for directions. So, we were doing a lot of walking around.
As we walked past the EPA headquarters (it’s huge!), we saw a big, black SUV with heavily tinted windows (and an extremely serious looking driver) pulling into a narrow driveway under one of the buildings. I can only assume that they must have a parking lot of some kind down there for the high level types. That was when inspiration occurred. Wouldn’t it be neat if they buried the DCO office at one end of whatever garage that black SUV was heading? Yeah…maybe I’d just seen the vehicle that had delivered Landon Donovan to his first meeting with the DCO Director—the day he met his new feline shifter partner, Ivy Halliwell.
What political themes and lessons impact on and are released by your writing?
Our time being associated with the military and government in general, has taught me three basic rules:
1. Like a living organism, the ultimate purpose of any large organization is to survive and grow—even to the detriment of its original mission.
2. Power corrupts. Total power corrupts totally.
3. Only the very best people can stop 1 and 2 from happening.
By the time Book 1 of the X-OPS series opens, the DCO has been in existence for over a decade. A good portion of HER PERFECT MATE, as well as the future books in the series, revolve around the ability of the heroes and heroines to fight not just the bad guys right in front of them, but also the ones they may be working for.
Are your action scenes the fruit of personal experience, imagination, or technical advice?
The action scenes are a careful blend of hubby’s technical advice and imagination, with my knowledge of what my primarily female reader base wants to see. Not that men won’t enjoy the books, too! But given the opportunity, hubby would probably write an outline for a fifty page fight scene and introduce zombies into every romantic moment. I keep reminding him that this is a ROMANTIC suspense series, not Transformers and not The Walking Dead.
What are the intimate scenes based on?
If you look at a few of the book covers on my website, it’s not too hard to figure out that I have a heavy background in erotica and erotic romance (and no, those aren’t the same thing). I draw from that experience when I write the steamier scenes for my New York series.
What other books are waiting in the pipeline?
Well, HER LONE WOLF, Book Two in the X-OPS Series, releases in November. So excited about that! It’s followed by an X-OPS Novella called HER SECRET AGENT that releases in December. It’s a fun story that gives readers inside info on the DCO, as well as gives them the skinny on some very important stuff that the other characters in the novels aren’t privy to. So, yeah, there are lots of OMG moments ahead for the X-OPS crew!
Right now, I’m working on the outline for the second book in my S.W.A.T. Series, aka my Special Alpha Wolf Team Series. If you haven’t figured it out from the name, it’s about a SWAT team made up of wolf shifters. Think hot guys in tactical gear with claws and you get the picture! The first book, HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF, releases from Sourcebooks in January 2015, so I hope you’ll check it out!
And in between, I’m also revising and re-releasing a paranormal romance series originally published in 2008 called the Alaskan Werewolves Series. I just re-released the first book called ANIMAL ATTRACTION in June in digital and print. I’m adding new characters, more action and an additional story arc to each of the books, and I’m loving it. Look for ANIMAL INSTINCT, the second book in the series, soon!
Who are your favorite authors?
My absolute favorite author is Suzanne Brockmann, which is why I was thrilled to meet her at RT in NOLA! She’d not only a fantastic writer, but a really cool person as well. My hubby and I had drinks with her and her hubby during the convention, and it was one of the highlights of RT!
Which movies and TV series—if any—do you like?
As far as TV shows, I’m crazy about Supernatural and Teen Wolf. Not only do they feature hot guys, but they have great writers and some of the best action scenes. When it comes to movies, if it’s animated, I’m probably going to love it, especially if it’s a Disney movie! I know it might seem strange that a woman with a heavy background in erotica/erotic romance and action suspense would be such a huge Disney fan, but that’s me. I’m complicated like that.
How do you spend your spare time?
Because I spend so much time sitting around writing, I like to get up and move some for my relaxation. We do yoga and P90X, and try to get in a long run once or twice a week. I love going out with my hubby and our fur baby and doing a couple miles. The rhythmic slap of my shoes on the pavement, the beat of a favorite song on my pod, and the little fur baby keeping an eye out for squirrels and rabbits is the ultimate relaxation.
Paige Tyler is a USA Today Bestselling Author of sexy, romantic fiction. She and her very own military hero (also known as her husband) live on the beautiful Florida coast with their adorable fur baby (also known as their dog). Paige graduated with a degree in education, but decided to pursue her passion and write books about hunky alpha males and the kickbutt heroines who fall in love with them.
To learn more about Paige, please visit her website.