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.
What was it like researching this topic?
Ha! I’ve seen the big cats in various venues, but thank goodness nothing too close. I enjoyed the research and found it fascinating, and also somewhat disheartening because my research not only included the tigers but their struggle to survive in the wild when facing poachers. Wildlife trafficking is seriously decimating their population.
You’ve written 25 romance novels. How is UNDERCOVER PROTECTOR different from the previous works?
The main difference I see is that the hero is on the cover of the book! That has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with my publisher.
UNDERCOVER PROTECTOR fits in the Romantic Suspense category. How is Romantic Suspense different than a suspense novel that includes a romance?
Depending on who you ask, you’re going to get a different answer to this question. I would say a suspense novel that includes romance is more about the suspense than the romance. Romantic suspense is well and fully within the romance genre in that the romance is every bit as important as the suspense and in fact, the suspense and the fight to survive is what pushes them together.
How is your female lead, Gemma Rollins, different from your previous heroines?
For one thing, she has a cane, she has a physical weakness. One reader mentioned “the girl with the cane has spunk and Gray kept carrying her around, that was so enjoyable.” Gemma is also different in that she has a passion for making a difference in the world and for her, that means saving the tigers.
Many popular suspense authors use the same hero or heroine for every book, but you start with new characters in every book. Why?
For me personally, when I’m reading a romantic suspense and I get the HEA (happily ever after) at the end, I’m ready for a whole new story, a new couple with new challenges. I get bored reading about the same people. They had their chance at romance, let someone else take the stage! But the main reason I write a different hero and heroine in each story is because of my publisher’s requirements.
Your books have won some prestigious awards. Tell us about one of them, and what made the book stand out in difficult competition.
The Camera Never Lies won the Carol Award in 2011 and that was such a huge surprise. Camera was the second book I’d ever written, plus it was a first-person cozy mystery, neither of which I’d written before.
You focused on writing novels when you stayed home to raise children. How does that work, logistically?
I wrote in the middle of the chaos. That was a lot easier when I was younger, believe me. The older I get, the more focused time I need to get the job done. But there is always time to write in the morning or in the evening or when the kids are busy.
You are a very religious person. How does that affect your fiction writing?
My faith has everything to do with every aspect of my life, especially my writing. I believe God had called me to write. That’s another story and basically a faith journey for me to finally answer that call. My writing is also my ministry. I get letters from readers who share how the story helped them through, or was exactly what they needed to hear at that time. Every story has a spiritual nugget, some more than others.
Do you target a religious audience with your work?
Yes. So my audience knows what to expect and they are looking forward to the faith aspect of the story. All the publishers I’ve written for have been Christian publishers. I currently write for Love Inspired Suspense, which is Harlequin’s Christian imprint.
Sex and violence are staples of much modern story-telling, especially in the thriller/suspense categories. How do you handle these aspects of human behavior in UNDERCOVER PROTECTOR and your other books?
I think a great story can be told without adding gratuitous sex or violence or foul language. It’s there behind the scenes with the characters who do those things, or left to the readers’ imagination, or referenced but not detailed, because you’re right, it is human behavior. So my books are rated ‘G.’
Speaking of romance, you started out in life as a Texan, but you’ve made your home in wintry northern climates for some time. What happened? Can a lady of the Deep South find happiness in the slush and snow?
The move to the north has to do with my husband’s job and yes, I can find happiness in the snow. I grew up in the part of Texas where if we saw just a few flakes of snow (rare), we got excited. So it’s like a dream come true to live where it’s cold enough to give us a white Christmas!
When aspiring authors ask you for advice, what’s the best wisdom you have to share?
Attend a conference and join a critique group. Networking with others and learning the craft are the most important things you can do.
Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than twenty-five romance novels and counting, including the romantic mystery, THE CAMERA NEVER LIES–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. A 7th generation Texan, Elizabeth graduated from North Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and worked in high-level software sales for several years before retiring to home school her children and fulfill her dreams of writing full-time.
To learn more about Elizabeth, please visit her website.