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Maintaining the Balance Between
Romance and Suspense

By Millie Naylor Hast

With more than 60 romance and romantic suspense titles in print in 20 countries—17 million copies in all—over the course of her 30-year career, Kat Martin is a powerhouse. Her latest, THE DECEPTION, launches on September 10.

THE DECEPTION is the second full-length book in the Maximum Security series, about a PI firm located in Dallas and owned by Chase Garrett, a main character in the series debut, The Conspiracy.

THE DECEPTION’s adventure begins when Kate Gallagher, a management consultant, must identify the body of her brutally murdered younger sister, from whom she’d been estranged. Though well-intentioned, the police put little effort into solving the teenager’s murder, because she’d become a prostitute. To find her sister’s killer, Kate goes to Maximum Security and hires investigator Jason (Hawk) Maddox. Coincidentally, a week earlier, the two had met in a bar and felt an instant attraction.

The hunt for the killer will take Kate and Jason deep into the underworld of human trafficking, prostitution, and organized crime from Dallas to San Antonio to Houston, where they will have to decide what matters more—the truth or their lives.

The Big Thrill caught up with Montana-based author Kat Martin as she prepared for a trip, but she was happy to tell us about her new story.

Although her output is prolific, she says she writes one book at a time. “One is enough of a challenge! I write a hardcover novel every nine months and lately have been adding a novella to help promote the new release. I’ve been writing suspense for 25 years. The first book in my last series was Beyond Reason, which was recently optioned by a Hollywood studio for a TV movie. My goal is to continue to write better and better novels.”

Martin (left) with her French editor, Isabelle Varange.

Her interest in suspense is long term. “I stopped writing historicals many years ago and moved into romantic suspense. My first suspense was The Silent Rose, published in 1994. Even in my historicals, there was always a great deal of plot and suspense. It’s just how I think.”

When she’s not traveling, she writes every day. “I write four long days a week, then half days when I go to the gym and run errands—town is 25 miles away! I do promotion, social media, write blogs, and do interviews the rest of the day. As you can see, I have no real time off. Writing is what I do, what I enjoy. My days off occur when my husband and I travel.”

Her husband, L. J. Martin, also is an author, but so far they’ve collaborated only once, some years ago. “He writes westerns, and some mystery/suspense. We don’t work together, though I value his input on fight scenes, cross-checking me on guns and their use (though I have a concealed carry permit and my own weapon for self-defense), and he sometimes helps me plot when I get stuck in a corner.”

Martin and her husband, L. J.

Martin says her stories generally evolve. “I start with a kernel of an idea, then develop it in my mind before I start writing. I only know bits and pieces, like the beginning, the problems that have to happen to make the plot work, and hopefully the ending. Things may change as the story moves along, sometimes even the ending.”

The characters often arise from the story. “I tend to be more concerned with story than character. The story/plot dictates the kind of character I need to solve it. Sometimes a character like Hawk Maddox comes to mind, and I have to fit the story around him. He was powerful. He felt like a hero. From there I needed to find a heroine who could match him.”

And that was Kate Gallagher, who was conceived as a woman strong enough to stand up to Maddox. “I really like Kate. She’s smart and gutsy, and yet extremely feminine.  The combination of those qualities drew Maddox’s interest. He is a total alpha male, but Kate is strong and female enough to handle him. I really like the interaction between the two of them.”

Martin engaging with fans at a book signing.

The challenge is making the pieces fit together.  “You have to follow the threads to see where they lead and make it all work, in some books more than others.”

THE DECEPTION has some delicious plot twists and surprises. “The twists take a lot of effort. I lose sleep trying to work them out. I get stuck a lot, but so far I’ve been able to solve whatever riddle I invent. It’s my favorite and least favorite part of writing.”

Texas is a popular setting for Martin, although she lives in Montana. “Texas has its own mystique, a lure that people can’t resist. I love Texas men and women. They’re strong and resilient, the backbone of our country. Plus, a lot goes on in Texas, good and bad. A great backdrop for stories.”

For THE DECEPTION, Kate did a lot of research. “Though I have a basic knowledge of prostitution and human trafficking, I needed more. I use the internet a great deal, online newspapers, all sorts of law enforcement web pages. It’s a ton of work, but I couldn’t write the stories I undertake without doing it.”

Kat Martin

The themes intrigued her, but she doesn’t consider herself a writer with an agenda. “I don’t judge people, but I do strongly believe in right and wrong. Human trafficking is wrong. Catching and putting the bad guys away is right. With any luck, it makes for a good story.”

Romance also is an important theme. “Romance fits perfectly with suspense. Romance adds another layer to the plot, and sex is simply part of life. It’s not the main theme, but it moves the romantic element of the story forward, just as in real life. I don’t put in gratuitous sex. I put it there for a reason. At the end of the story, hopefully all the pieces come together.”

In future books in this series, Martin foresees stories involving more of the main characters at Maximum Security, the characters who come to them for help, and their friends or acquaintances.

“Each of the three Garrett brothers gets a story,” she says. Up next is Bran Garrett. “Bran is the youngest Garrett brother, a former special ops soldier who specializes in personal protection. When Jessie Kegan, the daughter of a colonel he admired and respected, comes to him for help, Bran has no choice but to agree. It’s set around the theft of chemical weapons, and the research is definitely a challenge.”


Millie Naylor Hast
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