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By Dani Brown

PHOENIX’S ASCENT, the second book in Winter Austin’s Hera Force series, will keep you on the edge of your seat with its complex plot and original characters.

The protagonist, Nadia, is a skilled assassin who even after a serious injury, is still a tremendous asset to the Hera Force team. Along with her teammates, she takes on evildoers who are involved in a variety of nefarious enterprises ripped from the headlines—and one that isn’t on most people’s radar yet, but should be.

This story is filled with depth and conflict in both personal and professional relationships, keeping the reader engaged and wanting more. From the beginning, Nadia is a woman to be reckoned with, a woman who is capable of doing anything a man can do to get the job done. Mitch, her equal in the field—and someone who has a personal history with Nadia—is a former SAS agent who is persona non grata in his homeland and hiding out in Mexico.

The pair are reunited when her mission is to deal with cartel leaders in the bar where Mitch works. She doesn’t remember him, but he never stopped loving her.

Austin talks more about her latest release, PHOENIX’S ASCENT, in this exclusive interview with The Big Thrill.

There are a number of “fights” in your novel that seem authentic. Personal experience, or a lot of research?

Lots of research, thank God! Some of the fight scenes I put my characters through…I don’t think I’d ever have survived. I get a lot of my ideas from fellow thriller authors, movies/shows, and watching fight technique videos on YouTube. I don’t think I’ve written a book yet that didn’t have some type of a fight scene in it. This series is the first one that has a lot of them in it.

Winter Austin

How do you juggle your writing time with your family time?

It’s a struggle, especially here recently. But I make it work. The nice thing is, my family is mostly grown and out of the house, and my kids were all brought up to respect my writing time—though when those older boys get playing their online games I wonder. I also work full-time along with family obligations, and I really love my job as much as I love writing. My employer and fellow coworkers find it neat to have a published author in their midst, and I’m given the perk of leaving work early to go home and write sometimes.

Traumatic brain injury, aka TBI, is a focal point of your book. Did your research show any studies that exhibit the outcomes we see in Nadia, or was what you wrote a bit of creative license? 

I did research TBIs for an earlier book and have kept up the research. It’s a funny thing and can affect people differently. In Nadia’s case, I took more creative license, especially with how things end in the book with her. That’s the part I really love about being an author: We don’t have to toe the line with realism.

Where do you find the ideas for your books?

For the Hera Force series, my idea came about because I was tired of not seeing books, written by women, that were a female-centered storyline in a military/black ops situation. If there was something there, I was left sorely disappointed when the guy came to rescue the day. I don’t write damsels in distress. My women are ballsy and tough; they save the day. As for the rest of the plots, they usually start with a tickling of an idea and then just bloom from there.

A variety of ethnicities are represented in your novel. From Nadia, to Mitch, to Matías, every one of their names suit their character and background—what is your secret to finding the perfect name?

Sometimes the names come to me right away. Others I need to dig around in their ethnic background and find the right name. In Nadia’s case, her name isn’t authentically Russian, but as we learn more about her history, we get why it’s not. Mitch was fun, because my editor is British, and I begged her to make sure I didn’t blow it—and I watched a lot of British only TV shows and movies.

Thor, a Malinois, is Jade’s canine partner, though he is bonded to most of the members of the team. Why did you pair him with Jade?

When Jade was created and we meet her in the first book, Mockingbird’s Cry, Thor came with her. I’ve got a serious love of dogs and keep putting them in books. Hera Force was a conglomeration of many different fields in the military, among all the branches. But Thor wasn’t meant to be an MWD—he was a dog Jade was training, fell in love with, and he became hers. It’s a perk that he’s well-trained in all things MWD and then some. As Jade mentions in the book, she’s part dog and prefers them over humans in a lot of cases. If readers stick it out for Book 3, they’ll find out why Jade is wired this way.

At what point in your writing process do you conduct research?

When I hit a wall. I usually stop, research, and usually get sucked into rabbit holes. The yacht in this book was one of those rabbit holes, but boy, did it produce a gold mine of information. I found a video describing the yacht, and it had a floor plan, so I could make sure I had my characters in a proper place.

Words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

Write what you love, or what you’re not seeing and want to read. Trends don’t last, and they’re not always a good thing to aspire to. I’m writing what I wanted to read, and I’m having a blast doing it. It really pays off when you have a publishing house that loves it as much as you do.


Winter Austin perpetually answers the question “Were you born in the winter?” with a flat “nope,” but believe her, there is a story behind her name.

A lifelong Midwest gal with strong ties to the agriculture world, Winter grew up listening to the captivating stories told by relatives around a table or a campfire. As a published author, she learned her glass-half-empty personality makes for a perfect suspense/thriller writer. Taking her ability to verbally spin a vivid and detailed story, Winter translated that into writing deadly romantic suspense, mysteries, and thrillers.

When she’s not slaving away at the computer, you can find Winter supporting her daughter in cattle shows, seeing her three sons off into the wide-wide world, loving on her fur babies, prodding her teacher husband, and nagging at her flock of hens to stay in the coop or the dogs will get them.

She is the author of multiple novels.

Dani Brown
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