Category Archives: Author Interview
Hi Readers- Sarah Andre here! In the small world department: I sat next to a friendly woman at a recent luncheon, who turned out to be the mother of a romance writer. Not only did I know her daughter’s name, JB Schroeder, among the thousands of authors, but she was a guest on Kiss and Thrill last year, hosted by Lena! Naturally I invited JB to my house when she came to visit her mother and the hours flew. We talked about writing as if we’d been best friends for years! When I heard she had a new release coming out I invited her back to K&T- let’s catch up with what JB’s been doing, shall we?
Hey girl! You and I had a discussion about certain books kicking our author butts, but being better writers in the end because of all that hard work. Locked, Loaded, and Lying was that book for me. Yours, is Unhinged, which is also releasing today, May 24. Congrats!
Thank you! Yes. I wanted to try something unusual with Unhinged, but didn’t pull it off so well in the first draft. It went through four major overhauls—essentially re-writes. And then came the revisions! But it was all worth it! The story is better for it, and I was determined that my second book to hit virtual shelves would be just as good as the first (Runaway). According to my Review Crew ARC readers, I succeeded in that! Hooray!
Yay- I can hardly wait to read it, JB! As a struggling pantser I’m dying to know what techniques others have learned in their trial by fire. Tell me three writing challenges you learned from re-writing/revising Unhinged.
Red Herrings don’t necessarily make twists—sometimes they are just distracting.
When I started Unhinged I had three possibilities for the villain, and I thought I intertwined it all pretty well. But my critique partners felt that one characters role be condensed to reduce confusion. Later, my editor strongly suggested that same character be eliminated entirely because she wasn’t really necessary! It changed a lot in the book, but you find other ways to do what you need to, and make better use of the cast that is there. In other words: do more with less!
Sometimes it’s all about the reveal. This ties in closely to my red herring problem. You don’t have to keep the villain’s identity secret. Even if the reader knows fairly early WHO the villain is, they still love the journey. For one thing, its exciting to know more than the characters know. Just like watching a movie, gripping the edge of the chair, and thinking “Oh no, sister, bad idea. Do NOT go into the basement!” For another, the fun is in the HOW. How does the villain create trouble, how do the protagonists find out what they need to, and of course, how do they stop the villain? In Unhinged, I actually mapped out on a timeline exactly what could be revealed when for maximum effect. And I’ve been hearing a lot of OMG’s from my readers in all the right spots, so I know it worked!
Villains need motivation too. My first draft of Unhinged had the villain just plain crazy—which was super fun and allowed for a lot of creative license. But my agent pointed out that that level of loco meant the villain couldn’t possibly pull it all off. I needed a serious motivation and goal for the villain, not to mention a reason behind the crazy. It took weeks, but when I finally came up with THE IDEA—everything came together: goal, motivation, conflict, numerous juicy bits to reveal, and even an awesome twist.
Oh my gosh, this sounds SO exciting! And I absolutely LOVE your cover and the series name. I know you’re a graphic artist who does covers and this is your own creation…I’m green with envy. Thank you for joining us, JB! We wish you all the best in your new release, and come back to visit us soon! (Both K&T and my house.) 🙂
So thrilled to celebrate release day with the fab ladies of Kiss and Thrill. Thank you, Sarah!
Readers: Think back a few years ago–I went bonkers for the first three novels in the Graveyard Queen series, about Amelia Gray, a graveyard restorer who stumbles across clues and gravestone symbols to catch killers. She also sees ghosts, and believe me-they aren’t the cute Caspar kind!
Well The Visitor, book four, was released this month and I read it (with constant goosebumps) in one sitting. I’m delighted to welcome back one of the most prolific Gothic thriller writers in modern times: Amanda Stevens.
Hi Amanda. There’s a four year gap between your last Graveyard Queen novel. What have you been doing during this time?
The Prophet was the last of the original three books in the series. Since then, I’ve written three more books—The Visitor, The Sinner and The Awakening. Life threw me a huge curve-ball in 2013 and it took me a while to get back into writing. But I’ve worked my way back and I think the next Graveyard Queen trilogy echoes my struggles. It’s been a dark and twisty journey for both Amelia and me.
I’m thrilled that über-hottie John Devlin is playing a bigger role in this story, and looks to be a major conflict for Amelia in The Sinner! Did you always have his dark and haunted background mapped out or has this growing issue with his grandfather and the family business come to you as the novels have progressed.
Devlin’s evolution is interesting to me because from the very first moment he stepped out of the mist in The Restorer, I knew he was more than just a haunted police detective. He had something really, really dark in his background, something that he might not admit even to himself. Something that initially led him to Dr. Shaw and the Institute for Parapsychology Studies and then repelled him from all things paranormal.
So to answer your question, I didn’t have his background mapped out, but it was always there in the back of my mind so that all I had to do was flesh it out when I needed to. That’s been another interesting thing about this series—sometimes I’ll drop something about a character’s background or even mention something in passing that doesn’t seem to be all that important to the current story and then I get to the next book and I realize that I’ve been subconsciously dropping clues and setting up backstory all along. I think it’s all there in my head and has been since the very first book, but I didn’t know it until I needed it—if that makes sense.
Unitarian Churchyard in Charleston–so lush, so Southern, so Gothic. There’s a scene in The Visitor that takes place in this churchyard. Photographer: Amanda Stevens.
The Sinner looks to be an epic clash of forces. Is this the end of The Graveyard series or have you signed for more?
The sixth and final book (for now) is The Awakening, which will answer a lot of questions and resolve a lot of issues, but I don’t think Amelia’s story can ever be completely wrapped up.
Do you plan to go to San Diego (this year) or Orlando (next year) to attend RWA the conference?
I’m not going to San Diego this year and I don’t have any plans as yet for Orlando, but that would be a great conference to attend because The Graveyard Queen will be ending and hopefully I’ll be launching a new series by then.
A shot of a baby crib memorial in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. This grave inspired the plot for The Awakening–the 6th Graveyard Queen Book. Photographer: Amanda Stevens.
What has changed in publishing these four years now that you’re back in the fray? Deadlines tighter? Self-marketing expectations? A shake up in the editorial crew?
Believe it or not, I’m still working on the same contract I had before I took a step back so nothing has changed for me personally as of yet. But in that four-year period, my publisher was bought by HarperCollins so I’ll soon find out what that means in terms of a new contract and new expectations. I’ve had the same editor for twenty years and she and my agent have been incredibly understanding and supportive. I’m optimistic about a new contract and about my career overall, but I’m also realistic. Four years in publishing is a lifetime.
I know you shy away from public speaking, but if you gave a workshop what do you think you’re most expert at to share with new writers?
Writing is so instinctive to me that I have a hard time trying to explain the process. I really don’t know how I do any of it. But I suppose I would stress the importance of creating atmosphere and a sense of place, a sense of dread. I subscribe to the Alfred Hitchcock school of suspense that less is more. What you don’t see/read can be far more disturbing than a lengthy description of blood and gore.
What books have you read recently that leave you in awe? (Doesn’t have to be romance.)
I still think about Michael Gruber’s Tropic of Night even though I read that book some years back. Talk about atmosphere and a sense of dread! Currently, I’m reading The Saints of the Lost and Found by T. M. Causey, which has a wonderful premise. I love a good premise! One of the most memorable has to be The Farm by Tom Rob Smith. It’s an older book that I found while browsing Half Price Books. The back cover synopsis sold me.
Describe a relaxing day for you.
I live a pretty stress-free life these days so a typical day for me is several hours of writing with a little gardening thrown in and then an evening of binging on The Walking Dead or whatever series I’m into at the moment. Lunch and dinner with friends, a day at the beach now and then. It’s all good.
Favorite recent movie and why?
Mad Max: Fury Road. Beautifully shot, non-stop action, breathless stunts and an amazing cast. My son was in town when the movie came out and we went to see it together. He’s a filmmaker so I always love hearing his take and whatever inside information he’s gleaned out in Hollywood. That movie left us both so gobsmacked, we went back the next day to see it in 3-D. Another beautifully-shot movie is Crimson Peak. So Gothic and dark and lovely.
Although the indie option is out there for all writers, many still seek the traditional path and/or are still trying to get an agent. What advice do you have for them?
Gosh, it’s been so long since I went through the process and so much has happened to me personally and to the industry as a whole that I don’t feel at all qualified to offer advice. I mean, I’m a dinosaur. But for someone wanting to go the traditional route, I imagine perseverance is still key. Keep sending out those query letters, keep polishing that manuscript and never stop working on your craft. Probably the best thing you can do for your career and your sanity is to develop a thick skin. Writing is personal, but publishing is a business.
Connect with Amanda here:
No f**king way was he going to die running. He stopped, turned and faced the truck barreling toward them. The tires ate up the ground at an indecent rate. He clutched Isleen tighter to his chest. For her sake, he wanted it to be a quick death. No more lingering. No more pain.
That thought infuriated him. None of this was right. They shouldn’t be on the verge of death. Again.
The truck kept coming—twenty-five feet.
Everything slowed, happened as if through the quicksand of time. A white dandelion floaty meandered on the breeze directly between them and the truck. His heart no longer ran a staccato rhythm. Duh…duhm. Pause. Duh…duhm. Pause.
His life didn’t flash before his eyes. The future did. Isleen’s future. In an ethereal dream beyond time, her skin was gilded by firelight, her eyes void of sadness and fear, her body whole and healthy. She smiled, an expression so full of warmth and tenderness and undiluted joy that it plunked itself down inside his heart and wouldn’t leave.
He ached to create that kind of smile on her face, but their lives were over and it all could’ve gone so differently if he’d only listened to her, believed in her, found her years before now.
An excerpt from Race the Darkness
RACE THE DARKNESS—October 4, 2016
Cursed with a terrible gift
Criminal investigator Xander Stone doesn’t have to question you—he can hear your thoughts. Scarred by lightning, burdened with a power that gives him no peace, Xander struggles to maintain his sanity against the voice that haunts him day and night—the voice of a woman begging him to save her.
A gift that threatens to engulf them…
Isleen Walker has long since given up hope of escape from the nightmare of captivity and torture that is draining her life, her mind, and her soul. Except…there is the man in her feverish dreams, the strangely beautiful man who beckons her to freedom and wholeness. And when he comes, if he comes, it will take all their combined fury and faith to overcome a madman bent on fulfilling a deadly prophecy.
Jeez-Lousie! What a terrific premise! Welcome, Abbie, how did you come up with this?
My characters made me do it!
I’m a total write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. I NEVER plan what’s going to happen. I’ve tried to plot. And failed. To me plotting takes the fun away. I could plot out a whole book, but then I wouldn’t want to write it because I already know what’s going to happen!
I usually just follow my characters wherever they take me. So far they’ve never let me down. So I’m not exactly sure how I came up with the premise. It’s just something that happens organically as I’m writing the book.
A lot of writers insert something (a person’s name, a street they used to live on) into their novel, kind of an ‘in’ joke for the readers who know them best. Did you do this? Can you give us a hint of one?
How did you know I did that? Lol. I guess all of us writers do it!
Here’s my little secret…
At the beginning of all three of my novels I have fictional epigraphs, and I always use my family’s initials and names. Here’s an example:
RACE THE DARKNESS:
Individuals with Auditory Perception Syndrome claim to hear more than sound. They allegedly possess the ability to hear thoughts. These assertions have never been scientifically proven and should be treated as an auditory hallucination.
~~Dr. M. J. Franklin, The Journal of Sound and Mind
M is for my grandma (Marge). J is for my grandpa (Joe). And Franklin was my great father’s name.
You call this a dark suspense. Define what makes up the ‘dark’ and how difficult was it to write and switch back to your friendly, compassionate, funny self? (Or your other self- a counselor, and switch from listener, problem-solver to your creative side?)
The professions—writer and counselor—aren’t as different as you’d think. Or maybe the lines have blurred a bit for me since I do both.
The two most important skills I use as a therapist are: Listening and creativity.
I listen to stories all day. As a story-teller I’m enthralled by every client who comes through the door! Everyone’s lives are so different. I listen to my client’s tragedies. I listen to their triumphs. Their stories inspire me. The terrible, awful, horrible things I hear—that’s what comes out in my writing and makes it dark. I didn’t even realize how dark my writing was until a prospective editor called it “romantic horror” and was concerned they would have to put warning labels on it!
The other part of what I do is creative work. I have to figure out how to get a client to buy into making change. I have to figure out how to show them their problem, but from a different perspective. You know that old phrase think outside the box? Every session challenges me to think outside the box because every client is different. There’s no cookie cutter answer for everyone.
Is this going to be a series?
HUNT THE DAWN—December 6, 2016
Lathan Montgomery has a unique ability to solve cold cases. When he links a group of unsolved murders and discovers an active serial killer, the mind-hunters at the FBI refuse to open an investigation. Lathan is determined to find the killer himself, but his search gets stalled when he rescues a woman from an attacker. The more he gets to know her, the more devotion, tenderness, and passion overwhelm him in a way he’s never experienced. But the killer is on the offensive and kidnaps Lathan’s only love. And he never keeps his victims alive for long…
Untitled Series: STAIN OF MERCY (temporary title)—2017
The son of a serial killer falls for his father’s only surviving victim. Will she be able to see the man he truly is and not how much he resembles his father? Or will the past become the present and destroy them both?
Your career sounds formidably busy and mentally taxing. When do you find the time to write?
I write for an hour before I go to work in the mornings. If I have a cancellation or a no-show at work that’s bonus writing time for me! Whoot! Whoot! Then I spend two to four hours in the evening writing before I have to go to bed and do it all over again.
On my days off, I spend all morning and afternoon writing. I’ll take a break for supper and then write in the evenings until bedtime. I live a very boring life. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I love being a writer!
When did you know you just had to write novels?
When I turned thirty-five I realized I wasn’t happy with my life. I had a great husband. A great job. Two awesome and ornery dogs. So why wasn’t I happy?
I thought I needed a hobby. So tried painting and sewing. I made necklaces, candles, and soap. All in the name of avoiding doing the one thing that really wanted to do.
Write a romance novel.
Why was I avoiding it?
I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to begin. And I was worried everyone would think I was stupid for wanting to be something more than a mental health counselor.
I started taking on-line classes. I went to workshops. I attended conferences. I read books on writing. For nearly two years, I kept my writing a secret from every except my husband.
From the day I sat down and started writing my first chapter, writing has fed my soul. I can’t imagine life without it.
Favorite movie and why?
When I was eighteen-ish. The Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis came out. Never in my life have I seen a movie in the theatre as many times as I saw that one! ME TOO! I think it was an epic 16 times before it left the theater.
I fell in love with the history. With the love story. With Daniel Day-Lewis. I loved how he protected his woman—even when she didn’t understand he was protecting her. I loved that he would kill to keep her safe. What could be more romantic? J
And seriously—have you seen a picture of Daniel Day-Lewis from that movie? <swoon> I ended up with the biggest crush on him!
I saw him in Gangs of New York. That cured my crush. 😦 Me too.
A food you can’t say NO to is—
My mom makes this candy called Butter Crunch. It’s a melt in your mouth toffee that she ices on both sides with chocolate. OMG! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I could eat Butter Crunch all day, every day, for the rest of my life. I would weigh 800 pounds, but I could eat it forever.
When she makes it for me I can’t stop myself—I have to eat it all! I can’t even meter it out over a number of days. Nope. I’m an eating machine when it comes to Butter Crunch. Mom has strict instructions to NOT make it for me. But sometimes she does anyway.
Novel you’ve read that had the greatest impact and why?
What? Only one? No way. I can’t do it.
Will you settle for a series? J.R. Ward’s ‘The Black Dagger Brotherhood’ series.
Wrath, Rhage and Zsadist are my FAVORITE Brothers! But I love them all.
I love that the books are romance novels, but they are heavy heavy heavy in male point of view. I love that! It gave me permission to do same in my books! Those were my favs too (it’s like we’re twins, only you’re so much younger!)
Thanks so much for visiting us today, Abbie, and we wish you all the best on debut day!
Abbie Roads is a mental health counselor known for her blunt, honest style of therapy. By night she writes dark, emotional novels, always giving her characters the happy ending she wishes for all her clients. Her novels have finaled in RWA contests including the Golden Heart. Race the Darkness is the first book in the Fatal Dreams series of dark, gritty romantic suspense with a psychological twist.
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You can find Abbie Roads here:
Posted by Krista Hall
When Holly Price trips over a friend’s dead body, her life takes a nosedive into a world of intrigue and danger. With an infinitely sexy cop—Holly’s pissed-off, jilted ex-fiancé—threatening to arrest her for the murder, the intrepid accountant must protect her future, her business…and her heart…by using her investigative skills to follow the money, before the killer decides CPA stands for Certified Pain in the Ass…and the next dead body is Holly’s.
How does Cathy do it? That’s what I wanted to know so I asked her a few quirky questions which she gamely answered for her third visit to K&T. Join me in welcoming the mastermind behind the Holly Price amateur sleuth romantic mystery series. (And be sure to read to the end to find out who won the Lark Brennan DANGEROUSLY YOURS give-away!)
Krista passed along five sentences openers for me to complete for this guest post. Panic! My mind raced along with my heart. I have to be profound. Funny. Introspective. Yikes!
1) I do my best thinking when… I’m moving. “Moving” can mean running, hiking or driving—anything that lets my mind relax. It may be getting into that zone that lets my subconscious toss out ideas that have churned around down there. Aside – the idea for So About the Money came while I was hiking with my husband along the Snake River in eastern Washington. As we pushed through some tangled foliage at the water’s edge, I peered over my shoulder and said, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a body?” Yes, mystery/suspense authors think things like that.
2) I’m addicted to… coffee. Seriously, I don’t function without it. My husband is either an enabler or the best husband ever (my personal choice) because he always starts the machine when he gets up.
3) In my spare time… Wait, you have spare time? Can you lend me some? I’m still rocking the day job while writing. Oh, and there’s the tree farm. And building the new house. And… But soon—really, really soon—I want to get back to the other creative outlets I adore—fused glass, watercolor, hand-sewing little girl dresses.
4) Smart women are… everywhere. “Smart” comes in so many varieties—I hope all of us can appreciate what everyone else has to offer. Book smarts, people skills; natural leaders and nurturers. Life is so much better when we focus on what women do well and help each other succeed.
5) Traveling… is my favorite thing. I love exploring new cultures and new places. My personal bucket list includes items big and small, local as well as international. Diving the Great Barrier Reef, Soap Lake’s mineral springs, and seeing Qin Shi Huang Di’s terra-cotta army in Xi’an, China.
What about you? Is there a place you’d love to visit?
So About the Money by Cathy Perkins
Holly Price never expected to be back in Richland, Washington. She bolted out of the small town in eastern Washington for college—with no intention of returning. She also never expected her father to have a mid-life brain-fart and run off with his yoga instructor. His defection stranded Holly’s mother both personally and professionally. Without Holly’s CPA license, her mother would have to close the family accounting practice.
And absolutely the last thing Holly expected was for a hike with Alex Montoya to turn into the date from hell, but when he’d invited her to Big Flats, she’d heard “hike,” while he meant “hunt.”
She peered forward and behind. “Alex,” she called, louder this time. “Where are you?”
She might be the commitment-phobe in this relationship, but surely Alex wouldn’t leave her out here. Everywhere she looked, dangling leaves and dried canes blocked her path. The sharp staccato of a dog’s excited bark broke the silence. Duke—ahead and to the right. The dog must have found the wounded pheasant.
She edged past a mushy spot. A harsher tang that reminded her of the dead fish they’d passed earlier grew stronger with each step. Nose covered with her hand, she rehearsed choice phrases to unleash on Alex when she finally found him, starting with a sarcastic, “Thanks for your concern,” before descending rapidly to “asshole.”
Something big rustled in the dense undergrowth behind her. Heart pounding, she spun around and peered into the thicket. They had coyotes out here. And drug grower/dealer guys. The only person they’d seen between the gravel parking area and this jungle was an Aryan Nation skinhead dude. Her heart stutter stepped. Oh, crap. What if this was his territory?
The noise from something plunging through the brush grew louder, closer. Blindly, she turned and crashed through the tangled foliage.
The rushes ended at a mound of dirt. She staggered into the clearing, her gaze zeroing in on Alex. Leaning over something on the ground, he tugged at Duke’s collar. The dog struggled, twisting his body in a muscular objection.
“Alex. Thank God.” Her knees felt weaker than she wanted to admit. “I heard something in the bushes back there.”
“Probably a deer. Stay back.” He wrestled the dog to the side.
His brusque tone shattered her mini-panic.
Well, don’t I feel silly.
A quick glance around registered the details. A drooping cottonwood canopied the clearing. Sunlit water lapped at the muddy shore. Gulls whirled overhead in a protesting flurry, lingering in a swirling complaint of dirty white feathers. The clearing looked like a teenagers’ party spot. Tattered food wrappers and empty beer bottles littered the ground. Filthy, torn clothing formed a soggy heap at the water’s edge.
The wind gusted off the inlet, carrying a stench across the clearing.
“Phew.” As bad as it smelled, she wondered if a dead fish was caught in the trash. A few birds remained near the river, their wings raised high, voices screeching defiance.
The pile of clothes had female-shaped contours. Eyes narrowed, Holly gave it a closer look. A pale, mud-streaked foot extended toward her. “Is that a woman?”
For more Cathy Perkins K&T interviews:
Congratulations to DARCY WOODS for winning the $25 Amazon gift card from Lark Brennan! And a special thanks to all of you who helped us celebrate Lark’s debut DANGEROUSLY YOURS last week. DANGEROUSLY YOURS debuts today!
I am thrilled to introduce you to my critique partner of 10 years, Lark Brennan. On December 1st she’ll debut her multi-genre romance, DANGEROUSLY YOURS. (It’s a romantic, paranormal, suspense-thriller.) Lark is an outstanding author, whose wild imagination and unique world building will turn this industry on its head. Check this out:
Whales don’t just vanish, but marine biologist Lex Durand saw one do just that. With years of research at stake and driven by her bond with the whale, she seeks the help of scientist-in-hiding Bodie Flynn—a man with a mysterious past and a justified hatred of her brother. But while Lex was warned Bodie would be difficult, she never expects to find he has psychic abilities equal to her own.
Bodie despises being trapped in Durand Tech’s version of the witness protection program, and when a gorgeous Durand heiress lands on his beach asking for help, he’s unhappier still. The last person he wants in his life is the sister of the man who ruined him, but the disappearance of Lex’s whales could be related to his own research and he isn’t above using her to get her data.
As the dangerous force behind the changing seas becomes deadly, Lex and Bodie must put aside their personal agendas to track down a powerful foe. But when their attraction reaches a boiling point, facing their feelings may prove the hardest battle yet. Dangerously Yours
Welcome, Lark, and congratulations!! Your authentic world-building even blew your editor away. How did you come up with this unique premise?
I was playing around with the idea of a family of powerful psychics when Lex Durand marched in—a 6’ tall, gorgeous animal telepath who runs a marine mammal research foundation. She had so much attitude, I had to write her story. Of course a romance about a marine biologist had to start with a whale vanishing on camera and Lex blackmailing a super-hot physicist into helping her find it.
What kind of research did you do to make delphic energy and dolphin behavior sound so authentic?
Delphic energy is a totally made up scientific explanation of psychic abilities—glad to hear it sounds believable. I’m sure real scientists would roll their eyes. As for the dolphins—I spent countless hours on the web, bought a dozen dolphin books then ended up contacting the medical director at the Dolphin Research Center in Florida. She answered even my stupidest questions brilliantly. The dolphin telepathy I made up. I’m sure I’m going to hear from animal telepaths that I got that wrong.
Your descriptions of the BVI beaches, restaurants, etc. are sensational. Did you visit or live there?
I lived in the US Virgin Islands for seven years and spent a lot of time sailing and diving in the BVI. It’s an amazingly beautiful part of the world. We sailed the BVI just last summer and I’m relieved to report the places in the book are still there.
I know you’re under contract for a series, tell us the date, title and any details about the next book.
IRRESISTIBLY YOURS comes out June 21, 2016. It takes place in Paris where powerful telepath Adrien Durand has been forced to take over his family’s international business empire and protection of the source of their power. A lovely American empath shows up and he suspects she’s a spy. There’s plenty of action and intrigue and smooching.
Nothin’ wrong with plenty of smooching! Tell us one thing you’re thankful for (so we can call this a Thanksgiving post.) 😉
I’m so grateful to have such wonderful and supportive family and friends, especially the generous authors who have made the rocky road to publication so much fun.
Favorite food you can’t say no to?
Can’t think of a food, but don’t test me with a glass of excellent Bordeaux. 🙂
“I’d love to be stuck on a deserted island with…” (can be dead or alive.) And the one item you’d take with you.
My husband’s not reading this, right? No contest– Chris Hemsworth. And the item? I’d be wearing Heidi Klum’s body.
Favorite novel or author, and why?
Wow, there are so many. Probably Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ NATURAL BORN CHARMER because I love every character and subplot in it—and it has Dean Robillard!
If you could have any other career besides your present ones and had the skill to do it, what would you be?
(Wow, I’ve known you for 10 years and that came outta left field!) What question did I not ask that you’d like readers to know about you?
A question for all of you—one commenter will get a $25 Amazon gift card:
Bodie and Adrien are clean shaven except when stubble catches up with them, but I’m seeing lots more men with beards these days. How do you feel about facial hair? What do you think is sexy in a hero—clean shaven, stubble, beard, other? While you’re thinking about men and hair—body hair or man-scaping?
On Saturday, December 5th at 4:30pm, Lark is signing at MURDER BY THE BOOK with best selling romantic suspense author Laura Griffin! 2342 Bissonnet St, Houston
Lark’s love of reading, writing and travel has led her to a string of colorful jobs and a well-worn passport – as well as several years spent sailing and diving in the Virgin Islands. Her travels have inspired her stories–romantic adventures set in some of her favorite destinations around the world. When not traveling, she lives in Texas with her brilliant husband and two adorable canine “children.”
You can find Lark at larkbrennan.com, www.facebook.com/LarkBrennan and @larkh.
Thank you SO much for being here today, Lark, my excitement for your debut is only second to yours! Welcome to the published world, my friend. Buckle up, your sales will resemble a comet. 🙂
Posted by Sharon Wray
How did this all happen? It started with my daughter’s love of YA novels which led to the buying and borrowing of many(!) books.
That led to my reading and falling in love with the YA genre too.
Then came the announcement that my all-time favorite romance author was writing a new YA paranormal romance series with her daughter.
Once I told Ellen (an aspiring author herself) about the series, she asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do a mother/daughter interview with the mother/daughter writing team?”
To which I replied, “Yes!” And because Suzanne is known within the writing community for her generosity, I reached out to her and she said “Yes!” as well.
The Night Sky series debuted last October, followed by the prequel novella Dangerous Destiny. The second book in the series, Wild Sky, came out a few weeks ago. Upon Night Sky’s release, critics praised the novel for its witty dialog, strong female leads, realistically drawn characters, and a fabulous secondary cast — not to mention a brilliant new YA world where kids with unusually strong powers must fight against those who would use them for nefarious purposes.
None of this praise comes as a surprise since these are the trademarks of Suzanne Brockmann’s adult romances. For her adult fans, this YA world is an extension of the world from Suz’s paranormal romance Born to Darkness. For younger fans, Melanie’s sharp insights into the minds of teenagers is as engaging as it is hilarious. The Night Sky series is a gripping, fast-paced adventure that Ellen and I have enjoyed experiencing together. And I’m so grateful to Suz and Melanie for sharing their YA world with us.
Now, on to the interview!
They could be hunting you.
Hunted. Kidnapped. Bled. Someone is snatching girls and draining them for a secret that’s in their blood. A hormone that makes them stronger, faster, smarter. A hormone that the makers of a new drug called Destiny will murder to get their hands on. These girls could be anyone. They could be anywhere.
They could be you.
When Skylar discovers she’s a Greater-Than, a girl with terrifying power, her life will never be the same. The only way to stay alive is to join the fight against Destiny and become the ultimate weapon.
Sharon: Thank you both for spending the day with us! I loved the heroine Skylar, but I fell in love with her best friend Calvin. How did Calvin (who is in a wheelchair yet has a brief moment where he can walk and dance) feel about having to go back into his wheelchair?
Suz: Calvin is a very optimistic person, but he’s also a realist. He knows that his wheelchair is a part of his life. So even though I’m sure he felt a little twinge of disappointment when his stint out of the chair ended, he adjusted gracefully right back to the life he has known for years.
Mel: All I can say is for anyone interested in the relationship Calvin has with his wheelchair, wait until the sequel, Wild Sky.
Sharon: I am reading Wild Sky now and loving the Calvin moments! Were you influenced by any specific YA books?
Suz: Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books, starting with A Wizard of Earthsea, were among my very favorites growing up. And of course, like most of the world, I adore The Hunger Games trilogy!
Mel: I think I read A Wrinkle in Time between fifteen and twenty times. I loved it that much.
Sharon: For your YA reading, do you prefer physical books or ebooks? Ellen much prefers books to her Kindle. She surrounds herself with her favorite books while she sleeps!
Suz: I’m an e-reading woman. I’m in love with the convenience. (And I have a very old school Kindle, which is almost like reading a book!)
Mel: Either works for me!
Sharon: We caught the Star Trek references, but didn’t read any Joss Whedon references. Did we miss them? (Ellen and I are huge Buffy fans, except she’s Team Angel and I’m Team Spike.)
Suz: Believe it or not, Mel is (whispering) not a Buffy fan. She’s resisted all of my urging and pleas to watch it. I think someday she will, and then her head will explode from the shiny, but until then . . .
Sharon: (Not a Buffy fan? Yikes!) In Night Sky, you used one of my all-time favorite quotes of yours, “Do the best you can at the moment”. That quote has gotten me through some difficult times. Can you tell us the story about that quote or why you feel so strongly about it?
Suz: There’s a book called “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz, which is a wonderful outline of a philosophy that I try hard to embrace. One of the agreements is “Always do your best,” to which I added “in the moment.” Because, obviously, your personal best is going to depend quite a bit on what’s happening around you. For example, your personal best while running a 5K is gonna be seriously different if you have the flu versus being completely healthy, right?
This comes in very handy when, as an author, your career spans several decades and dozens of published books. I’ve learned a lot since my very first book, Future Perfect, came out in 1993—in fact, I’m a much, much better writer now. But at the time, that book was my personal best, and because of that, I remain very proud of it!
Sharon: I love that philosophy! Thank you for sharing it. So, whose idea was it to write a book together?
Mel: My mom sent me a cryptic text a few years ago, asking me to meet her at our local Barnes & Noble. I did, and she sprang the idea of the two of us writing a book together. She thought it would be a good idea for us to walk through the store and see what was out there in the YA market. But she wasn’t sure what I would think about the idea of co-writing one. In case it wasn’t obvious, I JUMPED at the idea. J
Sharon: Aren’t moms wonderful? Right Ellen? J
Ellen tries hard not to roll her eyes, but fails. “My turn!”
Ellen: Why did you put in the song Anaconda by Nicki Minaj? I was really surprised to see it because there are parodies of it all over Instagram and school.
Mel: We tried to imagine what songs would still be around decades from now—and which of those very old songs Calvin would find the most amusing!
Suz: I’m pretty sure someone’s still gonna be singing those lyrics in 2115!
Ellen: I hope so! (grimaces) Do you have a writing playlist or a certain song you listened to while writing?
Suz: I’m a musician, so I have to write in silence. If music is on, my attention is completely taken by the melody and the words of the song, and I get nothing done!
Mel: I have lots of playlists for my other job (personal trainer) – especially for my long runs. But writing is something I need to do without music, too.
Ellen: How do you think strong heroines in YA literature, including Skylar, have influenced readers?
Mel: I know that when I was a young reader, I was inspired by strong female characters. I think that having that kind of role model made me as tough as I am. (The good kind of tough.) J
Suz: I hope hope hope that girls who read both Night Sky and the sequel, Wild Sky, will relate to Skylar and to Dana, too. In a society that so often sends a message that girls must attempt to look and act alike, Skylar realizes what Dana already knows: that being different – not being the same as everyone else – is a STRENGTH, not a weakness.
Ellen: Buffy (and Angel) are two of my favorite characters ever. Do you think the current group of strong YA heroines started with Buffy?
Suz: There were strong heroines in pop culture before Buffy, but I have to say that, in my opinion, Buffy is by far the most important female fictional character in the past 20 years. For a smallish, cute, blonde sixteen-year-old to have her strength, courage, and all around kick-ass attitude blasted through so many stereotypes that I think (and hope) that she’ll continue to inspire girls for decades to come.
Ellen: Can you explain the dual writing process? Did you each write certain chapters or was one person responsible for dialogue and the other responsible for description? How did you revise and still love each other?
Mel: We made up our process as we went along, but the general plan was this: Mom and I got together and worked through a detailed outline of the story.
Suz: I’ve been an outliner/planner from way back. So, just like with all of my other books, Mel and I sat and talked and took notes for hours and hours before we started to write. We talked extensively about Sky. As our main character, we really needed to know her, inside and out. Mel spent some time on her own, too, writing some of Sky’s backstory from Sky’s point of view. What that did was really hone Sky’s voice so that we both knew exactly what she sounded like.
Meanwhile, I took all of our random notes about the plot and conflict (we mapped out about three books’ worth!), and I organized them into a structured story outline. And then we sat down again and thought about the best way to introduce Sky and Calvin, and we extensively outlined chapter one.
Mel: At that point, I wrote a first draft, and Mom revised it. (We did it at the same time, though – I would send a chapter, and Mom would revise it as I wrote the next chapter. Then I’d read the revisions before moving on to the next one.)
Suz: Every time we came to the end of the segment we’d outlined extensively, we’d do more brainstorming and figure out the details of the next series of chapters.
Mel: Of course, sometimes we’d shift things around. Sometimes Mom would say, “skip this next scene because I’ll write it—I see it so clearly,” and then I’d revise that scene that she wrote. But one thing was ABSOLUTELY constant – we did not sit together and write in the same room at the same time. We tried that only once. Nope. J
Suz: Yeah, that was awkward! We had to revise a bit of dialogue, and so I turned on my computer and we both pulled our chairs up to it and . . .
Mel: Crickets chirped!
Suz: After just a few minutes, one of us said something, “Let’s not do it this way.”
Mel: And the other said, “Oh, thank God!”
Ellen: Wow. Are you familiar with fandoms and shipping? If so, what are your OTPs in the Night Sky world? What is Skylar and Milo’s ship name? Skylo? Milar?
Suz: I’ve bumped up against reader expectations in my romance novels, and while I am a fervent believer in OTPs upon winning (and earning!) an HEA, I like stories that give characters an opportunity to explore the romantic landscape in advance of that HEA.
Mel: I like your suggestion of Skylo! J
Ellen: Thanks! Can boys be Greater-Thans?
Mel: Yes, but many more females than males are G-Ts. You’ll learn more about that in the next book, Wild Sky!
Suz: We introduce one particularly fun new character in the sequel. (Can’t wait to hear what you think!)
Ellen: Will the backstory/worldbuilding be explained more in the next book? (my mom said this was explained more in your adult novel Born to Darkness, but I’m 16 and I’m not allowed to read that yet!)
Mel: Yes – Wild Sky goes into more detail about the world. But there’s always more to learn as Sky learns more! J
Ellen: Will Nicole (a character from Skylar’s past) make an appearance in the next book?
Mel: No, not in the next book, but you’ll find out more about Garrett in Wild Sky!
Suz: Yeah, one of the first rules of writing is “Torture your characters,” so we thought we’d do just that by forcing Sky and Cal to interact rather extensively with football-playing school bully Garrett!
Ellen: My friends and I love to note-card our favorite books. Do you have any suggestions for note-carding Night Sky? (favorite quotes or passages or one-liners?)
Suz: For me, it’s pretty much every one of Cal’s Would You Rather questions! (And there are more of those in Wild Sky!)
Mel: Ooh, I think that’s something that you should share with us! We’d love to hear your favorite lines!
Ellen: I’d love to share! Here are some of my favorite one-liners and quotes:
I lack both a phone and a give-a-d*mn. (p. 380)
And love was still coursing through the air like it had its own individual pulse, but something else was casting a spell that lingered as it blew through the lit candles and brushed against the red rose petals sprinkled across the bedsheets. It was desire. (p. 435)
And I know I complain a lot about my mom. But when it comes to taking care of little girls who’ve been kidnapped and nearly killed? She kinda rocks. (p. 481)
Would you rather . . . ? (Calvin’s question throughout the book!)
And he kissed me. And I’m not talking peck on the cheek, either. (p. 306)
I had so much crap on my mind that my brain actually hurt. (p. 194)
Because life was so dang dangerous now, unlike the incredibly safe and bucolic good old days of the twenty-teens, or whatever ancient but perfect decade Mom had grown up in. (p. 13)
I had a bad case of swamp butt, and my jean shorts were sticking to my backside uncomfortably. (p. 1)
Now Suzanne and Melanie would love to hear from you! Do you have a favorite YA book or character? Or a favorite book one-liner or quote? Or any question about what it’s like to work as a mother/daughter team?
Thank you so much, Suz and Mel, for spending the day with us and sharing your own creative stories. Ellen and I are reading Wild Sky and hope you’ll come back for another interview soon!
Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter, Melanie Brockmann, have been creative partners on and off for many years. Their first project was an impromptu musical duet, when then-six-month-old Melanie delighted Suz by matching her pitch and singing back to her. (Babies aren’t supposed to do that.) Since then, Mel has gone on to play clarinet and saxophone, to sing in a wedding band, and to run seven-minute miles. She is one of Sarasota, Florida’s most sought-after personal trainers. Suz has driven an ice-cream truck, directed an a cappella singing group, and can jog a twelve-minute mile if chased. She is the multi-award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of more than fifty books. Wild Sky is the mother-daughter team’s second literary collaboration and the sequel to Night Sky. Their next collaborative project is an indie movie called Russian Doll in which Mel will star, while Suz executive produces. Each strongly suspects that the other is a Greater-Than.
Night Sky and Wild Sky are available from the following retailers:
All photographs courtesy of Suzanne Brockmann and Sharon Wray.
Rarely have I read an author who writes in two completely different voices. Julie Mulhern’s series: The Country Club Murders is a cozy mystery set in the 70’s, and filled with laugh-out-loud snark. Naturally when I picked up the first book in her new Haunting series, A HAUNTING DESIRE, even though I knew it was historical with a touch of paranormal, I still expected similarities in writing style. Nope. You’d never know the same writer wrote this solemn, eerie, twisted suspense involving Voo Doo and some grisly, dark New Orleans scenes that have you biting your nails like a teen. The two series are SO far apart in voice, style and spectrum on the mystery genre that I’m left thinking Julie Mulhern is either exceptionally talented or has a split personality.
As a dedicated KaT reader, I’m sure you recall reading about Julie after her debut last February when we featured her novel THE DEEP END. Next week the second book in The Country Club Murders comes out: GUARANTEED TO BLEED.
- You write a series that’s a hilarious snarky cozy and another series that’s historical, paranormal suspense. How hard is it to switch hats?
Actually, switching between two different genres is good for me. When I’m writing the mysteries, I get a break from turn of the century New Orleans and vice versa.
That doesn’t mean I’m not constantly having ideas for the wrong book. I am. I’ve started files.
- Which series is YOUR fav?
What a question! A bit like asking a mother which child is her favorite. Right now I am editing A Haunting Need (book two in the Haunting series) and writing Clouds in my Coffee (book three in the Country Club Murders). I love them both. That said, it’s easier for me to write mysteries.
- We interviewed you in February for your debut release. Tell us how well The Deep End has been doing.
The Deep End had a great spring and a wonderful summer, somehow managing a top spot on the Goodreads’ 2015 Best Beach Read list. I took screen shots of my book wedged between “Me Before You” and “The Rosie Project.”
Lynn Farris of examiner.com said of The Deep End, “This certainly isn’t your grandmother’s cozy mystery, and I loved it. This is a cozy mystery with an edge. Ms. Mulhern walked a fine line in this mystery with a tantalizing topic while still being acceptable to most cozy readers.”
Mystery readers who don’t want gore seem to respond to it.
- Are you a plotter or panster? What kind of research have you done for each? (You already answered or The Deep End, but it never hurts to refresh memories.)
I write to plot points. In an 80,000 word novel that means INTERESTING things better be happening at the 8,000, 20,000, 40,000, 60,000 and 72,000 words marks. Ish. I generally begin knowing my plot points but have no earthly idea how I’m going to fill in between them. Those misty spaces are where the magic happens.
As for research, I believe you mean RABBIT HOLE. I love it. Recently I needed to know how much it cost to rent a condo for a week in Vail in 1974 and found myself flipping through the virtual pages of a decades old ski magazine ($400 if you’re wondering). I’ve discovered Thea Porter caftans, renewed my fondness for Tab, and listened—willingly (once)—to “Seasons in the Sun.” I’ve also watched every movie Steve McQueen made in the 70s—that was no hardship.
Sometimes the research finds me. A New York Times article led me to this website – http://www.queermusicheritage.com/fem-jbl.html. I fell in love with The Jewel Box and knew I had to place a scene there.
- What are future release dates and titles?
Book two of The Country Club Murders, GUARANTEED TO BLEED, releases next week on October 13th. This is the book that features a scene at The Jewel Box. It also sees the return of Ellison, Grace, Mother, Aggie, Anarchy, and Hunter. I adore this mystery and am thrilled to see it venture out into the world.
Book three, CLOUDS IN MY COFFEE is slated for early May, 2016. I’d best get writing!
A HAUNTING NEED will release in April, 2016 (if I ever get these edits done).
QUESTION OF THE DAY FROM JULIE: As I mentioned, I’ve been watching loads of Steve McQueen movies and my favorite from the 1970s is Papillon. That said, my favorite movies from the 70s are The Sting, Blazing Saddles (after twenty years of marriage, my husband made a Mel Brooks fan of me) and Star Wars. What are your favorite 70s movies? FIVE COMMENTERS WILL WIN A DIGITAL COPY OF THE DEEP END!
Finally, readers, if you don’t believe me on how DIFFERENT Julie’s style is, please enjoy the excerpts below:
FIRST EXCERPT – In Guaranteed to Bleed, Ellison has a couple of awful dates (believe me, I’ve had worse). So in honor of my 20th wedding anniversary tomorrow (hurray, no more dating!), I thought you’d like to join her on one…
The scent of Aramis overwhelmed the aroma of my coffee. I looked up.
“How are the two prettiest ladies in town?” A man wearing the ugliest plaid sports coat I’ve ever seen—burnt sienna, burnt umber, cadmium deep yellow—stood in front of us.
Mother smiled. Daddy stood and thrust out his hand. Quin Marstin shook it. I looked from Mother to Quin to the empty seat at the table. Oh dear Lord.
“We’re so glad you joined us.” Mother’s smile didn’t mean a thing. The expression certainly didn’t touch the rest of her face. Was Quin a last minute addition because Hunter hadn’t wanted to come? “Please sit.”
Next to me.
When we were in high school, Garret Hargrove Marstin V, more commonly known as Quin, was the class president, the starting quarterback for a football team that won the state championship and the boy named most likely to succeed. As far as I knew, our senior year was the apex of his life. He’d been young, popular and almost every girl at school had wanted to date him. The world had changed. Quin hadn’t noticed.
He leaned back in his chair and grinned at me. “Ellison, looking good, babe.”
Next to me, Daddy tensed. Across from me, Mother washed away a sour-pickle expression with a deep sip of Bloody Mary. I shifted in my chair, inching as far as possible from Mother’s idea of a set up. Had she lost her mind? “Thank you,” I murmured.
The man positively reeked of cologne. What’s more, I’d bet, hidden beneath his white shirt, boring tie and that appalling blazer, there was a gold chain with a medallion nestled among his chest hairs. Bleh.
“How’s single life treating you?” Given that I was single because my husband had been murdered, I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. True, Henry had been a cheating low-life and I didn’t exactly mourn his passing, but…
He scooted his chair closer to mine. “Chick like you, you don’t have to stay single long.”
Across the table, Mother choked on her drink.
Quin leaned toward me and his Aramis assaulted my nose again.
Maybe his sense of smell was gone. Maybe when he looked in the mirror, he didn’t see the thinning hair. Then again, how could he, hidden beneath a toupee the way it was? Maybe he didn’t notice the thickening waist that threatened to become a paunch. The man remained a legend in his own mind.
I inched farther. So far, I risked falling off my chair. Maybe Daddy would catch me. Although…he looked frozen in horror. No help there.
“What are you doing now, Quin? For a living, I mean.” I asked.
Clipping coupons off the bonds his grandfather and father had amassed. We all knew it. Then again, cutting along a straight, dotted line is something of a skill.
He sat up straight, grinned, then leaned against the back of his chair. “I’m thinking of investing in a chain of incense stores. Not too late to get in on the action. You interested, Harry?”
This time Daddy choked on his drink. I patted his back and looked for a waiter. With everyone choking, we were going to need more ice water.
“There’s not enough water to make tea and read the leaves. It’ll be the cards.” With a rustle of her patched skirt, Granny led Trula into the cabin and settled into her seat at a table scarred by hot pans, dripping glasses of rum, and time.
Trula sat across from her in an uncomfortable straight-backed chair.
Behind Granny, a narrow plank painted a vibrant shade of blue groaned beneath the weight of a large crucifix, the curve of a snake’s skeleton, a small painting of the Virgin, tightly wrapped gris-gris, a cascade of crimson lace, brightly colored beads, painted stones, and a bottle of rum. Several candles burned and flower petals floated in a glass bowl filled with water. Next to the altar’s dense opulence, the rest of the simple cabin appeared drab.
“Are the wards holdin’?” Granny asked.
“I saw a boy.”
“Did he cause any mischief?”
Granny snorted. “The wards only keep out ghosts who mean you harm. I reckon that boy didn’t aim to cause trouble.”
The wards didn’t work against all ghosts? Until Zeke Barnes beat Carter Wayne, she’d never seen a single one in her home—it was a phantom-free haven. The wards made living in a city beset by ghosts bearable.
“You didn’t ride clear out here in the middle of the night because of the wards.” Granny’s head was wrapped in a bright tignon, a red shawl draped over her narrow shoulders. Her hands, roped with age and bent like claws, caressed a tarot deck.
“I’m worried about Cora James.” Trula bit her lip. It wasn’t exactly a lie.
“Cora’s in a safe place. Don’t you worry your pretty head about Cora James.”
The tension in Trula’s shoulders eased. “Where is she?”
The old woman grinned. “I done told you. A safe place.”
Trula closed her eyes and breathed through gritted teeth. If she wanted information from Granny, she’d catch more flies with honey than vinegar. “If you speak to her, would you please tell her the police are all over the district looking for Belmain’s murderer?
Granny laughed softly. “The New Orleans police aren’t gonna catch that killer. Least half those men couldn’t catch fish in a barrel. This ain’t somethin’ they understand. Darkness is roamin’ round the city.”
Trula shuddered. Eulie Echo had warned her about Baron Samedi, now Granny had as good as confirmed her suspicion that a spirit committed the murders.
“Cora’s not the only reason you rode clear out here in the middle of the night.” Granny’s faded eyes glittered in the dim light.
“I’m worried about my own girls as well.” That wasn’t a lie, either. She did worry about the girls. The man who’d invaded her thoughts wasn’t worth mentioning. Trula scrubbed at her tired eyes. Had he followed her?
Granny’s disbelieving laugh grated on Trula’s last nerve. “Maybe. But that’s not why you came. The cards have answers for you.” She shuffled the ornate deck and fanned it on the table. “Pick three.”
For more information on Julie Mulhern, please visit her website:
Posted by Lena Diaz
LENA: Happy Book Release Day, Mary! ENERGIZED is your third full length novel in the paranormal romantic suspense TIDEWATER series. I, for one, will be sad to see this unique series end. Which begs a question…IS it ending? Is ENERGIZED the last of this fun series?
MARY: Hi Kiss and Thrill Folks! Thanks for having me back. Ooh, good question! While Energized is the end of the Scott sisters’ trilogy, it may not be the end of the series itself. Right now, I’m working on a spinoff that will focus on the McKinnon cousins. And for those readers asking, yes! Ryan and Ian will get their own stories if this series is picked up.
LENA: For our readers, here’s the back cover copy about ENERGIZED.
In the new Tidewater novel by the author of Guarded, a kiss between strangers draws both into unexpected danger and unforgettable desire . . .
She’s searching for a sign . . .
Hannah Halloran has always believed in her gift. The things she sees through her psychic touch have never led her wrong before. Not when they led her to an unforgettable night with a sexy marine at a bar. Not when she felt a need to leave her home and find the sisters she barely knows. And not now, when she is an unwilling witness to a brutal murder . . .
He’s ready to show her . . .
All Niall Graham wants is some peace. He’s recovering from the horrors of war, struggling to save his family’s restaurant, and desperate to forget Hannah, the beautiful woman who left him with memories of a mind-blowing night together and a bogus phone number. But a quiet life is hard to manage—especially when Hannah strides back into his restaurant with the news that a serial killer is on the loose and lurking closer than anyone could have guessed . . .
LENA: In the first book of this series, you introduced the term “CRIFT”. Can you explain that to our readers? Does Hannah think her abilities are a CRIFT?
MARY: Hahaha! Crift! I love that word. It means a cursed gift. When someone in Tidewater has a psychic power, there’s always a catch that goes along with it, kind of yin and yang thing.
Until the psychic finds the balance, the ability can seem more like a curse than a gift.
Hannah is unusual in that she never thought of her ability as anything other than a fun ability, until she comes to Tidewater and stumbles into the path of a serial killer.
LENA: What inspired you to do this series? Is Tidewater a real place and have you lived there?
MARY: The Tidewater series was inspired by the real cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Suffolk. Those cities are sometimes referred to as Tidewater but you won’t find that name on a map.
I lived in the Tidewater area for many years and still refer to it as home. Sadly, I moved away in 2006 but when I started writing this series, I could visit there anytime I wanted, with a few modifications. See, in my books, Tidewater is its very own city nestled right in the middle of Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
LENA: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done as an author?
MARY: Attending the Writers Police Academy has been the coolest thing I’ve done so far as an author. It was before I was published and it was the first time I put myself out there and really asked the questions I’d wanted to ask forever. I got to use fake guns to clear a room, participate in a simulated shootout with a suspect, disarm a knife-wielding attacker, and even won a rat signed by the legendary Ann Rice!
LENA: By the way, readers…Mary recently won the National Readers Choice Award! CONGRATULATIONS, MARY!
Now, back to the questions. What’s the most challenging thing about being an author?
MARY: THANKS! The most challenging thing about being an author is writing through grief. I lace humor in all my books but I had to write the second novel in this series right after my sister died of breast cancer.
It about ripped me apart to write Guarded, especially the funny scenes with the attack ferret, when I was grieving. But I did it and learned that as hard as it was, it helped me grow as a writer and work through the pain. And as Tom Hanks pointed out in Sleepless in Seattle, “work is good.”
LENA: Mary, I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. Hugs. But so glad you were able to write an incredible book using that emotion. Hopefully it was cathartic. Now, what are some of your favorite books?
MARY: Besides Exit Strategy and Judgment? Secrets of a Runaway Bride by Valerie Bowman, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, It by Stephen King, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Vampire Interrupted by Lynsay Sands, and Visions in Death by J.D. Robb are all books I’ve read at least three times.
LENA: Ahhhh. Thanks for the shout out for EXIT Strategy (and I’m sure that Carey Baldwin appreciates the JUDGMENT shout out.) Favorite movies?
Mary: Ah, this one’s easier for me. There are only three: It’s A Wonderful Life by Phillip Van Doren Stern and directed by Frank Capra; Elf by David Berenbaum and directed by Jon Favreau, and The Princess Bride by William Goldman and directed by Rob Reiner.
LENA: Favorite pasttime (other than reading and writing)?
MARY: I love to take daily walks, especially early in the morning. I love being out in nature. While I’d prefer to do walks on sandy beaches by the Atlantic, I’m content to do them in my neighborhood.
LENA: Something readers would be surprised to learn about you?
MARY: I’m quite shy. I often volunteer at events to have something to do otherwise, I’m likely to duck out of soirees early because I have no idea how to strike up a conversation. J So if you want to chat, introduce yourself. I’m friendly once you get me talking.
LENA: Do you have any pet peeves about romance novels to share with us?
MARY: My biggest pet peeve is when people come up to me and tell me that they love reading my “trashy books.” It’s not a compliment to be called trashy, so I never quite know how to reply.
LENA: Can you share anything about your next project?
MARY: I’ve got two projects I’m working on. The one, I mentioned above is set in Tidewater and centers around the McKinnon cousins of Tidewater Security Specialists. More murder, romance, and psychic mayhem awaits the residents of the coastal city.
The other project is set in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Can’t say much more about it, but there are ghosts, romance, and a quirky heroine definitely in over her head with all the psychic antics.
Thank you Kiss and Thrill for having back today! I love hanging out with these very talented women!
LENA: And now a question from Mary to the KaT readers…
What is the biggest pet peeve a romance reader has when reading a romance novel?