Posted by Sharon Wray
Today I am so pleased to welcome Heather Ashby, a 2012 Golden Heart sister as well as an award-winning romantic suspense author!
After the successful debut of her first book Forgive & Forget, Heather has just released the second book in her “Love in the Fleet” series, Forget Me Not, to even more acclaim. And I heard a rumor that she’s also brought along Forget Me Not’s sexy hero Sky Crawford. I can already tell he’s a flirt!
SW: Welcome, Heather! I loved this book and am not surprised to hear all sorts of wonderful buzz about this story, the hero, and especially the villain. Can you share the blurb without giving away too much?
HA: Thanks, Sharon, for inviting me back to Kiss and Thrill! Here’s the blurb for Forget Me Not:
Suffering from survivor guilt, playboy Navy Seahawk pilot Sky Crawford swears he’ll never marry, unsure he deserves happiness—besides there are too many hot chicks to choose from.
War widow and veterinarian Daisy Schneider swears to love only animals after her Marine pilot husband is killed in Afghanistan—but work fails to ease her loneliness or the guilt that she might have saved him. The last thing she needs is a sweet-talking, fast-playing military pilot in her life.
Between a fiery battle with drug runners at sea and one stray, matchmaking Siamese cat, the fur flies in Forget Me Not as Sky and Daisy learn about life, love, and second chances.
SW: I know this is your second book but can you tell me about this amazing Romantic Suspense list Forgive and Forget is on?
HA: I was stunned when Suspense Magazine voted my debut novel, Forgive & Forget, to their “Best of 2013” list for Romantic Suspense with Linda Howard, Allison Brennan/Laura Griffin, and Sandra Brown. This was beyond my wildest dreams.
SW: I am so happy for you, and the award is much deserved. In researching the cocaine trade, how difficult was to come by the information? Were you afraid of ending up on someone’s list?
HA: I did wonder if the FBI was going to come for me after reading my Google search history or seeing what I checked out of the library. While packing for a wedding in St. Petersburg, Florida, my normally sweet husband pulled my current reading material from the suitcase, got in my face, and exclaimed, “No, you are not going to sit around the pool at the Don Cesar Hotel reading How to Smuggle Cocaine for Profit and Fun.
SW: I don’t blame him! Did the reality of the drug world scare you?
HA: Yes, the above book was written by a drug lord to show just how easy it is to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. In addition to reading about the “selling of souls for profit,” I was shocked at what growing and processing cocaine does to the environment. Besides the slashing and burning for more farm land to grow coca, millions of liters of caustic chemicals, including pure gasoline, are dumped into rivers and jungles.
SW: How did you get a Navy helicopter pilot to help you with the writing/authentication? Can you tell me a bit more about him/her?
HA: Oh, it was definitely a him, and didn’t he look hot in that flight suit! Oops, did I type that out loud? Seriously, he is the dad of a former student of mine. And I was thrilled to learn that he’d always wanted to write a thriller, but didn’t know where to start. So he enjoyed adding his two cents worth, along with authenticating scenes, especially cockpit dialogue and actions, and the drug interdiction/firefight. We even added in a character based on his best friend, a naval aircrewman who perished in a flight accident. Petty Officer Billy Quinn is honored in the story and on our dedication page.
SW: Your books are known for their realism. What extra lengths did you go to do research?
HA: The Navy invited me to go through their Seahawk helicopter flight simulator. They said: “We are so thrilled that someone is going to write about what our pilots and crews do to make the world a safer place, we will help you in any way we can.” Although it was all simulated, it was 100% realistic – including movement. I sat in the pilot’s seat and my “co-pilot” (another cute pilot in a flight suit) guided me to land our helo on the flight decks of various sized ships, including a frigate which has a postage stamp-sized deck. Then they had me do it “at night” and “during a thunderstorm.” Next they set up the drug runner scenario I would be writing about. I got to fire warning shots on a “go-fast” – a speed boat – while it evaded interdiction by zigzagging. Since the mules did not cease and desist, I next got to pick off their “$100,000 engines” with lasers, one by one until they were DIW, dead in the water. After that, my co-pilot let me fire three Hellfire missiles! (No, not at the drug runners.) And finally, they had me experience a tail rotor failure, which throws a helicopter into a violent spin – and might, just maybe, happen in the book . This was one of the most exciting days of my life!
SW: Tell me about your “Villain”.
HA: The villain in Forget Me Not is cocaine. Through interwoven chapters, the reader follows the journey of the cocaine from harvest to processing to the mules who transport it in go-fasts to the distributer. Various characters are introduced, such as a drug lord, his son who has a conscience, the manager at a processing plant, and a go-fast captain, but they are only there as a means of guiding the villain – the cocaine – on to the next step in its journey.
SW: Was writing this book harder than the first? Was it a revision of an older book?
This book was way easier than Book 1, because I knew what I was doing. I had no idea about writing a novel when I wrote Book 1, which means it was re-written five times over before being published. I actually wrote Book 2 with the Golden Heart in mind, ensuring lots of voice in the beginning as opposed to the backstory that had been in Book 1. I also wrote it around a hook at page fifty. I was very excited when Book 2 was named a Golden Heart finalist. (Original title: Cat On A Hot Steel Flight Deck.)
SW: As we’re talking, an incredibly handsome man has walked in. And since Heather has prepared me, I’m pretty sure that killer smile and sexy wink belongs to Sky Crawford, the luscious hero of Forget Me Not. “So, Sky, what was the first thing you thought when you met Daisy? (be honest!)”
Sky: If you want me to be honest, how about go right to the source? Here’s my reaction when I first saw Dr. Daisy at her vet clinic.
Attention on deck. All hands man your battle stations. Hot. Chick. Alert.
Sky’s brain flipped over to autopilot. Left eye did the ring finger check. No rings. Good sign. Right eye—hey, something was wrong here. His right eye knew it was assigned breast patrol, but it couldn’t seem to move past her blond hair swept up into some kind of barrette thingy. Hair that screamed for him to pull out the clip so he could watch the flaxen mass come tumbling down, like the walls of Jericho. Then both eyes got too lost in her pale blue ones to even consider glancing lower.
Mayday. Mayday. Losing focus fast. Send reinforcements.
Peripheral vision was called in as backup and the situation report said any woman that looked this good in a pair of scrubs must be some mighty fine booty.
SW: I’m surprised she even talked to you. What was it about Daisy that changed things for you?
Sky: She didn’t put up with my BS. But since I love it when desirable women play the hard-to-get card, I wasn’t about to give up the chase.
SW: Was there ever a moment when you had to choose between Daisy and the final showdown with the drug runners?
Sky: Yeah, but that would be a spoiler, sweetheart.
SW: Your story involves your ongoing recovery from PTSD. Can you tell us how Daisy helped you in your recovery?
Sky: She made me acknowledge that I might have some…you know…issues…and I might have to…um…get some help. Okay, so she threw my a** out until I actually got help.
SW: What help did you give Heather in her ongoing research into your world of Navy pilots?
Sky: I suggested she work out at the base gym on the Navy base. See, if she goes around 11 AM and uses a certain treadmill, she can watch all the hot guys in uniforms walk by on their way to the locker room before their lunch-hour workout. That also affords her a good view of the chin up bars, since she has a thing for upper-body musculature. And I reminded her that nobody would suspect her of “doing research,” since she’s old enough to be their mother. And as to the hot love scenes, I just whispered them all into her ear.
SW: Are Navy pilots really this sexy? Or is it all for show?
Sky: Oh, sweetheart, we are really that sexy. (Heather says it’s the flight suits, but don’t listen to her. Come on, this is the Skylark you’re talking to—king of the skies and the bedroom. The King of Hearts.)
SW: Okay. As cute as he is, it’s time to shut him down and ask the weekly question:
Do you like unusual villains? Or do you prefer the standard scary drug-kingpin type villain?
And if villains aren’t your thing at all, what do you think about cocky heroes who get taken down by sexy, smart heroines?
And for one lucky commenter, Heather will be giving away one e-copy of Forget Met Not!
Heather Ashby is a Navy veteran, whose mother was one of the original Navy WAVES in WWII. After leaving the service, Heather taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East.
In gratitude for her Army son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to support wounded warriors and their families.
An award-winning author of romantic fiction, Heather is a member of Romance Writers of America, and also belongs to regional/specialty chapters, including The Golden Network and First Coast Romance Writers. Additionally, she holds memberships in RomVets and the Military Writers Society of America. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida, with her retired Naval Engineer husband and three rescue cats.
All photographs courtesy of Heather Ashby and Sharon Wray.