Posted by Sarah Andre
Kiss and Thrill welcomes back one of our favorite authors: Brenda Novak! We’re all gushy fan-girls of her work here. To be perfectly honest, there was quite the squabble over who’d have this chance to interview her. (Luckily those 1990’s Tae Bo videos paid off and I arm wrestled the lot of ’em!)
When Kiss and Thrill started 2 years ago this week (see our anniversary post on Thanksgiving Day!) Brenda was our very second guest. We were honored then, and are honored now that she takes time out of her busy life as writer, mother and organizer-extraordinaire for her annual May charity: Brenda Novak’s Auction for Diabetes Research.
Given her frequent guest appearances and her down-to-earth personality, it’s easy to think you ‘know’ a famous best-selling author. So imagine our surprise when we heard Brenda’s new release was not a romantic suspense and not her Whiskey Creek contemporary series but a historical romantic mystery! Thanks to my arm wrestling skills, I got to find out why:
A shocking betrayal…
Riches. Power. An ancient heritage of pride. The Earl of Druridge wanted only for an heir. So when he learned that his wife was carrying another man’s child, he was filled with a thirst for vengeance.
But he wasn’t the one who caused Katherine’s death. Or was he? To his horror, he remembers nothing of that dreadful night, when their last confrontation ended in scorching flame and cold blood.
A forbidden love…
Rachel McTavish, the beautiful daughter of a coal miner, knows something about the fire that took Lady Katherine’s life. In secret, the strong-willed girl strikes a bargain with the desperate earl: he must send his physician to help her dying mother or he may go to the devil—and the scaffold. He agrees, but she is still unsure that her revelation will be enough to save him when so many wish him dead.
Passionately drawn to the nobleman, despite all the doubt and mystery that shrouds him, Rachel wonders if he can really be a murderer. Or if he is the only man who will ever own her heart… (Excerpt from Through the Smoke by Brenda Novak.)
First of all, Brenda, WELCOME BACK! Secondly…wow! You’re right in the middle of your successful contemporary Whiskey Creek series. Why did you suddenly decide to write a historical mystery?
This is a book that I started WAY back when I began writing, before I even knew I would write contemporary romance. My first book, published by HarperCollins, was a historical called OF NOBLE BIRTH. It came out in November of 1999. I expected to follow up with the historical I have since self-published–HONOR BOUND–and this one–THROUGH THE SMOKE–which I sold to Montlake. But that didn’t work out. My editor at the time indicated that we would go to contract when she returned from vacation, but because Harper was merging with Avon and didn’t need as many romance editors as they would ultimately have, she returned to a pink slip. That meant that I was cut from the list (at this point my first book wasn’t even out yet).
Fortunately, I had already sold my first contemporary to Harlequin only five months previous to this, so all wasn’t lost. I simply segued into writing for Superromance (one of Harlequin’s category lines) instead. Harlequin has kept me so busy through the years that I haven’t had the chance to go back to the historicals, but when I got the rights to OF NOBLE BIRTH reverted, I decided to self-publish it (since that craze was just getting started), and to follow up with the historical I had that was almost finished (HONOR BOUND), as well as this one (THROUGH THE SMOKE), which was only in proposal form. So I actually planned on writing historicals in the beginning, detoured into other genres and am now returning.
So you began with historicals, are famous for romantic suspense, and now the contemporary Whiskey Creek series. Which genre is hardest for you to write?
They each have their challenges, but…the historicals might be the hardest because they are historical romantic suspense, so you have to create a credible puzzle while writing a great romance. So you’re doing double duty while throwing on the added stipulation that you have to remain true to a certain historical era. That means you have to do more research than you would with the typical contemporary novel. They are a lot of work, but I really enjoy a great period piece–hence my desire to try and create one.
(I can hear Manda Collins, our historical romantic suspense author cheering!) Does your fan base follow you to different genres as far as you can tell?
I think there is some crossover. I’ve had a lot of reviews for THROUGH THE SMOKE from readers who comment that they don’t typically read the genre but tried it because I had written it. As far as numbers go, however, it’s hard to compare because my two publishers are so different. Since Harlequin has a big print presence, and Montlake has virtually none (but has a huge digital presence), we can’t compare by sales. Even in the digital arena, we don’t know how much to attribute to certain publicity and promotion efforts and how much to attribute to my existing fan base.
What can we look forward to in 2014-2015 from you?
I’ll have two more Whiskey Creek novels out–COME HOME TO ME (March 25, 2014) and THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS (November 2014).
I will also have another historical–A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN–that will be out October 2014.
Who are some of your favorite historical authors (doesn’t have to be contemporary.)
My favorite historical authors are Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Margaret Mitchell, Kathleen Winsor, Colleen McCullough, Philippa Gregory and Brenda Rickman iVantrease.
Let’s switch gears and talk about your Diabetes charity. Sum up how much you’ve raised, in how many years and what your goal is for 2014.
I can’t believe it, but so far we have raised over $2 million. When I first set out to raise funds for diabetes research, I used to daydream of someday breaking $1 million. I’m so grateful that, through the generosity of my donors and shoppers, I’ve been able to double that amount.
Next year will be our big 10 year anniversary, and we are hoping to do it up bigger and better than ever before. As usual, it will start May 1st, and you can get to it at http://www.brendanovak.com It would be smart to register now, for those who aren’t already registered so that we can send out various alerts as the time draws closer. Also, we are already starting to gather some great items.
Is it my imagination or were the 2013 donated items bigger and more elaborate than in years past? (I used to think the majority of items were writer-related and this year it wasn’t so at all! Huge celebrity giveaways.) Is this a word-of-mouth phenomenon or are you expanding your promoting?
This is a grassroots effort. I haven’t paid for expensive advertising. What advertising I do is donated (thanks to the generosity of Publisher’s Weekly, RT Book Review Magazine, Woman’s World, Writer’s Digest and many, many online places). I think it’s the power of social networking that has helped us grow each year, and the efforts of all the authors, businesses, artists and advocates who contribute.
Are you accepting donated items already for May, 2014? How can our readers get in touch with someone in your organization if they would like to do that?
You bet! We are taking things all year. It requires a great deal of time to build such a big event with a skeleton crew. We have four people on “staff,” but three of us are volunteers. We have only one part-time employee (for the sake of continuity from year to year) because I want to keep the overhead as low as possible.
You can donate through (www.brendanovak.com), or the charity’s website (www.brendanovakforthecure.org) or email Anna directly at email@example.com.
When I go on your Auction site, your son is all grown up and looking healthy and happy! How have your family and your son adapted to his diabetes over the years? Do you see improvements in medical treatments since he was first diagnosed?
I’m not sure I would say we have “adapted.” Like everyone else who has a family member with this terrible disease, we have had no choice but to get along as best we can. I am grateful for all the tools we have that help us to do that–the insulin, the needles, the insulin pump, the testing strips and meters. Improvements are being made–in that these tools are getting better and better at what they are supposed to do. My son will be getting a pump that comes with a continuous glucose monitor, for instance, and that should help control his sugars (because we will get many more readings per day instead of the six we get now by pricking his fingers).
There is also hope in the cure-based research that has been going on. The DRI, which gets the money I raise, is trying to perfect their new Biohub (it should go into human trials soon). This might turn out to be the answer we have all been working/praying for.
What advice do you have for people newly diagnosed and in a state of fear and confusion?
It’s natural to go through a period of mourning. I think I tried to bounce back too soon and couldn’t seem to figure out what was wrong with me (when that wasn’t so easy). The regimen takes a great deal of getting used to, there’s a huge amount of worry (that never goes away) and there’s also a lot of frustration involved (because no matter how hard you try, you’re not going to be able to control human blood sugar all the time with the tools currently available).
I would say to hang in there, seek out a support group so that you can share information and ask questions and make sure you have a good doctor. (Of course I would also say to get involved in the auction and help me fight back. There is great strength in numbers.)
Thank you so much for being with us today, Brenda and I wish you and our readers a Happy Thanksgiving!
QUESTION OF THE DAY: What are you thankful for? One commenter will win a copy of “Through the Smoke.”
The lucky winner will be announced on Thursday on our Thanksgiving/2nd Anniversary post!
P.S. Brenda just notified me that her novel WHEN SNOW FALLS just went on sale for $1.99 from now until Sunday! Click on the title to buy this and click on the cover of THROUGH THE SMOKE to buy her historical mystery.