Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tuesday Special Author Interview: Suzanne Brockmann

Author Name: Suzanne Brockmann
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Latest book in shops now:
The Admiral’s Bride (Reissue from Mira Books), and Hot Target (Ballantine Books).

Before we begin this interview, I need to check that you’re still grounded and that your head isn’t swollen from all of your success, so with that in mind, what was the last thing you bought at Target, and do you know how much a loaf of bread costs? (grin)

Okay, this is going to sound really silly, but the last thing I bought at Target were a set off doggy booties. Please believe me, this has nothing to do with being grounded (or not), but is/was an attempt to deal with a yuking Schnauzer.

See, we adopted a pair of eight-year-old Schnauzers from a shelter just about two years ago this month. Sugar and Spice. Their owner had died, and they needed to be placed together. We didn't know it, but we needed a pair of elderly Schnauzers. LOL! (Well, we knew it when we met them...)

Sadly, Spice died from kidney failure last March. Sugar (now ten) has been holding her own -- except she started with some mystery yuking this past winter. We suspected/hoped it had more to do with walking on salted roads and licking her feet after (salt = poison!) rather than kidney problems.

So, in an attempt to have her not be sick, I went to Target and purchased said booties. (Which were too small. We returned them. Stopped walking her in salted areas.) But I'd remembered seeing a huge selection of ridiculous dog items (rhinestone studded collars, etc) at Target, so I went there in hopes of finding canine footwear. I was not entirely disappointed.

Canine footwear? Lol!!

As for bread... Hmmm. I'm not a bread eater. And my husband has been doing the grocery shopping since about 1996. (I do the laundry.) Ask me about washing socks, why don't you?

Ohhhh…. Are you telling me people actually wash socks? *g*

OK, let’s talk about your books.

Prince Joe was recommended to me by a couple of readers (Thanks Dawn/ Maili) as I’d never read any of your books before. Of course I read it, and I loved it. Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

I'm so glad you liked it -- thank you so much for your kind words!

PJ was the first book I wrote with a SEAL hero, and really, the first book that caugth readers' attention and put me on the romance map. (Thanks to a train carrying a shipment of books that went off the tracks and into a reservoir.

Water plus books equals sad readers. Long story short, my books were NOT on that train. My books were on the next train. Desperate, book-starved readers grabbed for it, and it hit the USA Today list -- pretty miraculous for a category romance!) For years, I was convinced that the words "Author of PRINCE JOE" would be on my tombstone. LOL! Of course, I was fine with that -- it was a book I was very proud of having written.

As for inspiration -- I've always had huge respect for servicemen and women. I'm a WWII history buff from way back. The idea of writing about a team of SEALs really worked for me!

I usually hate prissy heroine’s, and Joe’s Veronica was as prissy as they come, but somehow, you still managed to get me to care about her, why do you think she appealed to so many readers despite her stiff upper lip-ness? (Yeah I know that’s not even a word).

I always try to create characters who are good and kind, but also flawed, imperfect people. Flawed and vulnerable -- and I force them to face their vulnerabilities -- which they do quite bravely despite self-doubt and fear.

My goal in every book is to create characters (like Veronica) that you-the-reader will want to spend some of your precious time with. I want you to care about them, to take this journey with them, to fall in love right alongside them.

Veronica's far from perfect in many ways, but she touches Joe's heart in a way that no one has before. My hope as a writer is that she'll touch the readers' hearts, too.

When you develop your characters, do you model them on people you know in your life, or do they all come from inside your head?

They're totally imagined. But I really get to know them before I start to write. I pay attention to their beliefs and values (important things that make us all individuals), and I write extensive back stories -- focusing quite a bit on their childhood. (Childhood is when many of our beliefs and values are formed.)

The key, I think, is in knowing my characters so well that they are always consistent and therefore believable in their reactions to any given action.

Do you ever get compared to other writers? If so, how does that make you feel?

It's always nice to be compared to writers who are good storytellers. I think that's the highest compliment!

I know you’ve probably been asked this question a million times, but why the obsession with SEALS?

Only the best of the best make it through the intense training and earn the right to call themselves SEALs. What is it that drives these men to do this? I'm fascinated by that refusal to quit, by the determination and drive.

One thing I enjoyed about
Hot Target was your willingness to include a gay love triangle as the basis for the secondary romance, were you (or your editor) afraid that readers would be put off by this?

No fear. I knew, however, that I'd lose some readers -- sad but true. So be it. But more importantly, I knew that I had the chance to touch other readers -- to bring them out of their comfort zone and open their eyes a bit wider. I thought that was well worth it.

I've had such a tremendously positive response to
Hot Target from the people who trusted me enough to join Jules on this leg of his journey. It's been wonderful -- all the positive email I've received.

Another thing that I particularly remember about Hot Target was the personal letter that you wrote to your readers. I felt that it was very brave of you to put so much of yourself out there. What were your motivations for doing this, and what kind of reaction did you get from your fans?

Here's the deal: Coming out isn't just for gay people. It's for straight allies -- for friends and family members of gay people, too. So when an acquaintance asks me if my son Jason has a girlfriend, I don't sidestep the issue.

I say the words, "My son is gay." I also try to show them how this isn't any kind of an issue -- that it shouldn't be an issue. He's a person just like they are. I say something like, "He's started seeing this really nice young man. I had dinner with them both last week, as a matter of fact."

And then I go on to talk about how well Jason is doing at school -- he's one of the best tap dancers at AMDA in NYC. I'm so proud of him and I love him so much -- just like every other parent loves his or her child. (K: *wipes tear from eye*)

See, I don't want my son to live in a world where -- at best -- people lower their voices to whisper the word "gay" and think they're being tolerant. My son is gay -- I'm happy to talk about him, shout about him, sing about him, write about him. Loudly.

And I really don't want my son to live in a world where gay people are bashed and physically attacked.

It completely freaks me out that there are people who live in this world who would hurt or even kill Jason -- just because he's gay. Without even bothering to get to know him, without finding out that he's smart and funny and talented and kind. That's a problem for me. A big problem.

But before I load my shotgun (well, okay, I'd have to go buy one first, but probably not at Target) and prepare for a pre-emptive strike, I'm going to try to educate other people, to teach tolerance and understanding.

I'm trying to do my part through my books (it was not an accident that I created the character of Jules Cassidy!) as well as my day to day life.

I love how honest you are about your son, I hope your words make a huge difference to somebody out there…

Your books tend to deal with a lot of real life issues, e.g. multi-racial characters, inter-racial relationships, alternative lifestyles etc, is this deliberate on your part, or do you just write as your muse tells you to? *g*

I write about the world I live in, the world I see around me. It's filled with all types of people -- people who are all valuable no matter their age, appearance, beliefs...

I don't believe that people can choose who they love. I don't think love is convenient or tidy. In fact, it's anything but. Differences in ages, in skin color, in religion -- these mean nothing to the human heart.

Love brings us all down to the bottom line -- we all have hearts that beat in our chest. We all long for a connection. It's that simple. We're so much more alike than we are different...

OK, you can relax a bit now, that’s the hard part over with. *g*

What were your favourite books as a child?

I was a big fan of ongoing series -- the Earthsea books, Mr. Bass's Planetoid series, the Hardy Boys. I also loved reading westerns. Louis L'Amour. Oh, and PJ Wodehouse, Donald Westlake, William Goldman (of course, I found their books in the adult library...)

What does a typical day as a writer consist of?

Getting out of bed and dragging one's butt to the computer. Sitting there and getting the pages written. Usually while wearing PJs and having bedhead.

Name your top five favourite books of all time.

The Wedding Dress by Virginia Ellis
Libby's London Merchant by Carla Kelly
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Illusions by Richard Bach
the screenplay of Shakespeare in Love

Which authors are you glomming at the moment? (reading a lot of?)

Ah, come on. I know what glomming is! Lol!(K: Hey there were many an author who didn’t know what it meant!) I glommed Carla Kelly after I first "found" her. She's probably my favorite author.

I'm actually not glomming anyone at the moment. Right now I'm reading Susan Carroll's book THE COURTESEAN. Her "Bridefinder" trilogy was a big favorite of mine.

Do you have other close romance writer friends, and if so who are they?

My closest friends aren't writers. In fact, I didn't meet any other romance writers until after I was published. (I only found out about RWA from my first editor!)

When did you realise that you wanted to write books, and who or what inspired you?

I actually wanted to write screenplays, and saw a career as a published author as a jumping off place. I did a series of self-help tapes that a good friend gave to me. And it was actually a taped goal-setting workshop given by Tony Robbins that taught me to focus my creative energy.

How many times did you get rejected (if indeed you did) before you got published?

Many, many. I have a rejection file that's about four inches thick. Rejection doesn't end after you first get published, you know.

Ooh that’s interesting to know!

Just for reference, the first book I sold was the fourth romance I'd written. (I've got about five books that I wrote early in the, well, let's call it the "learning process," that have never been published.)

If you could have a one-to-one conversation with a famous historical figure, who would it be with and what would you talk about?

I think it would have to be Winston Churchill. His speeches played such an important part in the fight against Nazi Germany. I don't agree with all of his politics, but I do believe that he was the right man to lead England at that time in history.

I'd love to ask him if he ever had any doubts about the outcome of the war -- and how he found the strength to hang on when things seemed so bleak.

What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your writing?

To entertain my readers -- while making them think.

How has the romance industry changed from when you first started writing, and which of these changes were you happiest/unhappiest with?

IMO, most of the changes reflect the economy of our country. People aren't buying books right now -- across the board.

I think, though, that the biggest non-financial change has been in the (relatively late to the game) realization of the publishers that the internet is a powerful advertising tool.

They're also (FINALLY!) starting to catch on that, with the internet, the world is much smaller. They can no longer release a book in the UK (Harry Potter comes to mind) 4 or 6 months before the U.S. release, and not expect US readers to get their hands on a UK copy.

For years, US readers on my bulletin board "adopted" a reader from the UK or Europe, and bought them a copy of my latest book on the release date here in the States, mailing it to their "book buddy." (Because the book wouldn't be released in the UK until months later.) Now the release tends to be simultaneous. I'm happy about that!

Oh me too girl, me too!

A lot of well known authors who first wrote within the romance genre, seem to have moved away from traditional romance, and are now writing paranormals, suspense etc. (e.g. Linda Howard, Catherine Coulter) Why do you think this is?

I think that many writers have a need to grow and change. I know that I wouldn't be happy writing the same book over and over and over again.

BUT, I also think that much of that is simply labels. The publisher can sell more of my books by putting "Fiction" on the spine instead of "Romance" or "Romantic Suspense."

In your vast experience, what would you say was the most effective method of marketing a romance novel?

For me, it's always been about my email newsletter. I've worked hard to build a list of what I call "dedicated readers." I've got over 7000 email addresses on my DR list -- many of these people are readers who emailed me early in my career. And I emailed them back! One on one contact is very important for a writer who is just starting out.

7001 now including mine *g*

Which of your books is dearest to your heart, and why?

Hot Target is important to me for many reasons. But Out of Control (Navy SEAL Chief Kenny Karmody's story) is probably dearest to me, because it's the last book that I wrote before 9/11.

Which of your books do you feel you’re better known for?

I think I'm best known for my
Troubleshooters series, which started with The Unsung Hero and continues through to Breaking Point (the 9th book in the series, coming out in paperback in July 2006). (Book ten, by the way, Into The Storm, will be released in hardcover on August 15, 2006.)

FYI, the books in this series are:
The Unsung Hero
The Defiant Hero
Over The Edge
Out of Control
Into The Night
Gone Too Far
Hot Target
Breaking Point
Into The Storm

I’ve always wondered about this, but as an author, once your books are published, do you actually go back and read them yourself, and if so, are you able to enjoy them, or do you perhaps see things that make you want to chew your own arm off in frustration? (grin).

I always read them in book form. For me, there's nothing as satisfying as reading a book that has my name on the cover! (I'm a book nerd from way back! LOL!)

Me too… oh we have so much in common… *g*

And I'm quite at peace with the idea that each book is my personal best, with the understanding that my personal best was affected by all of the various things that were going on in my life when I was writing it.

How do you feel when inevitable comparisons are made between Prince Joe and your later works? Would you prefer your other
Tall, Dark, and Dangerous books to be judged on their own merit?

I don't have a problem with that. There're always going to be comparisons, and there will always be readers who like my older books best. There will also always be readers who like my newer books best. I'm fine with that. I'm definitely not trying to please everyone all the time.

Has anything a reviewer or reader said or written about you changed the way you write?

I actually had a reader write to ask if I couldn't manage to bring the heroines from the earlier books in the TDD series back into the books. (I usually used the heroes in SEAL action sequences.) But I thought about that, and came up with a story in which it really worked to bring back some of those female characters --
Get Lucky.

This was a book where the entire SEAL team goes wheels up, except for Lt. Luke "Lucky" O'Donlon. He's a total ladies' man -- he completely adores women, and to his horror, he realizes there's a serial rapist targeting servicewomen and servicemen's wives. It's up to him to protect everyone -- and to catch the bad guy. It's a fun book -- and it came from that reader's suggestion!

How utterly fabulous!

Last year, RWA attempted to try to define romance, and it caused a bit of a furore round the blogosphere, due to the limitations of the definitions. What were your thoughts on this at the time, and do you think it’s possible/necessary to define romance in a way that doesn’t exclude other sub-genres?

Jeez, you know, I was on deadline at the time, so I don't know much about the uproar. People are waaaay too into dividing life into "us" and "them" these days, aren't they? Sheesh. (Is there something in the water???)

To me, a romance novel is a love story with a happy ending -- period the end. I think trying to define and limit it is silly -- romance is a huge genre with dozens of sub-genres. There's something here for everyone. (I'm a fan of inclusion -- and would even look for a way to include love stories that DON'T end happily in the genre!)

RWA should teach a workshop on sub-genre tolerance. I have to be honest, there are some sub-genres that I just do not enjoy. In fact, yes, I'll say it. Some of those older 80s romance novels where the heroine is raped by the hero at the start of the book make me crazy.

I dislike the fact that despite being so dated, they are still being published, that people can pick them up and think these stories continue to define romance novels. Grrrr.

(I guess you’ve been reading Bertrice Small then… Just kidding of course! *g*)

BUT guess what? NEWSFLASH!!!!! I'm not the only person living in this world. There are people out there who (for whatever reason -- I don't get it, but okay) not just enjoy but actually love these books. So I try not to bash those books. I'll make it very clear that those books DON'T WORK FOR ME, though.


When was the last time you went overseas and where did you go?

Wow, it's been awhile, but I did just get my passport renewed. Last trip I took was to Mexico. Before that, it was Germany -- I have relatives living in Bremerhaven.

Who are your favourite romance hero and heroine of all time?

Buffy and Angel.

Does BTVS count as a romance? *g*

Why do you think a lot of romance readers tend to judge the heroine a lot more harshly than the hero?

You know, it's interesting. I've received email from readers who dislike my female characters and the reason they usually give is "I would never have done what she did when she XYZ." Well, hello! She's not you. She grew up differently, has different beliefs and values.

Meg Moore from
The Defiant Hero. I get most negative comments about Meg. Ironically, she's the one heroine who is most like me. A total control freak. LOL! Her daughter is kidnapped in this book, and I would have done EXACTLY what she did to get her daughter back. Go figure.

What kind of characters would you say you typically wrote?

Flawed, honest people with good hearts.

If only one person could read your book, who would that be? (as in the person who you would want most to read your book) Rosie’s Question

Wow. Good question. Am I allowed to say Oprah? Oprah.

You’re definitely allowed to say Oprah… as long as you’re not James Frey that is. (grin)

If you had to pick, who would you say has been most influential within the romance genre?

Without a doubt, Nora Roberts. She's amazing.

What was the last movie you saw?

We just glommed the Oscar contenders, right before Oscar night. So the last one I saw was... Transamerica.

We saw everything except Munich. I was on deadline when that came out, and it was hard to find in theaters.

Name your top five favourite romantic films.

Brokeback Mountain
Shakespeare in Love
Notting Hill
American Dreamer

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?

Actually, I just read John Hodgman's THE AREAS OF MY EXPERTISE (non fiction, humor) and I enjoyed it tremendously. Dude is FUNNY.

Have you ever written a book that you didn’t particularly care for, and do you cringe if you see people picking it up to read it?

Nope. I'm proud of every book I've ever written.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

Spending quality time with my characters!

What do you least enjoy about being a writer?

Sometimes a book can be very hard to write. It's kind of like hitting oneself with a sledgehammer, repeatedly. Ouch.

As you’ve been there, done it, and have the badge to prove it, what is the number one advice that would you give to aspiring writers out there?

Study all fiction. Particularly study and analyze books, movies and TV shows that are excellent, as well as those that are dreadful. Identify when the writer lost you as a reader or a viewer. Pay attention to what they did wrong (and, in the case of the great stuff, what they did right!).

Finally, when’s your next book due out, and what’s it about?

I've got a Mira Books reissue of
The Admiral’s Bride, Tall, Dark & Dangerous book #7, out on March 28th. This book was given a rare 5 star review by RT BookClub Magazine. It features SEAL Admiral Jake Robinson and six missing canisters of a deadly chemical weapon.

The paperback release of Max & Gina's story,
Breaking Point, Troubleshooters book # 9, is coming out from Ballantine Books on July 25, 2006.

Into The Storm, TS book #10, will be out in hardcover from Ballantine on August 15, 2006. It features Navy SEAL Mark Jenkins and lots of harsh winter weather.

Last but not least, the long-awaited reissue of my Bantam book,
Ladie’s Man, will be in bookstores on August 29, 2006. (First editions of this book are very hard to find, and have sold on the internet for well over $1000.)

They all sound ab fab!

Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer these very nosy questions!

You're very welcome!

What a lovely lady!

Ok, that’s all folks, I’m sure you’ll all agree that she was well worth the wait! Next week we’ll have Mary Jo Putney answering some hard hitting questions about her ironing pile! *g*

Ciao for now!