Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Automobiles, Love, and a Free-Spirit -- How can it possibly go wrong?

With two degrees, one in law and the other in psychology, Susan Fox is one smart woman. Writing under the names Susan Lyons and Susan Fox, she has published sixteen sexy, contemporary novels that range from hot to sizzling. Her books have won Booksellers Best Awards, the Aspen Gold, the Golden Quill, the More Than Magic, the Lories, the Beacon, and the Laurel Wreath, and she was a nominee for the 2009 RT Reviewers Choice Award.

Though the exploration of sex and love are at the center of Susan's stories, sharing the character's development and move toward empowered choices is also critical. As one reviewer wrote of Susan's previous novel, Love, Unexpectedly , "Susan Fox has the rare gift for making ordinary people extraordinary."  Susan's new book, His, Unexpectedly is the third in her Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and Cruise Ship series.  Please welcome Susan to Behind the Book as she shares some of her author secrets and why writing and reading her sexy novels are so fun.

What was the initial spark that put this story in your head? 
His, Unexpectedly is the third book in my “planes, trains, automobiles and a cruise ship” Wild Ride to Love series for Kensington Brava. The concept of the series originated when two ideas came together. First, I think different modes of transportation have a romantic, sexy allure – and the phrase “planes, trains, automobiles” (the cruise ship was added later) popped into my head and wouldn’t let go. Then, after writing the Awesome Foursome series about four best friends (my “Sex And The City set in Vancouver” series), I had the urge to write about sisters. So I needed to figure out how to put sisters together with modes of transportation – and I thought it would be fun to have three older sisters who all live in different places, suddenly having to come home for their baby sister’s unplanned wedding.

So, that was the series idea, and hurray, Kensington bought it. The first book, Sex Drive (a Cosmo Red-Hot read, by the way), brought buttoned-up older sister Theresa home by planes from Australia – and her romantic journey began when she was seated beside Damien, one of Australia’s 10 sexiest bachelors.

In the second book, Love, Unexpectedly, Kat came home by trains from Montreal, and played a sexy “stranger on a train” game as her best friend Naveen set out to win her heart.

By the time it came to book 3, His, Unexpectedly, I knew it was Jenna’s turn, and she’d be traveling by automobiles from California. I also had a pretty good knowledge of Jenna’s personality, including her vivacious, free-spirited nature and her secret vulnerability, so I needed to figure out exactly the right man to challenge her on her own wild ride to love.

So, when Jenna started the drive from Santa Cruz in her yellow MGB convertible and her car broke down, I presented her with sexy globe-trotting marine biologist Mark Chambers, a guy who’s as serious as she is free-spirited. We all know that opposites attract, and often it’s because they have things to learn from each other, and that’s certainly the case for Jenna and Mark.

She bewitches and bedazzles him – and definitely makes him lighten up! – as they make their way up the Pacific Coast, camping, skinny dipping, and having scorching hot sex. But she bothers him, too. For the first time in his life, he wants commitment – but it’s with a woman who shuns the concept. Can Jenna overcome deep-seated insecurity and believe what her heart tells her – that this wild ride has an unexpected and very special destination: love? Well, it’s a romance, so you’re guaranteed a happy ending. The fun for the reader – and for me, in writing the book – was figuring out all the steps in Jenna and Mark’s journey.

It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story.  Is there anything in this story like that? What?
The drive along the west coast, through California and Oregon, then up the I-5 through Washington, is something I’ve done myself. Once I even made the trip in a butter yellow MGB convertible, exactly like the car Jenna drives. Also, I do share one or two personality traits with Jenna, like wanting to find my own way and not be bound by societal conventions.

Does this story background relate to previous or future books? In what way?
As I mentioned earlier, this is the third book in the Wild Ride to Love series. Each book stands alone, but if you read the series in order, you get to know more about the other sisters – and get perspective on their characters from each other’s points of view. In Sex Drive and Love, Unexpectedly, readers saw that older sisters Theresa and Kat – and in fact the whole family – viewed Jenna as free-spirited, eccentric, and a bit of a flake. A modern-day hippie, in other words. In His, Unexpectedly, the reader finds out exactly who Jenna is as they see her deal with a secret vulnerability she’s never confessed to her family and grow into a more responsible, but still vivacious, fun, generous person as she and Mark deal with the highs and lows of their journey to love.

In His, Unexpectedly, readers also find out how Theresa’s and Kat’s romances are progressing.

For the future, there will be one more book in the series, baby sister Merilee’s romantic journey. It’s tentatively scheduled for December 2011.

Is there a particular scene in this book that you really loved when you finished it? Which one and why?
Two really stand out for me. The first is Jenna and Mark’s first meeting, where there’s an instant mutual attraction, but it’s obvious how very different they are. I had so much fun writing that scene. It rang true for me immediately, and I fell in love with Jenna and Mark. Readers can find that scene on my website. The other I love is the ending, where Jenna and Mark both prove how far they’ve come in their personal growth, and how much they truly care for each other. It’s not the conventional romance novel ending, but they’re not conventional people. The scene really touched my heart, and I hope it does the same for my readers.

If someone wants to check out your backlist based on loving this story, where would you suggest they start? Or which books would be in a similar vein?
There’s a printable booklist on my website. A good starting point is the other books in the Wild Ride to Love series. But, really, all my books and novellas have a similar style. They’re sexy contemporary romances, each with a pretty serious issue or two but handled with a light touch. I’m going to take the liberty of quoting from the Publishers Weekly starred review for His, Unexpectedly, because I think this comment is a good description of my writing style: “Well-crafted story lines and richly observed characters bolster a strong erotic element in this delightful, memorable romance.”

If readers like the sisters in the Wild Ride to Love books, they’d probably enjoy the four girlfriends in the Awesome Foursome series: Champagne Rules, Hot in Here, Touch Me, and She’s on Top. My destination wedding books (Sex on the Beach and Sex on the Slopes) are a lot of fun, too, each containing three interrelated romances that take place during the same time period (one set in Belize; one set in Whistler). I have blurbs, excerpts, behind-the-scenes notes, review quotes, discussion guides, and recipes on my website, so readers can get a pretty good “taste” of each book.

Susan is offering a signed copy of her new book, His, Unexpectedly to a lucky commenter or follower. So, ask your questions and please make comment about your experiences with Susan's books.You can order His, Unexpectedly in Print or eBook form at your local bookstore or online at these places.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Paty Jager Returns with a new Paranormal Western Trilogy

 The prolific Paty Jager has more than one book out this month, so I had to come back and ask her about her new Paranormal series which has me dying to dive in and get reading.  It has all the elements to intrigue me-- history, Native American lore, spirits, and of course romance.

Your Spirit of the Mountain book is a paranormal, which to some people would seem a departure from your historical and contemporary Westerns.  Can you tell us if there is a connection or is this a genre you will be continuing to write in?

Spirit of the Mountain is classified as a paranormal because the hero is a Native American spirit. To me it is a historical western because spirits were/are a large part of the Native American culture. I researched the Nez Perce, how they lived, their legends, their beliefs, and incorporated the spirit element which is purely my imagination into the facts. This is the first book of a trilogy.

What was the spark that interested you in pursuing this direction for your novels?

The spark or sparks to write these books came from two things: I attended a writer's conference and the editors were looking for historical paranormal. Since my brain thinks western, I figured I could write Native American spirits. The second—I've always been interested in the Nez Perce. I grew up in Chief Joseph's beloved valley in NE Oregon and have always felt a connection and empathy for the way they were treated. This trilogy is my way of bringing their plight to people through an entertaining medium--romance.

Your website indicates there is another Spirit book coming in May.  How are these two books connected and will there be more?

Yes, this trilogy is about three siblings who were made Nez Perce spirits by the Creator when their greedy father's actions killed a large number of the warriors in their Northern band and their families turned on the youngsters. The Creator took them from their area where there were blonde, blue-eyed Nez Perce(a fact I learned when researching) and placed them as the stewards for the country and band of the Wallowa Lake Nez Perce.

The first book, Spirit of the Mountain, is about the oldest brother who travels about the mountain as a white wolf and falls in love with the chief's daughter as she is being given to a warrior of their enemy the Blackleg.

The second book, Spirit of the Lake, is about the younger brother who is a bull elk and lives in Wallowa Lake. His character came from a Nez Perce legend about an antlered animal who lives in the lake.  He works to help a young maiden raped by an evil white man who pretends to be a friend of the Nez Perce. Together they prove the man is a traitor and fall in love.

The final book, which I'm writing right now, is Spirit of the Sky. This book is about the younger sister who watches over the Nez Perce from the air as a bald eagle. Her story takes place as the Nez Perce are being chased from their beloved land because they refused to go to a reservation that they didn't agree to live on. She has a hard time saving her people from the soldiers and finds one who intrigues her with his actions and words.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The entire trilogy sounds great to me, and I must say I LOVE these two covers. The covers alone make me want to run out and buy them.  Thanks for joining us again, Paty.  I wish you great success with these books. To all my readers, pick up Spirit of the Mountain today in ebook or print.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Overcoming Abuse to Find a Happily Ever After

Paty Jager is someone who knows real cowboys, runs a real ranch with 350 acres, and now has eight western-themed books published. Her reputation in writing circles is someone who creates multi-dimensional characters (in other words you believe they are real).  She has also been a frequent speaker at writer's conferences on how to write male characters. How does she know? She grew up with two brothers and five surrogate brothers (Her mom's best friend was divorced with five boys and they did everything together). Paty has raised two girls and two boys.

You are in for a special treat with Bridled Heart. A story that tackles the childhood abuse suffered by the heroine and the tough decisions a couple makes to keep the relationship alive.

What was the initial spark that put this story in your head?  
I wanted to write another contemporary western so I picked a rodeo rider as the hero. While traveling on a plane from Alaska after my daughter had a baby, I sat next to a woman who was a traveling ER nurse. Her occupation and way of life was fascinating, and I thought what a great way for a woman who wanted to remain unattached to live. Then I started wondering why she wanted to remain unattached and came up with a woman who took charge of her life after being a child of incest.

 It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story.  Is there anything in this story like that? 
Growing up I had a friend that, while she didn't come out and say what was going on, as I've matured and experienced more of life I've come to realize she was probably like my heroine as a child in my book.

Does this story background relate to previous or future books? 
No, this is a stand alone book.

Is there a particular scene in this book that you really loved when you finished it? 
The scene where Gina tells Holt about her past-- all of it-- to the last little detail she kept holding back. She was purged and he then has to take it all in and decide the best way to deal with the knowledge and his feelings. I think it shows how you can work and work for a relationship then when it's finally given to you, you have to decide if you're ready for all the good and the bad it can bring into you life. 

How long have you been married, Paty?  I imagine you know a lot about working a relationship.
Yes, I've been married 32 years. The first 20 years my husband drove truck and I had to keep things going when he was gone for several days at a time. When we adopted a child with emotional problems, I put my foot down and said he had to be around more. He then only did day trips, so he was home at night to help take up some of the emotional slack of dealing with our newest family member. When the kids flew from the nest, we worked together every night (he was now working at a fertilizer plant), weekends and holidays to build a house. It took us two years and many people said that's how you end up divorced! But we now live in the house and are happy. The main thing about working together like we do is knowing when to keep your mouth shut and knowing when a break is needed.

I understand you actually ranch a large amount of acreage.  That must be why your cowboy books and westerns are so realistic.  How do you manage to both write AND ranch?  
There is actually a good amount of down time with the type of ranching we do. We have 30 head of mother cows. In the summer we just have to move them from one pasture to the next when they get one eaten down. That's about once a month. In the fall we calve, which requires me to walk through the herd a couple times a day and check for new calves. Then in the winter we feed hay once a day. We load a week's worth of hay on a wagon and pull it with a tractor. We alternate between me driving and my husband feeding or he drives and I feed. It depends on which tractor we need to use due to weather conditions. 

The last three summers, I spent half my time at our property in Eastern Oregon doing the irrigating. I lived in a 10x16 cabin without running water the first two years. I had to get water from the pump and filled a tub outside to bathe in the first year. The second year my husband set up a shower head on the side of the cabin, and I could get water there and take a shower, but still outside. This past spring we added on another small room, and I now have a sink and a shower inside the cabin. I'm still using an outhouse, but I love the inside shower. While I’m at the remote ranch there's no TV, phone, and only occasional internet so I get a lot of writing done because all I have to do is change the pipes twice a day, which takes me about an hour and a half morning and night. The cabin is so small there's hardly any cleaning to do and I’m the only person there so meals are a snap.

In your release, Bridled Heart, music plays an important role in the story.  Do you play an instrument?  Or is there a particular instrument that is your favorite?  What’s your favorite kind of music?
I played a clarinet from fourth grade through to my freshmen year of college. In high school I played the baritone sax in the jazz band, and I always wanted to learn to play piano but never got around to learning.
I love music. I laugh all the time at the fact I like to have it playing when I write, when I drive, when I’m doing just about anything. My husband gets in a car and he turns the radio off. When he comes home from work, he turns the CD or radio off that I have playing. I even walk with a mp3 player. I like just about all music except rap and heavy metal. They just blast to me. Most of my books have been written while I listened to specific music. When I use specific music for specific books I can move into the story and start writing much faster when I sit down to work. I'm like Pavlov's dogs! LOL 

What music were you listening to for Bridled Heart?
I listened to ex-rodeo cowboy and country western singer Chris LeDoux and classical piano.

If someone wants to check out your back list based on loving this story, where would you suggest they start? Or which books would be in a similar vein?
Perfectly Good Nanny my other contemporary western that won an award would be the next book in my list that is similar to this one by genre and emotion driven. The next one that would be close to these in that it is emotion driven is Gambling on an Angel; it's a historical. Then the Halsey brothers series, Marshal in Petticoats, Outlaw in Petticoats, Miner in Petticoats, and Doctor in Petticoats are historical westerns the first two are driven more with action and the next two are more emotion driven with mystery mixed in. The paranormal historical, Spirit of the Mountain, is action and emotion. 

Buy Bridled Heart at The Wild Rose Press or order from you favorite bookseller. If  you love cowboys...if you love the passion of being out on the ranch and in the west, then you'll love Paty Jager's books.  Believe me, you will be rooting for this couple and wanting them to both get a well-deserved happily ever after.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Suspense with an Inspirational Twist

Please welcome Terri Reed to Behind the Book.  I've been personally reading Terri's excellent Inspirational Romantic Suspense novels for several years. The author of more than 20 inspirational  novels, Terri writes in both the Love Inspired line and the Love Inspired Suspense line. What I love about Terri's writing is that she always has characters I understand and I really keep turning the pages to make sure they are safe and fall in love with the right person.  In Daughter of Texas, Corinna is courageous in the face of death and grief, even though there are now assassination attempts on her own life.  She is also independent, stubborn, and totally lovable.  If your own faith has ever questioned why bad things happen to good people, or if God really cares enough to intervene, you will identify with the struggle Corinna faces in this book.  If you just like suspense, particularly suspense featuring a handsome, caring, always-d0-the-noble-thing type of guy, you will also love this book.  Personally, Ben Fritz definitely fits my profile for high quality husband material. :)

So, let's learn some secrets about Terri Reed and how she writes such wonderful books.

I understand that Daughter of Texas is part of a continuity series for the Love Inspired Suspense line.  Can you describe how your book fits with the series?
My book is the first one in the series so it sets up the overarching suspense thread that runs through all six books and will be tied up in book six.  The overarching thread for the series is that Texas Ranger Captain Gregory Pike is murdered.  With each book, the Rangers gather clues and draw closer to finding out why their captain was murdered and ultimately capture the villain. 

 Even though the book has to fit with the series, you still have control over the plot, right?
More or less.  Each author is given a collection of details that need to be put in to the story.  I look at it as putting a jigsaw puzzle together. 

What was the initial spark that put this story in your head?
I wanted to start with action and since the murder needed to take place at the beginning it seemed natural to start with the murder and then build from there.

And what made that spark blossom?
The characters brought the story to life.  I do a great deal of pre-writing or character building if you will, before sitting down to put words on the page.  So I know the characters pretty well which makes their reactions to every situation, word, action and emotion come from the character I’ve developed.  Though sometimes the characters surprise me.  I didn’t understand at first why Corrina reacted the way she did to finding her father dead, until I was almost all the way done with the book.  Every time I tried to make her react differently, it didn’t ring true so I finally just went with it and it turned out well.

 It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story.  Is there anything in this story like that? If so, what? 
For this story, the woman who developed the whole series named the characters and gave the physical descriptions for Corrina and Ben after a couple that she is friends with.  I sent them a signed copy of the book.  As for what I put of myself in the story...there’s always a little bit of me in my characters, even if the characters are nothing like me in real life.  I get to live vicariously through them. 

I know that faith is an important part of your own life.  Can you tell us how that faith plays out in what books you choose to write or stories you choose to tell?

They say every author has a theme to their books that is woven in unconsciously.  When I look over the landscape of the last twenty books, I see reoccurring themes played out in various different ways: redemption, forgiveness, trust, hope, giving up the illusion of control. All of which are tied deeply to my own faith journey. 

Is there a particular scene in Daughter of Texas that you really loved when you finished it?  Which one and why?
The scene that I most remember writing is when Corrina thinks she’s alone in the dance studio and she is dancing, trying desperately to out run her grief.  I felt that scene so acutely. 

What do you have on the horizon for your next book(s)?  Can you give us a story preview?

I’m working on a new series of my own for Love Inspired Suspense titled The Protection Specialists, about a group of bodyguards (both male and female), all of whom are ex-military or ex-law enforcement.  This idea spun out of my November 2009 release Chasing Shadows

The first book in this series comes out in July 2011, titled The Innocent Witness—about an ex-Secret Service agent turned bodyguard hired to protect the widow of a murdered US Senator and her autistic son—the only witness to his father’s murder.

The second book in the series will be a January 2012 release titled The Secret Heiress-about an ex-Marine turned bodyguard hired to protect a woman who discovers she’s an heiress but someone doesn’t want her to live long enough to claim her inheritance from the grandfather she didn’t know she had.

The third and fourth books are under contract but as of yet don’t have titles or publication dates.  Though I do have plots and characters just waiting their turn.

My book will be the last in the series and will be out in June 2012.

Wow!  That's exciting that you have three books coming out soon.  I can't wait to start ordering more. If someone wants to check out your backlist based on loving this story, where would you suggest they start?
On eharlequin you can buy the last three most recent releases.  To see the whole back list and buy from Amazon go to Fiction DB. 

Thanks, Terri, for spending time with us at Behind the Book.  Now I suggest if you haven't already run to get a copy of Daughter of Texas, you better do so now.  Below are links to several places to buy.  To contact Terri Reed  via email terrireed@sterling.net