Best-selling author Allison Brennan is this week's special guest. Brennan's newest book, "Speak No Evil" debuted at #14 on the NYT best-seller list. Her first trilogy also climbed the charts, making it into the USAToday's "Top 150" books list.
WN: The first book of your new trilogy came out at the end of January, what can readers expect in "Speak No Evil" and what's in store for the next two books?
BRENNAN: San Diego homicide detective Carina Kincaid is facing the most disturbing case of her career, the brutal rape-murder of a college student. Her prime suspect is Steve Thomas, the much-older ex-boyfriend of the dead girl. Steve's calls in his brother, Montana Sheriff Nick Thomas, to help him. Nick received faced down the Bozeman Butcher (THE HUNT) and almost died; he's facing personal and professional decisions that will change his life. But he puts all that aside to prove his brother had nothing to do with the murder. When he arrives, Nick realizes Steve isn't the brother he'd known growing up, and Nick convinces Carina to let him help find the truth.
SPEAK NO EVIL also touches upon online safety, whether one can truly be anonymous in cyberspace, and what might happen if we're not.
In SEE NO EVIL, deputy district attorney Julia Chandler and P.I. Connor Kincaid track down a group of teen thrill killers who met through an unorthodox online therapy group and decided to seek their own brand of twisted justice.
And in FEAR NO EVIL, forensic psychiatrist Dillon Kincaid must get into the mind of a smart and savvy killer in order to save his sister from being killed live on the Internet. He teams up with renegade FBI Agent Kate Donovan who once faced the killer--and lost.
I have excerpts and book trailers on my website that give a little more information about the books and a taste of my writing voice.
WN: Romantic suspense. How do those two genres combine?
BRENNAN: Romantic suspense is the best of both worlds. Suspense is often plot-heavy, full of thrills or mystery. Suspense brings in fear, worry, panic, a real physical reaction from the reader. Romance is usually character-heavy, human emotions and decisions, both right and wrong. The blending of romance to suspense is a natural, giving writers a broad canvas on which to work. You can have a romance-heavy "romantic suspense" or a suspense heavy "romantic suspense" and everything in between.
When two people care about each other, everything matters more. When there's a very real threat to their safety, when the villain may win, the stakes are raised. I've always believed that nothing achieved easily is truly appreciated. My heroes and heroines must battle not only their own internal conflicts and past, but a very real evil. They deserve a happily ever after.
My romantic suspense novels tend to fall more on the suspense side, but there is still a strong romantic plotline that is important to the overall story arc.
WN: You were a legislative consultant before being a novelist. Did that career prepare you for writing novels and how did you decide to switch from one to the other?
BRENNAN: To be honest, I've always wanted to be a writer. But it had always been a hobby, and in the back of my mind I'd think, "some day, I'll be published." But I never did anything about it. I took a job in the California State Legislature and that ended up becoming a career more than a job. Then I got married, had kids, and the more commitments I had, the further back I pushed my dreams.
It was after the birth of my third child that I analyzed my life and what I wanted from it and realized that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to write. I couldn't oppress my dreams any longer. So I started seriously writing. It was a huge commitment--I stopped bringing work hope with me, instead writing every night. I effectively ended any chance of promotion, but that was okay--if I didn't TRY, I would always regret it, and I didn't want a life full of regrets. When I sold, I took a huge leap of faith and quit my day job, being frugal and investing in my dreams. It wasn't easy, but I've never regretted it.
My former career was invaluable in many ways. I learned to meet deadlines, to work with diverse people, to be professional. I also learned a lot about public safety and people in general, which I use in my books.
WN: What's the best part of being a writer to you? What's the most challenging part of writing for you?
BRENNAN: The best part? I have to pick just one? That's not fair . . . okay. The best part is the end. The last 100 pages of the book. That's the point where I know everything that's happening, where the story is flowing so fast I wish I could type 300 words a minute. It's gushing out, and I'm so excited because I know that I'm going to finish. I think this is because for the longest time, I never finished anything I started. I have over 100 incomplete manuscripts. It wasn't until I made the commitment to BE a writer that I finally finished something. So when I'm in the home stretch, I feel so good. It's better than any drugs--I think my endorphins triple.
The most challenging? Waiting. Waiting during negotiations. Waiting to hear about sales numbers. Waiting to find out which story idea my editor wants me to work on. Waiting to hear whether my editor loves my book or hates it. I am not a patient person. I think my love of storytelling and getting published is a cosmic joke.What's next for you as a writer?
Sleep. Just kidding.
I'm working on two short stories for crime/thriller anthologies (one edited by Lee Child, the other by Elizabeth George--I'm star struck!) I also have a paranormal romantic suspense novella Deliver Us From Evil in the Pocket anthology WHAT YOU CAN'T SEE in early 2008. I'm almost done with that and am having so much fun doing something a little different. And I'm working on another romantic suspense . . . two, actually. I don't know which one will be next up, so I'm working on both.
WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
BRENNAN: THE STAND by Stephen King. I read it when I was 13 and it changed my entire perception of books and the world. It has everything a great book should have. Strong characterization. Twisty, forward-moving plot. Suspense. Tragedy and comedy. More than anything, though, the characters were real. Flawed, but in the end the good people did the right thing, and the bad people made the wrong choices. Everything in that book was about a choice. When confronted with tragedy, what do we do? What would we do? THE STAND opened the world for me.
I wrote him a glowing letter and told him I wanted to be a writer when I grow up. He wrote me back, encouraging me. That was the greatest inspiration.
WN: What is your favorite word and why?
BRENNAN: Faith. Faith in God, faith in yourself, faith in others. I believe in the inherent goodness of people. Lots of bad things happen, but in the end, I have faith that truth will win, that good will persevere, that people will do the right thing. It starts with faith in YOU, because only you can make your dreams come true.
WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
BRENNAN: "If you want to be a writer, write." Stephen King. "I can fix a bad page, I can't fix a blank one." Nora Roberts.