If you haven't read my review of The Secret Soldier, click here.
What inspired you to write this book?
Back in 2004 or 2005 there were terrible reports of contractor beheadings in Iraq. The stories upset me so much that I decided to write my own happy ending to a similar situation. In THE SECRET SOLDIER, Sabine O’Clery is a hydrogeologist contracted to assess groundwater conditions in the Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan when she and her partner are kidnapped.
Are any of the characters or places you wrote about significant to you?
All my characters are significant to me in one way or another. For places, I like to find exotic locations to research and write about. It not only takes me away, it takes my readers away, too. The Greek island Karpathos is one of those places. It added just the right flavor to the adventure in THE SECRET SOLDIER.
Can you personally relate to any of the characters or the things they faced/went through?
Probably not in the way you might think. Each character has their own set of inner conflicts and flaws that drive the story. How they react to the situation that starts the story is related to those issues. Characters are the key to good storytelling. I write fiction, not about real people or things that have happened to me personally (although that may change now that I am dating--wink, wink). How my characters react to everything going on in the plot and in their relationships is what makes the story move.
Who was your favorite character to write?
Cullen McQueen. He is tough and chivalrous and full of integrity. Basically everything I will never find in a breathing man. He is a really nice fantasy.
What was the most challenging part of writing the book?
The rescue scenes. They required a lot of research since the location was the Panjshir valley of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is land locked, so Indian and Pakistani ground defenses have to be bypassed, as well as US forces present in Afghanistan. The Panjshir Valley is also at a high elevation, which added to the challenge of making a rescue there believable. But a really smart man with extensive Army background helped me plan the logistics so that I was able to pull it off.
Were there any aspects of the book that you struggled with, ie. a particular scene, a character, an area of research?
I think I just answered that question. Making that rescue in Afghanistan believable.
If your book was being discussed by a book club, or a few friends meeting over coffee, what about the book do you think would drive the most discussion (particular character, event, theme)?
As the author, it’s hard for me to say what a reader would talk about. But I would want to talk about what brings Cullen back to Sabine. He’s got so much to lose, and yet his passion and strength and love compel him. That scene when Sabine discovers he’s come to her is one of my favorites in the story.
Are you considering a sequel, if so, can you give us any peeks into the story-line?
HEIRESS UNDER FIRE is the second book in the ALL MCQUEEN’S MEN miniseries that Silhouette Romantic Suspense is publishing for me. It is tentatively scheduled for a September 2009 release, although I am hoping they bump me up a few months. An electrical engineer who’s had one too many engagements, Farren Gage inherits a fortune from her estranged mother, and a heap of trouble along with it. She is led to the International Marmaris Yacht Festival in Marmaris, Turkey, where she runs into an operative who’s after the same man threatening her for money. Elam Rhule works for Tactical Executive Security (TES), Cullen McQueen’s new and improved counter-terror organization. And he’s not prepared to fall for a loquacious beauty who’s in over her head.
On your bookshelf: Is there a particular book or author that you find yourself returning to from time to time? If so, what keeps you coming back?
Rachel Gibson, Linda Howard, Karen Robards, Elizabeth Lowell. Whether funny or serious, these ladies can create compelling characters and stories that suck you in.
While you are working on a book, do you find yourself entering the world you are writing about? If so, do you do anything in particular to prepare yourself for your writing?
Yes. It’s like reading, I find an escape when I write, especially when the writing is flowing and I am not hung up on logistical issues or plot problems. For the most part, I have never had trouble sitting down to write. I love writing and love the time I spend writing. So, the only way I prepare is carrying a notebook everywhere I go, and jotting down ideas and research information that will go into a book. The clearer I am about the plot going into a new story, the easier it is to get it down on the page.
I fell in love with the names of the characters in your book – Sabine, Cullen, Odelia “Odie”, Noah, Mae, Lisandra, Aden . . . what was your inspiration for the names of the characters in your book?
I have always been a name junky. I love naming my characters. It has always been one of my favorite parts of the process. I have several baby name books and links to web sites that I use to name my characters. I like unusual names, but not so unusual they are impossible to pronounce. I will likely never name a character Mike or Mary, just because these are so common. There’s nothing wrong with common names, I just think a little variation adds to the enjoyment of the story and also to the uniqueness of the characters themselves.
While reading your book, we get to catch glimpses of Odelia “Odie” Frank, a very strong woman in the background, who seems like a wonderful woman (smart, loyal, strong, etc). I absolutely loved Odie – what inspired you to create her character the way you did? Have you given any thought to writing a story for her?
Ah, yes, Odie. I have had many comments about her. What is funny is that she developed into what she is by accident. I needed a strong character for the last scene in the book, someone who could push Cullen. Odie is definitely full of enough brass and sass to do that, but I wasn’t planning to use her for more than that. She sort of took over on her own. No surprise there!
Yes, she will have her own story. It will be Book 4, which I have yet to write. She appears in all the books, so you will see her again.
I thought the smuggled emeralds were an amazing twist in the story - how did you come up with that idea? Is it a real problem in Afghanistan today?
Afghanistan is known for producing high quality emeralds. And it is true that some locals smuggle gems into Pakistan, despite government attempts to regulate the industry.
Lastly, do you have any last thoughts or questions you would like to share with readers?
Just to express my appreciation for their support. It took me 10 years to get published. I am grateful to finally be reaching bookshelves.
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Again, I would like to say a huge thank you to Jennifer for agreeing to be interviewed! I had a great time chatting with her, and learning more about her book!
If you would like to visit her website, click here.
This interview has been added to the About the Author Index! Click here to read more author interviews.