Jeanne: A huge Romance Bandits welcome to fabulous Rita-award wining Suspense author Roxanne St. Claire. I've been a huge fan since I read French Twist, Tropical Getaway and Like a Hurricane in quick succession four years ago. Since then, Rocki has written 22 award winning books so far in four areas - romantic suspense, category, chick-lit, and novellas in anthologies. But one of the most fun things, I think are her the series she's created. Rocki, I'm dying to know about how you write these complex, interwoven series. First You Run was an April 2008 release, Then You Hide is just out as of July, 2008, and I'm waiting with bated breath for the September release of Now You Die. Rocki, tell us what it's like to write about The Bullet Catchers, and the hot, hot...suspense .. yeah, the suspense, that's it...that inspires your novels. :>
Rocki: Thank you, Jeanne, and thank you so much for the invitation to join the Romance Bandits! It’s an honor and a thrill to be here. And, of course, I’d lurve to talk about my fearless, gorgeous, alpha-to-the-bone bodyguards – the Bullet Catchers! Because they’re so…suspenseful. Right. That’s it.
You know, it’s kind of ironic that I write a series of any kind because I was never a huge fan of recurring characters or continuing series back when I was only reading, and not writing. I always had this sense that the author was being arrogant in *assuming* I’d read all her books, not to mention I hate the sensation that maybe I’ve missed something important. But when I was researching my fourth romantic suspense, KILL ME TWICE, and learning about the life of a bodyguard, some creative lightning struck (I read the slang term “bullet catcher” for bodyguard and the whole series just popped into my head) and I decided I’d give a series a try. It’s worked out well, since now there are six full length books in the series, and two novellas. But because of my earlier anti-series bias, I kill myself to ensure that each book stands completely alone and that recurring characters are included for a reason that makes sense for the story.
So things got real tricky when I decided to write a “trilogy within the series” – the three books that come out this year. They do stand alone, in that each is a romantic suspense adventure with a hero/heroine who ultimately find a happy ending, but there is a story thread that starts in the first, knots up further in the second, and is finally tied into a bow in the third. But, wow, a trilogy that’s released “close together” (mine are each two months apart) is NOT for the faint of heart. The first book is in production while the third one is being written, meaning, Thou Shalt Not Change the Plot.
But guess what I did? Changed the plot? Uh, yeah. And the heroine. And the hero. And the villain. And the entire direction of the trilogy I’d originally proposed. It worked out, but, wow, there were some dicey days last spring.
Jeanne: So for our readers, why don't you tell us who the Bullet Catchers are, and what the books are like?
Rocki: The Bullet Catchers are an elite, high-end group of bodyguards and security specialists that handle some of the most difficult, dangerous, and daring assignments doled out by their uber-controlling leader, Lucy Sharpe. In every story, the Bullet Catcher hero (or heroine) has to face both a physical and emotional challenge, bringing their particular skill set to the adventure (as well as their singular “weakness” – which Lucy, the boss, always knows), and, in the process, they save lives, solve a crime, foil a few villains, fall miserably in love, face daunting conflict, and, ultimately, find HEA bliss.
And, boy, was I wrong about recurring characters! Readers love them. In fact, the very first character I introduced was the woman who runs the Bullet Catchers operation, Lucy Sharpe, and from the get-go, she generated the most mail and interest among readers. I hadn’t planned on making the third book in the trilogy Lucy’s book (because I thought that when I ended the series, I’d do so with her book), but she is one of those *demanding* characters and she’s the reason I changed the entire trilogy so that she could be the heroine of the third book. That book came out this week, NOW YOU DIE, and I hope readers love the story I’ve given her. (Or, I should say, the story she insisted on having!)
Since so many people like to start a series from the beginning (although it’s not necessary!), here are the books to date, all still available.
KILL ME TWICE (hot Cuban-American hero with major libido issues)
THRILL ME TO DEATH (big, sexy former DEA agent brought to his big, sexy knees by former lover)
TAKE ME TONIGHT (spicy Italian boy who can cook and does amazing things with a canoli)
FIRST YOU RUN (Aussie hero on the hunt for a woman hiding secrets)
THEN YOU HIDE (slow southern boy meets feisty New Yorker girl in deep Caribbean trouble)
NOW YOU DIE (Bullet Catcher boss has to team up with the one person who makes her lose what she values most ~ control)
There are also two novellas, and, I’m delighted to say, at least two more Bullet Catcher books coming in the summer of 2009.
Jeanne: Wow! That's fabulous! Oh, man, even more Bullet Catchers! Sigh... But you also write for Harlequin - and several of their lines at that! I know that your first Single Title, Tropical Getaway and your first category, Like a Hurricane, came out one right after the other. How did you manage that? Was the experience bliss or terror? Grins.
Rocki: It wasn’t terror then because when I sold my first book, as is the case for most writers, it was complete. And I had another completed manuscript, also, which Pocket decided to release as my third book, KILLER CURVES (my first foray into the world of NASCAR). And, since those books were coming out two years apart (with FRENCH TWIST in the middle), I had a lot of time to write. So, I broke into category! I have to say that writing category books (specifically the Desire line) is F-U-N for me, because there are no dead bodies, no conniving villains, no heroines in jeopardy, but there is tons of sex and emotion and banter and romance. I’m not writing any now, as I focus on the Bullet Catchers, but I would love to do more at some point.
Jeanne: I know you've said that you love writing romance, and especially romantic suspense. You certainly put that love into your work, you've won everything from a Rita to the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence to Daphnes and Maggies and more. We've debated over and over, here in the Bandit Lair, if contests, both for unpublished and published, are worth the entry fee. What are your thoughts?
Rocki: I’m really honored that my books have done so well in contests. Before selling, I was a contest slut (Oh, who are we kidding? I was truly a contest whore.) and entered many unpublished contests. At first, all this did was validate my *suspicion* that maybe, just maybe, I could write a book. I really needed that, and that’s why I strongly recommend contests for new, unpublished writers. The feedback (even the tough stuff) can be invaluable, and the process forces you to hone your craft. When my manuscripts started to final in contests, that boost of confidence was just the magic elixir I needed as I was slammed with rejection after rejection.
As a published author, I entered contests to build my bio and reach more readers and booksellers who are the judges. Now, I only enter a few, because with an average of four books a year, it can be costly in terms of time and money.
But here’s why a published writer should enter contests: you can’t really put fabulous “reviews” in your bio, but when the first few lines are “winner of the RITA, the HOLT Medallion, the Daphne, the Maggie, Bookseller’s Best, Book Buyers, Best, Award of Excellence, etc.” – you have instant credibility with readers and workshop attendees. So, I don’t enter them all anymore, but I’m delighted to have won for almost all of my books, including the Reader’s Choice, which I just received in July for one of my Bullet Catcher books, TAKE ME TONIGHT! And, let’s just be honest here, there is nothing as sweet as a RITA. That night is simply magical. After I won, I wished that everyone in RWA could experience that night just once, because floating around with that golden girl is a little bit of heaven on earth.
Jeanne: I admire anyone who can write both single title and category. Several of our Banditas write fabulous categories for Harlequin, but I find it quite difficult to "write short" and tell a compelling, complete story within the word count. I really appreciate the mental flexibility you have as a writer to do both. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Rocki: I definitely think long and hard about the story premise before I start, and I believe that helps me craft a book that fits the page count limitations. In shorter books, I don’t have room for the complexity I have in longer books. Therefore, I outline a “simpler” story – a conflict that can be resolved without multiple steps, usually a very strong “external” conflict because that works really well as the spikes to “hang” all the internal conflict (assuring that you don’t have an “introspection heavy” book.) I’ve written three novellas, and, wow, those can be challenging to a writer who likes to write “big” stories, as I do. Two were Bullet Catcher novellas, and that was really tough to weave a suspense plot (with plenty of sexual tension, a scary climax and believable resolution) in 25,000 – 30,000 words. The trick, I think, is to start with a premise you can keep uncomplicated – and make sure the pace is lightning quick. Limit introspection, description, and backstory as much as possible, and stay focused on tight, clean storytelling.
Jeanne: Finally, do you have an inspiration for your heroes before you start a book? Do you use a movie star, an imaginary character (Captain Jack Sparrow, anyone?), or real life heroes you've met to build The Bullet Catcher heroes?
Rocki: Oh YES! I absolutely cannot start a book without two things: a picture of my hero, and a title that I love. My hero goes on my screen saver, and he is my MUSE. Without him, I will battle the book, and have been known to spend hours combing the internet to find just the Right Guy. (This is hard work, I tell ya!)
Oh, you’d like to see some? All right…
Here’s Jack Culver (to the left)…the hero who has the honor of snagging Juicy Miss Lucy in NOW YOU DIE (did I mention that book is out this week?)
And here’s Dan Gallagher… the hero who didn’t get Lucy but, fear not. I’m writing his book right now and he’s getting…plenty. I was so happy when I found this one, because the look totally captures my Dan.
You want MORE? Greedy, greedy girls. Okay, two of my favorite Bullet Catchers:
(Left) Johnny Christiano from TAKE ME TONIGHT.
(right) Adrien Fletcher from FIRST YOU RUN:
How can I thank these men for the inspiration??? I couldn’t have written a word without them.
Jeanne: Oh, my. Mymymymymy. I'd write too, with that for inspiration..... Okay, focus, Jeanne. Back to the matter at hand....Last but not least, you've been in marketing, public relations, television and now, writing full time. What's the best part of The Writer's Life, from your perspective? No pantyhose? What's the worst? Revisions? Do you still, like most of us, doubt your work from time to time?
Rocki: The best part is the writing, and the worst part is the writing. When it *works” – you know, that day that your fingers fly and the story spins like magic on a wheel, when you close a doc and push away from the desk with bone-deep satisfaction that you nailed it….priceless. The rest of the time, it’s like chiseling marble, tapping and digging and hammering into it for the characters, story, and emotion you know is hiding underneath. Writing is very hard work, but when it sings, it is the greatest high a creative person can enjoy. When it doesn’t, I lose sleep, tear out some hair at the roots, and drink large glasses of Kendall Jackson.
Doubt? Puh-lease! I doubt every book, every scene, every sentence, every word. The only difference is now I know what “doubt” sounds like – it’s a totally different nag than the screaming gut hollering “Something Is Wrong. Emergency! Emergency! You Are Screwing Up the Story!” When I hear that, I react. When I hear inner doubts, I try to let them do no more than keep me on my toes, always striving to write a better story than the last.
Jeanne: Oh, yeah, I listen to that one too. Like you I try not to listen to the other one. Bandita Nancy and I were talking about the line from Dune "Fear is the Mind Killer..." Okay, back to the Bullet Boys - YUM - and our fabulous fans. We usually get our guests to ask a question of our Banditas, and Bandit Buddies...get them to quit drooling over the pretty pictures and actually chat...So, do you have a question for the Lair?
Rocki: Oh, yes, I do have a question!! It’s about series – do you love them, hate them, insist on reading them in order, or are you indifferent to the series concept? What turns you on most about a series – what do you dislike? More recurring characters for you, or less? I’ll give one poster THREE BULLET CATCHER BOOKS (winner’s choice – get the first three, or, if you have them, the three books in the 2008 Bullet Catcher trilogy), signed and ready to read. Post away!!