Please give Susannah Sandlin a warm welcome! She’s here to chat about Storm Force, her new paranormal romance. This will be released in serial format by Montlake Romance. After the interview, I have one serial subscription to give to one of you. Check back later today to read my review of Episode 1, too!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Susannah Sandlin] Obsessive workaholic, hopeless romantic, eccentrically Southern, music-loving, sleep-deprived, deadline-driven, dog-owning, reality-TV junkie.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Storm Force?
[Susannah Sandlin] It’s a blend of paranormal romance and thriller-suspense involving the Omega Force, a quasi-military black ops team who handles cases of domestic terrorism. The team is half Army Rangers and half shapeshifters—an eagle shifter and two black jaguar shifter brothers. In Storm Force, what looks like an act of eco-terrorism in Houston brings on the team, and team leader Jack Kellison soon learns the chief suspect, an environmental activist named Mori, is a lot more than she seems. There are bombs, romance, dark secrets, romance, kidnappings, romance—and a hurricane. Lots of tension; lots of humor.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Susannah Sandlin] When I was finishing the third book in my Penton Legacy paranormal romance series, Omega, I came up with the idea of this combined human-paranormal team that could be used as a top-secret special operations unit with shadowy ties to the military. The Penton books are vampire romances, though, so I wanted to expand beyond the vampire world and also really jack up the thriller/suspense aspects of the story. I like thrillers, and I like paranormal romance, so it seemed as if it would be a fun project to combine the two. The Penton books had a strong element of suspense in them as well, but not as high-octane as Storm Force. The characters…I never really know where my characters come from. I knew I wanted six team members and that three would be human Army Rangers and three would be shapeshifters. I developed Kell and Mori, the hero and heroine, first, and then developed the surrounding cast. As usual, I fell in love with my secondary characters as well!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Mori?
[Susannah Sandlin] Dedicated. Independent. Desperate.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Kell had a theme song, what would it be?
[Susannah Sandlin] Kell’s theme song is actually mentioned in the book. It’s a song by a Texas singer-songwriter named Slaid Cleaves, called “Borderline.” The song itself is about an illegal immigrant from Mexico desperately trying to provide for his family, but it’s the chorus that makes it Kell’s theme song, because as he falls in love with Mori and becomes more desperate to help her out of this huge mess she’s in, he finds himself crossing lines he never thought he would. The chorus is: “When love for family is stronger than fear, when desperation sets in, a man will cross any line that is drawn, and who’s to say it’s a sin?” That chorus gives me chills, because we all find our limits tested as we go through life—although hopefully not in such an extreme way as Kell!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Mori is never without.
[Susannah Sandlin] LOL. Her backpack. As I was writing the book, I kept forgetting it, then having to go back through several chapters to see where she left it last. It has a couple of items in it that really don’t need to fall into the wrong hands, so she really needs to keep up with it better.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Kell’s bedroom?
[Susannah Sandlin] Anything frilly or pink. A cat (he has a Catahoula hound named Gator). A ferry pass from Galveston, Texas, to the Bolivar Peninsula (bad memories).
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Mori’s greatest regret?
[Susannah Sandlin] That she was made a pawn in an act that resulted in the deaths of a lot of people. She’d never intentionally hurt anyone, but because of inaction and bad decisions and fear, a lot of people suffered.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Susannah Sandlin] Music. I draw a lot of ideas from lyrics or moods or stories told in the songs I love, like the chorus lyrics from “Borderline.” I also have my “idea generating” magazines: Discover, National Geographic, Mental Floss, Smithsonian. I tuck away bits of trivia that can later germinate into ideas for characters or stories or situations.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Susannah Sandlin] A deadline—probably my journalism background, but if I don’t have a deadline I will piddle around and get nothing done. A decent block of time—at least an hour, but preferably three or four. And my laptop. I can write anywhere if I have those three things.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?
[Susannah Sandlin] Okay, it’s a bit of a strange one, I guess, but it’s a book that’s coming out in the U.S. in a couple of weeks called APOCALYPSE COW, by Michael Logan. It’s a satire on all the zombie apocalypse books, wherein a government experiment goes horribly wrong and there’s an uprising of flesh-eating zombie cows in Scotland. Really, really funny. At least once on every second or third page, I’d literally laugh out loud.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Susannah Sandlin] When I was a kid, I was so obsessed with Heidi that I wanted to drink milk out of a bowl…and I didn’t like milk (still don’t). But the one that hooked me into becoming an obsessive reader was probably Penmarric by Susan Howatch. I ended up reading all of her books. They’re big, sprawling, multi-generational gothic stories.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Susannah Sandlin] I do have this no-longer-secret affinity for reality-TV shows. I keep up a really strict writing regimen since I also have a day job, so I DVR them and watch them when I have a few minutes to spare. Sometimes, there are no minutes, which is why I have the entire last season of “Swamp People” I haven’t watched yet.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Susannah Sandlin] I’m reachable by email: email@example.com. Facebook: www.facebook.com/susannahsandlin. My website: www.susannahsandlin.com. Twitter: @SusannahSandlin. I also write urban fantasy under the name Suzanne Johnson and have a daily book blog, Preternatura: Suzanne-johnson.blogspot.com.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!
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