This month’s Author Interview

Tell us how a small-town romantic comedy/historical fiction writer got mixed up in a romantic suspense box set.
In 2002, I directed a church musical and cast romantic suspense author LISA HARRIS as one of my singing angels. We discovered that we had the love of telling stories in common and quickly became good friends. I was devastated when she and her husband announced they were moving move to Africa to do mission work. Thankfully, we had the internet to keep us connected. In 2008, I had an idea for a thriller set in Africa. Writing thrillers was way above my pay grade, but I knew someone who was good at it PLUS Lisa now lived in Africa. Her experiences would add such a layer of authenticity. In 2018 we released our co-written GHOST HEART and the Agents of Mercy Medical Thriller series was born.

What interests you most about writing medical thrillers?
My daughter is a doctor, and my husband works for a major hospital in Dallas. Their lives fascinate me. I wouldn’t be good on the front lines of life and death on a daily basis, but I can live vicariously through them. I think caring for others is the ultimate sacrifice.

What is your writing process?
Ideas for stories come to me from some of the strangest places: breaking news, eavesdropping on conversations in coffee shops and my adult children, or while devouring historical books. For example, the idea for my Carthage Chronicles series about a 21st doctor dropped into a 3rd century plague came to me by listening to my kids argue about the origin of organized healthcare. That topic may sound boring to you, but it jump-started my crazy imagination.

I’m more of a pantser (meaning I write by the seat of my pants) than an outliner. Since I never know what is going to happen next in my stories, I hope that the reader feels the same unexpected ride.

How does your writing process work with a co-author?
There are pros and cons. The pros: Lisa is an accomplished plotter. I admire her ability to sit down and really think through an entire story. I’ve learned so much by working with her and definitely see the advantage of pre-plotting a story, especially something as complicated as a medical thriller. The cons: once the story is plotted out, I know what happens and how it ends. I really have to discipline myself to write when I’m not going to be surprised.

What is your favorite part of writing?
I love, love, love the research. Learning something new propels me to dig deeper and deeper. I believe research helps us step out of our comfort zones and gives us a way to better understand the world and each other.

What’s one thing readers might not know about you?
I grew up on a Kansas dairy farm. We lived so far out in the country that I had to be my own best friend and playmate. Who knew all those hours of fresh air and nothing to do would sharpen my imagination?

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Coming in June: An Interview with Jan Thompson

Interviews from Previous Months:

Tell us about your protagonist in your novel, Ben in Love.
Titus Ray is a CIA intelligence officer who’s been with the Agency for almost twenty years. He’s a loner,  a battle-hardened veteran of the covert wars, and he grew up in a home with no religious affiliation. His father, who was an alcoholic, was emotionally absent from family, and the only time Titus ever heard God’s name used was in connection with a curse word.

When Titus is forced to live with a group of Iranian Christians for three months, he’s amazed at their ability to be joyful in the midst of persecution. As he observes their faith, their love of the Bible, and their relationship to Christ, he desires to have such a relationship for himself. After he makes his commitment of faith, that relationship becomes a thread running throughout all the books in the series.

What’s the “dangerous deception” in Ben in Love?
Ben Mitchell, Titus’s partner, is deceiving Titus as well as his father, Senator Elijah Mitchell, by pretending to be in love with the daughter of a Turkish dissident. It’s dangerous, because in the end, his deception puts Titus, as well as the woman he really loves, in danger of being killed.

Is this book a series? If so, tell us about the series.
Ben in Love is Book I in a new series called The Ben Mitchell/Titus Ray Thriller Series. My first series, The Titus Ray Thriller Series, has seven books, plus a prequel, and in all but two of them, Ben Mitchell is Titus Ray’s partner. Titus is the older partner and he’s mentoring Ben throughout the series. Ben has a habit of falling in and out of love, and that’s a running theme in the series.

What’s the setting in Ben in Love and why did you choose it?
The setting is Washington, D.C., and Langley, Virginia, where CIA headquarters is located. I chose the setting because I wanted the action in this book to take place inside the United States, instead of overseas, as usually happens in the Titus Ray Thriller series. Much of the plot of Ben in Love occurs around CIA headquarters.

How would you describe your writing process?
The writing process for me is like watching a movie and describing it to someone by writing down everything that’s occurring at that moment. I don’t make much of an outline—just a couple of pages of thoughts—and where I want my main character to be at the end of the book in order for the next book to continue the series. In this respect, I’m considered a “pantser” by other authors, because I’m writing by the seat of my pants. The opposite to a “pantser” is a “plotter,” someone who makes an extensive outline and plots everything down before starting chapter one.

What’s one thing your readers might not know about you?
I’m an avid Dallas Cowboy football fan.

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