The author: romantic suspense author Kylie Brant
How she came to my attention: Recently on Twitter I was advised by author Colleen Gleason about Kylie Brant, and that she'd just come out with a new series from Berkley that sounded very promising. Being on a rom suspense kick, I immediately added them to my tbr list, and the next time I was at the bookstore, I snapped the first 2 books right up.
Then Kylie expressed interest in being a guest at my blog, which always makes me happy :) I enjoyed her first book, and definitely wanted to find out more. And I love visiting an author's website and digging past what we normally see and trying to find out more about what makes an author tick. Kylie graciously answered my questions, and I want to thank her for taking the time to answer my questions and share a little of her writing process with us. Here's what she had to say....
S~ Kylie, you mentioned at your website you started writing because some of your favorite writers couldn't write fast enough. Who would those authors be?
Kylie: I was reading all of the Silhouette Intimate Moments line at the time so some of those early authors remain on my keeper shelf: Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Linda Howard, Parris Afton Bonds and Sandra Brown. Once I started writing myself, I understood why they couldn't write faster :)
S~ What was the first romance you remember reading and how old were you?
Kylie: I started reading teen romances when I was 13 or so. I believe Beverly Cleary was my first author, and Jean and Johnny was the name of the book. I read it so often I can still remember parts of it.
S~ Have you traveled to do research for one of your books? If so, what was the most exotic location you've been to?
Kylie: I don't often travel to the site I'm researching, simply because lack the time. But the first trip I made to the Dominican Republic ended up in the prologue of The Business of Strangers. For my November release, Waking the Dead, I went to Oregon to crawl through caves, searching for the perfect one to hide seven bodies in. Found it, too!
S~ You also mention you're not a chick-flick type of girl, but do you ever get squeamish with where a storyline takes you? Or do you have a line that you won't cross, a need not to get too graphic?
Kylie: There's sort of a personal 'I can't go there' line that exists for every author, I think. I'll admit to having creeped myself out a time or two writing the first three Mindhunter books! It's a fine line to show the villain at his most chilling, yet not detail too much of his violence on scene.
S~ Having been published for nearly 20 years now, how have your stories evolved? Where do you see yourself going in the next 20 years?
Kylie: I think I was still learning and perfecting my skills for the first dozen books or so. I was fortunate enough to get published fairly quickly, but that also meant I was pretty ignorant. My suspense plots have grown increasingly more complex and my characterization more indepth. I hope to continue learning and improving for the next twenty years!
S~ What's the most fascinating thing about writing for you?
Kylie: I can always get lost in the research. I find it so intriguing. In the November book I learned some pretty interesting tidbits about defleshing bones. Just thought I'd mention that in case you're in need of some dinnertime conversation :) (S~ Wow, thanx Kylie,just what I've always wanted to know LOL)
S~ Has there ever been a story you've wanted to write and either the idea was rejected or you just haven't gotten around to writing it yet, something burning inside your imagination to get out?
Kylie: I've been extremely lucky in that all my proposals/stories have eventually found a home. Actually, I think book six was sort of rejected, but I was still too dumb to figure that out so I revised it and handed it back in. It was bought after that revision. Usually I have three storylines running in my head at any one time. I often write trilogies and each of the books' plots are evolving simultaneously.
S~ Do writing such suspenseful, sometimes horrifying stories ever give you nightmares, with all those gruesome thoughts floating around in your head? If so, how do you counteract them?
Kylie: I'm pretty good at compartmentalizing. With five kids, I had to learn to be! And I teach full time so I'm used to turning off the writing side of my brain for hours at a time. I can't say I've ever had nightmares from the books. When I'm done writing for the day I shift into some other mode and let the plot fall away. It's not something I have to work at; it just is.
S~ Based on your acknowledgment page, you thank a lot of experts who've talked with you about procedure and their experiences. Have you ever interviewed victims of some of these crimes?
Kylie: No, and the thought makes me squeamish. I'm very empathetic and that would make it difficult for me to write the scenes dealing with some ofthe villain's acts.
S~ Have you learned a lot of safety precautions because of what you've learned in your research, or taken any self-defense classes to prepare for a story? Do you know how to shoot a gun?
Kylie: LOL, I'm the biggest wimp around. Whenever the kids start wrestling with me I'm the first to whine about my sore back, wrists or frozen shoulder :). I've picked up a few tips along the way, but wonder sometimes how effective I'd be if I were the victim of a crime. I had never touched a gun in my life until the Kiss of Death outing at the RWA convention in Atlanta. I was horrible with a shotgun but was pretty good with the handguns, if I do say so myself. I tend to be pro-gun control, but after that experience I can better understand collectors and people who like to target shoot. It's sort of a rush.
S~ With your latest books, the Mindhunters, how far do you plan to take the series? Will we learn more about the fascinating Adam Raiker in subsequent books? Will he eventually get his own story?
Kylie: I've been surprised and gratified by the number of people wondering about Adam. We recently went back to contract with three more Mindhunters books and the last of that trilogy will be Adam's story. (S~ Yay!)
S~ How connected are the Mindhunter books? Are they stand alone? How do you feel about writing a series of books that are tightly intertwined?
Kylie: Each of the books are stand alone. The only thing that ties the first three books together is that the heroines work for Raiker. The next three books will be more closely tied together with an overarching suspense plot. Writing three more closely connected books takes a lot more thought because all three books need to be carefully plotted. Since I'm not an outliner, it takes a lot of up front planning for me.
S~ How is writing for Berkley different than writing category romances? Has it been more freeing or more difficult for you?
Kylie: It's been absolutely liberating. I'm loving being able to tell the story in my own time, in my own way. It's especially nice to allow the romance to develop at its own pace, without having to 'force' things because of the length. I tend to write long, so I'm really enjoying taking all the time I need to let the story spin out. Oddly enough, the category romances got more difficult as the word count got shorter. It's difficult to plot a complex suspense with a satisfying romance in 60,000 words.
S~ What book are you currently reading right now?
Kylie: I'm enjoying Cindy Gerard's Feel the Heat. She writes great heroes and wonderful adventure romance. It's tough to put down!
S~ Once you finish a book, how do you un-wind from all that intense focus?
Kylie: Lot of times as soon as I send in one book I have to start on another. So really the only down time I have are a couple ofweeknights to veg after work before it's right back to the computer again.
S~ You like to travel to tropical locations. Are you able to relax and enjoy the sights or are you always "writing" stories in your head?
Kylie: I was still writing the final scenes of Waking the Dead when I was on my way to our tropical vacation last March. I finished at 11:00 PM that evening at the hotel near the airport. Then I edited on the plane and the first evening and following morning in the Dominican. Sending that book in was such a relief; I'd written four books in 17 1/2 months while teaching full-time and was pretty exhausted. After I emailed it in, I was absolutely transported to a different world. For two solid days I didn't think of a thing--not writing, working or family (!) It was sort of disorienting to come back to reality, LOL, but that's the mark of a great vacation. When I can lose myself in the moment.
S~ One reader complaint I've seen about romantic suspense novels is that the hero and heroine always stop in the middle of a dangerous situation and end up having sex. Sure it's the adrenaline talking but it has to be realistic. How do you balance the romance in a romantic suspense novel without one element overshadowing the other, yet still make it believable?
Kylie: Well, it's not like the author can put the suspense on hold while we take the relationship to the next level. That would destroy the pacing. And sometimes it's the editor, rather than the author, who wants an intimate scene at just that spot. That said, I'm not a fan of having the characters engage in sex in the middle of a physically precarious situation. That would have me doubting their intelligence and capability of bringing down the villain.
S~ You sound like a practical woman, but surely you have some vice(s) or weaknesses that you can share: unrequited love for some actor? A love of karaoke? Addiction to dark chocolate? Spill!
Kylie: LOL, I am depressingly practical while having unexpected bouts of frivolity. My vices are Diet Coke and Skittles. Throw in pizza and I'd be good on meals for weeks at a time. I have the dietary habits of a four-year-old :) I have to force myself to eat semi-healthy. It's a battle.
S~ When you create a character, how indepth do you research them? Do you have a detailed log complete with pictures and personality descriptions or do you draw off an outline? And what actors and actresses do you picture as your characters?
Kylie: Confession time: The writer side of me is completely different in some aspects than the other me. Does that sound just a tad schizophrenic? But in my 'regular' life I'm organized to a scary degree. I'm a list maker and freakishly sequential. My approach to a project tends to be part to whole: step by step to the end result.
But when it comes to writing, not so much. I'm not a plotter at all. I begin knowing the characters very well, the overarching suspense plot, the climax, ending and I have ideas for a couple scenes. That's about it. Sometimes I know up front who the villain will be. Sometimes that changes during the course of the story. The thought of plotting charts and outlines give me hives! My approach to the story is very much whole to part: I have an overall idea, but the details are fuzzy :)
The happiest time in my writing career was when I finally realized there was no 'correct' process when it came to writing. It used to be that the characters appeared first for me. But now that the plots are more complex, I'd say the suspense and the characters appear almost simultaneously. The characters begin as ideas, forming and reforming in my mind until they evolve into story people that I find intriguing. I rarely write anything down prior to a proposal or first chapter. It's all in my head. I like to write the first three chapters prior to a proposal (although if I can get out of the synopsis altogether, I'm happiest!)
During those three chapters I'm getting a better handle on each character's distinct voice. For Waking Nightmare, I had Clive Owen pictured as I was writing Ryne Robel. But I'm not really very good at remembering the names of actors and actresses, so I always have to research pictures of them when I'm trying to come up with one that matches my mental picture of my characters.
S~ You definitely seemed to have found your niche with romantic suspense, but do you ever see yourself going in other directions, perhaps tackling a suspenseful historical or riding the paranormal wave? What keeps you challenged?
Kylie: Because I also teach full time I feel like I can't get the stories inside out quickly enough. So I haven't yet grown blase about writing dark romantic suspense. I don't really see myself heading in any other directions, but have always been intrigued by the thought of doing YA suspense.
S~ Let's talk booksignings and conferences. Any plans to take the "Waking" books out on tour, let's say, to the Chicagoland area or thereabouts? Do you attend the various writers conventions throughout the year - RT, RWA, etc? Any plans in 2010?
Kylie: Most of my outings take place in the summer when I have more time. I have tentative plans to attend RT in 2010 and of course will be in Nashville for RWA in July. I'm still trying to make up my mind about attending Thrillerfest that month, as well.
S~ How do you feel about the multitude of social networking venues out there,such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace? Do you think they are helpful to you as a writer? Why or why not?
Kylie: I do think they help me reach a wider audience. It's impossible to quantify, of course, but I have had readers tell me they found me through Facebook or Twitter. I find MySpace to be overly cumbersome, but love Facebook. It has become my new timewaster :) as if I needed yet another.
S~ What's the last good movie you saw? Any t.v. shows you just have to drop everything to watch?
Kylie: I thought The Proposal was cute--love Sandra Bullock. Russell Crowe's State of Play and Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino were excellent.The only thing I drop everything to watch is NCIS. I'm a huuuge fan! But I also like to watch Two and a Half Men, Medium and Grey's Anatomy.
S~ Would you consider yourself to be adventurous? Do you skydive? Surf? Battle dirty dishes with a fearless heart? Or do you save the heroics for the fine men and women who grace the pages of your stories?
Kylie: I like to try new things. I've gone white water rafting and would love to skydive, scuba dive and hang glide. My husband is not up for any of these, though, so my biggest challenge is finding someone to go with me.
S~ When you find time to read, who are currently some of your favorite authors writing today?
Kylie: Nora Roberts is my favorite romance author. I especially love her JD Robb books. Tami Hoag, Lee Child and Robert Crais are also auto-buys for me.
S~ How have romances changed since you started writing? Do you like the way relationships in today's books have evolved? Has it made it easier to write the relationship aspect of your stories?
Kylie: I think the romance relationship takes a much more realistic arc than it did in the past. The obstacles in the couple's path are genuine and not based on easily resolved issues like misunderstandings or lack of communication. Heroes are more complex. I do think it makes the relationship easier to write because the arc tends to be much less formulaic.
S~ Do you ever see yourself writing strictly non-romance, or is it too ingrained in your blood? What do you think romance lends to your stories?
Kylie: Hmm, I don't know if I could ever give up the romance. After reading a straight suspense or watching a thriller movie, I invariably think about how much better it would have been with a relationship in it. One thing romance offers a dark suspense story is hope. While the plot can deal with gritty issues, the reader is still uplifted by the journey the h/h take overcoming past traumas and finding a future together.
S~ Do your family members read your books? How do they feel about having a writer in the family?
Kylie: I've been published since my kids were ages 6-14, so they've pretty much grown up with an author as a mom. They keep me pretty grounded, LOL! My husband has read all my books, and is my biggest fan. My dad also reads and brags about my books. A couple of my daughter-in-laws read them all, and two of my sons have read a couple. I have plenty of people offering me critiques :)
S~ You don't have a critique partner but do you ever participate in brain-storming sessions with other authors? Have anyone locally you bounce ideas off of?
Kylie: A couple years ago two of my published friends and I started getting together for weekend brain-storming sessions twice annually. It works because we know each other very well and so the suggestions we make are usually spot on. It's difficult to schedule those weekends, though.
S~ I've noticed that a lot of romance writers are incredibly supportive of new and unpublished writers. Have you come across someone that you think everyone should know about?
Kylie: Allison Brennan has very insightful comments about the industry and I always find myself reading all of her posts. She's very generous about answering questions for newer authors.
S~ So Kylie, what are you currently working on now? What can we look forward to in the coming months?
Kylie: I recently went back to contract for three more Mindhunters books. (S~ Excellent!) These will have an overarching suspense plot and the last of the three will be Adam Raiker's book.
S~Thank you so much for taking the time to answer any of these questions LOL. I appreciate it, and am really looking forward to posting this interview! And I thank Colleen for giving me a heads-up about your books. Waking Nightmare kept me up way past my bedtime!
Kylie: Thanks for the opportunity, Stacy! Glad you enjoyed WN :)
So there you have it. Stay tuned for your chance to win a copy of Kylie Brant's Waking Nightmare, the first book in her Mindhunters series!