INTERVIEW WITH SUZANNE BROCKMANN, AUTHOR OF ' THE UNSUNG HERO' (TROUBLESHOOTERS INC. SERIES)

Here's the original version of the interview we made with Suzanne Brockmann on the occasion of the release of  her book THE UNSUNG HERO in Italian.

LMBR:  The Unsung Hero -  first book in your Troubleshooters  series , has been recently released in Italy. Hopefully,  the second book will follow soon. What can new readers expect from this book and the series?
SB:  My Troubleshooter series is an action-packed romantic suspense series that tells the intertwined stories of several close-knit groups of people: SEAL Team Sixteen, Max Bhagat’s FBI Counterterrorist Team (which includes gay FBI Agent Jules Cassidy, who is perhaps my most popular character among American readers!), and a civilian personal security firm called Troubleshooters, Inc. 
I love telling big, rich, interconnected stories with many major secondary characters, in which mis-matched people work together to solve a problem -- or sometimes even save the world!  The TS series has some long-running story arcs that play out across many, many books -- especially Navy SEAL Sam Starrett’s on-again-off-again “interaction” (collision? LOL!) with Navy Officer and soon-to-be FBI Agent Alyssa Locke.  Even Tom Paoletti and Kelly Ashton, the hero and heroine of The Unsung Hero, will be present throughout the series, and will play a major part, once again, in an upcoming book. 

LMBR: The Troubleshooters  subgenre is  romantic suspense , a genre that in Italy has started to get  the romance readers' attention only in the last few years . Why did  you
choose to write romantic suspense? Why should readers who like contemporary romance ( or other genres)  give romantic suspense a try?
SB: Romantic suspense tends to tell stories in which the main characters face grave danger, so it’s quite an exciting ride.  But my books also contain the same drama, passion, and even comedy that comes with a contemporary romance!  Even though the suspense and the danger create conflict, the focus is on the characters.  Bottom line, in the The Unsung Hero, I’m delivering to the readers a story in which my hero and heroine (and several other characters, too!) meet, connect, clash, and finally win their happily-ever-after!

LMBR:  Something  your  readers  particularly appreciate  is the way you so skillfully  develop different plots in a single book. In the Unsung Hero there are at least three. How long did it take you to write it?  How do you control all plots and characters in your series? Do you keep files for everything so that you remember who's who and what's what from one book to the other?
SB: Thank you!  I wrote The Unsung Hero back in 1999, when I was still a new writer, with lots of energy!  So it didn’t take me that long to write!  (I’ve slowed down a bit since then!)
Because I really enjoy writing big, thick, interconnected, multi-generational stories, it’s not that big of a challenge for me to keep track of everything and everyone.  With that said, I’m an outliner/plotter when it comes to writing.  I make extensive notes, both for the story and the characters.  But once a character comes to life on the page, they become real to me -- and it’s easy to keep track of them!

LMBR:  Characterisation is another thing  we love about your books. All your characters have their own personalities and voices. How do you manage to do it? Are there any characters in the series you're particulary fond of? Who usually comes first in your mind, the 
Suz e i suoi  RITA Awards
hero, the heroine or the story? What's your ideal heroine like? 
SB:  My books are hero-driven, which (at least at the time I wrote them) was somewhat unique for romance novels, which tend to focus on the heroine’s story.  But I’ve always loved men, and I particularly love friendships between men -- so it totally made sense for me to write an interconnected story about a team of Navy SEALs (and their friendships and frenemy-ships or conflicts).  (In case the word “frenemy” hasn’t made it to Italy yet, it’s a combination of “friend” and “enemy.”  For example, Navy SEALs Izzy Zanella and Danny Gillman are frenemies.)
So I generally start with the hero.  Also, because the TS series starts out focused on a SEAL team, the heroes tend to appear before they get their “own” book.  So I tend to start with a hero who is established to some degree.  I look at that hero, and write a book in which he’ll be challenged and need to face his personal weaknesses and vulnerabilities!
I also then create a heroine who will also challenge him, and perhaps motivate him to become an even better man than he already is.  So my ideal heroine depends entirely on my hero -- but she’s generally strong, smart, and funny. :-)
Particular favorite characters are: Sam and Alyssa, and Jules and Robin.  It’s possible that my all-time favorite character in the series is Robin Chadwick, which surprised me, because he’s rather flawed.  But out of all my big, tough Navy SEAL heroes, Robin (the Hollywood movie star!) was the only character who wouldn’t bend to my author-ly will! LOL!  Writing Force of Nature (one of his books -- he appears in many, starting with Hot Target, and including All Through the Night), was a unique experience for me, because when Robin finally came face to face with Jules after many years apart, he recognized that his life was incomplete without him.  He choose love over his career -- he chose love over all else.  I’d never had a character do that to me before -- my intention was to draw their story out across a few more books, but Robin demanded his HEA right then and there!  It was a battle that I could not win, so I surrendered to him!  LOL!

LMBR: Your latest book, Do or Die,  is the first in a new series called Reluctant Heroes . Does it have something in common with the Troubleshooters? You wrote the Unsung hero fourteen years ago (it doesn't show, really). Which are the main differences - in setting, characterisation, plot, etc - between the two books? Has romantic suspense changed over the last decade?
SB: We’re calling Do or Die a “new spin-off series,” but it’s really just another story arc set in the Troubleshooters world.  It’s not that different, in fact, from Flashpoint, in which many new characters are introduced.  Do or Die contains several cross-over characters from the TS world, including Martell Griffin, who first appears in Force of Nature.
Frankly, it’s really just more of the same:  lots of action, passion, drama and comedy with a former Navy SEAL hero named Ian Dunn.
I think the biggest change over the past decade has been that romance in general has gotten much, much hotter in terms of explicit love scenes! 

LMBR:  Some of your readers also would like to know... 
-  Have you ever thought about writing an M/M,  outside of any series with characters like  Jules Cassidy,  who is not a stereotypical gay character ? 
SB:  Why, yes, I have.  (And thank you!  I’m glad you like Jules!)  I recently co-wrote and co-produced an m/m romantic comedy movie called The Perfect Wedding, which can be viewed internationally via streaming from our distributor Wolfe OnDemand.  It’s a sweet little boy-meets-boy romcom that involves one of the hero’s families.  Our main character’s mother is played by Kristine Sutherland -- best known for her role as Buffy’s mom Joyce in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  (She is as lovely and nice as you might imagine!  And so talented!)
As for books, I’ve got an idea that I hope to write relatively soon...  In the meantime, readers who loved Jules and Robin’s love story should check out Glitterland by Alexis Hall, from RipTide books.  It’s an awesome romance, in fact it was my absolute favorite romance of 2013!

LMBR: Who or what  inspired you the character of  Izzy Zanella, one of the funniest hottest heroes in the series?
SB: Why, thank you!  I love Izzy, too.  I created Izzy because I wanted to show that the men in a SEAL team aren’t automatically friends.  They work together and fight together, yes, but they don’t necessarily always play together!  So Izzy appeared.  I wrote from Izzy’s point of view for the first time in Into the Storm, and I have to admit I was inspired by my longtime audiobook narrator, Patrick Lawlor.  Patrick and I have become friends over the years, and I’m always in awe at the way he knows exactly how to read my books and my dialogue -- he completely gets my humor and writing voice.  So when I sat down to write that first scene from Izzy’s perspective, I knew that Patrick was going to kill it with the audio, and I heard his voice in my head.  So even though Patrick is nothing like Izzy in person, I wrote Izzy for Patrick to read aloud!   

LMBR: Have you ever thought to set a book or part of it in Italy?
SB: Although I didn’t get to set any of Gone Too Far in Italy, I tell the story of Sam Starrett’s uncle-by-marriage, who was a WWII fighter pilot, stationed in Italy during WWII.  (I mention, in fact, that this character, Walt, learned to cook in Italy, and he made the most awesome Italian delicacies!)
Personally, I’d love to visit Italy.  It’s on my bucket list of places to visit! 

LMBR:  What book did you find it more difficult to write?
SB:  I struggled quite a bit with Into the Night.  It was the first book I wrote after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which impacted me quite a bit.  And then, to be honest, writing books with military heroes got significantly harder for me after the US (unjustly, IMO) invaded Iraq.  I am deeply opposed to the glorification of war, and vehemently against torture, so I made sure to include themes that would, hopefully, make my readers stop and
think.  SEAL teams were created to prevent conventional wars, and I hoped that message came through in my books.

LMBR: What authors do you usally like reading?
SB:  I mentioned Alexis Hall, above.  I also adore Lisa Gardner and Hank Philippi Ryan, both of whom write thrillers.  I loved Robert B. Parker, who recently died.  Virginia Kantra is an auto-buy for me.  I love her books.  I also enjoy reading historical romances, and Julia Quinn and Carla Kelly are both on my must-buy list.

LMBR: Why did Sam and Alyssa have to wait so looong to have their happy ending, ( they have their first romantic encounter in The Unsung Hero )?
SB:  Yes!  And they met in The Unsung Hero.  
There’s long been a tradition in romance to tell a story in which the hero and heroine met and shared a one-night-stand some years prior.  Things didn’t work out, and they went their separate ways.  But now, in the book, they meet again and are forced to work together, and in doing so, they build a real, solid relationship and finally fall in love. 
With Sam and Alyssa, I wanted to tell that story in “real time,” stretched out across many, many books.  So they meet in The Unsung Hero, they collide in The Defiant Hero, they collide for a second time in Over the Edge -- but then external conflict keeps them apart for two books, in which they both play smaller roles.  But then it’s time for their own book, Gone Too Far, in which they’re forced to work together (see?) to find Sam’s missing daughter. 
It was a little frustrating for readers when there were months between each book’s release, but now that the books are all available (at least in English!), readers can glom them quickly, one after the other!  LOL!

LMBR:   And last but not least... I can't swim, can you send over a Navy Seal so that I can go on holiday and relax?
SB:  I think Jay Lopez is available.  Will he do?  :-)

WE THANK SUZ FOR THIS INTERVIEW AND ARE SURE ITALIAN READERS WILL LOVE THE UNSUNG HERO! WE ALSO HOPE TO SEE HER NEW SERIES IN ITALIAN SOON!





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