Welcome, Brenda Novak, to our Mysteries and Margarita’s blog. I love Brenda’s books. I’m excited for the upcoming Dept. 6 Hired Guns Series.
Mary: Before we start, can you tell us a little about yourself. I mean your family, where you’re from and things like that.
Brenda: I was born in Utah, raised in Arizona and have lived in California since I married in 1984. I have five kids and one cat, love to ride bicycles or jog, go to movies, read, shop and travel.
Mary: Each May, Brenda has an Online Auction to benefit Diabetes Research. It's amazing how many items people can bid on, and the bidding started on the 1st! My agent, Christine Witthohn, has donated a critique/evaluation of a partial (synopsis and first three chapters) and a follow up phone call w/in 1 week.
Another example, one lucky winner will get a manuscript evaluation (pubbed or unpubbed) from Hollywood actor/writer/director Doug McKeon with a follow up phone call (or meeting in L.A.).
This where I’d like start my questions. How many years have you done your auction? And why did you pick Diabetes?
Brenda: This will be the auction’s sixth year. When my son was diagnosed with Type I (insulin dependent) diabetes at five years old (eight years ago), I was devastated to learn that even if we do our best to manage the disease, it would adversely affect every aspect of his life. Determined to make sure that didn’t happen, I set out to do my part to raise money for research so that he and the millions of others who suffer from diabetes will no longer be plagued with this dreaded disease. Thanks to my donors, shoppers and other supporters, the auction has been wildly successful.
Mary: Can you tell us how much you’re earned? What are your goals in 2010 to raise? Can you tell us a bit about what type of items are offered on your auction?
Brenda: So far we’ve raised over three-quarters of a million dollars. If we stay on track with what we did last year, we should break the $1 million mark—and that’s definitely our goal! Fortunately, we have some really great things up for auction. Some of the most popular are the fabulous opportunities for aspiring writers to get in front of an agent or editor who could possibly launch their career in publishing.
Mary: That is wonderful! I remember seeing your picture turning over the check to the Diabetes foundation. You should be very proud of what you've accomplished. Last year our chapter got together to donate a basket. What can a single person do to help with the auction?
Brenda: There’re a lot of things a single person can do—and none of it is expensive or difficult. Spreading the word is probably the easiest. Donating an item would be another way (something handmade or from the company for which they work, etc.). Shopping is probably the most enjoyable way to participate. If folks simply bought their gifts, etc., from the auction instead of another store, we’d have a banner year.
Mary: Folks you heard it, get your Christmas shopping done in May at the auction and help a worthy cause at the same time! Is there anything else you’d like to add about the auction that you feel is important?
Brenda: This year we have some fabulous prizes to award to those who come out and support the auction. Each week I’ll be giving away something new to the person who places the most bids (even if that person doesn’t win a single item). The first week that prize will be an iPad.
Mary: Okay I better go right now and start bidding, because I'd love an iPad! LOL. Now on to your career. Tell us a bit about what motivated you to write so you could be a stay at home mom.
Brenda: I caught my daycare provider drugging my children with cough syrup to get them to sleep all day while I worked as a loan officer (so she could watch soap operas). When I found the medication in my baby’s bottle, several things that hadn’t seemed quite “right” came to mind and I suddenly realized what had been going on. I was broken hearted that anyone would endanger my children and quit my job to stay home with them myself—but my husband’s business was really struggling and I needed to do something to help our financially. That’s when I decided to try my hand at writing, because I needed to be able to do something from home.
Mary: I can only imagine how awful that feeling must have been. I'm glad you stayed home to watch your babies. How long did it take you to sell your first book? What was your biggest hurdle to find an agent and/or publisher for your first book?
Brenda: It took me five years to write my first book, so it wasn’t a quick fix. It did, however, give me something I really enjoyed doing. Once the book was finished it took another year to sell it. The biggest hurdle I faced is probably the biggest hurdle most authors face—getting in front of the right person. It helped that the manuscript finaled in the Golden Heart (a national contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America). That helped set me apart.
Mary: Romance Writers of America is wonderful organization for authors. How long has the journey been to the success you enjoy now?
Brenda: My first book came out in November 1999 so I’ve been published ten and a half years. It’s definitely been a difficult journey because this is a difficult business. But it’s also been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. When my first book was “orphaned” (my editor was fired along with all the other romance editors at HarperCollns when Harper purchased Avon) I could easily have been a one-book wonder. Fortunately, I’d met my current editor at a regional convention and had already decided to write both contemporary and historical novels. OF NOBLE BIRTH is the only historical I have out to date, but I’ve written 37 contemporary novels, all with the same editor.
Mary: And wow what a career, I really enjoy your books-and my daughter is reading them right now. How extensive is your research for each of your series? Do you have a town board and character chart for each book?
Brenda: I do a fair amount of research for most books, but that entails surfing the Internet, printing out whatever I don’t want to forget, visiting various locations for setting details, going to the library or calling professionals. I don’t do town boards or character charts. I keep all of this in my head—but if I had the time to prepare with a town board or character chart I can see where it would be beneficial, especially when writing series of books.
Mary: Are you a plotter or a panster? How long does it take you to write a book?
Brenda: I have to write three “big” books per year (romantic suspense novels) and one novella. This is maximum output for me. I’m a panster. I grow bored with a story if I plot it out ahead of time—I feel as if I’ve already told that story and want to start on another one. I like being surprised as my characters develop and take on a personality of their own.
Mary: I know what you mean about plotting ahead. I took the time to plot a story one time and my characters refused to let me write the book. It's still in my desk. Can you tell us a little about your new Dept. 6 Hired Guns Series?
Brenda: Created by a wealthy businessman determined to cash in on the need for more effective policing options, Department 6 is a private security contractor located in L.A. They have six operatives, four men and two women, most of whom are former special forces or police officers. Because they are essentially “guns for hire” they aren’t limited by jurisdiction or geography but typically work domestically inside the U.S. They can accept any offer that interests them, and pride themselves on tackling the toughest cases out there.
In WHITE HEAT, Nate Ferrentino and Rachel Jessop, two members of Department 6, are hired to infiltrate a dangerous cult that has recently settled in the former ghost town of Paradise, Arizona. Members of this cult worship at the feet—and in the bed--of its charismatic leader, Ethan Wycliff. But with one woman claiming to have been stoned, and another missing, Wycliff might be more of a devil than the prophet he claims to be….
In BODY HEAT, Police Chief Sophia St. Claire finds herself out of her investigative league when someone starts shooting people at pointblank range and leaving them to rot in the desert sun just outside her small town. Help arrives in the form of California’s Department 6 Roderick Guerrero. But as the half-breed bastard of a wealthy local rancher, he has a history he can’t get past--a history that includes Sophia St. Claire.
In KILLER HEAT, the remains of seven women have been discovered in Skull Valley, Arizona. It’s up to Jonah Young, from Department 6, to assist the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department in solving these murders. But he doesn’t anticipate the complications that arise when he’s forced to work with an old flame. Then everything grows more complicated—and far too personal. They quickly zero in on the most likely suspect, but betting on the wrong man might be the last thing they ever do….
Mary: Oh now I really can't wait. They sounds awesome. What is the one bit of advice you give to new authors?
Thank you, Brenda, for allowing me to interview you for Mysteries and Margaritas. I always find it interesting to read about the process of other authors. Especially ones I have a B&N notice for when their book arrives. Hope to see you in Nashville at Nationals.