Happy release week to our friend LIZ JOHNSON! A Promise to Protect hit shelves this week and is perfectly stocking-sized :)
For me the hardest part about writing a suspense is making sure that a character’s motivation makes sense. For example, in A Promise to Protect my heroine, Ashley, will do anything to protect the women and kids staying in her shelter. So I had to ask myself what would make a woman risk everything to protect someone else. Protectiveness is often considered a male trait, so I had to dig into Ashley’s back story and find compelling reasons for her actions. Actually, uncovering my villain was a similar process for this book. I had several possible bad guys in mind, but all of them lacked enough motivation to keep Matt and Ashley on their toes. Finally I had to scrap my idea for a villain and start from scratch. Sometimes a character’s history hides from me, but digging it out is always worth the struggle. I think it makes for a much more fun read. It’s certainly more fun to write.
2.) What inspired you to write about a Women's Shelter and how much research went into re-creating it authentically for the story?
In my hometown in Arizona, there’s a shelter much like Lil’s Place. I remember seeing billboards and hearing radio ads for fundraisers for it when I was young. For some reason those always stuck with me, and I think often of that shelter. I read about it and other similar homes as I wrote this book. I’m so grateful that I’ve never been in that place where I needed a safe place like that, but I know that many have. In fact, when I was a college, a family member went through a terrible time and ended up needing a safe place to stay. I was happy to provide that, to offer a spare bedroom and an open heart to someone in pain. While I wrote, I thought about that time and pulled from my feelings then to give my characters as many authentic reactions and emotions as possible.
3.) I've read all of your published work (thus far!!! ) and must say that I am continually impressed that all of your heroes and heroines are so unique to each other. Their actions, motivations and characterizations are always new. What keeps character fresh to you? where do you pool your imaginative resources?
A pool of imaginative resources? That wounds like somewhere I’d like to take a swim! :) Hmm . . . Well, I wish that I had a spreadsheet of some sort that listed out various character traits and habits so that I could just pick and choose what I’ll use for each character. I don’t. Maybe I should get one. In all seriousness, it all goes back to digging into each character’s history. And then looking at my own life. In Vanishing Act, I had a heroine who was under enormous stress without anyone she could turn to. So I asked myself what I do to try to relax. Shopping! That’s my consistent go-to. But I’m not Nora. So looked at her history and uncovered a would-be tri-athlete (so not me!). Throughout the book, she goes to bike riding and swimming to think through her situation and cope with the stress. I don’t want my characters to be just like me, but I continue to grow and change. As I learn new things, come to new understandings in my walk with God, I often find those realizations showing up in my characters’ lives. I guess life is the best pool of imaginative resources.
4.) What's next for readers who are eager for your next Love Inspired Suspense offering?
Next up is Tristan’s story! For those who read A Promise to Protect, you’ll remember him as Ashley’s older brother and Matt’s fellow Navy SEAL. Tristan rescues Staci, an American woman, from a Middle Eastern prison. But just because she’s back in California doesn’t mean she’s safe.
I just turned that book in to my editor, and it’ll be out in the fall of 2013. We’re still working on a title for that one and the next, which will feature another member of SEAL Team FIFTEEN.
Thanks for having me, Rachel!