Message From The Author

Linda Howard

Book Title: ICE
Genre: Romantic Suspense

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After a 'Burn'ing Summer, It's Time for Some 'Ice'

LINDA HOWARD ON BOOKS, WRITING AND THE MACKENZIES

By Faygie Levy

Romantic suspense fans are in for a treat this year -- call it a little Thanksgiving surprise. Ice (Nov., Ballantine) is the second hardcover title from bestselling author Linda Howard to be released this year (Burn, a July release, was an RT Top Pick.) What could be better than getting the inside dish on this book from the author herself? Read on.

Why did you decide to write a holiday romantic suspense? Do you enjoy reading holiday romances? Actually, the only thing "holiday" about Ice is that it's set right before Christmas, and the weather's cold. I don't read holiday romances; I don't read holiday anything. My mother's birthday was Christmas Eve, and after she died I had a really hard time with the holiday. I can "do" Christmas now, but books with holiday themes are still beyond me.

Tell me a little about the plot of Ice. What should readers expect? Ice is about a woman stranded at her remote Maine house by an ice storm, complete with home invaders and the son of the county sheriff, who has come to fetch her off the mountain.

Some readers thought your 2008 novel, Death Angel, veered a bit from what they had come to expect from your work. Were you surprised by their reactions? What prompted you to write something that pushed the genre's boundaries? I didn't think about it at the time. It was a story that had been nibbling at my subconscious for a while and finally it was ready to be written. I honestly don't plan anything; I'm so not that much in control. I simply write whatever story has taken my fancy, with no analyzing of the genre or the boundaries or anything like that.

In your mind what makes a book a perfect romantic suspense tale? Do you think there needs to be a specific balance between love and suspense for a story to be a romantic suspense? A book isn't about balance for me, it's about the characters. A perfect tale, in any genre, is one that ropes me in and makes me care about the characters. I ask to be entertained, and I ask to finish the book with a sigh of contentment because everything worked out. Then I'm happy.

You've written categories and single titles; what is the best thing about each? What's the biggest challenge of each? The biggest challenge with categories is the length limitations, but the best thing about them is that the length limitations really forces/teaches a writer how to get the most out of characterization in a short length of time. The biggest challenge with single titles is the sheer complexity of the plots. If you tell too much, you bore the reader; if you don't tell enough, then the plot progression isn't logical. It's tough to do. Sometimes I hit the mark, sometimes I don't.

When can readers expect more Mackenzie books? I won't say "never," because miracles do occur, but there probably won't be any more Mackenzies. Wolf and Mary would be dead of old age, and I simply couldn't do that.

What is the one thing you'd want fans to know about you that maybe they don't? Hmm. Maybe that I love to design and build houses. I'm on my fourth one now.

What advice do you have for aspiring romantic suspense authors? Write what you love, write what grabs you and research every little detail.

How much has the industry changed since you first began writing? Are you surprised that romance in all its forms is still so popular? To answer the second question first: no. Romance will always be popular. Romance was popular in Shakespeare's day, it was popular 200 years ago and it's popular now. The romances of the past are the classics of today, though you'd never know it from the way the romance genre is treated. But 200 years from now people will be studying the romances of today, and the books will be required reading.

The industry itself has changed so much that I don't know where to begin. There are fewer publishing houses, fewer distributors and the computer has completely changed the physical process of writing. I love writing on a computer, but when it comes to the finished product, I don't want to read on one. Reading is my joy, and I spend so much time at the computer every day, working, that I want to get away from it when I'm relaxing. I want the printed page, the smell of ink and paper.

The market has changed too. Thirty years ago, there was a healthy mid-list, because publishers could afford to take the time to build a writer's audience. There isn't so much of a mid-list now, and I really miss it; I discovered some great writers in the mid-list.

Can we expect multiple releases from you next year as well? What are you working on now? After Ice comes a paranormal I'm co-writing with Linda Winstead Jones, tentatively titled "Blood Born," which will be a mass-market original paperback, then a hardback is scheduled for late next summer. So, yes, there are two books out this year, two out next year and two out the year after next.


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