Message From The Author
SUZANNE BROCKMANN AND J.R. WARD
TALK ABOUT FLASHPOINT AND LOVER UNBOUND
By Suzanne Brockmann
Like many readers, we at RT were excited to hear that J.R. Ward has a new book out this month (Lover Unbound, Signet). We were also delighted to learn that reader favorite Suzanne Brockmann, who will have a Troubleshooter holiday novel out soon, is a huge Ward fan. So we decided to give readers a special treat by asking Brockmann to interview Ward. Here's the exchange between these two writing dynamos.
Everywhere I go, people are buzzing about the Black Dagger Brotherhood series -- especially other romance authors. What's your reaction to that?
I totally appreciate the support! I've been so very grateful, but you know what the nicest part is? Before J.R. Ward ever came into the picture, other romance writers reached out and helped me and guided me. I think authors in our genre are especially kind and supportive of their colleagues. I don't think I can ever repay my mentors and friends.
Some people might think that J.R. Ward appeared out of the blue, but you've been writing for years -- really struggling to get noticed. I know from my own experience that when it finally starts to happen, it can feel pretty surreal. What's that journey been like for you?
Totally surreal! The thing is, I haven't changed. I'm still the idiot who shuffles around in her boxers and talks to her dog and puts the aluminum foil roll in the refrigerator because I'm so distracted thinking about my books. I find it amazing that the J.R. Ward name means anything to anyone. And I don't want that part of things to ever become real. I think when you worry too much about Who You Are, you forget that what you do is what really matters. Writing the very best book I'm able to, given my life's current circumstances (a standard I learned from you, Suz!), remains my focus. What's the journey been like? A dream. A good dream. I'm still waiting for my alarm clock to go off and wake me up! But there have been dark moments, and one of them involves you! When your book Flashpoint came out, I bought it that first week because I'm a total fangirl. I read it in a day and put it aside, then walked through the rooms of my home in tears. I was totally convinced I would never write anything that good or that vivid or that honest. There have been a lot of times when I've doubted myself and my skills and my future, questioned whether I needed to go back to the law, worried over how a book would do. And the pressure never eases off. I struggle with every book, terrified it won't be good enough. All of which, when you think about it, makes me no different from any other author out there.
I hear you, and I relate, but I would argue that it wasn't just luck that made your Brotherhood series so successful. One of the things I love best about your books is how real they feel to me -- way more grittily real than most romances I've read -- which is saying something, since your heroes are vampires. But I truly feel as if I could head north on Route 22 in New York and find myself in downtown Caldwell, with its seedy city streets. Your descriptions are vivid, but it's more than that, in my opinion. It's because you're describing your world from your characters' points of view, and your characters so obviously live and breathe for you -- and therefore for your readers.
You're making me blush! I believe 90 percent of reality is perception -- so when I'm writing, I just let the folks in my head take over. I let their thoughts come through, and their individual predilections, and their biases, and their pasts. All of that stuff colors everything they do and every place they go and everyone they meet up with. By staying true to each of the brothers' and the shellans' individual natures, what I hope to accomplish is a textured book, one that offers a lot of different perspectives, each of which rings true and complements those of the other folks in the story.
It works for me, in a major way. Next question: TV or not TV? (Meaning, do you watch the box, or not?)
What's your all-time favorite show?
There are more than one! If I had to pick an all-time fave, X-Files. I loved the original years. But the Sopranos rules. (I can't talk about the series ending. Too upsetting.) The Tudors is great. And, um, I really like Columbo. That raincoat is hot!
Let's talk about October's release -- Lover Unbound. I've read it, loved it. Without revealing any spoilers, what was it like to write Vishous' book? Harder? Easier? The same?
Hell. Total abject hell. Worst writing experience I've ever had. First time I ever had to make myself go to work in the morning. When I got to the end of V's book, I took the first break in my writing career. (OK, I still worked every day, but only for like two hours in the morning. The rest of the time I sat in the corner drooling.) I know why it was so hard and I learned a lot, and I think the book came out well.
Oh, it did.
But when I started Phury's book [next year's Lover Enshrined], I remembered thinking, Oh, my God, if it's anything like V's, I don't think I'm going to make it.
Yeah, isn't it amazing how some books are like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. You know, you completely surprised me, early in the series, by writing Zsadist's book. I laughed aloud with both appreciation and admiration when I found out you were bringing him in as the next hero. It was, I think, a brilliant move -- and I know it locked me in as a permanent fan of the series. Can you talk a bit about your decision to write the books in that particular order?
The Brothers generally tell me what their order is (like they tell me everything else!). There's just a flow to the series. For instance, I knew all along that Wrath was No. 1 and Rhage was the second and that Tohrment's book would be far along in the order. The thing is, though, the whole deal was supposed to end with Zsadist -- except I just couldn't bear that. Z was, and probably will be, my absolute favorite hero.
You're kidding, right? This series was conceived as a trilogy? Oh, no. No, no. For the record, I'm in the "Please, Ms. Ward, never, ever, ever let this series end" camp.
I had no idea whether the books would find a market, and I knew if I didn't write Z's book I would be heartbroken. So I bumped him forward. That's the only time I've imposed my will on the series and I don't regret it. Z ... I had to write him.
Thank you for that. Let's talk about reader reaction. I know you've got a huge readership. (Congrats on making the New York Times list!) Much of the feedback you get from readers must be, well, "passionate." But I know that readers can sometimes get upset by choices you-the-author make for your characters. As the author of a long-running, ongoing series myself, I've come to peace with the idea that I can't please all the people all of the time. In fact, I don't want to do that! Write a book that's middle-of-the-road, that doesn't upset anyone? No way!
I definitely don't please all the readers all the time. And I do get a lot of feedback, which is wonderful. Most folks want to know what's going to happen next, and on occasion I'll give a hint. There are those, however, who have very specific things that they want to see happen. It's fantastic that they're so passionate -- but I can't give them satisfaction in large part. The books write themselves, and if I insinuate myself into the plotting ... well, the voices shut up. So I don't have much control over things. I have to say, though, the vast majority of people couldn't possibly be nicer.
Here's what I do when I know there's another Black Dagger Brotherhood book coming from J.R. Ward: I anticipate. I eagerly wonder what's going to come. I walk in circles around the book about 20 times, just enjoying having it in my possession. And then I sit back, strap myself in and blast off -- ready to go wherever J.R. Ward wants to take me. Yes, there are bound to be surprises and unexpected choices, but she's the author, and I trust her to give me a fabulous story -- and one hell of a fantastic ride.
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