Author Tara Janzen reflects on the evolution of her extremely popular romantic suspense series that features the men and women of Steele Street. These romantic adventures are packed with government intrigue, lethal warriors and high-speed chases. Learn how the Steele Street gang has kept taking us (and their author) by surprise and then enter to win your own copy of this month’s Loose Ends at the end of the post!

Loose Ends, my new Steele Street book, is the culmination of a wild ride that has lasted over the course of eleven novels. I had no idea back when I wrote Crazy Hot and Crazy Cool that the story was going to come full circle, with all the bad guys having been working for one powerful, manipulative man, the ultimate traitor to our country and the soldiers who serve. The threads that tie all the books together, and the one woman from J.T.’s past who can save him, are revealed in Loose Ends.

I started writing the Crazy books with one clear goal in mind – to make the stories move as fast as the cars the guys were driving, all those gorgeous, roaring, muscle-machines Detroit was putting out back in the 60’s and early 70’s. I was in love with the cars and the guys and the rocket-speed of the books. When my publisher asked if I had ideas for two more books, I was thrilled – because, boy, did I have more ideas. I’d met Creed and Kid in the first two books, and I really wanted to write their stories, Crazy Wild and Crazy Kisses. Then my editor asked for two more stories, and I could feel a series coming on. Also, by Crazy Wild, after being with Creed and realizing how badly everyone on Special Defense Force, SDF, was struggling with the loss of J.T., I knew there was a whole lot more to these stories than the plots and the romances of each individual book. From the very beginning, J.T. echoed through the pages. He was always there, and the more books I wrote, the more obvious it became that he was the driving force of a bigger story.

But I still didn’t know he was alive.

Oh, no. That realization was very slow in coming. So many readers wrote and asked if I could somehow save him, bring him back, have it all be an accident – and I just couldn’t see how that could be true. It was while I was writing Loose and Easy that the shadow of J.T. started moving in my imagination, but I couldn’t quite get a grip on him, couldn’t quite see him. He was just there. Then all the pieces starting to come together, all the story and plotlines and bad guys, and by the time I finished writing Loose and Easy, even though that book didn’t reveal anything about J.T., I knew he was alive, and I knew I had to find a way to bring him home. It took two more books, Breaking Loose and Loose Ends to get the job done. 

I have been thrilled with the response to the whole series, but especially with the reviews and readers who have written me about Loose Ends. Sometimes, series run out of steam toward the end – and I didn’t want that to happen with the Steele Street books. J.T. deserved the very best that I could give him. The other part I loved about writing Loose Ends, which is the longest book in the series, was getting to spend so much time with all the other guys and girls. They have all been so clear in my mind, and in the six years that the books have taken place, they’ve all been through a lot. They’ve changed, and yet they all stayed true to themselves. Some I’ve learned to love even more than the first time we “met.” Like Creed – he is so cool under pressure, so calm, and you’re really going to see that in Loose Ends. He always amazes me. And Hawkins – over the course of the books, I came to understand that he really is the heart and soul of Steele Street. Dylan is another one who was so mysterious in the beginning, and yet, book after book, he showed himself to be exactly what he was – The Boss, the end of the line, the buck-stops-here guy, and no matter how close they all are as friends, they all know he’s the one in command. In Loose Ends, he has to be at his all-time toughest to hold SDF together and keep everyone alive – and he is; he’ll go to any lengths to save J.T., with no remorse. 

Skeeter Bang was another amazing surprise to me. In Crazy Hot, I didn’t even know Skeeter was a girl. I didn’t know until she walked into the art gallery wearing leather and chain mail, fishnets and combat boots, that the squirrelly kid on the other end of everyone else’s orders was female. Writing the books has been like watching her grow up, from a street rat to a sophisticated, skilled, tactically savvy woman who can kick butt and take names with the big boys all day long and into the night. 

Writing is always transformational. Authors are always learning from their books. But writing the Steele Street novels turned into a personal evolution of profound proportions. Besides the fast cars, bad boys, and hot women in the books, there were a lot of big guns. I had never held a handgun before I started writing Crazy Hot, had never even seen a handgun except on TV or in the movies, but by the end of Crazy Cool, I knew I had to figure out how these guys used their weapons. It was a case where research turned into more fun than I imagined. The shooting sports hooked me right off the bat, and now I shoot every week, from cowboy guns for Cowboy Action Shooting, to 1000 yard rifle matches with my Remington 700 .308, to taking my .45 semi-automatic pistol to the range every Friday with the Gun Diva. I made a gun mistake in Crazy Love, and was very excited about the number of women readers who caught that mistake and called me on it. 

A thousand thanks to you all who took the ride with me and the chop shop boys of Steele Street. We’re giving away signed books with the blog – so be sure and sign up!

- Tara Janzen

GIVEAWAY ALERT: Three lucky winners will receive a copy of Loose Ends to enter leave a comment about what you would love most about being part of the Steele Street Crew. Or you can email your comment here with your US mailing address and the subject line “Tara Janzen’s Loose Ends Giveaway”. The winners will be announced on February 17th.

BLOG UPDATE 2/18/2011: And the winners are Danielle D., Stacie D. and Cathy M!

Tags: RT Daily Blog, Romance
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