Slick: Hi Leah, I’m so glad you can be with us here at Guilty Pleasures for an interview! I’m very excited to get to chat with you regarding your work and your newest release, Hidden Heat.
LB: Thank you for inviting me! I love talking about the Hauberk series with you.
Slick: Can you tell us how you got the idea for the Hauberk Protection series?
LB: Wow, a lot of these questions are interconnected. A few months before I’d written Private Property I’d visited the Metroplex to attend the Romance Writers of America national conference. But instead of staying at the hotel in downtown Dallas, one of my critique partners invited me to stay at her home on the shores of LakeArlington. Late one hot July night, we were having a glass of wine and sitting on her dock, relaxing. I started looking at these magnificent houses, and given my previous job (see my answer to question #3), I wondered what type of security they must have. Since readers want strong heroines I made Jodi Tyler a kick-ass security professional. But she doesn’t work for Hauberk – the company she works for is about to be taken over by her lover’s best friend, Sam Watson who owns Hauberk Protection. When my editor at Samhain offered me a contract, she asked in her email if Sam would be getting his own story. I answered yes, because he was such a strong character he’d nearly taken over as the main character in Private Property and I knew he needed his own story. But at the time, the idea of turning Sam’s company Hauberk Protection into a series hadn’t occurred to me.
It was only when I was mid-way through writing Sam’s story ( Personal Protection ) that I realized some of the characters in Sam’s story might have stories of their own and that I might have the beginning of a series on my hands. Which is why Private Property doesn’t have the “Hauberk Protection Series” text on its cover, but the rest do.
Slick: Being a Canadian, why did you set this series in the United States? The first book takes place in my hometown of Arlington, Texas, (a city most people had never heard of prior to the building of Jerry’s World (aka Cowboy’s stadium), how in the world did you choose this location?
LB: At the time, I’d heard from many of my Canadian writer friends that Canadian settings are not encouraged by New York publishers/editors, and that sales had been made contingent on a Canadian setting being changed to an American one. I think it was mainly because 95% of the book-buying public live in the States and the publishers think the readers want familiar settings. It’s not as true these days, and I’ve never heard of an ebook publisher asking for a location change.
So when I sat down to write Private Property, I used the area, and climate, where I’d had the idea. (I would not envy having to sit in a van on a stake out in Texas in the summer.) It helped that if I needed little bits of detail, I could pull out the pictures I’d taken, or email my friend who is still my critique partner – who, by the way, is from Minnesota – you can bet I asked her advice about Sandy‘s traits/speech patterns too. 😉 It’s my dream to one day return to Arlington for another visit, a longer visit with more time for sightseeing and visiting.
Slick: I’d like to talk a little about your characters, okay really one character, and that’s Sam Watson. Is he based on someone you know or did all of his hunky goodness just come to you?
Oh Sam – he just walked into the room as large as life itself and sat down in my head demanding I tell his story.
Sam is an amalgam from various sources. He’s partially influenced by a guy I used to date who was semi-professional football player. 6’6″, 280 pounds. BIG guy. Tough guy, yet soft as a marshmallow around women — very gentlemanly, and very protective. (His mama raised him right. 😉 ) Everyone is his best buddy and he’d do anything for his friends. At the time, I was one of the tallest girls in my graduating class, yet he made me feel tiny, feminine. ( He ended up introducing me to my husband and insisted that he accompany us as my chaperone on our first date. He ended up as my husband’s best man at our wedding.) And sssh, the confident swagger and cheeky sense of humor may have been slightly influenced by my fangirlish love of Dwayne Johnson too. 😉
As for why I made him a former FBI agent? Well, I’m from a family of lots of military members – Royal Marines, Royal Air Force, Royal Army, and the Canadian Air Force as well as the merchant marines. So I’ve always been surrounded by lots of alpha men. When I first moved to Toronto, I worked for a security firm keeping three very alpha men, including one who was a former Major, organized, along with over 70 other men from all walks of life. (Yup, I did Sandy‘s job.) Which meant that when things were slow, they’d kick back and tell me their stories of service during World War 2, the Korean War, and on through to the more modern peacekeeping efforts in war-torn areas. As part of the job, I also got to talk regularly with (and occasionally party with) members of Toronto‘s Emergency Task Force and Bomb Squad – those guys are amazing. Some of the stories were horrifying, some touching, some hilarious, but it let me get an insight into their coping mechanisms and abilities. So it seemed only natural that when I wanted to write an alpha hero that I’d draw on their mannerisms and backgrounds for Sam. But since the stories are set in the United States, I liked the idea of the secrecy behind the agents of the FBI, CIA and the other alphabet agencies, they create quite a background for enigmatic characters.
Slick: I’ve enjoyed this series very much, can you tell us how many more books are planned and can you give us a hint as to who the next book will focus on?
LB: I have two more books planned – Andy’s story, which is next. He’ll be hooking up with Jazz. And then Scott’s to wrap up the series. I’m debating whether to give Cooper Davis his own story – but I haven’t figured out yet if he’s going to be a good guy or a bad guy. Although even bad guys can be good guys depending upon how you’re looking at them. 😉
Slick: Your characters use such a variety of weapons, what kind of research do you do when you are writing about them?
LB: Well, being a Canadian, I’ve not been exposed to anything other than air guns. So when I learned one of my critique partners in Texas had an area on her ranch where she practiced her shooting, one of my first requests was “I want to shoot a gun!” (It’s a writer thing, honest.) She took me over to her father’s (who lives beside her), and he brought out a collection of pistols – a .22 revolver, a .45 revolver formerly used by the Boston Police department, a 9 mm semi-automatic, a Colt .45 from World War 2, and a P38 Luger like the Nazis used (that thing was scary.) I did my best shooting with the .22 – it was lighter and it was the first pistol I shot, so I wasn’t as tired. I got several bulls-eyes—they let me bring the target home and I now have it framed in my office. They taught me gun safety, and things like how to rack a bullet in the 9 mm.
Since then, I’ve visited local gun stores and asked questions as well as checking with my CP if I had any gun questions. I also belong to a yahoo loop called CrimeSceneWriters which is run by a former police officer and has quite a few former Law Enforcement members – police and FBI, who answer questions for writers. Then last September I attended the Writers’ Police Academy which is held in an actual police academy in Greensboro, North Carolina. As part of it, I got to participate in a Fire Arms Training Simulator (FATS) exercise they use for training police officers when to shoot. And when not to. (This video isn’t from the police academy I went to, but they used the same technology and even some of the same incidents that I had to respond to: http://youtu.be/P8FJWpRdaQ4 ) I also got to talk to FBI agents, arson investigators, forensic psychologists, and a real life sniper from the Greensboro police force. (After listening to Sniper Shepherd, I had to change the first scene in Hidden Heat where Troy uses a gun with a laser site the way they do in the movies. I ended up paraphrasing Sniper Shepherd by having Troy say “No self-respecting marksman would use a laser sight. They’re for lazy assholes who couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn.”) And, as I said, most of my critique partners are from the States (2 from Texas, and one from Louisiana) and they are all very familiar with guns and shooting, so they catch what they can if I’ve missed anything major.
Despite all my research, a reader recently pointed out that there is a mistake in Private Property— Jodi thumbs the safety on her Glock. I cringed when I read that because I know Glocks don’t have traditional sliding safety switches; I knew it when I wrote it. So I have no idea why I wrote it that way – the only explanation I can think of is perhaps I’d originally had her carrying a different gun and then switched the brand and missed that line during edits. Luckily I’ll be able to correct that before the print version comes out next January.
Slick: In Hidden Heat, there is a very intense scene with Jazz and her boyfriend. I don’t want to give away any of the plot, but I have to ask if this was as difficult for you to write as it was for me to read? Also, are you worried that this scene may cause some people to have negative feelings towards this book?
LB: YES! It was very difficult to write and after I’d written it, I had discussions with my critique partners as to whether it should stay in. Ultimately I decided to stick with my original goal of showing the difference between Troy and Sandy‘s relationship and what happens when things go wrong for Jazz. It’s not meant for titillation in the least. A friend of mine who has endured a similar ordeal read it before I submitted it and she said that I’d hit the nail on the head on a lot of the things the rapist says to try to turn it back on the victim. In fact, it seemed wrong to try to do it “off-camera”. That if I didn’t include it, didn’t show what Jazz went through, then it was almost belittling her ordeal. Then when I got my edits back from my editor, she asked me to add to the scene, so I knew it belonged there.
And yes, I do worry about that scene triggering some readers, but I am hoping they won’t avoid the entire book because of a one scene.
Slick: You have another series, the Tangle series, which takes place in Texas. Are there any more books planned for this series?
LB: I’ve been working on one on and off for the past year (in between 2 other books – the next in the Hauberk series, and another for Carina Press.) I just need to get my other contracted books written and out of the way so I can concentrate on it. I also need to find a way to make it erotic to match the rest of the series because keeps trying to turn into a family saga/women’s fiction as the family faces difficulties dealing with Dillon’s and Brett’s decision to remain in a committed permanent polyamorous relationship with Nikki. Sometimes my fictional characters can be darned stubborn. 😉
Slick: I always find a writer’s journey inspiring; can you share what made you decide to pursue your dream of writing?
LB: Short story: My eldest son turned my own advice back on me.
Longer story: I’d always written, but never shown anyone until the mid 2000s. When I finally shared my work, my critique partners encouraged to join a local writers’ group. Which I finally did. While I was a member there, they held an event that invited an agent, and active editor at a major Canadian publisher to do cold reads of our works, and my manuscript was one of only two out of forty where they said they wanted to read more. They encouraged me to submit my work, yet I was too afraid. I’d told myself either that no one else would want to read my work, that they’d rip it to shreds and why open myself up to that type of criticism, right? If I wasn’t telling myself that, I’d tell myself that the joy of writing would disappear if I did it for a living so I never dared to submit a single word. A few months later, a former Harlequin editor who was a member of the group emailed me suggesting I submit to a specific Harlequin line that was opening up, yet I still held tight to my manuscripts.
So one day after we’d had the “you need to follow your dreams” speech about his career, my eldest said, “like you’re trying to get published, right?” Um, oops? The thing about having children is as a parent you have to set the example. So if I expected him to follow my advice, I had to pull up my big girl panties and show him I wasn’t afraid of going after my own dreams. Shortly after that challenge conversation, I joined the Toronto Romance Writers’ group who helped me improve my writing and fine tune my craft. Just over a year later, I received my first contract from Samhain Publishing.
Slick: Most writers love connecting with their fans, do you enjoy interacting with your fans? How can fans find you on the web?
LB: I’m no different than any other writer – I love connecting with my fans. Readers can find me on my website where they can subscribe to my blog and leave comments there or on my F.A.Q. page. I’m also on Twitter as @LeahBraemel, on Facebook and Goodreads. I also recently opened up my Yahoo loop so readers can chat there too (not just about my books but other books they’ve enjoyed). If they’re into pinning things on Pinterest, they can check out my boards (which include boards for character inspiration, and other research).
Slick: Last question, we all have our Guilty Pleasures. I’ve said it before one of mine is reading erotic romances and another is ballroom dancing. What is your Guilty Pleasure?
LB: I used to say my Guilty Pleasure was reading, since I used to read over 300 books a year. But now I can say that’s research. *VBG* So now my guilty pleasure is playing games on my iPad. A very bad habit I need to break especially when I’m supposed to be writing.
Slick: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us today. I have really enjoyed getting to know you better and look forward to your next release!
Leave a question or comment for Leah. One lucky commenter will win a digital copy of one of Leah’s books, winners choice. Winner will be selected on 5/3.