Octoberguest! Interview with Allison Brennan

Allison Brennan inspires me! After working in public policy for many years, she decided that she wanted to have a job that would allow her to spend more time with her kids. So she turned to what she loved–books! She blew onto the romantic suspense scene in 2006 with a trilogy, and followed it up with another trilogy in 2007. Yesterday saw the release of Playing Dead, the third novel in her Prison Break Series, after Tempting Evil and Killing Fear. Her Sacramento FBI trilogy releases in 2009, and the first three books of her supernatural suspense series will release beginning in 2010. (I forgot to ask her if she thinks and dreams in threes!)

Given how indispensable Allison has made herself, it’s no surprise that Tempting Evil debuted at #12 and spent four weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. She’s a busy writer-chick, but you can catch her at her website, and the group blog, Murder She Writes. Today, she’s hopped into the Handbasket to answer a few questions so Octoberguest! can open with a bang. She’s also very sweetly donated one of her backlisted titles to be given away to a lucky commenter!

Welcome, Allison!

You write frequently and powerfully about characters who must work hard to repair their relationships. How does it feel when they work it out? Do you play the peacemaker in real life, too?

Conflict is a part of life, and in marriage or family relationships you have to work hard to keep the relationship on solid ground. Two people who care about each other and love each other, but don’t have the formal or blood connection, have to work twice as hard because it’s easier to walk away. When they recognize that they are a better human being and happier with the other person in their life, they are willing to fight for the relationship and forgive past transgressions. No one is perfect, and seeing flaws within helps accept flaws in others and focus on the good. When my characters both come to the realization that they are in love, or they have the capacity for love, or they forgive, or they accept the freely given love of another, they feel elated and complete. This is a two way street–none of my characters feel that they need someone to complete them, but they learn that having someone who loves and understands them makes everything else better. Since my characters deal daily with violence and tragedy, having that unconditional love heals wounds they might not have even known they had. When I get to that point in the story, I feel elated myself–that these two people will be together for the rest of their lives–both better and stronger and happier.

For me? I hate conflict and as an only child raising five kids, there’s daily conflict. I mediate constantly. I want to keep the peace, but it’s certainly not easy!

Tell us about the most fun you’ve ever had writing.

Typing THE END for the very first time. Going to the gun range with the FBI Citizen’s Academy. Blowing up stuff in the back lot of my local FBI Headquarters. In every book there’s a point where I feel that everything is coming together. Like a switch, I go from nervous and uncertain to completely excited–a total adrenaline rush. And sometimes, when that scene just clicks, when you know that you nailed it the first time around, it’s almost better than sex. It only happens one or two times in a book, but what a rush!

What are some songs that might be part of the soundtrack of PLAYING DEAD?

What a GREAT question! And one I have to think about because I listen to music when I write–primarily classic hard rock with some pop and bubble gum rock.

Every Breath You Take by The Police
Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi
I Want You To Want Me by Cheap Trick
I Don’t Wanna Be by Gavin DeGraw
Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood
Living in the Past by Jethro Tull
Love Hurts by Nazareth
Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart
Behind Blue Eyes by The Who

I love that Stephen King wrote you back when you sent him a fan letter! You said his response was: “If you want to be a writer, write.” What further encouragement would you give to younger or emerging writers? Is there any writing advice you’ve gotten that you wish you had ignored?

Frankly, Stephen King said it all. Why wait? Why not write? Writing takes practice. I didn’t understand exactly what he meant when I was thirteen, but now I have a little card on my desk that says WRITERS WRITE. It helps with procrastination. Or, when I’m struggling, I tell myself I’m not really a writer because I’m not writing anything . . .

For young writers, I would say read widely and write as often as possible. Don’t let friends, teachers, or parents discourage you if writing brings you joy. For emerging writers–the unpublished seeking publication–write daily. Find ways to minimize or defeat inner fear. Learn to be self-critical without being self-demoralizing. Know that writers must make sacrifices to write, and once you are willing to make those sacrifices, be committed as long as the writing gives you more pleasure than pain. No one on earth cares whether you publish or not, except you. This is your dream. Don’t let others minimize or negate your dream. Writing toward publication takes talent, perseverance, and luck; you have control over the first two and by learning and staying in the game, you increase your odds.

In your upcoming series about the Seven Deadly Sins to be released beginning in 2010, you venture into the supernatural. Can you give us a little preview?

My logline is: “Three strangers — a seminarian haunted by a massacre of priests, an Irish woman once possessed by a demon, and a cynical true-crime writer — must join forces to stop the Seven Deadly Sins released from Hell by an evil occult, or an entire community will lose their lives and their eternal souls.”

The logline sounds simplistic, but it summarizes the concept well. The hero, Rafe Cooper, has the memories of twelve dead priests who were massacred while he was trapped next door. He was the psychologist assigned to helping the mentally disturbed priests who were living in a secluded mission because they’d all faced evil first hand. The heroine, Moira Donnelly, had once been possessed by a demon–her mother had given Moira’s soul to the devil when she was born. Moira befriended a monk who helped her break the curse, but not before tragedy struck. And Max Revere doesn’t believe in anything supernatural–think Dana Scully with bad habits and personal demons.

The Seven Deadly Sins are released from Hell by an evil occult seeking immortality. They are too powerful for the occult to control, and are now free. In the first book, a teen-ager is found dead in the woods with no known cause of death and her best friend is missing. The Demon Envy draws out each person’s envious feelings and thoughts to the deadliest degree.

A question from my eight year-old, Bengal:

If you had 1000 Popsicle sticks, what would you build with them?

250 picture frames. I have no artistic talent.

Thanks so much for visiting, Allison!

[Remember–Everyone who comments is entered to win $100 Godiva Chocolatier and Harry & David giftbaskets, plus books from several Octoberguest! authors! Drawing held November 2nd.]

20 thoughts on “Octoberguest! Interview with Allison Brennan”

  1. JT says:

    Allison – Thank you so much for posting today. I am a fan! Love your books. They allow me to go into my fantasy world and give me inspiration in my own writing.

    I love the songs that you listen to. Every book I have ever written has it’s own soundtrack depending on the mood of the characters and my own personal mood during the time I spend writing each book.

    I too am not a fan of conflict in my own personal life. As a hockey mom of three kids, conflict always finds its way into my life. I relish in the joy of family and the unconditional love it provides me.

    I too sent Stephen King a fan letter and he told me the same thing. Write. Then write some more. Being a writer sometimes can be a lonely profession. I’m lucky that I have found other writers who fill me with hope and inspiration when I’m dealing with the ups and downs of the crazy world of publishing.

    Thank you so much for helping me today see that I can push forward, with everything!

    Laura – you are the best. Love you!

  2. What a great interview, Allison and Laura! And very inspirational. I have to go reread it.
    I do soundtracks too, and just love Stephen King.
    You’ve found a new reader, Allison. Your books sound amazing and I can’t wait to start reading them.
    Laura, great questions! 🙂

  3. Sophie says:

    Me too on the soundtrack. All of us mothers of teens – funny how we end up with a mixture of our 80s favorites and the stuff off their IPods. How else to explain Seether bumping up against Journey? 🙂

    Cannot wait to get my mitts on the Seven Deadly Sins series…wow that sounds amazing!

    Thanks for a great kickoff for a writing day, ladies!
    – Sophie

  4. Can I just pop in here and say that Allison is one of the most talented and MOST GENEROUS thriller authors I know? (and I know a LOT of thriller authors)

    Just had to shout it to the world!

  5. Hi JT! Thanks for posting and letting me know you enjoy my books! I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reader mail. You are so right about writing being a lonely profession. I’m an extrovert and have always had jobs where I was either around the public, or in a large office with lots of staff. When I worked in the legislature, there’s ALWAYS people around! Diverse people, lots of conflict. But at the end of the day, most of us could go out and have a beer and talk about normal things or family even if we just battled in a campaign or on a piece of legislation. It’s the people who can’t do that who aren’t pleasant to be around. I think because I’m an extrovert, I need cyberspace as a lifeline to people. What is email if not talking, right? At least, that’s what I keep telling myself . . . LOL

    Hi Jane! Right now I’m listening to Lynard Skynard, which for some reason is terrific motivating rock for me. Hope you like the books!

    LOL, Sophie, I was thinking JUST THAT yesterday when my daughter (high school freshman) bought a Kid Rock CD. Some of the songs are highly inappropriate, but some are really fantastic and I put three on my iTunes. Also, I found that when we have music we agree upon in the car, we have a chance to bond and talk, which is great, because usually I’m reminding her that I’m her mother, not her best friend though I aspire to be that later, and no, she can’t date until she’s 16, and no, I haven’t changed my mind and yes, I know I’m ruining her life . . . . BTW, I can’t wait to write the Deadly Sins series. I’ve had this idea since the summer of 2003. Seriously. I was in the middle of writing THE PREY and the NEXT project I was going to work on was the deadly sins. I was calling it THE COVEN back then, and told myself if I couldn’t sell my romantic suspense after five completed manuscripts and no sales, that I would try the supernatural which is one of my other true loves (traditional supernatural, ala Stephen King and John Saul.) But I sold THE PREY and the deadly sins went on the back burner . . .

  6. Karen, that’s very nice of you to say! But I learned by watching authors I admire give back to others. They call it paying it forward, right? Either way, I love helping when I can, especially nice people! (And Karen’s DEBUT novel came out yesterday, too!! It’s getting great reviews.)

  7. “No one cares if you publish but you.”

    That is so true and obvious but I never thought about it that way before.

    Love your ventures into the paranormal, AB… can’t wait for SEVEN DEADLY SINS…

  8. Jen says:

    What great fun to find out the soundtrack of your book!

    I LOVED the first two books in your prison break series and can’t wait to read number 3!

  9. Jane says:

    Hi Allison,
    Congrats on the release of “Playing Dead.” Is the Seven Deadly Sins series connected to your novella, “Deliver Us From Evil?”

  10. Alex, I can’t wait to write the series. I’m a bit nervous because I don’t think that my editors and agent quite know what to expect — for example, even though I clearly said that it was a series with the same characters, my editor didn’t realize that I was using the same hero and heroine for all seven books and that the romance was a multi-book romance. I just hope it works because I’ve wanted to write this for years.

    Thanks Jen! I love that the story takes place in Sacramento, it was lots of fun writing about my hometown.

    Hi Jane, yes, it’s connected. The novella is the prequel to the story. One of my sticking points was that I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around Rafe’s background and motivation, so I wrote the story to get to know him . . . even though he was in a coma the whole time, I figured it out. Anthony and Skye will be major characters in the series as well. Skye, as a Sheriff, will mediate with law enforcement if I need it. And Anthony is a demonologist, so he’s knowledge is important. The thing is . . . Anthony and Moira know each other and Anthony hates her with a passion. That hatred is going to be really explored in book 3, WRATH. (I don’t have titles yet, we’re still talking.)

  11. Hi Allison and Laura, thanks for the great interview. I always have music on when I write and have a soundtrack for the book I’m working on too, its always so inspiring. I’m going to go and look for your books online now, they sound like a fantastic read.

  12. Hey lovely Laura,

    Great interview! I like the Stephen King advice. God knows, the simple things are the most difficult. But true. And the question about conflict is a good one — I think every writer has it just in finding the time to write. The world wants you to have written, not writing which is pretty boring to watch.

  13. I love Allison Brennan! (And Laura Benedict, too.)

  14. Sorry to come to the party late, ladies, but had to say: Wow! Move over Katie Couric–Laura Benedict is in town! 🙂

    And Allison–you are always an inspiration! Thanks for some fascinating insights (and the ipod playlist!) 🙂 SEVEN DEADLY SINS sounds terrific!!

  15. Laura says:

    It’s been so wonderful to hear from you all–thank you for coming by!

    An especially big thank you to you, Allison. You’ve kicked off Octoberguest! with fabulous style!

    (Tomorrow, author Mario Acevedo stops by with a vampire in tow!)

  16. Maggie Daniel Caldwell says:

    Laura, I agree completely with Kelli – you are an awesome interviewer. Who knew? (probably lots of people besides me!)

    Allison, up until now you have been a name on my “will read someday” list. So as a reader you’ve moved right up – I was at our local bookseller AND at the library today catching up. As a writer, well, all I can say is thank you SO much for the interview. It was inspiring and informative – I especially got quite a lot our of your exchange about conflict (it’s something I’m always conflicted about!).
    Maggie Caldwell

    PS Does anyone else have trouble with this google word verification? Yikes!

  17. Hi Danielle, and thanks! I love writing to music. I find I type faster! (not to slow paced songs, though!)

    Hi Michelle, you’re right–no one wants to watch us write! And believe me, I don’t want anyone watching me, either. It’s not pretty.

    Fancy meeting you here Patry! 😉

    I’m right with you Kelli, Laura is incredible, beautiful, and gracious. A class act. (Ok Laura, where’s my hundred bucks?) 🙂

    Thanks Maggie 🙂 . . . and by the way, it always takes me at least twice to get the right goggle verification.

  18. And Laura, thank you so much for having me visit today!

  19. I’m late to the party as usual (I’ll blame it on Hurricane Ike this time), but I just wanted to say that, Allison, you’re an inspiration to all of us. Love your books and I can’t wait for this new series. Boy, does it sound right up my alley.

  20. marni says:

    Laura, you asked such great questions! This interview made me realize that though I worship books and anything writing/writer related I have never sent a fan letter. Bizarre. It has to be amazingly awesome to know that you’ve changed someone’s life or at least made them laugh. I think I’ll be writing some fan letters this weekend.

    Hi, Allison. As I was pulling two of your books this morning for patron holds (I am a librarian), I thought to myself, hmm, these look interesting, I’m going to have to put these on my TBR list. And now I’m reading your interview. I get chills over sychronistic happenings, don’t you? I would very much like to read your supernatural series, hurry up and write them! No pressure, really.

    Thanks to you both!

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