Brenda Novak returns to The Book Nympho but this time to talk about books other than Whiskey Creek and something very close to her heart.
Jonetta: Our followers may not be aware that you’ve led an annual online auction to fundraise for diabetes research. Tell us about the auction, why and how you got started and your success to date.
Brenda: When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 at five years old, and I learned all the terrible complications he was likely to face in his lifetime, I decided I had to do something to help him and all the other people who were facing the same thing (there’s so many!). I wasn’t sure what. I had very little resources at the time—I was a young mother of five kids and was still trying to launch my writing career. But I felt such an overwhelming need to pitch in and fight back.
About a year later, I was at a silent auction for his elementary school when I got the idea to do something similar—only online, where I wouldn’t have to get everyone to come to one location at the same time (and feed them dinner, which is a difficult thing to do logistically and financially). I’d already established a traffic stream at my website because of my books, so the goal was to see if those people and industry folks (agents, editor and other writers) would support an annual fundraiser. I chose May in honor of Mother’s Day and set out to see if it would succeed. That first year I only raised $37,000, but that amount has grown by leaps and bounds as the years have passed. This last year, on our 10th anniversary, we brought our cumulative total to $2.4 million.
Jonetta: That is incredible! You’ve led this event for 10 years. How long do you intend to continue and if anyone wants to participate, what should she or he do?
Brenda: I don’t have any set number in mind. I’d like to keep running it as long as I’m physically able to do all the extra work it requires. Next year we are taking a break, but we’ll be back in 2016, bigger and better than ever. If anyone would like to get involved, all they have to do is contact me through my website at www.brendanovak.com. We have a great group of people who make this happen, and we are always looking for more.
Jonetta: We’ve talked to you before about the Whiskey Creek series but would now like to focus on your romantic suspense series. Starting with the Stillwater Trilogy, what are these stories about and how are they connected?
Brenda: These stories are about a dark secret (a body buried out behind the barn) and how that secret affects one particular family. These books are more tightly connected than probably any of my books, so I do recommend reading them in order.
Jonetta: Next is the Last Stand series, which is named for the organization that was founded to help victims of crime. What would you like to share with us about the books and the characters? Is the focus on the victims, law enforcement, those supporting both or a combination of them all?
Brenda: This series was inspired by my charity work. The three women who start The Last Stand (which, as you say, is a charity that helps people who are falling through the cracks of the criminal justice world) have all been victims in the past. After meeting at a victim’s support group, they decide to join forces and fight back, and it’s their dedication and help that bring closure to some very difficult cases, cases that would’ve gone unsolved if left up to the police. (And, in some instances, it’s their own past that comes back to haunt them.)
Jonetta: I love the names of the books in your Department 6 Trilogy (Body Heat, White Heat, Killer Heat). What does the series title mean?
Brenda: Department 6 is an organization that basically offers hired guns. People who need police help but aren’t getting that help can turn to this private police force. So those who work at Department 6 also take on some pretty frightening cases.
Jonetta: You may not remember but I asked you a few months ago which of your romantic suspense series I should start and you recommended the Bulletproof Trilogy. I have but never asked why (I trust you) so I’ll do that now. Why this series first?
Brenda: INSIDE is my favorite of my romantic suspense books. I’m not sure why, except Virgil, the hero, just really stood out for me. I love that he still has a soft heart after what he’s been through, and I loved seeing him find the happiness he deserves. I also fell in love with his best friend, Pretty Boy. He has a pretty checkered past, but he was (in my mind) redeemable. So, after a lot of email from my readers, I decided to give him his own story. That story is THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS, my next Whiskey Creek book, out October 28th.
Jonetta: What can you share about the research required for the Bulletproof series as it involved a correctional facility setting?
Brenda: The research was fascinating! I actually won some research help from one of my annual online auctions (sometimes professionals in various fields will donate a few hours of their time to help writers, and there was a correctional officer who is also a blood spatter, firearms expert and crime scene analyst who did this). So after I finished the manuscript, I turned to him for help in double-checking the facts I had looked up on the internet (or found by actually traveling to Crescent City, where the first story is set). He invited me down to Soledad and gave me a tour of the prison (he also read the entire manuscript). That tour was very intriguing. It was especially frightening when he asked two inmates to come out of their cell and had me go in, with all their laundry and stuff hanging around. Then he shut the door. You don’t realize how small those cells are until you’re in one that’s “lived in.” The empty ones are not the same.
Jonetta: Does writing suspense pose any unique challenges for you that you don’t encounter in the other genres you’ve written?
Brenda: Suspense is probably the most difficult genre because of the puzzle involved. Not only do you need to have a believable romance plot (since I include romance in all my novels), you have to have a great mystery of some kind. Weaving them both together and being effective at both can be challenging, but it’s a challenge I enjoy.
Jonetta: What would you say has stronger resonance in these series, romance or suspense? Or, do you think they’re about equal?
Brenda: In all my series so far, I’d say they’re about equal. But I am starting a new suspense series that I would say is weighted more toward the suspense. I’d even call it suspense with strong romantic elements (so 60/40 or maybe even 70/30). The first book will be called WHITEOUT. I just finished it, and my agent will be going out with it in August (meaning we’ll be looking for the right publisher).
Jonetta: I’ll let you have the last word. What else would you like to share with our followers?
Brenda: I’m looking forward to a historical romantic suspense called A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN that’ll be out October 7th. I’m really excited about this one, think it turned out especially good. Here’s the back cover copy:
“When Maximillian Wilder hides his noble identity and joins the notorious body snatchers known as the London Supply Company, the last thing on his mind is love. He’s worried about Madeline, his vanished half sister, who was last seen in the company of Jack Hurtsill, the gang’s conscienceless leader. Raiding graveyards, stealing corpses, and selling them to medical colleges as dissection material is dirty work, but Max knows he must gain Jack’s trust. He’s determined to find out what happened to Madeline—and to bring Jack to justice if she was murdered for the coin her body could earn.
Beautiful, spirited Abigail Hale, daughter of the surgeon at Aldersgate School of Medicine, detests the challenging, hard-bargaining Max almost as much as Jack. But she must procure the necessary specimens if she is to save the college and her father’s career. She believes she is going to be successful—until Jack double-crosses her. Then she’s swept into a plot of danger and intrigue, one where Max must intervene to protect her, no matter the risk to his plan…or his heart.”
One digital copy of Inside
Brenda sold her first book, and the rest is history. A New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of fifty novels, Brenda Novak has been nominated for a prestigious Rita Award three times and won The National Reader’s Choice Award, the Bookbuyer’s Best, the Bookseller’s Best, the Writer Touch Reader Award, the Golden Quill, the Hold Medallion and the Award of Excellence, among others.
Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are the proud parents of five children—three girls and two boys. When she’s not spending time with her family or writing, Brenda is usually working on her annual fund-raiser for diabetes research—an online auction held on her Web site (www.brendanovak.com) every May. To date, she has raised over $2 million for this cause.
I also love to talk about books. There’s nothing more exciting than to finish a great story and cover it A to Z with other people, exploring different perspectives and points of view. So, if you see something on my shelf you’d like to talk about, send me a message and we’ll talk!
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