Suspense Author on Her Latest Book | LJ Talks to Linda Howard

Alabama-based author Linda Howard published her first book in 1982 and deservedly received the Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. Her latest romantic suspense is a fascinating tale of paramilitary men and women facing battles of their own and of others’ making. According to LJ’s starred review, The Woman Left Behind (Morrow, Mar.; LJ 2/15/18) is “a heart-pounding adventure that doesn’t let up until the very end.” We posed a few questions to Howard via email about this new book and her writing process.

When you get an idea for a story, how does it begin? Do you start with a character, a plot idea, or is it a bit of both? For example, in The Woman Left Behind (TWLB), was it the idea of a tech geek being embedded in a special ops unit that appealed most or was it the fiercely competitive heroine or maybe the tough-as-nails hero?
It’s everything. It can be a line of dialog that pops into my head, or the expression on a character’s face in a movie, or some little detail that resonates. It can be an entire scene that I fall in love with, and I have to write a whole book to encompass that scene. In TWLB, it was the idea of an operative with the code name “Babe.” That was all I had to go on. Everything else I had to find out while I wrote the book. I didn’t get the feeling of a professional female operative for the book, which meant I was dealing with an amateur [and that] brought up the question of what circumstances would put an amateur in that position.

The heroine’s experiences (and reactions) are so realistic (parachuting out of a plane?). How did you do the research for this book?
For the record, I am personally not a daredevil. On the other hand, when I was growing up I was active and athletic, and I know how it feels to push myself physically to the point of throwing up, to run with blistered feet, etc. I would parachute if I had to, under extremely dire circumstances, but I’d never do it for fun. Research was reading a lot of online information about the different types of parachutes (not absorbing), how the military trains parajumpers, private jump schools and how they take amateurs for their first jumps, firsthand accounts of people doing their first jumps, and YouTube videos. Then my imagination kicked in, and I let Jina tell her own reaction to jumping out of a plane.

Physical descriptions are key, but perhaps especially so in romance. Jina considers herself “normal,” yet she has the husky voice that engenders her team nickname and the fantasies. Why was this your choice over her being, for example, very tall or very short (pocket venus–type)?
The short answer is, it isn’t my choice. The characters themselves “tell” me what their names are, what they look like, their quirks and oddities. You might argue that every word in a book is my choice, but that isn’t how it feels to me. I don’t create them so much as I enter their world and let them tell me what they’re doing. It’s a deep level of concentration.

A hardened veteran, Ace acts pretty much like a “Neanderthal” (especially near the conclusion). Did you ever consider softening him up at all?
Ace would have softened himself if necessary, but he was what he needed to be to do the job he did. There were moments, such as his interactions with the [other GO-Team members’] kids, his sharp awareness of Jina’s reactions and when she was really upset, and how he protected her without being obvious about it, that showed his softer side. He respected Jina by not taking it any easier on her than he would have on a man, and he didn’t sabotage her efforts, either.

Jina is a fabulous heroine. Is she one of your favorites?
She kinda is. She is funny and gutsy and very much her own woman.

TWLB is listed as a stand-alone, but are you considering writing more stories about the team? It seems like a natural series.
If I planned ahead I’d be able to answer this question, but I never know what the next book is going to be about. TWLB was a natural fit for the GO-Teams world [Toublemaker, Morrow, 2016], but I didn’t realize it until I’d been day-dreaming scenes for a while. I also had an ulterior motive for revisiting the GO-Teams. To my astonishment and horror, some people really liked Axel McNamara and kept posting that they’d like to see him as a hero. No way, no how. So I took care of that in TWLB.

Although most of your books are contemporary, several of your early romances were historicals. Have you ever considered writing historical romantic suspense?
Only if a plot occurs to me. I’m an organic, seat-of-the-pants writer; I can’t decide to write a certain type of book and plot it out. Some idea has to grab me, then I write the book to see what happens. If I plotted ahead of time, then I wouldn’t be able to write the book because I’d already know what happened, and in my mind the story would already be told and my imagination would have moved on to something else.

What’s up next for Linda Howard?
I’m currently collaborating with Linda Jones on a contemporary mass market romance about a small community surviving during a collapse of the power grid. After that…I’ll find out when some idea pops.

Share

Comments

  1. I feel your style of writing has changed…I enjoyed all your previous books the most. Sara’s Child was my very favorite. Wish you could have more books like that….but I have everyone of your books.from beginning to end. Did not miss a single one……you have always been one of my favorite authors.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  4. Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media, per our Terms of Use.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*