Suzanne Brockmann: "Romance readers are actively looking for different"

Suzanne BrockmannAction/adventure/military romances abound—who doesn't have a fondness for a hero in uniform?—but author Suzanne Brockmann has always brought something of her own to the game. In a word: Vulnerability.

Her male heroes are willing to show their uncertainties, despite their manly "hooyahs" and their tough training to become Navy SEALS. Her heroines, often uniformed themselves, need the same things the guys do: someone who sees them and loves them for who they really are. 

Brockmann launched her Troubleshooters books in 2000 with The Unsung Hero, following SEAL Tom Paoletti as he returns to his New England hometown to recuperate from a severe head wound. His higher-ups don't trust him when he claims he's spotted an international terrorist, but the girl next door—now a no-nonsense doctor—is willing to listen.

This July Brockmann delivered her 19th novel in the Troubleshooters series, Some Kind of Hero. When Lt. Peter Greene's teenage daughter, Maddie, goes missing, he enlists his neighbor, Shayla, to help find her. Unfortunately, Peter and Shayla aren't the only ones who want to find Maddie....

Amazon Book Review: Some Kind of Hero is your 19th Troubleshooters book. How do you keep expanding the series in a credible way?

Suzanne Brockmann: I believe firmly in continuing to find stories that I absolutely need to tell, and in finding characters who intrigue me as a writer. Then it’s a balancing act between writing from the heart—which can be extremely messy and unfocused (picture me throwing buckets of paint against a wall, while screaming!)—and objectively, carefully, methodically, dispassionately carving away anything that isn’t of vital importance to the story.

You seem to love writing about teenage girls and getting inside their thoughts. What do you find appealing about them as characters?

Well, having been one, I still really relate to just how hard it is to be a teenage girl in America. We get so many mixed messages about what we should (and shouldn’t!) look like—along with a very clear, continuous message to sit down and shut up—to not make waves.

I remember being eleven years old and fearless! But then, over the next few years, I slowly recognized that I didn’t fit into the world’s perception of “pretty,” and I saw the way that being “pretty” was valued over being smart (which I owned!), so I tried to become invisible, as many girls do. But I got really lucky, and in middle school, I was put into an experimental open-classroom program. I was one of some dozens of kids in the seventh and eighth grades in Guilford, Connecticut, who were allowed to work at our own pace. We were allowed to be smart in a place where being smart was highly valued, and we were safe from the bullies who roamed the vicious halls of the school, because we never had to leave our little cluster of rooms. For two years, I did all of my weekly required work in the first forty-five minutes of every Monday morning (ah, the efficiency skills I perfected!), and I spent the rest of the week playing chess or reading books or hanging with my friends.

It was a place where being different was valued—so instead of being a misfit, I became a quirky individual. And I learned to love and value myself for that! (What an amazing gift that program gave to me!)

Most girls don’t get that chance, and we’re left feeling different in a bad way—in a way that makes us feel outcast and less-than. Fast-forward to 2017, where hatred of the “other” is rampant and even encouraged and… I can’t even.

So yeah, all of the girls and women in my books discover that they are stronger than they might’ve originally thought. They discover that they are worthy of respect and that they are highly, highly valued for their intelligence, for their drive and motivation, and for their kindness and heart.

I want my readers to see their reflection in those strong female characters—even (especially!) the girls and women who don’t fit our exact personal physical description.

Your books often make a point of puncturing stereotypes. To me, it seemed like Dingo—the older, not-quite-boyfriend of 15-year-old Maddie—was the character you focused on in this way. Dingo gives Maddie a heartfelt lecture about her respecting his wishes and her needing to acquire his consent to kiss him. Can you let me more about him?

Ah, Dingo! He’s the soul of Some Kind of Hero.

We all love SEAL heroes, but—let’s face it—SEALs are guys who run toward danger. There’s really no question that they’re going to make the right choices, do the right thing, and eventually find their way to their HEA ending.

But a guy like Dingo…?

He’s made a lot of mistakes—he’s a twenty-something man-child, adrift in his life until love grabs him by the heart and makes him want to be something bigger and better!

Shayla, your main heroine in Some Kind of Hero, is a romance writer afflicted with a heavy case of writer’s block. Has that ever happened to you?

Why, yes! (hysterical laughter) I used to insist that writer’s block was a myth, but after nearly twenty-five years of block-free writing, life and stress hit me hard, and writer’s block grabbed me and laughed in my face. It took me two long years—and some outside of the box approaches—to get back on track.

During those years of non-writing misery, I agreed to write a Troubleshooters series short story for a romantic suspense anthology, for which the proceeds would go to help wounded veterans. Not only was it a very good cause, but I also knew I’d be shaking up my writing process, because writing short is extra challenging for me.

But after I wrote that story, Home Fire Inferno, I discovered that it was, in fact, the second story in a trilogy. I then wrote the first story, Free Fall, and eventually started writing the third, Ready to Roll. That third installment ended up being a full novella—it was a story about Navy SEAL BUD/S training—and it was while I was writing Ready to Roll that I first met Lt. Peter Greene, who immediately intrigued me.

The story of Some Kind of Hero, with its SEAL hero and romance novelist heroine, came to me in a rush, and I immediately started to write. I zapped an outline and the first few chapters to my very patient editor, who wisely said, “Keep going! Don’t stop!”

It really was, for me, all about finding a story that I burned to tell—and Some Kind of Hero, with its subplot about the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII, was exactly that!

Have you noticed any sea changes in the expectations of romance readers in the past five or ten years?

Romance readers are actively looking for different. They’re embracing inclusivity and diversity, which is wonderful—and publishers are finally starting to catch on! (Yay!)

What are you working on now?

I’ve got a number of projects going—including a brand-new installment in my Tall, Dark & Dangerous series about Navy SEAL Team Ten—with more books in the series to come. I’m also writing another trilogy of Troubleshooters short stories, set immediately after Some Kind of Hero.

And… I’m in the process of releasing reissues of quite a few of my backlist titles originally published in the 1990s—including my RITA Award winner BodyGuard, and one of my personal favorite stand-alone romances, HeartThrob. Readers can check out those reissued books at my website: http://suzannebrockmann.com/reissues/

I’ve also taken on a new role as an editor and publisher. I’ve started a line of m/m category romantic comedies called “Suzanne Brockmann Presents.” Our latest installment, Fixing Frank, came out earlier this summer.

Last but not least, I’m helping out with pre-production for my son Jason’s next ultra-low-budget indie movie. It’s a feature-length m/m rom-com with the working title Analysis Paralysis, and it’s seriously funny. The main character is a YA author with a huge imagination—and an equally huge bookshelf. Writers love to read in all genres, so we’re looking to dress our set with real books—which is harder than it sounds! We need release forms granting permission from authors and publishers in order to have books lying around (the way writers do!), with their covers showing! Authors—indie or legacy pubbed, but particularly those who are YA and #ownvoices—who are interested in giving us permission to use their books in this movie should contact me at SuzBrockmann@gmail.com for details and info. Production (filming) is in late October, but we’re gathering props and set dress materials right now.

(Our first movie project, The Perfect Wedding, an LGBTQ rom-com, is currently streaming on Hulu, and our second, Russian Doll, an LGBTQ thriller, just got picked up for distribution by Wolfe Releasing!)

Readers who want to keep up with my latest releases, reissues, and movie news can sign up for my enewsletter.

 


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