Please help me welcome Allison Brennan whose suspenseful books will grab you and not let you go until you finish them.

Allison, what color are you favorite pjs? Just kidding, what was your first published book and with whom?

THE PREY, Ballantine, January 2006

How many books did you write before selling one?

THE PREY was my fifth completed manuscript. The first three were completely not publishable. I had some interest in number four before I found an agent, but it was a different genre (a futuristic romantic suspense, a little heavier on the science fiction than most) and when we sold THE PREY we decided to focus on romantic suspense since it was what I loved most.

How many books have you published?


FATAL SECRETS, which will be released on May 19, is my 11th book. I also have a short story in a Lee Child anthology and a novella out; my 12th book CUTTING EDGE will be released on July 28 and a short story in an Elizabeth George anthology will also be released in July.

Your body of work amazes me!

What themes go through your books?

I don’t really think much about themes, but people tell me I have them! I think my underlying message in all my books is that heroic people make sacrifices for the good of others (such as a dedicated cop) and that no one is an island—that even when you are dedicated to a cause you believe in, you are a happier, more complete human being when you can share your joy and pain with someone who loves you unconditionally. I always tackle good vs. evil, obsession vs. commitment, and judgment vs. justice. Some of my books, such as the Kincaid books, also have family as an important theme, and that came up again in CUTTING EDGE when I didn’t expect it. Another common element is that people are more than the sum of their parts; i.e. that everyone we meet and everything we do or that is done to us is only a part of who we are today; equally important is who we are born and how that person we are meets the challenges in front of us. It’s one reason I explore my villains in depth—why do some abused children turn in to killers? (The Butcher in THE HUNT, Aaron Doherty in TEMPTING EVIL) and why do some abused children turn into heroes? (Rowan Smith in THE PREY, Sonia Knight in TEMPTING EVIL.) I find a character’s backstory is hugely compelling because it shines a light on their actions and thoughts, and you know that they will be successful if they can overcome their perceived limitations.

How would you best describe your books?

Romantic thrillers. My story promise is that the hero and heroine will live and be together at the end of the book, and justice will be served. My mom pointed out that my bad guys always die. I had to think about that—I think they all do. Justice is sometimes slow in the real world; I want to make sure that the victims in my books have it before the book is over.

How did you write with kids and deadlines?


Kids have to go to school. It is the law. (And if it’s not the law, don’t tell my kids that!)

As long as I stay focused, I’m fine. I have six hours a day to write without interruption. Sometimes, I procrastinate. Sometimes I get stuck or diverted in research (a major time suck for me!) Then I find myself writing into the wee hours of the night to catch up. I generally write from 9 am – 3 pm, then again from 9 pm until about midnight or 1 in the morning.

Which other jobs have you had?


I was a legislative consultant for thirteen years in the California State Legislature. Before that, a variety of jobs.

What do you love most about writing and do you not like?


I love the story; I love the characters; I love when I’m in the zone and the characters take over and the story flows as if I’m simply the conduit. I also love revisions because that’s taking the skeleton and adding flesh and color.

I do not like copyedits. They feel like work. I don’t want to dissect the story, I want to write it.

Then I get the page proofs, the final copy I read for minor errors, I love it again. I think wow, I actually wrote this? I’m usually in denial.


What are you writing now?


I just finished CUTTING EDGE which is in production (yeah!) and have started book one in my Seven Deadly Sins series which will come out in March of 2010. I’ve very excited about this book.

What would you write if you could do write anything you wanted to write?

What I’m writing. I didn’t start writing to sell; I wrote because I loved to tell stories. So I sold what I love to write, and I still love it. I’m glad that I am now writing a supernatural romantic thriller series because it’s different than the romantic crime thrillers—while still being in the same basic tone and style. Only, there are supernatural elements.

Why do you write?

Because I can’t not write. Writing makes me happy because I love to tell stories. I’ve always had ideas about stories—generally, the characters and I picture them in some odd situation and I need to figure out how they got there. There are times I get frustrated, times when I doubt, and times when I think I’ll never be able to write a book half as good as the previous book. But still, I write.

How do you write?

How? Like on a computer (I have a MacBook and an iMac) or how I come up with the story? I don’t plot. I usually have a premise (such as, “What if a girl is sold into human trafficking by her father but escapes?” –Sonia Knight, Fatal Secrets. “What if there’s an earthquake under San Quentin?” – Prison Break trilogy.) The story goes from there. Sometimes, especially when I’m close to deadline, I’ll try to bullet point out the chapters I think I need to write. Inevitably, by the time I get two chapters into the “outline” I toss it because the story has gone off in another direction.

I write linearly—I rarely, if ever, write a chapter or scene out of order. I used to write one “sloppy copy” then go back and do a heavy edit, then a clean-up edit. Now I edit as I go. I revise what I wrote the day before and get back into the story and write the next chapter. This has helped me write faster, cleaner copy. Then I do a set of revisions with my editor.

Do you write what you know?

Yes and no. I’ve never been a cop, an FBI agent, or a prosecutor, but I do love to research so I try to put myself in their shoes and learn what I’d need to know. But the information is in my head only as long as I’m writing that book. It tends to disappear about the time I start the next book.

What’s next for you?

I have two books in my supernatural thriller series based on the Seven Deadly Sins. An evil occult releases the Seven Deadly Sins from Hell and a group of seven, including a woman who had killed her lover while possessed by a demon after her mother sold her soul; a former seminarian who witnessed a brutal massacre and now has memories he can’t explain; and a skeptical true crime writer; band together to find a way to send the Deadly Sins back to hell. Problem? They are not traditional demons (souls), but fallen angels (spirits) and the rules of traditional exorcisms don’t apply because they don’t need a human body to survive.

The first book is based on the Demon Envy, and begins with a group of teen-age Wiccans who are unknowingly led by an occultist who sacrifices one of the group to release the Deadly Sins from hell. A girl is dead, another missing, and people in the small northern California town begin to act on their jealousy, with deadly results. It’s currently untitled and will be released in March of 2010. The second book is also untitled and based on the Demon Lust and will be released in June of 2010.

I’m also launching a second series, this one a romantic thriller series starring Lucy Kincaid, a character from my NO EVIL series. In the first book, Lucy is a senior in college and becomes the primary suspect in a murder investigation of prominent men suspected of child molestation. It’ll be out in October 2010.

For more information about Allison check her website
www.allisonbrennan.com

Ask her questions, she loves them. Commenting could win you a book.

30 comments

  1. Donnell // May 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM  

    Allison, great to see you at Pink Fuzzy Slippers. Love what you said about your children... it's the law ;) And interesting that all your villains die at the end of the book... if your mom won't tell you who will. At one time you used to write at Starbucks, but then you made a home office? Is that correct? How does that work for you? You never stop to put in a load of laundry LOL; is it six hours straight of writing? Do you take stretch breaks, coffee breaks. There are times my body feels like it's going to break is why I'm asking. Could you explain the physical adaptations you make to write in other words. Thanks!

  2. Edie // May 5, 2009 at 7:48 AM  

    Allison, your new series sounds awesome! Both of them, but I'm really intrigued by your new demon series. It's been great following your success all these years. You keep getting better and doing better!

  3. Mona Risk // May 5, 2009 at 8:47 AM  

    Welcome to the PFS, Allison. I haven't read your books but I 'll sure will now. I write light romantic suspense where the romance is more important than the suspense. But I plan to up the suspense. A question for you please: is it better to start with the dead body or have the victim killed in front of the reader so to speak, like in cha 2. What works better for suspense?

  4. Judy // May 5, 2009 at 8:54 AM  

    Great to have you here, Allison! I read a very early manuscript of yours a few years ago and it's been great following your success since then. You are doing so well! Your new work sounds wonderful. Interesting twist with the seven deadly sins. Very clever. Congratulations and continued success.

  5. Arkansas Cyndi // May 5, 2009 at 12:14 PM  

    I turned my husband onto Allison's books. They're now all over my house!

    I think about Allison and her books every time I sit down in Starbucks to write. But Donnell has great questions...how do you ignore the laundry, the carpet that begs to be vacuumed, the dirty dishes piled on the sink when you need to write?

  6. Mary Marvella // May 5, 2009 at 1:12 PM  

    Well, Allison, these girls are s tough audience! Inquiring minds want to know. I thank Donnell, Edie, Judi, Mona, and Cyndi for starting things rolling.

  7. Allison // May 5, 2009 at 2:14 PM  

    Hi Donnell! Fancy meeting you here . . . .bawahahaha

    I still often write at Starbucks because I seem to write faster there. Fewer distractions. I'm getting used to my home office and did write most of the last two books here. I have beautiful bookshelves and a nice desk and music. All great. It's also detached from the house, so less distractions like housework. Okay, housework is NEVER a distraction for me. I'd rather walk barefoot over hot coals! I rarely write six hours straight, I check my email, stretch, play video games (I'm getting Wii Fit which should be a healthy distraction!) and generally procrastinate. But when I'm on a roll, I get so focused I lose track of time. When someone warned me about blood clots in the legs, I have gotten in the habit of keeping my water bottles in the garage refrigerator instead of my office, so every hour or so I walk to the opposite end of the house to get one. :)

  8. Allison // May 5, 2009 at 2:15 PM  

    Edie!!!! My buddy :) Did you ever read that chapter with the girl in the white gown running through the woods? I wrote it in the summer of 2003. It's still in the book. Of course, the book has taken on totally new directions over the years, but I loved that chapter. I'm glad you think I'm getting better, that's always my greatest fear.

  9. Allison // May 5, 2009 at 2:20 PM  

    Hi Mona:

    Write whichever way works for your story. I've done both. In many of my books I start with a dead body because that truly is the best place to start. But in some books, like KILLING FEAR, PLAYING DEAD and FATAL SECRETS, it wouldn't have worked. I don't have a dead body in KF until chapter 6 I think, and PD it's chapter 3 or 4 -- and he's been dead for months when they find him. In FS it's a story about human trafficking and money laundering, and while there is a body count, it's a different type (mostly the bad guys)

    Suspense isn't about murder. Suspense is about threats and danger and what COULD happen. You can sufficiently create some of the best suspense without a dead body. Look at Alfred Hitchcock. He's the master.

  10. Allison // May 5, 2009 at 2:20 PM  

    Hi Judy! Did you read THE PREY when I subbed it to Lethal Ladies? That was a long time ago!!! Wow. :)

  11. Allison // May 5, 2009 at 2:28 PM  

    Thanks Cyndi! And I'm thrilled your husband likes my books :)

    First, my carpets never beg to be vacuumed--if they do, I don't hear them. And laundry? What laundry? If I close the door of all the bedrooms it's really easy to ignore what I can't see :) . . . and dishes, well, shhhh, but when I'm really close to deadline, I break out the paper plates and utensils. Toss them in the garbage and voila! No dirty dishes.

    Seriously, I hated housecleaning before I was a full-time writer and I hate it now, only I can afford to hire someone to come in once a week to mop, sweep, dust, clean counters and bathrooms, vacuum, AND do the laundry. My kids all have chores, and if they don't do them, they don't get money for movies, books, legos, or whatever it is they are asking for. I still do the dishes every night, but my cooking is minimal--it has to be fast, easy and healthy. Spaghetti, salad, soups, baked chicken, nothing fancy. And we do pizza at least once a week. The kids are on their own for breakfast and lunch on the weekends--they're all big enough to make their own sandwich and pour their own cereal. Even my littlest, nearly 5, can pour himself a bowl of cereal and glass of milk!

    Truly, I cook a big family dinner once a week. That's it. Everything else is the easy stuff :)

    Oh, and whoever said husbands can't do the damn dishes? They eat, too. I used to work full-time out of the house. Why is it that I was still responsible for cooking, cleaning, dishes, homework, bath time, reading time, bedtime, and getting the kids up in the morning to go to school time? Hmm? Just mowing the lawn on Saturday doesn't make up for daily chores. So if my husband wants a clean house, he's welcome to clean in between the house cleaners.

  12. Allison // May 5, 2009 at 2:29 PM  

    Hi Mary, sorry I was late! I had my personal trainer this morning :) . . . I cancelled him for two weeks and gained 5 pounds.

  13. Mary Marvella // May 5, 2009 at 3:19 PM  

    That's okay, we'll be here all day.

    Personal trainer? Hmmm.

  14. Debbie Kaufman // May 5, 2009 at 3:28 PM  

    Okay, you had me at housecleaner, but personal trainer? Wow. I'm willing to work my butt off writing even if that's all it ever gets me!

    So, after all the romantic thrillers you've written, what inspired you to go for a paranormal series?

  15. Cyrano // May 5, 2009 at 4:22 PM  

    Allison,
    I truly enjoyed your post and I'm glad you're visiting us at the PFSW's blog tody.
    It's also good to know you don't write six hours straight unless you're on a roll. I do a lot of procrastinating too (especially lately. I've had a tough time getting myself to sit in that chair and type) but like you, when I'm on a roll, I lose track of time, I even forget to eat or change out of pajamas I'm so wrapped up in my novel.
    Oh, how I want to lose track of time and write the day away again.
    I'm crossing my fingers. Maybe the writing bug will fly my way soon.
    Great post. Have a lovely afternoon,
    Tamara

  16. Cyrano // May 5, 2009 at 4:27 PM  

    Allison,
    One other thing I forgot to mention, Thanks so much for posting for us on Petit Fours and Hot Tamales recently. I was the lucky winner of three of your thrilling novels, The Prey, The Kill and The Hunt. Thanks so much for your generous donation and thanks so very much for autographing them too. If I wasn't already a big fan, your gift would have sealed the deal right there.
    Happy writing,
    Tamara

  17. Karin Tabke // May 5, 2009 at 5:30 PM  

    Yay, you finished the book!

  18. Jane // May 5, 2009 at 5:43 PM  

    Hi Allison,
    Congrats on the upcoming release of "Fatal Secrets." I can't wait to meet Will's brother Dean. I'm so happy Lucy will be getting her own series.

  19. Allison // May 5, 2009 at 6:02 PM  

    Debbie, first, it's not as decadent as it sounds! I got a housekeeper to have peace in my marriage. I'm a slob. I don't see messes (My husband has asked me this on occasion, such as, "Don't you see that the kids dumped out the toy box?" I tell him, "No, I don't.") So even when we were completely broke I had someone come in every other week to do the deep cleaning (bathrooms, floors, etc) and I sacrificed other things. And the trainer isn't expensive. He does it part-time. I won't exercise without someone standing over me with a whip, er, pom poms :)

    As for the supernatural thriller series, I've had this idea before I sold my first book. It was going to be the book I wrote after THE PREY if I didn't get an agent, but I got the agent so I put the book aside and focused on my romantic thrillers. But I've always loved the supernatural. I love good old-fashioned supernatural stories, like classic Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Saul, etc. I love stories about ghosts, angels, demons, curses, and anything that I think *could* happen. So that's why I call this supernatural rather than paranormal. To me, paranormal in the writing world has come to mean more fantastical elements, like vampires and werewolves and elves and the fae, etc. And supernatural is more grounded in the rules of our world. But that's just my own internal definition. I'm just so excited because I came up with this idea six years ago and I finally get to write it!

  20. Allison // May 5, 2009 at 6:05 PM  

    Hi Tamara:

    One thing I strongly suggest is to keep a writing schedule. You can't always depend on the muse to hit you, so you have to give that bitch, er, that kind, old soul as many opportunities to lavish her attention on you.

    When I was unpublished, I wrote every night after the kids went to bed EVEN WHEN I DIDN'T WANT TO. This isn't that I was writing anything good, but I sat at the computer and wrote SOMETHING--even if it was editing. Even if it was an article. I would stay there for two hours. Usually, by the beginning of the second hour I was writing fairly well. Then on the nights when I was really on a roll, I'd write until midnight or one in the morning. When I wasn't, I turned off the computer at 11. But the habit is important. Good luck!

  21. Allison // May 5, 2009 at 6:06 PM  

    Thanks Tamara! I had fun over there.

    Yes, Karin, I'M DONE!!! Woo Hoo!!! And my editors like it so I'm doubly relieved, and Kim's reading it now and says she loves it too. So I can relax (a bit.)

  22. Allison // May 5, 2009 at 6:09 PM  

    Hi Jane:

    You know how I came up with Dean? In KILLING FEAR, I had a scene in my first draft where Will was talking to Hans and mentioned his brother. Hans comments that he knows Dean Hooper--and how impressed he is by him. So in my head, I already had *met* him because it would take a lot to impress Hans. Well, my editor can't remember that scene when I explained to her about the character, so I went through Killing Fear trying to find it and it's not there. I'm hitting my head--I thought for sure it stayed in the book, but I must have cut it out in the copyedits because it wasn't a key plot point or important to character development. But I honestly thought it was there. Dean is very smart, very sharp, and I liked him so much I brought him back in Cutting Edge, but called him "Hooper" throughout most of the book because the hero's name is Duke and I thought that was too many shore "D" names.

  23. Scarlet Pumpernickel // May 5, 2009 at 7:16 PM  

    Allison thanks for stopping by to visit with the Pink Fuzzies! We're pleased to have you with us today. How difficult do you find it to switch gears to write paranormal?

    Scarlet

  24. Beth Trissel // May 5, 2009 at 10:06 PM  

    Delighted to have you here with us on the Fuzzies!

  25. Liz Jasper // May 5, 2009 at 10:20 PM  

    Hi Allison,
    Excellent point about writing even when you don't want to. It is hard to do that, especially for perfectionists who don't write when they feel The Muse isn't in them. I agree you need to sit down and push through--and often it's amazing that the crap you thought you wrote is often better than the muse guided stuff. Go figure.
    Looking forward to reading your next!
    --Liz

  26. Cyrano // May 5, 2009 at 10:36 PM  

    Allison,
    Thanks for the great advice. I'm not a night owl. I start yawning around nine, so I'll try waking up early and forcing my muse.
    Have a great evening,
    Tamara

  27. Allison // May 6, 2009 at 1:46 AM  

    Hi Scarlet:

    I don't really think of it as switching gears. After 12 romantic thrillers, I'm a little burned out and I don't want to be. I love what I write. But I think that having a break and writing something a bit different will help me continue moving forward. I've been wanting to write these books for a long time, and am very excited to be able to write two of them before launching the Lucy Kincaid series. And I'm still going to have a crime and investigations, there will be a lot of what I currently use in my writing in the supernatural books.

  28. Joanne // May 6, 2009 at 8:54 AM  

    Allison,
    You are one amazing lady. You juggle an ambitious (understatement) writing schedule with a busy family. Welcome to the Fuzzies and congratulations on your amazing success.

  29. Barbara Monajem // May 6, 2009 at 10:06 AM  

    Dang! Sorry to be late posting.

    Allison, the fact that you toss your outlines gives me hope!

    And I'm totally there with the definition of supernatural versus paranormal. It's so much fun to play with what *could* happen. I'm looking forward to your new series...

  30. Mary Ricksen // May 6, 2009 at 12:42 PM  

    Welcome to the PFS Allison. What a great interview!
    Thank God for school Huh?
    It is hard to write when your plate is already full, but I think that helps you produce, there's no time to waste.
    I give credit to you hard working women with children to raise and still manage to write such memorable stories.
    Congratulations on your new release!
    Good luck Allison, Yeah!!!!