Pamela Clare discusses the I-Team...
What inspired you to create your sexy, thrilling I-Team series?
I began my writing career with historical romance. That was very natural for me as a history lover and student of archaeology. While I was writing historicals — the first book took me seven years to complete — I was working fulltime as an investigative reporter, opinion columnist, and newspaper editor. We did serious investigative work, and this, together with my opinion pieces, led to a lot of hate mail, death threats, and two stalkers.
One afternoon I was talking with my agent about the week I’d had at the newspaper, where I was working on an investigation of a cement plant. I mentioned offhand that a state official had called me to tell me he thought I might be in danger. I wasn’t afraid; it wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. I just mentioned it the way you might tell a friend about getting cut off in traffic by another driver.
My agent got very quiet, and she said, ‘You know, you ought to write romantic suspense, because you live it.’
I said, ‘Yeah — except for the “romantic” part.’
I started putting stories together in my mind, but never having written romantic suspense or even read it, I wasn’t quite sure how to pull it off. About a year later, I sat down to write the manuscript that became Extreme Exposure, and I had a blast with it.
I’ve had a wide range of experiences as a result of being a journalist, and the I-Team series has given me a place to put those experiences, even the bad ones. I’m pretty sure I’m one of very few romantic suspense authors who’s spent time at crime scenes, stayed behind bars as an inmate, or seen a corpse whose head has been shot off. In that sense, writing these stories has been therapeutic for me.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? What do you love most about your job?
I knew by the time I was 9 years old that I wanted to be a writer. I read my first novel — Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry — and the world around me disappeared entirely. By the time I finished the story, I felt like I’d lived another life. I marvelled at the magic that the writer had created for me, and I knew I wanted to do exactly that for readers one day. I became an avid reader, but my goal from that day forward was to write books that sweep readers away.
Have any of the romances between your heroes and heroines in the series surprised you, or have you always known who’s meant to be together?
The heroines come first — they’re all reporters — so I create the heroes for them. (Wouldn’t it be nice if we do could that in real life?)
I start with the investigation that gets the heroine into trouble, then imagine who she might meet in the process of that investigation. Out of those possibilities comes the hero. The heroes do surprise me, however, because they come with their own backstory, their own pain and grief and other issues. I never know what those are going to be until I start developing their character. They end up feeling very real to me.
Do you have the most fun creating your heroes or your heroines?
I love creating the heroes. Every hero is a chance to make the reader fall in love, and there’s an element of fun for me in creating a character I know will titillate my readers. I also enjoy putting myself inside the male mind. What a strange and wild place to be.
Do you have a favourite hero or heroine from your books or by any other author?
I love Aragorn/Strider from the Lord of the Rings novels by Tolkien. He is the ultimate selfless hero. I blame most of my romantic notions on him.
I love all my heroes for different reasons, but I will admit to having a soft spot for Julian Darcangelo from Hard Evidence, the second I-Team novel.
I love knowing that something I’ve written has touched another person and lives in their heart long after they’ve finished reading the story. When I hear from readers who learned something or who made it through a difficult period in their lives, in part because they were able to escape into my stories, I feel so gratified and happy.
You write both historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense – do you find that you approach these differently or do they have a lot in common for you?
Oh, great question!
Writing a novel, regardless of the genre, involves certain things — characterization, plot, dialogue. All of those pieces have to come together for me whether I’m writing a historical or contemporary romantic suspense. In that sense, there’s really no difference.
The biggest difference is the research. With historicals, I’m using books from the library, online sources, and interviews with experts — curators, archaeologists, scholars. I try very hard to be historically accurate with vocabulary. No 18th-century hero or heroine is going to speak or think the way we do, and part of creating their state of mind is by knowing the vocabulary. The OED is my best friend. Every time I write an historical novel, I look up hundreds and hundreds of words to check their etymology to find out when they came into use.
Contemporary romantic suspense involves a very different kind of research. The journalism side of it I have down. That was my job for 20 years. But if I have an FBI agent or a deputy US marshal, I really have no idea what their lives are like. If I were to rely on what I think is accurate, I’d be wrong more often than right.
For example, Holly Bradshaw’s story involves a hero who is a CIA officer. He’s a paramilitary operator. We laypeople all use the term ‘CIA Agent’, but an agent is very different from an officer. An agent is someone who is recruited by an officer. They don’t work directly for the CIA, but rather provide intelligence in a quid pro quo kind of arrangement. Whereas officers work for the Agency. I didn’t know about the distinction until I researched the subject and interviewed a former CIA officer.
The trick with contemporary romantic suspense is that there are living people who have the jobs and do the work I’m describing in the stories. If I get it wrong, they will know. So the need for accuracy and detailed research is paramount. It’s so easy to get caught by a small detail.
I really enjoy talking to people who’ve done the work I’m describing. I’ve spoken with Navy SEALs, a former US Marshal, police, a CIA officer, and others. I once had a long conversation with a former military EOD man (bomb squad) who told me how to build bombs. He drew detonation switches on his napkin so that I could understand how to set them off with a cell phone. Not your average coffee shop conversation. I’m sure people sitting around us were a bit nervous, but it was all for fiction.
I also take the weapons these heroes use seriously. People who aren’t familiar with firearms make a lot of mistakes when writing and talking about them. I’ve made it my business to shoot the weapons my heroes and bad guys fire, including an AK-47, a Navy SEAL issue SIG P226 — you name it. This past week I got to fire a Ruger MKIII with integrated suppression (a built-in silencer) that was specially built for government agents and Special Operations guys like SEALs to use for covert killing. It’s very, very quiet.
People think contemporary novels are easier to write than historicals, but in terms of achieving accuracy, they’re probably more complicated.
We can’t wait for the next Pamela Clare novel! Can you give us a hint of what’s to come?
I have loved Holly Bradshaw since I first started this series. I’m excited to be working on her book right now. I can tell you that the hero, Nikolai Andris, is a CIA paramilitary operator who is sent to keep her under surveillance after she begins dating a billionaire art dealer from the former Soviet state of Georgia who is not what he seems to be. You can only imagine what Nick hears while listening to Holly talk about her sex life with her friends. But when Nick fears her life is in danger, he disrupts her date by drugging her and killing the art dealer.
Holly wakes up in bed with a dead man.
And the story goes from there.
Who are the authors you read for pleasure?
I love Dickens and Tolkien. They’re my two favourites. I also love Mika Waltari, a Finnish author who writes fabulous historical fiction. When it comes to romantic fiction, I have so many favourites — Cindy Gerard, Tara Janzen, Kaylea Cross, Norah Wilson, Nora Roberts, Monica McCarty… I’m forgetting so many!
If you could take only three essentials with you to a desert island what would they be?
I’d take Tolkien’s books, an iPod filled with music, and Raylan Givens (from Justified).
Who would be on your dream dinner party guest list, dead or alive?
Oh, fun question!
I would love to have Mozart, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Tolkien, Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, and Marie Curie at the party. And then there’s David Gandy, Alexander Skarsgard, Chris Hemsworth, and Timothy Olyphant. I guess there would be a lot of artists and a lot of very sexy men.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I gave up watching television a long time ago to free more time for real life. But lately, there are a handful of programs that have crept in via the Internet or Netflix to eat up my time. Downton Abbey is one. The Danish program Borgen is another. (I lived in Denmark for a few years and speak fluent Danish.) I also love Justified and Castle. If Firefly hadn’t been cancelled (curse Fox!), I’d be watching that. Also, I’m a lifelong Trekkie. I grew up watching the reruns on television — Kirk, Spock, Bones and the crew.
There’s so much interest and excitement around romance fiction right now. What do you think that romance readers are looking for in the romances they read today?
The reasons are probably as varied as the people — women and men — who read them. I think escape figures into it. We see so many terrible things on the television news and in newspapers these days. It’s thrown in our faces 24 hours a day. Many of us work long hours and face long commutes to and from the office. It’s only natural to want to find a way to leave the real world behind for a while.
I’ve gotten so many letters from readers who tell me that my books have helped them through hard times — the death of a loved one, recovery from an accident or illness, even the attacks on 9/11. (One of my readers is a survivor of those attacks.)
We all need comfort in this life, and the happy endings that romantic fiction provides give us comfort. Most of all, they give us hope that the world is a good place and that the good guys will win. Romantic suspense in particular delivers that, I believe — the feeling that good can prevail.
I believe that good can and will prevail, so it’s not all fantasy.
Thanks so much for the wonderful questions! I’m delighted to be able to share my stories with UK readers, and I hope they’ll come to love the heroes and heroines as much as I do.
Pamela Clare's I-Team series begins with EXTREME EXPOSURE, HARD EVIDENCE and UNLAWFUL CONTACT, available now!
Look out for NAKED EDGE, BREAKING POINT and STRIKING DISTANCE, on sale 2nd April, and the MacKinnon's Rangers series in May!