AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: DANA MARTON
What is your most current work out?
My latest book is Last Spy Standing, from Harlequin Intrigue, a fast-paced romantic thriller that takes place in the South American jungle. Heat and danger are the key words. The book has my favorite cover ever.
Tell us a little about Last Spy Standing and your inspiration for writing the novel.
I just love a good survival adventure. I used to watch those old Tarzan movies when I was a kid. Loved the movie Castaway. Love Survivor. The setting adds a whole other level of interest and tension. The hero and heroine are fighting with each other, with the bad guys and trying to survive their environment at the same time. Sort of like, let’s just survive this together, but then I’m sooo strangling you! LOL The chemistry was amazing between the two from the get go, which made this book a lot of fun to write.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
The book plays like a movie in my head. First all I have is the opening shot, but that’s usually pretty clear, characters, setting, even dialogue. For this book, I had:
(The unforgiving South-American sun scorched Mitch Mendoza’s neck as he watched the three men on the hillside below him.
His current mission had only two rules. Rule number one: Don’t mess up. Rule number two: If you mess up, don’t leave witnesses.)
I knew that to survive, he has to kill the men he’s watching. He doesn’t want to, but he’s a hardened commando soldier and he will do what he has to do to complete his mission.
I knew he was the kind of guy who’d make a hell of an enemy. The ‘thank God he’s on our side’ kind. And from that opening shot, I had to figure out what he was doing on that hill side, what he wanted, what was his plan of getting it, and who would be the perfect heroine to stand in his way, trying to stop him. She’s as tough as he is, and sassy as anything. She completely blindsides him. Half the time he wants to kill her, the other half he wants to make love to her.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I read and wrote all sorts of fiction before settling on romantic suspense. I love this subgenre. I seem to have the right voice for it. I love the extra challenge of writing the suspense/action scenes in addition to the romance. It’s a fine balance that keeps writing interesting.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
Possibly Mitch in this book, if I must choose. He’s so tough and hot at the same time. If you have to be stuck in the jungle with some serious trouble after you, he’s the guy you’d want with you, no question.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
Gabe Cannon from Guardian Agent, the first novella in a trilogy I recently published. He really made me work. He’s pretty much a straight shooter. When his commando team is sent after a rogue soldier, he just deals with the fact that the man used to be his friend. Honor and country comes first to Gabe. So the heroine, the rogue soldier’s sister, has a hard time getting through to him. The dynamics between the two were fraught with tension. Add attraction to that, and there came the fireworks.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
My husband spent some years in the Army, so he’s my source of military information. As far as a story goes…
It wasn’t fun, but I’m pretty sure my writing put me on some sort of a watch list for a while. Emails disappeared. My sister was coming from Europe and emailed me her flight info. I never got the email until after she’d been here and went back home. Pictures I sent to friends overseas never got there. Packages disappeared etc. There was just a period when both incoming and outgoing mail went missing with suspicious frequency, both email and regular mail. Of course, I’m always researching weapons and commando techniques and the sort of people my heroes will be facing in battle. So I’m sure my search terms in Google set off all kinds of flags. (Ok now you are just making me laugh – editorial comment from JR Interviewer) And then I do travel a lot. For a long time I worked for a British company, so I had to fly to England a lot. And I have family all over continental Europe, so we go there, too.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Letting go is by far the most difficult part. I love spending time with my characters. I put a lot of effort into getting to know them. I miss them when we no longer meet on a daily basis. And my readers feel the same! I often receive questions about how such and such character is doing now, if they had kids, etc. I LOVE reader email.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I’m sort of a
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Chocolate. Of any kind. Lots of it.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
I just need a little waking up time. I don’t drink coffee first thing in the morning. I like to wake up gradually while catching up on email. When brainpower is at full throttle, I switch over to whatever manuscript I’m working on.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
I’ve never been able to write to music. If I listen to music, I can’t help but sing along. And if I’m singing one set of words, I can’t be writing another set. My mind is very linear that way.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Actually, Last Spy Standing does have a little Mr. & Mrs. Smith feel to it. I LOVED that movie. I would loooove for this book to be made into a motion picture. So if anyone who’s reading this has connections in Hollywood…
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I was at home, called my husband the second I hung up with the editor. I was squealing so much, he couldn’t understand a word I said. He thought I was having some sort of an emergency. I gave the poor guy a heart attack. He was ready to send the police to the house by the time he figured out what I was saying.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
Elementary school. I was always a voracious reader. Probably too much so. I remember friends coming over to play and I’d be like, “What? I’m in the middle of a book!” My parents had to chase me outside to play.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
As far as my auto-buy authors go: Susan Mallery, Nora Roberts, Suzanne Brockmann, Charlaine Harris… the list is too long. I recently saw Suzanne Brockmann and she gave me a hug and treated me as a total equal as a writer, which just floored me. Still have a goofy grin on my face. Susan Mallery I admire beyond words. She’s the most gracious, brilliant person I now.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
No pesky non-writing job. Three cheers for independence!! (Thank you, readers!!!!!)
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
Right now I’m being frustrated to rants by a sexy spy in cowboy boots, writing The Spy Wore Spurs. He’s just that kind of guy. He frustrates the heroine to death, too. We are just going to have to figure out how to handle him. Of course, we’re both half in love with him at this stage. What is it about stubborn men that so grabs a woman’s imagination?
How do you pick your characters names?
Internet baby naming sites. But I’ve also been known to name characters after readers. Sometimes I ask for help. A reader just helped me name the stray cat in the current book Twinky. I love that name!
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
I used to prefer a slow build of heat, but with Intrigues being relatively short, I often write love at first site. To be truthful, it’s fun to write all that instant heat. It’s great to see all those sparks fly. And I kind of like a man who knows what he wants and knows how to get it.
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
That’s just too sad! Romance is such a wonderful, life-affirming genre. It’s so much fun. The writers are simply outstanding. There is a reason why romance outsells all other genres put together. Anyone who is not giving it a try because of some silly prejudice is missing out. I regularly get fan mail from men, even. They usually start with, “I never read a romance before, but my wife (or girlfriend) told me I just had to read yours….” Oh, those letters just put a big smile on my face.
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
Chocolate X0X0X. 55% cocoa content, a love poem inside each wrapper, almonds & sea salt in dark chocolate. Love it!!! Actually, I just bought a few bars to raffle off on my Facebook page. But you really can’t go wrong with chocolate. I’m a compulsive chocolate buyer. Then I come to my senses and give them away on my Facebook page. I usually have some free chocolate and book raffle going on.