I discovered Rachel Grant’s romantic suspense novels last year, thanks to a DIK review of Cold Evidence by one of my fellow reviewers at All About Romance. The blend of smart, independent heroine and sexy, ex-military hero is a familiar one, but what really intrigued me – a self-confessed history geek – was the fact that the heroine was a military historian/marine archaeologist. I picked up a couple of the earlier books in the series, and then reviewed the audiobook of Covert Evidence here at AudioGals, awarding high grades for both narration and content. Ms. Grant’s ability to craft a compelling and complex plot with high action content AND combine that with a satisfying, sexy romance captured my attention from the first book of hers I read, and I now count myself among her fans. Her latest book, Tinderbox (review here) is the first in her new Flashpoint series, which is set in the extremely troubled, unstable region of the Horn of Africa – and it’s not an exaggeration to say that she had me on the edge of my seat once or twice while I was listening to it. I was delighted to be able to chat to her about her work in general, and about what’s coming up next. Plus, two lucky winners will get Audible.com codes to get their very own copy of Tinderbox. Be sure to enter the Giveaway at the end of the interview!
Caz: Welcome to AudioGals, Rachel.
Caz: That’s great – thank you! We love what we do here and always like knowing that others enjoy it, too.
It’s no secret that I’m real a history geek, so I absolutely love the way you’ve incorporated elements of history and archaeology into your books. I know that your background is in those subjects – could you tell us a little more about that, and how it came about that you have ended up writing romantic suspense novels?
RG: I knew I wanted to be an author since I began my first novel in 6thgrade, but I was also always fascinated by history and archaeology. In college, I decided to pursue archaeology, the subject that interested me the most, because it would both be a career I could pursue and potentially give me fodder for the fiction I intended to write someday.
I loved the idea of archaeology as a career because it incorporated many things that excited me: to learn about the past and play a role in adding to the archaeological record through fieldwork and reporting; to work outside, be in nature, and camp (and get paid for it!); and to do my small part to ensure new construction is done in compliance with environmental law (in the US, cultural preservation laws work in conjunction with environmental laws).
Of course, the shine of fieldwork wears off after you get poison oak so many times you have a secondary immune system reaction to it (my face blew up like a balloon – I could see my own cheeks). Then there is the joy of developing carpal tunnel in both wrists from too much troweling through clay. Facing down rattlesnakes is less glamorous than it sounds, and after digging and camping in the rain for weeks on end, one starts to think that maybe it’s time to pursue that other career and finally write that novel…
I began writing my first novel (Grave Danger), when my daughter was two and we (me and my husband) decided we could afford for me to quit my part-time job with a small archaeological consulting firm. Romantic suspense was a natural fit for me. It was my favorite genre to read and archaeology and mystery can go hand in hand.
Caz: I confess that I’m still working my way through your Evidence series (in both print and audio); does the advent of the Flashpoint series mean there will be no more Evidence books?
RG: There will be more Evidence books, I promise. I actually wrote Tinderbox before writing Cold Evidence and Poison Evidence and fully intend to continue the series. (I want to write Sean Logan’s story, along with those of a few of the other Raptor operatives.) My hope is to alternate series books after Flashpoint #2 is published.
Caz: As is obvious – I hope! – from my review, I loved Tinderbox, which grabbed me from the very first minutes and wouldn’t let me go until the end. Do you have an overall plan for the series and a number of books mapped out?
RG: Thank you! I’m so thrilled you loved it. My hope is it will be an ongoing series, like the Evidence books, but for now, I have plans for books two and three (you might be able to guess who the heroes are), with vague ideas of where the series will go after that.
Caz: Hm… yes, I think I can guess who the next couple of heroes might be ;) Tinderbox really is set in a tinderbox, though! That part of the world (the Horn of Africa) is incredibly unstable politically, and I was absolutely fascinated by all the political machinations and ramifications you alluded to throughout the course of the story. How easy – or not – was it to do the research you needed to make the setting and situations so authentic?
RG: Because my husband had done fieldwork in Djibouti, I found the setting fairly easy to describe, but understanding the political dynamics of the region was a bit more complicated. With the exception of listening to audiobooks for bigger-picture history and politics, I research as I write—stopping everything for online searches when I realize I’ve hit on something I don’t really understand. Those searches can derail me for days as I figure out what I need to know, but they also often lead to surprising information that gives depth to the story—like how panya smuggling routes are used in Somalia.
Caz: I can imagine that must be simultaneously frustrating – because you have to stop mid-flow – and interesting.
It’s clear that the two series bear some similarities to each other – so tell us how they’re different?
RG: Right now, the major difference is that the heroes are active duty Special Forces and the books are set on the continent of Africa. I can’t promise that will remain the distinction beyond book three – I don’t want to limit myself if an idea arises that fits better in the Flashpoint world. One thing I am certain of is every setting will be at a flashpoint, which isn’t true for the Evidence books.
Caz: You said that you do listen to audiobooks, although mostly to non-fiction. How far were you involved in the process of bringing your books to audio?
RG: With the Evidence books I was approached—first by Tantor for Concrete Evidence, then later by Audible for the next four books in the series. My agent then submitted Tinderbox to Audible, and I was pleased they wanted it for simultaneous digital and audio release.
When it came to selecting a narrator, Audible sent me a few names to choose from and I listened to samples of their work. I was thrilled to get Nicol Zanzarella for the Evidence books and am really hoping they will pick up the rest of the series and keep Nicol as narrator. Fingers crossed…
Caz: Yes, I was very impressed by her – and will also keep my fingers crossed we get some more in that series in audio.
RG: But for Tinderbox, once I learned Nicol wasn’t available, I requested a male narrator because there are so few female characters (and only Morgan, the heroine, and one other have more than a few lines of dialogue). I was pleased when they agreed and suggested Greg Tremblay. He did an amazing job!
Caz: No argument from me there, I thought he was amazing. I really hope he’s going to be narrating more of your books.
Your books obviously take a lot of time to plot and research – so when – if – you get any spare time, what do you enjoy doing?
RG: My daughter is in 11th grade and son is in 8th grade, so my time off is very family-oriented, but sometimes I get to combine research and family time – like the trip we took to Alaska in 2014 so I could research the setting for Incriminating Evidence. We also rented a cabin in Neah Bay, Washington, for a weekend so I could write about the town in Cold Evidence.
When I’m not dragging my family along on research trips, we try to go skiing in winter and camping in the summer. This spring we’re going to the Bahamas for a week (we’ll be on my brother-in-law’s sailboat, exploring the islands). Given that I’ve done fieldwork in Saint Maarten, I’m thinking of setting an Evidence book in the Caribbean… (But shhh…don’t tell my family, they think this one is a vacation!)
Caz: My lips are sealed ;) When you’re not reading for research, what do you read for pleasure?
RG: Romantic suspense/thrillers, contemporary romance, and some historical romance. When I’m deep in writing, it can be hard to read (I need to keep my head in my own book, not get lost in another story), so my reading time is more limited than I’d like it to be. I recently got an Echo, and I LOVE listening to audiobooks with it. I’ve found I can listen while doing chores without losing my focus on my own work, so I hope moving forward I’ll be able to enjoy more recreational reading while I’m working. You can bet I’ll be checking AudioGals for recommendations!
Caz: Well, where else would you need to go? :P Is there anything you can share with us about your future projects?
RG: I’m working on Flashpoint #2 – the working title is Catalyst, for one thing. But even more exciting is that Nancy Cartwright’s Spotted Cow Entertainment has optioned Body of Evidence for film. Nancy is best known for being the voice of Bart Simpson, but she’s recently turned to film/TV production. Spotted Cow’s first film In Search of Fellini, had its world premiere on Friday, February 24th, at the LA Italia Film Festival. I was invited to the premiere and so wish I could have gone!
I met with Nancy and the key players at Spotted Cow last summer and it was amazing to talk to them about their plans for adapting my book and to see their love and excitement for the project. I was floating for days afterward.
Caz: That’s amazing news! Fingers AND toes are crossed now – do let us know how things progress.
RG: I will!
Caz: Rachel, thanks for taking the time out to chat to AudioGals – and best of luck with the next books and the movie project!
RG: It’s been fun. And if I’ve been a bit long-winded it’s because I’m procrastinating; the hero in Flashpoint #2 is giving me fits. I’ll let you guess who he is… ;-) Thanks so much for having me!
And now for the GIVEAWAY! Two lucky winners will get Audible.com codes for their very own download of TINDERBOX by Rachel Grant! Just click below to enter – ends midnight Sunday April 2 Central Daylight Time.
The Fine Print:
No purchase is necessary. The giveaway is open from 12 am CDT Monday 27 March 2017 through 12:00 am CDT Monday 3 April 2017 (which is midnight Sunday).
Two winners will be chosen. The prize is an Audible.com code for Tinderbox by Rachel Grant (value: US$13.97), therefore, winners will need to have or create an Audible.com account to use the code. The codes have been provided by the author, Rachel Grant. Anyone for whom this audiobook title is not geo-restricted is eligible to enter, with the exception that the reviewers at AudioGals and their immediate family members are not eligible. :)
One entry per person, please. Winners will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter software. Winners will be notified by email used for entry by 11:59 pm Monday 3 April 2017, and will have 48 hours to respond. If no response is received, another winner will be chosen.