MA: My guest-blogger today is Norah Wilson. Norah lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada with her husband and two adult children (both in university), a Lab-Rotti mix dog and five rats (the pet kind). She has been writing romance a long while, and has finalled multiple times in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest. She also won Dorchester Publishing’s New Voice in Romance contest in 2003. Norah writes, among other things, sensual romantic suspense. Currently, three of Norah’s four books are among the Top 10 highest rated romances at Smashwords. She was also mentioned by Smashwords CEO Mark Coker as one of the Top 50 indie authors to watch on Smashwords. Norah loves to meet fans and make friends on Twitter and Facebook.
Welcome, Norah! Tell us what you did before jumping into the literary world.
NW: I went to work as a legal secretary before I was legally old enough to witness documents. The work was fascinating and varied, but it didn’t pay very well. So after 9 years of that, I got licensed as an official court reporter, thinking I would launch a private business. But before I got serious about that, another opportunity came up in a completely different field. I switched streams to go to work for a provincial hospital association as executive assistant and secretary to the board of directors. Twenty years later, I’m the organization’s administrative officer.
MA: Congratulations on your successful career. How did you make the transition over to writing?
NW: I’ve always been fascinated by communication and by the challenge of persuading people with the written word. If I’d actually gone into communications or ad copy writing or some such career where that need was being fulfilled, I probably never would have written that first novel. But as it was, I had a burning need to write something and write it so convincingly that the reader would be transported. Since I’d been reading romance novels all my life, I naturally tried my hand at a straight contemporary romance. It was a disaster. Oh, I could string words together in very readable way, but the plots were boring, even to me. I needed something more. Then I discovered romantic suspense. The suspense plot finally gave me the “clothesline” on which to hang my story.
MA: Smiling. How did the romantic suspense realm progress for you?
NW: After years of writing and not selling, I’d gotten a little jaded about an industry that seemed to want only babies, brides and cowboys. Since I knew babies and brides would bore me to tears, I settled on cowboys. Because paranormal was starting to gather steam, I tossed in a psychic heroine. Thus I set about very cynically to write a book that New York might buy. Except when I started to research cowboys, I fell in love with them. That’s probably what rescued the book (LAUREN’S EYES)! In any case, New York did buy it. It won the New Voice in Romance contest in 2003 and was published by Dorchester Publishing in 2004. Since then, I’ve written a series of connected romantic suspense stories featuring cops. Again, my stories didn’t impress New York publishers overly much, so in the fall of 2010, I self-published them. They’re currently doing very nicely. I may not be topping anyone’s bestseller list yet, but three of them are consistently in the top 10 most highly rated romances on Smashwords, and all have been well reviewed. I’ve also written two paranormal romances (dark vampires) which my agent has. As well, I write with a writing partner, Heather Doherty, who is published in dark literary. Together, Heather and I have written half a dozen young adult (YA) books and two humorous cozy mysteries, all of which our agent is shopping around.
MA: Congrats on the Dorchester Publishing award! How do you develop your protagonists in the romantic suspense genre?
NW: Because I’d love for people to dive into my Serve and Protect series, I’ll focus on the first book in that series, GUARDING SUZANNAH. I should explain that because this is primarily a romance, it doesn’t have just one protagonist. It has a hero and a heroine who get equal play. When casting characters in a romance, it’s good to begin with two people who should, at least on the face of it, be each other’s worst nightmare. So I created a heroine who is the daughter of a former chief justice. She has an impeccable pedigree, but left lucrative private practice to be a public defender working with Legal Aid clients. She’s very good at what she does, and earns the undying enmity of the local police force (and the nickname She-Rex) for shredding officers on the witness stand. She has zero interest in forming any kind of social relationship with a cop. I then had to pair her with a cop from much more humble origins who delights in emphasizing their differences and making her feel like a snob. One whose physicality calls out to her in a way that doesn’t mesh with her self-concept as a self-possessed and reserved woman.
MA: Earlier you told me about Quigg. Explain who he is to my readers.
NW: Det. John Quigley (Quigg) is probably the least Alpha hero I’ve ever written. Not to say he’s not strong and completely worthy of the hero title. But his strength is a little quieter and he’s more reflective and self-aware than most heroes I’ve written. He’s strong enough to think for himself rather than blindly toeing that thin blue line. He’s also got a strong protective streak. With most of my characters, I find that at least one of their strengths is also a weakness for them, and I think that’s true here with the protective thing. He also has a bit of an issue with their divergent social statuses. As quietly confident as he is, he’s still got some niggling issues there.
MA: Do you feature any kind of nemeses to torture your heroes and heroines?
NW: I don’t use a recurring nemesis. Rather, each book has its own brand of bad guy. The villain in GUARDING SUZANNAH is your basic (though far from garden variety) stalker, but in the other novels, the bad guys are considerably more high powered. Which means the other novels carry much higher public stakes in addition to the personal stakes for the hero and heroine.
MA: With your background in legal services, have any of your personal experiences factored in to the stories?
NW: I do tend to use real-life stuff, but more to build a believable world than to fuel any key turning points. I do have some experience of the justice milieu from my earlier work life, which I draw on. I also consulted with a lawyer, a crown prosecutor and a cop on this one (thanks Peggy, Hilary and Matt!). However, there is one very real element in this book – the dog, Bandicoot. Bandy was the name of my dog at the time. He was very senior and I knew he wouldn’t be with me forever, so I immortalized him in the book. Every quirk and bizarre behavior displayed by the fictional Bandy was lifted directly from my dear, sorely-missed friend. He slept at my feet for thousands of hours while I wrote that and other books, and his portrait and his ashes sit here beside me still.
MA: That’s a nice story. Being a dog lover myself, I’m glad you managed to find a place in your stories for Bandy to live on. So what’s next?
NW: I had thought I’d finished with this Serve and Protect series, but I’ve had a lot of readers ask for more. With the success the books are enjoying, I’ve had to rethink my position. So I’m slowly working away on another. However, with all the other projects I have on the go, it likely won’t be released soon. My principle focus will be on the YA paranormal collaborations. Though my partner and I tend to be slow in our original genres, we write very fast together, and hope to break through into that YA market. But we’ve also written what we think is a very strong dystopian romance for the adult market. Diversification without dilution – that’s the goal!
MA: Since you are a series writer – certainly with the Serve and Protect line – will you feature many of the same characters in future stories?
NW: I will definitely keep employing the current characters in secondary roles with future books. Readers love to get glimpses of the hero & heroine from the previous book. And because many of them are cops in the same station house, it’s easy to keep them involved. That said, each story stands very well on its own. You don’t really need to have read #1 & #2 to understand #3. I must say, I would love to someday write a recurring protagonist over several books, but as long as I’m writing romantic suspense with the emphasis on the romance, I’ll just have to keep trading them in for new characters and new chemistry.
MA: We follow the same philosophy about series and standalones. My Child Finder Trilogy flows from one book to the next, yet each can be read out of order as a standalone. I like that. Anything else you’d like to add?
NW: Only a huge thank you for having me! I’m very aware my stuff is somewhat … fluffier … than the usual fare in this very masculine lair! I’m kind of betwixt and between. Some romance readers might find my work a little too gritty and graphic, while your thriller-reading audience might find it a trifle soft. But I do think there’s crossover potential for both audiences. I’ve had quite a few men message me on Twitter or Facebook to tell me how much they enjoyed the stories and how well they do hold up against traditionally published authors. In fact, if any of your reader base take the plunge and read one or more of my stories, I would love to hear what they think on this point.
Again, thanks so much for having me!
MA: It was my pleasure. Thanks for guesting with me, Norah. I encourage my readers to visit Norah’s blog for more information about her stories: http://www.norahwilsonwrites.com/