Saturday, 27 August 2011

‘Loose Cannon’ – An interview with Romantic Suspense author, Kendal Flynn

Today, I am delighted to be able to chat to Kendal whose Romantic Suspense novel, ‘Loose Cannon’ is published by Etopia Press.
If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a bit of background to the story:

“This time, the op was different. This time, they had her son…

When Raeanne Springfield’s son is kidnapped by Dmitryi Petrov, a ruthless enemy from the past, Raeanne finds herself thrown back into the dark world of covert operations she thought she left behind. But when Alex Dante, her former superior at the Counterintelligence Defense Agency, shows up to take her into protective custody, Raeanne’s backed into a corner. Should she obey orders from an agency that already betrayed her once, or slip back into the covert life and do whatever it takes to bring her boy home safely?

Harder still—how can she tell Alex Dante that Ryan’s his son?

Between Petrov’s demands, the agency’s evasiveness, and Alex’s whirlwind reentry into her life, Raeanne can trust no one but herself, and only after she gets Ryan back will she worry about fixing past mistakes. If she lives long enough to fix anything…”

Catherine:  Welcome Kendal and congratulations on a real page turner. I loved it. So,  firstly. what made you start writing and when did you begin?

Kendal: Thanks, Cat! I’m still not used to people other than my mom and my husband telling me they liked my book *wide, wide, grin.* I’ve been writing forever, since I was a kid. I was a huge Star Trek fan—and there was an episode called Guardian of Eternity about this portal that took Kirk and company all over time and got them all lost and separated and they couldn’t get back. The whole concept of moving around through time and getting stuck and having to find a way back fascinated me, and that night I started writing my own time travel story. I think I was about ten.

Catherine: ‘Loose Cannon’ is the first in a series about C.O.D.A. agents. Are you planning further adventures for Raenne and Alex in the near future?

Kendal: I sure am! I have the second book in the works, in which Alex and Raeanne are secondary characters, called Smoking Gun. There’s also a third book outlined. It was planned a series from the start, only I had a little set back when a movie came out with almost the exact premise of the second story. So I had to do some rethinking!

Catherine: Your writing has a real authenticity about it. How do you achieve that? Is there some genuine past experience in there?

Kendal: Thank you! I just let my characters do the talking, and I research a lot. This story was set in Las Vegas, and I’ve been there several times, so that part was easy. But nothing awful has ever happened to my kids, thank goodness, and as much as I wish I could say I saved the world on a daily basis, I’m about as tough as a paper cut. Although I do save my boss’s butt on pretty much a daily basis, so I guess that counts. 

Catherine:  ‘Loose Cannon’ is full of action, tension and also some passionate romance. Do you spend a lot of time planning and constructing your stories or do you tend to dive on in there?

Kendal: I’m a plotter. I get an idea, then think about some people and some conflicts, and then wonder what they’ll do, what they want, who’s trying to stop them, and who they’re willing to blow up to get it. I know some writers just jump into the blank page and see what comes out, but I can tell you exactly what comes out when I do that—and it’s not a very polite word. :-) Some people say they feel too constricted when they plan it out, but that’s where I’m my most creative—that’s where the “writing” happens for me—in creating the characters and their story and laying out one event after the next and seeing how I can connect things and complicate things. To me, it’s like looking down at a bunch of bushes from above and designing a maze, versus walking into a maze and having to figure your way out of it once you’re inside. :-)

Catherine:  Which authors have influenced you the most and who do you most admire?

Kendal: Oh gosh, there are SO many. Stephen King (I know, everyone says that) Anne McCaffrey, Barbara Hambly, Tom Clancy, George R. R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon. Those are the ones off the top of my head who had the biggest impact over the last couple of decades, where I’d finish a book and then get in the car and race to the bookstore at ten minutes til closing time to buy the next book in the series... sometimes with a pocketful of change (Thank GOD for the Kindle!) Those are also the books I spent a lot of time deconstructing, reading back to try to see how they did things—built suspense, or terror, or wrote great action scenes, or made characters seem absolutely real, or created an entire living breathing magical world. But there are tons of other authors on that list—I’m kind of a book addict!

Catherine:  I understand you have a husband, three children, two Chihuahuas and a day job as well! How do you manage to find time to write and what motivates you?

Kendal: That’s currently the biggest challenge—finding the time to write! I made it my New Year’s resolution a few years ago that I was going to get serious and write every day, and I’m pretty good about doing that. Although sometimes “writing” consists of staring at the wall wondering how my heroine is going to get out of that corner she just painted herself into! But as for motivation, my husband gets the credit for that. I figure if he’s willing to walk my dogs in the rain, or give up a ball game to do kid chores or make dinner when I have a deadline, even a self-imposed one, then I darn well better not waste his time! :-)

Catherine: Good point! What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get their story published? 

Kendal: Same advice I give my kids who are into various sports and activities and academic pursuits—practice and stick with it! Write every day, get feedback from a crit group so you know what you’re doing well and what you still have to work on. Study craft books on the kinds of book you want to write, deconstruct the work of your favorite authors to see how the words create their effects, and then practice some more and don’t stop. No one’s any good at anything the first time they try it—golf, driving a car, gourmet cooking, playing the guitar, oil painting, ballet dancing, solving algebra problems...but you won’t get good at it—and get that first contract!--if you give up!

Catherine: Sound advice. Finally, if you had your own TV chat show and could interview 3 people (living or dead), who would they be and what would you want to talk about?

Kendal: Oh my gosh! That’s so hard! I’m going to sound like such a nerd, but:
1. William Shakespeare. I’d totally drill him about the literary and entertainment trends of the day, you know, popular entertainment vs. “lit-ra-ture” –and learn *all* the off-color references in the plays. I know. I’m basically a twelve-year-old.
2. Stephen Hawking. Because I want to understand the formation of the universe and quantum mechanics without having to go back to college. And I still have that unsatisfied Trekkie inside. :-)
3. There probably wouldn’t be a third guest, because my show would have been cancelled after the physics lectures. But if they did give me another chance, I’d interview Keith Richard. I’d want some cool guitar tips and tricks, but more, I want to know his secret. You know, how he was able to do that for all those years when I’m half his age, eat right, don’t do drugs, and can barely get through the beginner 15 minute warm-up of my Denise Austin DVD. He must have a secret and I want in on it!

Catherine:  Sounds like a fascinating show! Thank you very much for joining us today, Kendal. Where can we find out more about you and, crucially, where can we find your book? 
Kendal: Thank you so much for having me today, Cat! It was fun! Loose Cannon can be found at most e-book retailers:
Etopia Press:
Barnes & Noble:


 Here’s an excerpt to give you just a flavour of ‘Loose Cannon’

A chill skittered across her skin despite the thick heat nudged around by the groaning ceiling fan. She shoved back the memory of those pale green eyes and focused on the reassuring press of the Glock .40 against her side, invisible beneath the baggy plaid shirt that hung open over her black tank top. She almost took a sip of the tepid beer, but caught herself. People came to the Blind Shark for a lot of reasons, but great beer wasn't one of them.

And rekindling the past wasn't one of them either, as far as Raeanne was concerned. Seven years ago, she'd been dumped by both the Counterintelligence Defense Agency and her partner, Alex Dante. Partner, lover, supposed best friend. Whatever.

She’d moved on.

He had five more minutes, then she was gone.

She scanned the room again. All four exits were still clear. The place was doing a brisk business for three in the afternoon, but none of the patrons looked in any way suspicious. Just your standard, garden-variety drunks—laughing, shooting pool, dropping change into the slot machines hoping for something better. She studied her beer a moment and wondered if the brown crust on the bottom of the mug was on the inside or the outside.

“Hello, Raeanne.”

She snapped her gaze up to Alex Dante’s light green eyes, bold within their rim of dark lashes and beneath the ledge of his dark brows. Jaguar eyes, she'd always thought. Predatory.

“You’ve gotten careless, Raven,” he said. “I could have shot you dead a hundred times in the last ten minutes and you’d have never seen it coming.”

Apprehension and desire coursed through her at the sound of her old code name dripping off his tongue. And that voice of his, deep and rich, like sex and chocolate and cognac all together.

“I saw you,” she lied.

His smirk told her he wasn’t buying it. She held her gaze firmly on his, keeping her expression neutral. Trying not to let herself look at his body.

She couldn’t help it.

He hadn’t changed a bit, damn him. Darker tan, maybe, but other than that, he was just the same. Six feet of lean muscle under a shock of close-cropped dark hair, which despite her prayers, hadn’t thinned a bit. His faded Levi’s hugged the same strong thighs and rode the same low arc across his hips. Damn, but the man knew how to fill a pair of jeans. Behind the blue T-shirt, his hard, tight abdominals hadn’t grown the least bit soft. She remembered those abs, how they felt under her hands and against her cheek, with the patch of crisp dark hair trailing down to…

“Aren’t you going to ask me to join you?”

She jerked her gaze back up to his face. “Suit yourself.”

The sleeves of his T-shirt stretched taut over his hard, round biceps and showed off the strong cords of muscle ridging his forearms. He carried a black denim jacket draped over his left arm and hand—that was nothing new—and he left it that way as he slid in beside her, rather than across the booth from her.

“You should have taken the table next to us,” he said, surveying the room. “That bank of slot machines is partially blocking the doorway to the restrooms.”

She glanced at it again. “I can see the doorway fine.”

“Then explain how I made it all the way to your table without being seen.”

He was sitting too close. She inched toward the wall. “Guess I didn’t expect you to swim up through the sewer pipes. Although evidently I should have.”

The heat of his gaze seared a path down her body then burned its way back up to her paint-splotched Red Sox cap, the one that used to be his. She knew he recognized it even though he said nothing. The desire to look away was almost irresistible, but she did, in fact, resist.

“Interesting outfit,” he finally said.

“Just trying to blend in.”

“Still packing the Glock?”

“Still got the expert rating to go with it, too.” She nodded at the casual fall of denim over his left forearm. “Still hiding your weapon under your jacket, I see. God knows you can’t conceal anything with a T-shirt that tight.”

He smiled slightly, but it held no joy. “I like things where I can keep a hand on them. Prevent them from wandering off.”

She gave him a sniff of annoyance. “How ‘bout you tell me what’s going on? Senator Helmsan’s expecting me back soon.”

“I told you, the senator’s covered. The agency’s taking no chances with her life.”

Raeanne’s eyes narrowed. “So that’s what this is about? Who’s trying to kill the senator?”

“Now Raeanne…”

“Don’t ‘Now Raeanne’ me. You just said the agency was taking no chances with her life. That means you have reason to believe her life is in danger. And I want to know what that reason is. Now.”

He gave her a long look with that intense, green gaze of his. She refused to look away, and she refused to acknowledge the heat pooling in her groin. Keep it professional. “Agency business,” remember?

“The senator’s fine, Raeanne. It’s you who’s in danger.”

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The 27 Club

The recent, tragically early death of Amy Winehouse saw yet another talented artist join the group of singers, songwriters and musicians who, like her, only made it to their 27th birthdays.

In the few weeks, hundreds of column centimetres have been penned on just what an exclusive Club this is. In 1970, The Doors’ vocalist and frontman, Jim Morrison, said to his Producer Paul Rothchild. ‘First Jimi, then Janis. You’re drinking with number 3.’ Sadly a few short months later, his words were to prove prophetic. Three of the most influential music legends of their day had joined Brian Jones and Robert Johnson. They were to be followed by a host of others including Kurt Cobain and now Amy.

But why 27? Why not a 30 Club or a 25 Club?  Various theories have been expounded and it helps to clarify when you look at the probable causes of death:

Robert Johnson, probably poisoned (murdered using strychnine-laced whisky). He was a known heavy drinker
Brian Jones – drowned while under the influence of drink and drugs (although rumours of murder abound to this day)
Jimi Hendrix – asphyxiation following a probable accidental overdose of sleeping tablets
Janis Joplin – heroin overdose
Jim Morrison – heart failure (although an autopsy was never performed and many conspiracy theories still abound). He was known to be heavily into hard drugs and alcohol at the time.
Kurt Cobain – suicide by shooting. Reported as having said he wanted to join ‘the 27 Club’ and was no stranger to drugs or alcohol in significant quantities
Amy Winehouse – inquest is still to be held although widely believed to be drink or drugs related

So all the above had one thing in common – they used drugs and/or drink and they used them to excess.

Over the years, there have been a number of theories for ‘Why did they all die at 27?’. A popular one is that at that age, it is quite usual for people to suddenly realise that they are hurtling towards 30 and a certain craziness sets in, leading them to party harder than ever while they’re still young enough to enjoy it. Perhaps 27 is a natural turning point when you realise you’re going to have to grow up.

Given what we know of the personalities above, I’m not so sure. Having lost someone close to me who died young of alcohol poisoning, I always felt that, in his case at least, he drank no more and no less that day than he had on other days. The difference was that on other days he woke up some hours later, feeling foul but nevertheless alive. On this particular occasion it was as if the pendulum had swung so far and then stopped. As if his body said ‘No. Not this time.’

Maybe, with the possible exception of Robert Johnson and Kurt Cobain, this was also the case. And maybe, because the effects of drugs and alcohol are cumulative, if you start abusing them when you’re young, then perhaps 27 is the age when your body’s pendulum simply says ‘Enough!’

Of course, you can while away many a happy hour musing on what some of them would be doing if they were alive today. Would Brian Jones still be touring with the Stones? Would Jim Morrison be touring with the remaining Doors or would he have reverted to his first love, writing poetry, and be living as a hermit in the woods somewhere? Would Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin be on Sixties revival tours or be recording songs as part of a supergroup with Eric Clapton? Maybe Kurt Cobain would be jamming along and they’d all appear on ‘Later with Jools Holland’ on deeply respectable BBC2.

No, I don’t think so either. Some people – and often highly talented ones – just aren’tmeant to grow old. They are meant to burn brightly (at both ends), live fast and pass on, leaving a legacy and a legend that far outlives them.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Have You Had Your Daily 20,000?

Research, using MRI scans, has revealed that the auditory and language-related regions in the left hemisphere of the brain are much larger in women than in men. This is frequently trotted out to ‘explain’ why women allegedly talk more. On a Neuro-Linguistic Programming course, I was taught that women have a necessity to get through 20,000-24,000 words per day (on average) while their male counterparts only need to utter a paltry 7000-10,000.

As might be imagined there is a fair amount of debate over this and some of it is highly entertaining. If you want to enjoy a couple of hours of laughter coupled with ‘ah –ha!’ moments, try Allan and Barbara Pease
Or if you prefer a more scholarly approach, try Prof Mark Liberman from the University of Pennsylvania
The reason I am bringing this up today is because I have been wondering whether all these words we have to get through actually have to be uttered vocally. I count a productive day of writing to be when I have got 4000+ words of my latest work in progress safely down on paper. Does that mean I have already ‘spoken’ 4000 of my daily word-count – or do l still have to find them from somewhere in order to inflict them on my poor beleaguered husband?

If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, does an artist still have to talk about his/her latest masterpiece until they have got through their quota for the day, or can they just let it speak for them?

I don’t have the answers but I do know that on days when I am cracking on with my story, I definitely talk less. Words are pouring out of my brain – but they are transmitting themselves through my fingers rather than my mouth – leaving me fulfilled, satisfied and not possessed of the slightest need to pick up the telephone and chatter inanely for hours on end. I would be interested to know if other writers have this experience.

As a footnote, Prof Liberman has concluded that women actually don’t talk any more than men and any belief that they do is pure urban myth. The debate goes on…

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Long And The Short Of It...

In common with so many writers who are not (yet) at the Joanne Rowling stage of having 4 people simply to deal with their royalty cheques, I have to juggle my passion for writing with a full-time intensive and pressurised day job. Some time ago, this led me directly to a difficult decision.

Having written full length (mainly historical) novels of around 130,000 words taking me upwards of a year to complete and with an ever-increasing workload at the day job, I couldn’t carry on this way. So, I could either stop writing (not an option), give up the day job (tempting, but, sadly, not financially viable) or I could write something shorter.

Spurred on by the success of fellow determined writers at Litopia (, I explored the shorter novel, short stories and novellas. I also switched hats, bade a fond farewell (or perhaps ‘au revoir’) to the historical genre and returned to my first love – paranormal fiction.

Suddenly I turned a corner, found I could now perform my juggling act without crashing out so much AND the bonus was that the publishing contracts started coming in.

I have found that I like the discipline that comes with telling my stories in far fewer words, and the way that tightens up my writing.

And, of course, I am loving the contracts I have been signing recently.

It just goes to show that sometimes the old saying is true. Necessity really CAN be the mother of invention!